Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About that 4% Number

Just how much support was there at the Park Slope Food Coop for BDS?

If you are just coming to this story, here is a quick recap:

The Coop's governance system allows for anyone to submit something to be discussed at a General Meeting.  There is an Agenda Committee tasked with scheduling the item for presentation.  Theoretically, every proposal will eventually be presented.  All members are eligible to attend a General Meeting.  Attendance is optional.

On March 27, 2012, a proposal to conduct a referendum to boycott Israel and endorse the BDS movement was presented at the General Meeting.  Or, as it became known, "the vote on the vote."

The Coop had about 16,000 members at the time.  1,658 members came to the General Meeting and submitted ballots.  The final tally was 1,005 votes against the referendum and 653 in favor.  A 61% to 39% split among the people who came to vote.

Only 653 out of 16,000 members voted in favor of the referendum.  About 4%.

But isn't the General Meeting a statistical sample?  Can't we extrapolate the 39% to the entire membership?  No.  The people who attended the meeting were a self-selected group.  They were particularly motivated to give up an evening to attend the General Meeting.  I know the people who rearranged their schedules, made special transportation arrangements, or found babysitters so they would be free to attend.  Everyone who came cared about the issue.  90% did not show up.

What does all this mean? Even within the liberal Park Slope, within the progressive Park Slope Food Coop, support for BDS was only marginal.  BDS is a fringe movement.  It is not a main stream progressive cause.

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