Alex Steer

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Plummeting to the mean

251 words

Clearly today is a bad day for the public understanding of simple numbers.

Could the author(s) of this article (headline: 'I don't: number of 'gay weddings' plummets') please look up the term 'backlog'.

Not that you need look far, since despite the headline the reason is given by Peter Tatchell halfway through the article.

'After civil partnerships were legislated there was a huge surge of couples who had been together for decades who suddenly wished to take advantage of the legal recognition.'

Which makes the opening paragraph's claim of 'speculation that, like heterosexual services, [civil partnerships] have fallen out of fashion' a bit fanciful.

The prize for the worst error of judgement goes to some unnamed 'government officials', though.

When Government officials drew up the new laws for civil partnership they estimated that five per cent of the population was gay or lesbian and predicted that 62,000 gay couples would register in the first five years of ceremonies.

62,000 is, as far as I can tell, an absolute back-of-the-envelope calculation that you get if you take the rough number of heterosexual weddings in the UK, take 5% of it, and multiply it by 5. This is not public-sector insight research at its best. (That said, if there is evidence that the government conducted some more research into the extent of demand for civil partnerships, I'd be delighted to be corrected.)

# Alex Steer (04/08/2009)