Brian Edwards Media

Family First’s Latest “Family Issues Survey” is on the Web now – Read it and Weep

  

NZ Herald

[Some hours after this post was published, the survey was removed from the Family First site.]

 Family First’s  2011 opinion poll, Family Issues Survey 2011, is now online. There are 28 questions. Each question invites one of these responses: 

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree
  • Undecided/Not Sure  

Here are the 28 questions: 

 1. (Marriage)  New Zealand should develop policies that encourage a cultural shift towards a lifelong exclusive commitment expressed in marriage e.g. subsidised pre-marriage and marriage counselling. Amend welfare and tax systems to eliminate marriage penalties and disincentives to marriage. 

2.  (Definition of Marriage) New Zealand should protect marriage as being one man – one woman. 

3.  (Parenting) New Zealand should recognise that parents have primary responsibility for nurturing, raising and educating children. Governments should respect and support the exercise of parental responsibilities. 

4.   (Childcare) New Zealand should provide greater flexibility for parents to choose the best child care arrangements for them. End discrimination against stay-home parents i.e. funding only going to Early Childhood Education. 

5.  (Anti-Smacking Law) New Zealand should scrap the anti-smacking law. Amend the law to state explicitly that parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law. 

6.  (Sex Education) New Zealand should promote age-appropriate sex education which is values based, increase funding of abstinence education, and provide support and resources for parents to be primary educators of their child’s sex education.

7.  (Adoption) New Zealand should allow only married couple adoption – not de facto, same sex or single adoption. 

8.  (Government) New Zealand should replace the offices of Children’s Commissioner and Families Commission with a Minister of Families in Cabinet to advocate, research, and oversee family-based policies and the impact of legislation on families. 

9.  (Child Abuse) New Zealand should establish a non-political Commission of Inquiry to understand and address the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in NZ. 

10.  (CYF Complaints Authority) New Zealand should establish an independent CYF (Child Youth and Family) Complaints Authority, similar to the Police Complaints Authority, to hear complaints about CYF from families who feel they have been unfairly treated, and to safeguard against abuse of state power. 

11.   (Welfare) New Zealand should change welfare payments to include vouchers which limit spending on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other expenses which detract from the needs of the children. 

12.   (Income Splitting) New Zealand should allow income-splitting for married couples for tax purposes (optional for families to enter in to).

13.   (Abortion) New Zealand should change the law to acknowledge the humanity / personhood of the unborn child from conception and protect that unborn children throughout the entire duration of pregnancy. 

14.  (Informed Consent) New Zealand should introduce a ‘Woman’s Right to Know’ law. This law would require doctors, who are independent from abortion providers, to inform women seeking an abortion of the medical risks and all the consequences of and alternatives to the procedure so that a woman is fully informed.

15.  (Parental Notification) -New Zealand should have automatic parental notification in cases of teenage pregnancy, teen abortions and other medical procedures except in exceptional circumstances approved by the court.  

16.   (Stem Cell Research) New Zealand should promote adult stem cell research, and oppose embryonic stem cell research. 

17.  (Euthanasia) New Zealand should oppose euthanasia – and increase resourcing of hospices and palliative care. 

18.  (Loan Sharks)  New Zealand should introduce stricter regulations on ‘loan sharks’ including capped interest rates and registration. 

19.  (Gaming Machines)  New Zealand should introduce a nationwide ‘sinking lid’ policy on gaming machines (the gradual reduction in numbers of machines). 

20.  (Prostitution) New Zealand should amend the Prostitution Reform Act to prosecute the buyer, provide resources and incentives to help prostitutes out of the industry, and criminalise the act of pimping and brothel keeping. 

21.  (Drinking Age) New Zealand should raise the drinking / purchasing age to 21. 

22.  (Law and Order) New Zealand should maintain the ‘Three Strikes’ legislation. 

23.  (Internet Filtering) New Zealand should introduce compulsory ISP filtering of pornography so that children do not stumble across or deliberately access internet pornography at home, school or public libraries.. 

