Poll – trust in institutions, politicians, media and bloggers

A third “Who do we trust?” survey, taken in March 2019 by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies in association with Colmar Brunton, surveyed 1000 New Zealanders on various issues of trust and life satisfaction.

New Zealanders who trust the government to do what is right for New Zealand:

  • 2016 – 48%
  • 2018 – 65%
  • 2019 – 63%

People satisfied with life in general (10=completely, 0=not at all):

  • 10 – 6%
  • 9 – 12%
  • 8 – 25%
  • 7 – 25%

Total ‘satisfied’ (7-10): 68%

  • 6 – 13%
  • 5 – 11%
  • 4 – 4%

Total ‘neither nor’ (4-6): 28%

  • 3 – 2%
  • 2 – 1%
  • 1 – 1%

Total ‘dissatisfied’ (0-3): 3%

Total who comment on blogs and social media who are dissatisfied? Not asked, but I suspect that is disproportionately high going by the tone of many comments.

The most distrusted groups are Bloggers/online commentators, followed by Members of Parliament and Media.

But it may not be as bad as it appears at a glance. At the bottom of the pile are ‘Bloggers/online commentators’:

  • I have complete trust – 0%
  • I have lots of trust – 3%
  • I have some trust – 30%
  • I have little trust – 43%
  • I have no trust at all – 24%

So a third of people have either some or lots of trust. That may seem low, but many if not most people will have little to no idea about ‘Bloggers/online commentators’ apart from a smattering of negative headlines, if that.

I don’t trust some but I do generally trust many.

There would be few if any bloggers with a public profile (as a blogger) other than Cameron Slater, David Farrar, Dermot Nottingham and Martyn Bradbury.

New Zealanders perceptions that citizens’ interests are equally and fairly considered by government

People who live in Auckland, who were born outside of New Zealand are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered a great deal.

People who are dissatisfied with life, distrustful of people and who have political leanings to the right are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered very little or not at all

Victoria University: Latest trust survey explores link to political leanings

 

Controversial renaming of Victoria University blocked by Minister

A controversial attempt by the Victoria University Council to rename themselves as as University of Wellington has been blocked by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has declined Victoria University of Wellington Council’s application for a legal name change.

The Council formally made an application to change the institution’s name to the University of Wellington on 27 September 2018.

“I have considered the University’s recommendation and supporting information along with advice received from officials,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Council identified benefits that it considered would follow a name change and its consultation process which, although the subject of some criticism, brought out a wide range of views.

“The Council’s consultation showed that staff were divided on the name change, and there was significant opposition from alumni and students who responded. This opposition is also reflected in surveys conducted by the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association and the VUW Law Students’ Society, and to a lesser extent one from the Tertiary Education Union.

“I also received more than 450 pieces of correspondence on the name change question from students, alumni and others mostly opposed to the name change. Many of these referred to a change.org petition with more than 10,000 signatories listed as opposing the name change.

“While Victoria University of Wellington, like other universities, has significant autonomy in making academic, operational and management decisions, it is accountable to its community and the groups that make up the University.

“I am not convinced that the University engaged sufficiently with the views of those stakeholders who should have their views considered. Given the level of opposition to the University’s recommendation, including by its own staff, students and alumni, I am not persuaded that the recommendation is consistent with the demands of accountability and the national interest.

From what I have seen there had been widespread opposition to the renaming on social media, and the decision of Hipkins has generally been applauded.

I haven’t seen any grizzling about the decision.

“In the interests of transparency, I am releasing the advice I have received to inform my decision on the application for a name change,” Chris Hipkins said.

Good to see a Minister walking the transparency talk.

 

Climate change and mental health

Climate change debates seem to threaten mental health at times, but this is a different angle, on the effects of extreme weather events related to climate change on mental health.

Ronald Fischer, from the School of Psychology at Victoria University (I think it’s still called that) has given a lecture on this.

Newsroom: What climate change could do to mental health

Heatwaves and other extreme weather events caused by climate change could have profound implications for personality traits and mental health, Ronald Fischer warned in his inaugural public lecture as a Professor of Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington.

Referencing an article published earlier this year in Scientific Reports, an online journal from the publisher of Nature, Fischer spoke about research showing that people with the same genetic make-up might have very different personalities depending on the climate where they live.

The article, based on research by Fischer, Victoria University of Wellington Master’s student Anna Lee and Dr Machteld Verzijden from Aarhus University in Denmark, says the impact on personality of genes regulating dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain, is most pronounced in climatically stressful environments.

“If you are in a challenging climate and your genetic system is not as efficient in processing rewards or regulating potential challenges, then you might feel more stressed and more likely to be unwell,” said Fischer in his lecture.

“On the other hand, if you have a system that is not so well off but you live in an environment where life is very chilled out, there’s no challenge, so basically there shouldn’t be a strong effect on how you feel.”

