Rodney Hide on dodgy survey

Rodney Hide’s Sunday column looked at a dodgy survey that suggested a “silent majority” of New Zealanders aren’t interested in rugby or the World Cup.

Rodney Hide: Silent majority? Yeah right

What a week! The All Blacks edging South Africa was stressful enough – then I discovered family and friends were faking it.

That was the finding of research by associate professor Toni Bruce.

A “silent majority” of us aren’t interested in rugby or the World Cup. I was beside myself that some of my friends and family must be unpatriotic and their passion faked.

The “vast majority” of the professor’s survey respondents declared the World Cup not personally important to them. They didn’t care. How could that be? In New Zealand?

But Hide looked into the poll.

I googled Toni Bruce.

I found out her research interests at Auckland University were “gender, race and ethnicity” and her work was “informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories”. Her research interests made me think she wasn’t keen on rugby.

Her press release this week, titled “Rugby World Cup a turnoff for many”, provided a link to her survey. I spent 20 minutes filling it out. That’s right. It’s there for anyone to complete.

So it could hardly be called a poll. There was no random selection. A small number of people chose to take part. As a form of research this is pretty much useless. It’s shocking it was reported on, but that’s what the herald did last Wednesday:

Rugby World Cup 2015: Silent majority turned off by All Blacks and rugby, survey claims

Sport sociologist Toni Bruce, an associate professor at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, is conducting a survey gauging Kiwi experiences and attitudes of the 2015 World Cup. Dr Bruce did similar surveys in 2007 and 2011.

She said this year’s results so far revealed a group she calls “the silent majority” – people who are uninterested in rugby and the Rugby World Cup.

Dr Bruce said 37 per cent of the survey respondents reported that winning the Rugby World Cup was personally important to them, whereas the vast majority said it was not.

There is no way she could determine her survey could identify a majority.

Hide continued:

Hang on. The survey was not of random people but rather those who knew of it and chose to do it.

And the most likely reason provided for undertaking it was that respondents received an email from the professor, sat in her class or bumped into her.

I guessed those into “gender, race and ethnicity, informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories” aren’t into rugby.

The survey was also reported by Stuff, as David Farrar posted at Kiwiblog – NZers and Rugby World Cup. He concluded in an update:

UPDATE: The survey is here, and is obviously a self-selecting survey. This means any quantitative data (ie more people are turned off rugby) is pretty useless, even though there can be useful qualitative data (why some people are turned off)

Toni Bruce’s profile at Auckland University:

Toni Bruce is Associate Professor in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Her research encompasses a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including autoethnography and ethnographic fiction. Her research interests lie in the areas of gender, race and ethnicity, national identity and media theory and practice. This work is informed by feminism, interpretive interactionism and cultural studies theories.

Toni’s current research investigates onine public responses to media coverage of the 2014 and 2010 FIFA (men’s) football world cups, particularly debates over the place of football in New Zealand sporting culture.

Toni also conducted research around the 2011 Rugby World Cup, focusing on how people in New Zealand reacted to and experienced the event. She will continue this work in 2015.

So that needs updating.

She has taught at universities in the United States, Australia and New Zealand in the areas of qualitative methodologies, advanced research skills…

That’s a worry. She could do with learning some advanced research skills herself.


Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  2nd November 2015

    Abuse and misuse of statistics is rampant in the media. There will be an avalanche of it from the Paris climate alarmfest imminently.

  2. Rodney is a gem. A diamond in the rough perhaps, but still a gem.

  3. Joe Bloggs

     /  2nd November 2015

    This style of approach to research has plagued the social sciences for the past century.

    There’s a huge issue in psychology, for example, in ‘decolonising’ psychological practice of normative middle-American thinking. A huge amount of the research in that discipline has been conducted by middle-class, white, American male academics using their students as respondents. The generalisability of that work has always been limited. nevertheless it gets used and has become the foundation of Western normativity in the discipline of psychology., wherein anything that is non-Western is abnormalised and pathologised.

    It’s disappointing to see this sort of research continuing to be conducted, and disappointing but unsurprising to see it being reported uncritically by dumbed-down media who don’t know enough to question what they are given.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  2nd November 2015

      Even if they know better they have a vested interest in unjustified sensationalism.

    • kiwi_guy

       /  2nd November 2015

      The media is fill of brainwashed Media Studies/Communications/Journalism graduates – usually 20 something females that have done “Wymmins Studies” or “Queer Theory” papers so their minds are filled with Cultural Marxist propaganda about evil straight white males oppressing the whole world.

      They then pump out the propaganda in their “journalist” roles – gay “marriage”, fat acceptance, “blended families”, gender quotas in government etc.