24.  (Media Standards) New Zealand should develop and enforce higher standards for TV, film, radio and advertising content including levels of violence, sexual content and objectionable language. This includes greater community and family representation on the Broadcasting and Advertising Standards Authorities and Censorship Board with regular changing of board members after limited terms of office to avoid desensitization or lack of accountability. 

25.  (Public Indecency) New Zealand should amend the Crimes Act to clearly define ‘indecent acts’ in order to prevent public nudity and events such as “Boobs on Bikes” 

26.  (Sexualisation of Young People) New Zealand should introduce stricter controls to prevent the sexualisation of children through marketing and media. 

27.  (ETS) New Zealand should scrap the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

28.  (Referendums) New Zealand should adopt binding Referendums which requires Parliament to pass laws in accordance with the result of a citizens’ initiated referendum. 

***

Of the 28 questions 13 may be considered legitimate in that they present a single, unambiguous proposition for the respondent to answer. 

The remaining 15 questions either contain multiple propositions or ambiguous/imprecise language. 

In the case of a question containing multiple propositions, a respondent who agrees with one of the propositions but disagrees with another, cannot properly answer the question at all. 

In the case of a question containing ambiguous/imprecise language, it is impossible for a respondent to know just what he/she is agreeing to or disagreeing with. 

***

Here are the questions I regard as not legitimate: 

Q1.  (Marriage)  Multiple propositions. 

Q4.  (Childcare)  Multiple propositions. 

Q5. (Anti-Smacking Law) Multiple propositions. Ambiguous/imprecise language: “reasonable”, “for the purpose of correction” 

Q6  (Sex Education) Multiple propositions. Ambiguous/imprecise language: “age-appropriate”, “values based” 

Q8. (Government) Ambiguous/imprecise language: “family based policies” 

Q11. (Welfare) Ambiguous/imprecise language: “other expenses which detract from the needs of the children” 

Q13. (Abortion)  Ambiguous/imprecise language: “acknowledge”, “humanity”, “personhood”, “protect” 

Q15. (Parental Notification)  Multiple propositions: Ambiguous/imprecise language: “other medical procedures”, “exceptional circumstances”. 

Q16. (Stem Cell Research)  Multiple propositions. 

Q17.  (Euthanasia) Multiple propositions. Ambiguous/imprecise language: “euthanasia” (voluntary or involuntary?) 

Q20. (Prostitution) Multiple propositions. 

Q21. (Drinking Age) Multiple propositions. (Drinking and purchasing ages are not the same thing.) 

Q23. (Internet Filtering) Multiple propositions: “at home”, “at school”, “at public libraries”

Q24. (Media Standards) Multiple propositions. Ambiguous/imprecise language: “higher standards”, “objectionable language” 

***

Family First might have modelled their questions on Norm Withers’ 1999  Citizens Initiated Referendum which asked: “Should there be a reform of our justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims , providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?”  (Multiple propositions.) The referendum received 92% support from voters 

Or perhaps the more recent  Citizen’s Initiated Referendum which asked: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”  (Ambiguous/imprecise language: “smack”, “good parental correction” Contains the assumption that a smack can be part of good parental correction. Does not state acceptable frequency of smacking. )  The proposition was opposed by 82% of voters. 

The lesson from all of this is that survey questions with multiple (and potentially conflicting) propositions and ambiguous, imprecise language are the very best kind of questions for organizations whose real aim is to produce an entirely skewed result, favourable to their own position.   

That result is achieved a) by making it impossible for respondents, not totally committed to everything the survey compilers believe in, to answer a significant proportion of the questions in the survey at all, and b) by the deliberate use of  ambiguous or non-specific language which appears benign (Who could object to “good parental correction”?) but is open to a large variety of meanings and interpretations. 

If I’m right that 15 of the 28 questions in the Family First online survey could only be satisfactorily answered by committed Family First supporters, then 54% of the survey questions are so hopelessly skewed as to have no statistical validity. 

Also undermining the result will be that fact that respondents are given a visual hint on how to answer most of the questions in the form of a helpful little graphic right beside the question. 

Some  examples: 

marriage one man one woman.jpgNew Zealand should protect marriage as being one man – one woman. 

