Asking the right question

The NZ Herald reports “Most voters want the Government to spend its spare cash on services such as education and health rather than on tax cuts”

This is a prime example of how asking a question in a certain way, gets a certain result.

Whenever you phase a question as basically being a choice between better health and education or tax cuts, poll respondents choose better health and education. This is the same around the world, in any year or decade. I refuse to even ask that question in polls I do, because the result is always the same.

However as we saw last year, if you ask do you prefer the Government to help some families with family assistance, or lower tax rates for all, a huge majority say lower tax rates.

If you ask do you prefer tax cuts or more funding for TWOA and hip-hop tours, you again get another result.

If you actually mention the size of the surplus, and give an option of both extra spending *and* tax cuts then most people will go for that option.

If you do not mention health and education as the example of extra spending, then support for that option drops. They are always the most popular areas. Mention social welfare (which is larger) and you get dramatically different results.

Also such questions make assumptions that extra spending in an area leads to better services. It is a natural assumption people make, but there is huge evidence this is not always true. Just look at tertiary education which is a disaster zone despite heaps more money.

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