August 7, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Shirtgate / Shirtstorm poll results point to a polar community

Shirtgate shirtstorm poll resultsAfter about a week of polling on views of shirtgate (also known as shirtstorm), the results are in and there are some pretty clear findings.

The poll sought to measure people’s views of Dr. Matt Taylor’s wearing of a shirt covered in depictions of scantily clad woman including some with guns during a TV interview on the Rosetta comet landing project.

The two most polar possible choices got by far the most answers indicating intense feelings on this topic.

By almost a 2:1 margin (52% versus 27%), the more than 2,500 respondents indicated that they viewed the wearing of the shirt as a non-event that was blown out of proportion.

There were responses from 69 countries to the poll and  in almost every country of the world the view that the wearing of the shirt was a non-event blown out of proportion won out. However, the reponses did vary relatively speaking in some interesting ways between countries.

In Taylor’s home of the UK, responses were relatively one-sided. In the UK, 63% of responses were that the wearing of the shirt was a non-event and the reaction to it was the problem, while 4-fold fewer (15.6%) viewed the actual wearing of the shirt as a problem. About 2% said either “scientists should wear whatever they want” or that it was a mistake for Taylor to have worn the shirt.

In the US, the numbers were relatively far closer together. While 43% said the wearing of the shirt was a non-event and the reaction to it was the problem, 35% viewed the wearing of the shirt as problematic. In addition, in the US 13% felt “it was a mistake to have worn it”, while 7.5% said “scientists should wear whatever they want”. Therefore, if you add up the total of the two responses viewing the wearing of the shirt as a problem or mistake, and those two opposite responses viewing the wearing of the shirt as not a big deal, they were roughly equal, but clearly more people felt more intensely that there was an overreaction to the wearing of the shirt. Still these numbers are far closer together than in the UK and in most other countries of the world.

Only 4 countries of the 69 total went against the trend of the others and outright chose “The shirt is part of a bigger problem with STEM and women and warranted a discussion” as the top answer:

  • New Zealand (10 responses that way, 8 other spread amongst other answers)
  • Italy (4 responses that way and 4 other responses spread out amongst other answers),
  • Estonia (2 responses that way, 1 that the shirt was a non-event)
  • Luxembourg (2 responses that way and no others).

These countries had relatively few total respondents though so it is difficult to say whether these trends would have held up with larger numbers of answers from those countries.

Some countries were relatively one-sided the other way viewing the reaction to the wearing as more of a problem than the actual wearing of the shirt by the indicated ratios: France (>7:1), Canada (~2.5:1), Australia (2:1), Germany (>3.0:1), Greece (6:1), Netherlands (2:1).

What are your thoughts on these poll results?

Note that this poll is an Internet poll so the trends can be skewed by various factors and potential biases including how the poll was disseminated on social media. The poll could have been designed in different ways as well that may have yielded distinct results.

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