He warned: “If you have followed the news – for example the incredible heatwaves in Europe – what kind of challenges will we see in the near future when climate becomes more extreme and we have to create more mental health services for people who might need that?”

An interesting question.

If we have more and worse ‘extreme weather events’ people will get more stressed, during those events and for some people adversely effected by things like flood and wind damage, those stresses can have longer effects.

On the other hand there is also the potential for less stress.

Driving on frosty streets, especially when trying to get to work at the time on a winter morning when frosts can be at their worst, can be quite stressful, as can the occasional snowstorm. We have had five consecutive unusually non-severe winters in Dunedin, and very few frost stress mornings.

People could also stress unnecessarily over possible future problems that don’t eventuate.

Or if are not suitably prepared and we get unexpected weather severity it could raise stress levels.

Then there’s the stress of getting your next house insurance bill that has escalated due to perceived climate change risks.

Sit comfortably, breathe gently, then debate.

Men, suicide and silence

The death rate from suicide is significantly higher than for road accidents, with over 600 people per year ending their own lives in the latest statistics.

Chief Coroner releases provisional annual suicide figures

  • 606 people died by suicide in 2016/17, up from 579 the previous year and 564 the year before
  • 20-24 years old – 79
  • 25-29 years old – 64
  • 40-44 years old – 64
  • 12.64 suicide rate per 100,000 suicide – higher than last year (12.33), similar to 2010/11 (12.65)
  • 21.73 suicide rate – Māori
  • 19.36 suicide rate – men
  • 6.12 suicide rate – women

Until recently it was a silent problem – talking openly about it was taboo.

Newsroom/Victoria University: Men, suicide, and four types of silence

New research from Victoria University of Wellington reveals that a key aspect of young men’s experiences of suicide bereavement is ubiquitous silence.

In the first study of its kind, Dr Chris Bowden, who is a lecturer in Victoria’s School of Education and recently graduated with a PhD in health, found that young men aged between 17 and 25 who lost a close male friend to suicide, suffered, grieved and eventually recovered in silence.

Bowden conducted in-depth “lived experience” interviews with the young men over a period of a year. These took place as “go-alongs” or “ride-alongs” while the men were working on cars, at barbeques, during events like burnouts, and while playing PlayStation or Xbox.

His research found the men experienced four types of silence following the suicide of a close friend: personal, private, public and analytic silence.

“Early on, the men were unable to describe what they were experiencing to others. They also chose to keep quiet, be stoical, suppress and control their emotions and keep their grief private. In public and social situations, the words and actions of others and their fear of being judged as weak and vulnerable often silenced them”.

Bowden says they chose to break their silence only with those they trusted, who understood what they were going through and who “were there for them”.

“The men also sought quiet places to reflect on, analyse and make sense of their experience and how it had transformed them”.

“In order to understand their experience as it was lived by them it was important to build trust and rapport, and to understand who they were and the friends they had lost”.

“A lack of research examining young men’s experiences of suicide bereavement means that their grief may go unnoticed, be minimised, or even misunderstood”.

Bowden recommends that health professionals, families/whānau and friends learn to see, listen to and interpret the silence of men in order to better understand their experience and need for care and support.

Where to get help:

– Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (24/7), Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7), text free to 234 (8am-midnight) or live chat (7pm-11pm)

– Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 (24/7; Kidsline Buddies available 4pm-9pm)- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 TAUTOKO / 0508 828 865 (24/7)

– What’s Up: 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 942 8787 (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends) or live chat (5pm-10pm)- Healthline: 0800 611 116 (24/7)

– Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)- Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 or text free to 4202 (24/7)- If you feel you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 111.

Who’s the game changing vote magnet?

Most people, especially younger people, don’t know very many politicians. I asked a 36 year old recently what they thought of Andrew Little and they hadn’t heard of him.

So Jacinda Ardern, having scooped up most of the paltry votes in Mt Albert, was promoted as the great game changer by media, and Labour had either fed them this message to repeat, or bought the message.

Ardern was supposed to be what Little wasn’t, attractive to voters.

So, instead of committing herself to becoming established in her new electorate Ardern has taken to the early campaign road with Little, to help draw attention to her leader.

It’s early days but it sounds like it hasn’t been a raging success, yet.

Lloyd Burr: Jacinda who? Labour’s new duo debuts at Victoria University

Labour’s new leadership team had their first ever public debut on Thursday – and it revealed Jacinda Ardern maybe isn’t as popular as everyone thinks.

Correction – Ardern isn’t as popular as some in Labour and some political churnalists think.

Even in the left-wing safe zone of Victoria University’s Kelburn campus, hardly any students knew who she was.

It was an eye opener for the new deputy leader, who’s been touted time and time again as bringing something to the table that Mr Little apparently lacked: popularity.

