Lies, damn lies, and rigged polling questions

Written By: - Date published: 1:05 pm, October 15th, 2012 - 30 comments
Categories: Conservation, energy, Mining - Tags: , , , ,

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.

30 comments on “Lies, damn lies, and rigged polling questions”

  1. Gosman 1

    Do you support a complete cessation of mining in NZ?

    • felix 1.1


      More of your Random inanity Gosman.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      I support a complete cessation of you asking inane questions.

      • We have to mine.

        • Gosman

          Even the Labour party and The Greens acknowledge this. Of course they couch it in terms of environmental sustainability. What this means is a value judgement. Essentially it means what is acceptable to us at this particular point in time. This poll was obviously trying to frame the debate so that it looks like it is more acceptable. Probably bad polling practice but potentially good politics.

          • Draco T Bastard

            What this means is a value judgement.

            Nope, it’s not a value judgement at all. It very much a measured and objective judgement. The problem is that we haven’t done the measuring and the RWNJs don’t want us to as that would get in the way of them raping the earth for their own aggrandisement.

        • Kez

          Mine it, drill it, sell it. Let’s get some jobs going, unlike the lefties wank-fest with less than 100 present.

        • millsy

          As long as its not in our National Parks or anywhere else in our DoC estates. But it seems that people are willing to give our National Parks up. In which case they are being very treasonous.

      • higherstandard 1.2.2

        As long as there’s a concurrent cessation of inane answers from yourself I’m prepared to offer third party mediation.

    • scotty 1.3

      Do you support a complete cessation of mining in NZ?


      Do you support compulsory mining over every square inch of NZ?

  2. Dr Terry 2

    Note that this so-called “poll” includes the all important words that concern, quote, “responsible exploration and mining”. That is the issue, what do we deem as “responsible”? I am quite sure that New Zealanders do not view the creation of greenhouse emissions, OR mining on Conservation lands, as acceptable let alone responsible.

    • Gosman 2.1

      Considering any type of activity leads to Greenhouse gas emissions I would dispute your view that any emissions would be unacceptable to NZers.

    • OneTrack 2.2

      The New Zealanders who answered those questions seem to disagree with you.

      • McFlock 2.2.1

        read the post again. hint: “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.

  3. tracey 3

    Gosman, what do you think about the method of polling used by strata

  4. Jokerman 4

    Romulans to Picard-“Give Us Data”

  5. muzza 5

    Remember that its about getting NZ separated from its resources, so as to be unable to become financially self reliant. The same can be seen in trying to get ChCh to sell off assets, sales of power companies, and the segregation of Aucklanders from their assets via the CCO’s which now control them!

    Think of it in terms of when NZ handed over what gold it had to the IMF in 1961 – but involving much bigger resource theft!

    Using deliberately ambiguous and confusing language in questions, while manipulating and lying about poll results, simply part of the programme!

  6. We allow the most atrocious lies uttered by political and moral prostitutes to go unchallenged. These lies are endlessly recycled in the commercial media until they become ingrained in the public conscience as truth. Worse than burying our heads in the sand, we bury them up our collective ass. How do you like the view?
    ~Charles Sullivan

  7. Cin77 7

    Sadly, I was called for this poll and agreed that it was important to develop New Zealand’s natural resources for prosperity and I also felt very concerned about New Zealand’s standard of living.

    I’m not advocating more mining and I’m quite pissed that my answers have been twisted in this way. But I should have clicked to the “prosperity” at the end. My bad 🙁 Sorry, NZ for selling out

  8. captain hook 8

    the guts of the matter is that this government cant lie straight in bed.
    they rig everything.
    Its in their nature.
    read “LIARS POKER” by Michael Lewis to see how the only way to be a successful money trader is to lie to everyone.

  9. insider 9

    This was an opinion poll for a vested interest group. It’s as trustworthy as one by greenpeace or the conservatives. Why the surprise?

  10. Cindy 10

    I was at the presentation of this at Straterra on Thursday. Pauline Colmar, who conducted the poll, went to great lengths to stress how careful they are when developing the questions. Yet she couldn’t answer my question about the support for lignite. See this link: question 14 in the poll .

    Here are the questions. I’ve posted some alternative ones below.
    “How much do you agree or disagree with the development of Southland’s lignite?”

    … if the environment is protected
    … if the environment is returned to as it was before
    … if there is no overall increase in Greenhouse emissions
    … if local people are employed
    … if it is done by New Zealand companies
    …if it means lower priced diesel
    … if it means lower priced fertilizer
    … if the communities where it occurs get special benefits
    … if it boosts the NZ economy
    …if everyone’s standard of living in New Zealand improves
    … if most of the money stays in New Zealand

    …if you know the environment can’t be protected
    …if the environment will never be the same as it was
    …if it inevitably increases greenhouse emissions as Don’s magic CCS solution has failed globally
    …if it were to employ only 6 people in Southland, some of whom left because it was too dangerous at the Briquetting plant
    … if the wholly-owned NZ company has sacked workers across the country to dig up fertile Southland farmland
    …if the lignite-to-diesel plant ever goes ahead (unlikely)
    … if Ravensdown has already walked away from the lignite-to-urea plans and Solid’s struggling to find a partner
    … if Solid sponsors the NZSO to clean up its image
    … if it’s already costing the NZ economy due to Don Elder’s financial mismanagement
    … if everyone’s standard of living in New Zealand improves and all the economists point to Solid Energy’s lignite mining in Southland as the catalyst
    …if NZ ends up spending more on mitigating climate change than it will get from this project.

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