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 TPP, 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.

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