Family First mind altering cannabis poll

It’s easy to see what Family First were on when they commissioned a cannabis poll with Curia Market Research – publishing their results on a website called saynopetodope.org.nz/poll confirms a distinct bias.

Curia is a reputable polling company, but they do what clients want, and Family First got what they wanted. To get a different result to past polls showing clear majorities support cannabis law reform of some sort required some leading poll questions and misleading reporting to the poll.

Family First:  New poll suggests only 18% of Kiwis support recreational cannabis legalisation

A new poll commissioned by conservative Christian lobbyist group Family First has found that less than 20% of New Zealanders support legalisation of recreational marijuana, but there is strong support for its medicinal use.

The independent poll, carried out earlier this month by Curia Market Research, surveyed 1000 randomly selected people reflective of overall voters.

But the results contradict previous polls, conducted in New Zealand using similar sample sizes, which have found that Kiwis tend to be evenly divided on the issue. For instance, a 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll conducted in October suggested that 46% of Kiwis were in favour of legalisation of cannabis for personal use and 41% were against.

They are correct about the Colmar Brunton poll

“The Government will hold a referendum on legalising marijuana. Do you think the personal use of marijuana
should be legalised?”

  • Yes 46%
  • No 41%
  • Don’t know 12%

Interviewing took place from October 15 to October 19, with 1006 eligible voters contacted either by landline or mobile phone. The maximum sampling error was ±3.1 per cent.

…but that doesn’t ask what the Greens are proposing for the referendum – some legalisation, but with age and sale restrictions.

But they didn’t mention a NZ Herald/Horizon poll also taken in October: 60 per cent support for legal cannabis – new poll

A new poll shows that 60 per cent of New Zealanders would vote to legalise cannabis for personal use in a referendum.

It also reveals that over 300,000 Kiwi adults – mainly the youngest and the poorest – are using cannabis daily – in contrast with other research that show far lower daily use.

The poll is the first since the Government announced last month that the referendum on the issue will take place at the same time as the 2020 election and would be binding.

Though the question that will be put to voters has yet to be decided, the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Greens states that the referendum will be “on legalising the personal use of cannabis”.

That is the same question that was used in a new survey, by Horizon Research and commissioned by licensed medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics.

  • Yes 60%
  • No 24%
  • No opinion 16%

Quite a different result. Why? It can depend on what questions are asked, and how they are asked.

The Horizon poll asked more detailed questions:

  • 63% wanted a regulated market for legal cannabis with licensed operators
  • 39% wanted the legal age to buy cannabis to be 18; 36% supported 21; 32% said if the legal age was set too high, it would lead to a black market
  • 58% said penalties for breaking the law in a legal cannabis market should be about the same for breaking the law on alcohol sales; 28% supported severe penalties
  • 18% supported the Government owning and controlling all production and sale of cannabis
  • 40% wanted a Government excise tax, and 68% said any tax revenue should go towards health services
  • 60% said they believed legal cannabis would result in lower levels of crime, or have no effect, while about a third said it would reduce harm and a quarter said it would increase harm.
  • 81% support medicinal cannabis

From a nationwide survey conducted in October of 995 adults 18 and over, and weighted to be representative of the population at the 2013 census. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

To understand the Family First poll result it’s worth looking at the questions they asked.

  1. If restrictions on the use of cannabis were reduced, do you think the use of cannabis would increase, decrease or remain the same?
  2. Do you believe tobacco companies are pushing for restrictions on cannabis to be lifted?
  3. Do you think cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25?
  4. Do you think that drivers using cannabis are more likely or less likely to cause accidents?
  5. Do you think that young people under the age of 25 who regularly use cannabis are more likely or less likely to get a job?

So the poll starts by asking four questions about possible negative effects of cannabis use, plus a bizarre implication that tobacco companies could be involved.

Only then did they ask the question that they headline:

6. Which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion on cannabis?

  • Current restrictions remain 7%
  • Lift restrictions for medical but not recreational use 65%
  • Lift restrictions for recreational use 18%
  • Unsure/Refuse 10%

The Government is not proposing to “lift restrictions for recreational use” anywhere near completely. They make it clear they want significant restrictions to remain.

Asking leading questions like this is a technique that is specifically not recommended in polling. Curia is a member of the Research Association of NZ, which states in their political polling guidelines:

Question Order

It is recommended the principal voting behaviour question be asked before all other questions

The report must disclose the order of questions asked and any political questions asked before the principal voting behaviour question

The story should disclose any other questions which may have impacted the responses to the principal voting
behaviour question

The principal voting behaviour question was asked last, not first, and this was not disclosed in the Family First publicity releases. The story also did not disclose the wording of the questions and did not disclose all the questions.

The full poll report (not clearly linked) headed Curia Market Research did disclose the questions and order of questions. it states:

CODE COMPLIANCE: This poll was conducted in accordance with the New Zealand Political Polling Code, the Research Association New Zealand Code of Practice and the International Chamber of Commerce/European Society for Opinion and Market Research Code on Market and Social Research.

It also included the NZ Political Polling Code emblem as per “Compliant polls Polls following the code are entitled to use the emblem below to signal their compliance.”

I question whether the Family First cannabis poll complied with the Polling Code or Code of Practice.

It doesn’t help perceptions that Curia does National Party polling, and Simon Bridges and other National MPs have expressed their opposition to cannabis law reform.

Family First are trying to alter minds and opinions on the proposed cannabis referendum by pushing some fairly strong crap into the debate.

More on this at Stuff:  The great weed wars of 2020 could be defined by blue on green friendly fire