A loaded poll question

December 11th, 2012 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

Been sent a link to a poll commissioned by the First Union on the TPP. It looks like 64% oppose , but look at the question:

New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade and investment treaty with ten other countries called the Trans Pacific Partnership. As part of the negotiations, there is a proposal to allow foreign investors to sue governments in private offshore tribunals if government actions threaten their future profits. The US advocates it while Australia says it would not sign a deal with this in it. Which one of the following statements do you most agree with:

That’s such an outrageously worded question, I am surprised they didn’t get 90% opposed. There is no proposal to allow investors to sue if their “profits are threatened”. The proposal (which is in many other trade deals we have) is to sue if the government discriminates against the company based on their country. You can’t simply sue because the Govt passes a law that will harm profits.

The difference is massive. As that poll question describes the proposal, a normal respondent would imagine that there would be potentially hundreds of law suits – because many many Govt actions impact a company’s profits. In reality law suits under this provision are massively rare – one per decade maybe, because any action is restricted to whether it is discriminatory (ie would not impact local companies also).

Again, based on that question, I’d expect 90% to be against. There is a legitimate debate about investor state provisions, but this loaded question is all heat and no light.

The lesson for media should be to always look at the actual poll question asked, and don’t just go off any media release. And ask yourself if the poll question is a fair representation of the issue being debated.

Tags: , ,

17 Responses to “A loaded poll question”

  1. Rex Widerstrom (5,261 comments) says:

    David, is there not some code of conduct for polling firms which obliges them to point out in their reports (and/or when commissioned in the first place) that what they’re being asked to do is effectively push-polling and that, as such, the results are statistically invalid? Even us much-loathed PR people have a code (albeit a voluntary one, but at least you can find out which of us adhere to it and which don’t). I’d have thought polling companies – whose output is perceived as far more empirical and unbiased than a PR firm’s – would have one too?

    [DPF: It isn't push polling. People use that term wrongly all the time. Push polling is when a poll is used to spread a message, pretending to be a poll. That is very different to having a loaded question.

    There is no impartial way to agree on a neutral question. The impt thing is to release the full script, so people can see the context of the answers]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    “….discriminates….”

    David, could you please give us an outline of this, as ‘tv/radio content’ etc would be classified as discrimination in a ‘broad’ sense.

    Are African Americans any lessor than Maori? :cool:

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Something about an aversion to facts getting in the way of a good story [result] would seem to apply to the question and the intention that would seem to be behind it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    David, what I mean is, ‘content quotas’.

    Also on quotas, if a government outsources some work overseas but not 100% [for election reasons]- is that ‘discrimination’?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Kimble (4,379 comments) says:

    The Loaded Pole? Great pub.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Pongo (371 comments) says:

    The other question they asked was along the lines of are you aware the government is negotiating to end Pharmac and push up the prices of drugs for the benefit of the overseas owned drug companies, when I mentioned that the government had in fact expressly said Pharmac is not on the table it didn’t fit into the tick box.
    I hung up in the end totally stunned that Colmar Brunton could ask such monumentally stupid, loaded questions and then not have an opportunity to answer except in their pre crafted way. I wish someone could get a list of the questions they were asking and get it in the papers before the inevitable press release is out saying 112.5% of the population opposes the TPP and then that is reported as fact in every news report forever.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “because any action is restricted to whether it is discriminatory (ie would not impact local companies also).”

    That isn’t the way I understand investor-state dispute provisions to work. The tobacco company threat to sue over loss of income due to plain packaging isn’t based on discrimination in favour of local companies. Equal treatment for local and international companies is a standard part of trade agreements and has been for years – quite different to the new proposals. It may be die to a local competitor getting more favoured treatment, but this isn’t the only basis for taking a case.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investor_State_Dispute_Settlement

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Unimatrix.Zero (14 comments) says:

    Hi Rex (2.27pm) and Pongo (3.39pm)

    I’m just wanting to note that Consumer Link is a market research data collection and data processing organisation (only). Consumer Link is a subsidiary of Colmar Brunton, and were set up to allow third parties (businesses, research agencies, researchers, and other individals or groups) access to fieldwork and data processing resources. To my knowledge, the questions are usually designed by the third parties who commission fieldwork, although I’m sure that some editing and checking takes place when it comes to grammar and readibility.

    To maintain the confidentiality of those third party clients, some of which are other research agencies, Colmar Brunton and its researchers are not involved with projects commissioned through Consumer Link.

    Cheers
    Andrew Robertson (yip, I’m a researcher at Colmar Brunton)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Johnboy (14,993 comments) says:

    Get a real job Andrew! :)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. Unimatrix.Zero (14 comments) says:

    Meh… it’s a living. :)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Johnboy (14,993 comments) says:

    Have you never considered being a Lumberjack?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. Unimatrix.Zero (14 comments) says:

    I have no upper body strength. It comes with being a data geek.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. Johnboy (14,993 comments) says:

    PEB and David Garret were! :)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. Johnboy (14,993 comments) says:

    And look were it got them now! :)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. scrubone (3,048 comments) says:

    The tobacco company threat to sue over loss of income due to plain packaging isn’t based on discrimination in favour of local companies.

    Wasn’t that thrown out?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “Wasn’t that thrown out?”

    Not the issue. Point is whether it will be possible to take a case under the TPPA for so-called ‘regulatory expropriation’. This has nothing to do with whether an overseas company is treated differently to a local one. It has to do with supposed impacts of profits from government moves and whether companies can demand compensation if a government decides to do something – a legal, health or environmental regulation for example – which the company believes will cause it to lose profits.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. V (668 comments) says:

    The NZ media aren’t called repeaters for nothing.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.