  4. traveller

     /  2nd November 2015

    I call bollocks on that. I live and work in Auckland with contact right across the spectrum including academia. At my mother’s retirement village the common room was standing room only, and the only one I know who didn’t watch it was one of my cleaners. There are two of these hard working Chinese ethnics and the other said to me he had to watch because his flag waving Kiwi kids were pumped, set their alarm and insisted on Dad watching with them.

    Sounds like Toni Bruce was purposely interviewing a very selective group indeed.

    “Qualitative and quantitative methodologies” yeah right. The former is very skewed by a researcher’s bias. Of course we’ll be paying her for this research. .

  5. kiwi_guy

     /  2nd November 2015

    The feminists need to be purged from the universities – no more “wymmins studies” or “Queer Theory” propaganda brainwashing young minds at tax payer expense.

    Here’s an example of the infestation by mentally ill lesbians on uni campuses – this nut case is from the UK.

    Note the bull ring in the nose and ugly hair – standard issue attaire for Social Justice Warriors and bull dykes.

  6. kiwi_guy

     /  2nd November 2015

    Seriously, you could not make this stuff up:

    “A “Fat Justice and Feminism” seminar sponsored by Swarthmore College blamed Ronald Reagan for the suffering of fat people and accused the Body mass index (BMI) of having “direct links to a white supremacist.”

    ” The March 20 workshop to address “the ongoing exploitation and oppression of fat people” was funded by the Women’s Resource Center, Dean Karen Henry, History Department, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Interpretation Theory and—most curiously—Worth Health Center.

    The workshop, taught by feminist activist Cora Segal and self-identified “angry, man-hating lesbian,” Nicole Sullivan, took place Thursday and sought to “address the ongoing exploitation and oppression of fat people.”

    …Body Mass Index (BMI) is an entirely erroneous and useless metric, as it was invented by a “white, male, French astronomer,” Adolphe Quetelet. Thus BMI has “direct links to a white supremacist, patriarchal, colonizing, exploitative force.”

  7. I prefer to deal in facts not opinion. The Energy Companies have reported massive abnormal use of electricity during the half-time break throughout NZ and supposed it to be a consequence of people boiling the billy for a brew (in more genteel words). Also, have a look at the Prime and Sky figures for viewing. They are far better measures of the level of interest. Who believes an Academic bandwagon appealer like the person concerned, anyway?

  8. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  2nd November 2015

    Old lady (me) wanders upstairs in Wellington Public Library. Approached by young lass asking if I had a few minutes to take part in a survey for her University. I asked what it was about. She replied (in heavily accented English) that it was a sort of anthropology study.
    Ok, I replied.
    Survey commenced along the lines of which of these males did I find most attractive, and to rank them (A to E).
    (Yuck, I secretly thought, as I gazed at these pictures of young white men)
    Then next question…. rank the 5 men again, now unshaven.
    (still yuck)
    and finally… with full beards…….
    (I’m rather partial to hairy chaps).
    At this point, I queried didn’t she have some other chaps I could rank…… older, darker, etc….
    No, she replied.
    Then the final bit was to ask a few personal questions about me….
    ethnicity, age, and then…. my current menstrual status.

    Ah hah, I thought….. this seems vaguely familiar….. bit Darwinian in fact.
    So I challenged her to tell me why she was conducting a survey on sexual selection under the guise of a general women’s magazine-type survey.
    At this point, out of the shadows popped her Mentor…. Dr blah-blah, a newly capped PhD.
    When I queried whether the way he was gathering data for his little survey had passed by the ethics committee, etc… he became rather flustered……. I told him I might have a wee chat with the Dean of the School of Biological Sciences to find out why only White men were the subject of University research on human sexual selection .
    He begged me not to. I agreed as long as he discarded my survey results.

  9. The real problem is not the silly fill in and post in self selection bollocks. It is this survey and its result will not be discard. It will survive and it will be reference for some future survey, investigation, paper… and its taint will propagate.

    There is too much of this stuff out there. For the average joe like me it can be a bit overwhelming, until you see a counter paper or post which unpicks the cause de jour and the flaky research that underpins it.

    Our Universities need to set much high standards and slap down this cause crusading stuff that goes on.

    And if you want a true reflection on interest it was the line of 300 plus people outside my fav. sports bar trying to get in, the vehemence of the debates on sports radio and most tellingly its the amount of money Corporate’s pay to be associated with rugby in general and the All Blacks particularly.

    Corporate’s do research on their advertising spend and brand associations. And its research that is pretty rigourous because the spend millions based on the outcomes…. Rugby is damn popular in this country and a large number if not a significant majority do give a damn how the AB’s are travelling…

  10. kittycatkin

     /  2nd November 2015

    Well, I must admit that I took very little interest in the World Cup and failed to realise that the All Blacks/Wallabies match was, in fact, the final. I didn’t watch any of the matches and didn’t watch the final one.


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