There’s long been doubt over the quality of David Farrar’s Curia polling company. Now, Tim Watkin has produced a first-hand report of Curia’s questioning. The tone of the questions is biased, which is really dumb if you’re trying to get useful data. It’s not really push polling, it’s Farrar delivering what the Nats want to hear to maintain his standing in the party.
Here’s a couple of snippets from Watkin’s account of being polled by Curia:
“The pollster took me through a range of portfolio areas, asking which party I thought would do best in each one… Health, education, tax, foreign policy, welfare…
But the question changed subtly, but significantly for a couple, and in a way that seemed somewhat leading. I assume it was on purpose, and therefore am left wondering whether that doesn’t undermine the use of the data.
On the environment, I was asked not which party would do best, but which was most balanced. Now, I can’t remember the precise wording, but it was a question constructed differently from the others. I remember thinking, ‘balanced is a word so heavily used by National that it points in that party’s direction’….
What I do remember exactly was being asked which party would be “toughest on crime”. Not which party would make us safer, or reduce crime or address the causes of crime. Which would be “toughest”. As if being tough on crime equated to being the best party to deal with crime.”
“The climax of the interview were questions about the two marquee policies announced by the major parties this year. It was Labour’s Tax-free zone vs National’s partial privatisation – interesting what most concerns DPF and his clients.
Again, the questions had a noticeable lean. Asking about Labour’s policy, the pollster told me that critics say it’s unaffordable while supporters say it can be funded by increasing taxes on the rich (a simplistic description, but no more than Labour deserves given its vague outline). However National’s privatisation plans were proposed to simply ‘pay off debt’. There was no talk of critics, such as those who complain at the loss of dividends or foreign encroachment, or indeed at other reasons to support the plan, such as strengthening our stock exchange and access to capital.”
You might have read in last weekend’s Dom (Tracy Watkins’ article, I think), that National internal polling allegedly shows people aren’t worried about asset sales. Now we know the questions that created that answer.
Now DPF can ask whatever questions he wants, but by asking leading questions, don’t you get less accurate results? Aren’t people more likely to tell you what you want to hear, rather than the views that will actually drive them when they’re standing in the booth on election day?”
This fits with what I’ve heard out of the Nats. Curia delivers the results that the leadership wants to hear. In other words, it’s useless for providing real information. But it works for Farrar because it keeps him in favour, keeps the Nat research unit tidbits flowing, and opens doors to polling contracts with National proxies and, now, government ministries.
The good news for us is that as the Nat leadership becomes more and more out of touch with ordinary Kiwis, Farrar’s polls create a positive feedback, pushing them further away from reality.