  

 yeah right mumsNew Zealand should provide greater flexibility for parents to choose the best child care arrangements for them. End discrimination against stay-home parents i.e. funding only going to Early Childhood Education. 

  

 Gender mattersNew Zealand should allow only married couple adoption – not de facto, same sex or single adoption 

  

Abortion scan New Zealand should change the law to acknowledge the humanity / personhood of the unborn child from conception and protect that unborn  children throughout the entire duration of pregnancy 

   

Euthanasia 2New Zealand should oppose euthanasia – and increase resourcing of hospices and palliative care 

And finally, I had no difficulty filling out the questionnaire multiple times. Unless Family First is able to indentify repeat entries from the same coumputer source, then the entire survey becomes statistically totally meaningless. However, as a non-random survey, it was largely meaningless anyway.

  ***

Hmmmm. I’m not entirely sure that that the Family First Survey is entirely above board, kosher or aimed at delivering the truth. It looks like a rather clever attempt to pull the wool over our eyes or perhaps over the eyes of our political masters to whom these spurious surveys are really addressed. But, in saying that, I have to warn you to take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m certainly not objective about organisations like Family First. My tolerance for them stops when I consider the extraordinary lengths they went to to persuade our lawmakers that New Zealand should be a country where it’s OK for parents to strike their kids. I’m pretty against that.   So let’s just say that this survey doesn’t seem to have a great deal of statistical validity and that its findings may not be entirely reliable. For starters anyway.

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9 Comments:

  1. I support a lot of Family First’s aims, but yeah, it wasn’t a great poll. However the purpose of the poll was to direct where Family First put their energies, not to create a scientific poll for political reasons.

    Also re: Norm Withers referendum. I was one of the few who voted against it because I could not agree with the “hard labour” part of it.

    BE: Well, you can bet your bottom dollar, they’ll use the results to claim massive support for the things they believe in. It isn’t a scientific poll, any more than the previous referenda were scientific, but both resulted in organisations like Family First claiming that the people had spoken.

  2. “…If I’m right that 15 of the 28 questions in the Family First online survey could only be satisfactorily answered by committed Family First supporters…”

    Not difficult, since Family First only has a membership of one, which is Bob McCroskie – http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/about_us/faqs “How do I join?”

  3. a good and thorough de-bunking – thanks Brian.

    i see they’ve taken it down already, can’t have been giving them the results they wanted ;)

  4. Some of this I can agree with but the holus-bolus intolerance is beyond the pale. Just as well they took it down as was very soon to be Phyrangulised.

  5. Nice work Brian.

    I’m sure this isn’t getting the results Bob is after. It went viral on social media a few days ago and a lot of people who do not share Family First’s views have taken the opportunity to answer it.

    Also, the way these questions are written is exactly why we shouldn’t have binding citizen initiated referendums.

  6. I think the last two questions are interesting.

    While Q1-26 have some vague connection to a Family Issues survey, Q27 is incongruous (betraying the political acquaintances which Family First keeps?) while Q28 isn’t a family issue so much as it is a lobbyist’s dream.

  7. “…we shouldn’t have binding citizen initiated referendums.”

    Couldn’t agree more. We should have referenda around issues of significant change to the electoral system – of course the people should have direct say if there’s a proposal to change how we can elect our representatives. But as for CRIs? Expensive waste of time.

  8. The results of this survey have been posted. And as expected they show strong support for every issue. This is interesting, especially for Q1 where 0% of people strongly disagree. That would indicate 11 or fewer people selecting this option. Unusual given that I know at least that many that selected that option (it was passed around our friends as a chance to provide rational feedback to an irrational organization). I think perhaps they didn’t get the results they intended and decided to make them up. When asked about this BoB McCoskrie said:

    “[It] is not a survey of public opinion – was never intended to be and was never the purpose”

    That’s strange because all of their media related to the survey previously indicated the opposite. For example:

    “FAMILY FIRST NZ’s role is to be a voice for families in the public domain, and to research family, marriage and pro-life issues.”
    “…so that we can better represent families in New Zealand.”