For an opinion poll to carry any weight, the question must be carefully designed so that it does not significantly influence the way in which people will answer. A recent widely reported poll by Research New Zealand was, on closer inspection, seriously flawed. The poll was reported to have shown increased but still minority support for New Zealand becoming a republic. It did not. It showed nothing at all; the results were spoiled.
[Prime Minister Sidney Holland hands the Queen the vellum copy of her Speech from the Throne, 12 January 1954. Archives New Zealand, Reference: AAQT 6538/1]
The flaws which vitiated the poll occurred in the introduction to the first of two questions. Those questions were:
“Australians are considering becoming a republic, which means the Queen of England will no longer be their Head of State. Do you believe New Zealand should also consider this?”
“If the Queen does remain our Head of State should she be succeeded by Prince Charles or Prince William?”
…the two flaws in the poll…
A central issue in the 1999 Australian referendum campaign related to the Head of State. If there is another referendum it is expected to still be a significant issue.
But the first question adopts one side of the debate, that is, the republican side. To understand the effect of this, try to imagine a poll about electoral voting intentions favouring one side by adopting its arguments.
The question also suggests Australians generally are actively considering this issue. The fact is that it is not an issue of concern among rank and file Australians and every survey shows this.
For a respondent to answer this question, he or she should be told of the result in 1999. The reason why a plebiscite is now being proposed in Australia is that republicans expect that they would lose another referendum.
So it would have been more accurate to say something along these lines:
“ Australians nationally and in all states rejected becoming a republic in 1999. Republicans however are still proposing the constitution be changed, but no further referendum has been announced. Do you believe New Zealand should also consider this?”
…media release misunderstands the situation…
The media release demonstrates that the researchers do not fully appreciate the Australian situation. It says “Australia is debating becoming a republic and a referendum on the issue is proposed for 2010.”
But no one in Australia is arguing for a referendum in 2010. Republicans are not- they know they would lose.
The Prime Minister has indicted there will be a plebiscite if and after they are returned. An election is likely in 2010. The plebiscite will possibly be followed by another before a referendum.
The respondents to the poll thought that New Zealand should not consider becoming a republic, 48%: 42% with opposition strongest among the more elderly.
I regret to say, the value of the poll has been seriously diminished for the reasons I have given. Unwittingly, the poll has exaggerated the support for the removal of the New Zealand Crown from the constitution.
In the meantime, look at The Queen of New Zealand, the New Zealand Prime Minister and the All Blacks at the opening of the New Zealand Rugby Ball in London.
…NZ Rugby Ball…
[Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Ma'a Nonu, a member of the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team, when she visited the New Zealand 'Giant Rugby Ball', near Tower Bridge in London, Tuesday Nov. 25, 2008. The Queen viewed a 'virtual visit to New Zealand' in the form of an audio-visual experience covering the ceiling and walls. The Ball gives visitors a taste of what they can expect when they travel to New Zealand and showcases the country's creative talent, landscape and technology.]
[AP Photo by John Stillwell]