Polling and Spin – Part I

[See a 25 Oct UPDATE below with some links] There was something familiar about a pro-mining an article in the New Zealand Herald last week, Public Back Mining: Poll, and it wasn’t just that the headline was rather like one that ran on July 9, Mining Poll Result Shows Kiwis Alert to ‘Misinformation’. For one thing, there were a few quotes from the mining lobby group Straterra, whose CEO is Chris Baker:

Oct. 15
Baker said the results revealed most New Zealanders supported responsible exploration and mining for minerals, “contrary to what a vocal and persistent minority would have us believe”. “But the results also show relatively poor public understanding of the reality today of minerals activities in New Zealand,” he said. “The misinformation advanced by parts of the community, however well-intended, does not help informed debate on our economic future.”

July 9
“However, the survey shows that misinformation on minerals and mining promulgated by a vocal and persistent minority is rejected by most New Zealanders, who have confidence in our regulations and who see every reason for mineral exploration,” Baker said.

It seems “vocal and persistent minority” is the focused-group phrase for – whoever – since, according to today’s article, “Baker did not identify any group.” Though the article went on to discuss Forest & Bird.

But more importantly, last week’s article (which originally ran a few days earlier in the Otago Daily Times) gave the reader almost no information about the poll on which it was based. It surely isn’t the same poll as the one reported in July, since that surveyed 750 people, and the one quoted last week apparently surveyed 1000. But who commissioned it? Who carried it out? What were all the questions?  All we are told is that it was “a recent 1000-person national poll”.

I’ve written about the news media’s coverage of polling before. And this is another case of Not Nearly Enough Information.

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