Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pushing the polls? Subliminal Nats' promotion?

I got a phone call just as I was about to start watching Women's Murder Club on TV. I agreed to do this phone poll, even though it meant missing the beginning of the programme. I had always wondered why I never got contacted for the widely publicised political polls, so wanted to be able to give my views. However, as it turned out, the questions made this hard to do.

The young woman asking the questions said she was from a company that sounded like Courier. I tried to get some information from her about who had commissioned the poll, but all she could/would say was that they did political surveys.

As the survey progressed I became increasingly unhappy with the questions. I said so to the interviewer. She said others had made the same comments "this evening". Too many of the questions seemed to be based on right wing assumptions, and many were far too simplistic for me to easily provide an answer.

She began by asking if I was planning to vote in the parliamentary elections, and if so, who for. Some of the questions went something like this (based on my memory):

Which party did I think would be most successful in "cracking" down on

Which Party did I think could "fix" the health system?

Which party would have a tax system that would "reward hard work"?

These were some of the questions I criticised, explaining why I couldn't give a straight forward answer.

The first assumes crime is out of control, pandering to the kind of moral panic the political right and much mainstream media tend to promote. The second assumes the health system is broken. I said I didn't think this was the case for either, though I did think they could be further improved.

The tax questions seems to tap into a right wing assumption that all higher paid people always work harder than all of those on lower pay, and that they therefore deserve tax cuts.

There were similar slants to questions on welfare, mortgages, and too many questions asking for the "best" party generally. There was a whole bunch of questions asking to compare party leaders, especially Labour/Clark and National/Key, indicating a first past the post slant to some questions. I complained that it often depended on the issues, though I always tended to answer in favour of one or more than one left leaning parties.

At the end I told the interviewer that I wasn't criticising her, but that I thought it was a poor questionnaire. I basically was saying that whoever designed it, didn't do a very good job.I did a bit of a quick search online, but could find nothing on "Courier" company that does surveys, so I'm a little suspicious. Such a questionnaire could easily push people who didn't have strong political views and/or knowledge towards thinking we needed a right wing government.

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