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Opinion: Minister uses faulty data

Dirk Kloosterboer*

6 February 2007 - “A survey by AT5 revealed that three quarters of the citizens want rid of the districts”, outgoing minister Johan Remkes said last week in newspaper het Parool. And Ellin Robles more or less repeats him in her column of 2 February.

In reality, television channel AT5 never did such a survey. It had a poll at its website last October. Three quarters of participants indeed where in favour of abolishing the districts, 57% even thought this was a ‘brilliant’ idea.

Such a poll is fun, but it is of course no survey. You never know who responds to it and who does not. Chances that it will yield a representative outcome are very small. It is therefore a bit awkward that Remkes bases his case on such data.

Shortly before Remkes made his statement, district chairpersons had promised to send him ‘the correct data’ from the Amsterdam Citizen Monitor. This monitor reveals that the share of Amsterdammers with a favourable opinion of districts (35%) is over three times as large as the share being discontent (11%). The rest is neutral (31%) or does not know.

All in all, it is unlikely that three quarters of Amsterdammers want rid of the districts. This is just as good, for these offer citizens an easily accessible means to get involved in public affairs, and they provide a countervailing power to over-megalomaniac municipal ambitions.

Problem is that almost a quarter of Amsterdammers has no opinion on the districts. District politics capture the heart and minds of citizens even less than city politics. It is up to aldermen, district council members and the media to change this.

*Editor, News from Amsterdam. This article was published today by het Parool

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