In 2010 the largest protest for a generation in NZ marched down Queen St to oppose mining. But by squinting sideways at some rigged polling questions, industry advocates would have you believe that we the people support mining. They are aided and abetted by dumb headlines like this:
Public back mining: poll
Do we indeed? Let’s see:
Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said results of a recent 1000-person national poll, showing support and understanding in percentages beyond 70 to 80 per cent, were surprising, given “the perception that there is a lot of opposition in New Zealand to mining, such as [mining] lignite and gold”. “These results prove otherwise,” he said. “They [the percentages] are high enough to be a game-changer.”
The poll found 81 per cent believed it was “very important or quite important” to develop New Zealand’s natural resources for prosperity, while 77 per cent were “very concerned or quite concerned” about New Zealand’s standard of living.
Baker said the results revealed most New Zealanders supported responsible exploration and mining for minerals, “contrary to what a vocal and persistent minority would have us believe”.
Very important or quite important to develop New Zealand’s natural resources for prosperity – that means more national parks for tourism right? Yeah, I can tick that box! And very concerned or quite concerned about New Zealand’s standard of living – aren’t we all. But does this constitute support for mining, and justify the headline? Only to an industry spinner (or, apparently, The Herald).
The article itself goes on to note the qualified nature of any “support”:
While the poll found 59 per cent “agreed or agreed strongly” with development of New Zealand’s natural resources, Baker emphasised the higher percentages who “agreed or agreed strongly” that the environment was protected (79 per cent); local people were employed (84 per cent); the minerals sector boosted the economy (83 per cent); money generated stayed in New Zealand (82 per cent); and that mining work was done by New Zealand companies (78 per cent).
I was going to track down the polling questions and pull them apart, but The Coal Action Network has beaten me to it:
Coal industry poll flawed: Coal Action Network
Wellington, 15 October 2012—The Coal Action Network today accused the coal industry of carrying out dubious market research to give the impression that there is massive support for coal mining. … “The questions appear to be designed to produce a particularly positive set of answers that would benefit the company’s public image,” said Tim Jones of Coal Action Network Aotearoa. “And we all know how much Solid Energy’s public image could do with a boost.” …
“I was at the presentation,” said Tim Jones, “and the survey’s own figures don’t back up the spin. According to the research presented, 71% of New Zealanders would only agree with new coal mining if there was no increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Since coal mining is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, and no viable technology exists to stop those emissions reaching the atmosphere, that means over 70% of New Zealanders want no new or expanded coal mines.” …
“Many New Zealanders would agree that swimming with sharks was fine -if sharks didn’t bite. Unfortunately, sharks do bite, and mining and burning coal does produce greenhouse gas emissions.”
CANA has checked the questions with several experts in market research, all of whom agree that the questions are indeed leading and break some very basic rules of objective market research. …
“While some may not find it surprising that Solid Energy is carrying out this type of polling, we find it duplicitous of the company to use leading questions in market research to fool its shareholders – us —into thinking there is more support for coal than there actually is.”
Lies, damn lies, and rigged polling questions. Herald headline writers take note.