But not on Thursday among the hundreds of students celebrating Orientation Week.

Newshub randomly asked 17 students if they knew who Andrew Little was. Nine knew he was leader, five knew he was a Labour MP and three had never heard of him.

We did the same with Jacinda Ardern: 10 people didn’t know who she was, five knew she was deputy leader, one thought she was co-leader, and one knew she was an MP, but didn’t know about her promotion.

That doesn’t surprise me at all, especially in Wellington. Not many 20 year olds there are likely to read NZ Herald or Womens’ Weekly.

“Look, I wouldn’t expect everyone to know who I was,” Ms Ardern said. “Part of my campaign opportunity is to make sure I go out and get amongst all of the student groups.”

She calls it a ‘campaign opportunity’? Is that the sort of language that will gell with young voters?

Andrew Little was happy with his level of recognition. “It’s a very good sign and I’m very pleased,” he said.

But don’t get me wrong – from what I saw today, I believe the pair will be a force to be reckoned with when the campaign ramps up.

But Ms Ardern’s lack of recognition with students will be a little worrying for Labour’s hierarchy.

She’s meant to be the party’s shining star who can attract big crowds of young people, who overwhelm her with selfie requests.

She’s meant to be Labour’s golden girl who would instantly add popularity, charisma, humour and life to ‘Brand Little’.

Did Labour and media feed each other some bull and they believed each other?

Things could change as we get closer to the election, but really, media actually believed their own hype and can’t believe no one takes any notice of them any more, especially young people.

If she wants to be Labour’s vote magnet Ardern may have to try and be more than a platitude parrot.

Not trusted: bloggers, MPs, media

Many people have little or not trust in bloggers, MPs and media.

NewsHub reports Kiwis don’t trust MPs, bloggers – survey

What the headline doesn’t say is that not far behind bloggers and MPs in levels of distrust is the media.

Victoria University’s Institute of Governance and Policy Studies surveyed 1000 adults at the end of February (via Colmar Brunton).

Least trusted professions (little or no trust):

  • Bloggers 60%
  • MPs 55%
  • Ministers 53%
  • Media 46%

A healthy democracy needs a strong media to hold politicians to account. That about a half of those surveyed don’t trust the media is a major concern.

Bloggers are relatively small, relatively unknown and non-influential. Even the most notorious bloggers, Cameron Slater, David Farrar and Martyn Bradbury are not well known or unknown amongst much of the public.

The major political blogs – Whale Oil, Kiwiblog, Public Address, The Standard and The Daily Blog are fringe media ignored or unknown by most.

Most blogger publicity associates blogs with Dirty Politics. The biggest blogger, Slater, has openly promoted dirt in politics.

It’s generally healthy to be sceptical of MPs.

Most of the major blogs have affiliations or close connections with politics and political parties so it’s no surprise to see that the lack of trust of both groups is similar.

But distrust of the media is a real worry. If they can’t be trusted to keep politicians honest or expose their dishonesty our democracy is in a shaky state.

Institute director Michael Macaulay claims it’s the most in-depth study of its kind undertaken in New Zealand.

“It shows the people, the public, the 1000 people we spoke to don’t trust the media, don’t trust MPs and don’t trust local Government.

“It may well be that this is the result many politicians fear but also expect. It might be something to worry about, it’s certainly something that needs to be discussed.

“But before anyone jumps to conclusions, before anyone goes crazy or takes offence or decries this as the last part of human civilisation, we need to take stock, have a chat and see how bad it actually is.”

To have a proper chat to try to evaluate how bad it actually is we need to see details of the survey. I can’t find them online.

Seymour apologises after “harden up” criticism

One of the dangers with an MP like David Seymour raising his profile is that he will also raise the chances of being taken to task for slip ups.

He appears to have slipped up over the last couple of days when he is alleged to have told students suffering from depression to “harden up”. Syemour has apologised “for any offence his comments might have caused”.

3 News reports Seymour denies telling mental health students to ‘harden up’:

A petition has been launched calling for an apology from ACT Party leader David Seymour after he apparently said university students with mental health issues should “harden up”.

Mr Seymour disputed the Victoria University students’ sequence of events, though he has apologised for any offence his comments might have caused.

He was one of a panel of MPs at the university’s Weir House halls talking about the growing mental health issues among students who face significant pressure from studies, paid work and extra-curricular activities.

There were a number of reports Mr Seymour said students would have to “harden up” before passing the microphone to another MP.

It led student Sophie Wynn to launch a petition asking for an apology from Mr Seymour and to consider how damaging the comment was to those with mental illness.

A petition seems a odd response but Seymour’s comments obviously concerned some people. He defended himself:

However, the party’s sole MP believes his comments have been “misreported” and were taken “quite wildly out of context by people with political motivations”.

“I answered a quite long question on a range of issues and I said that you should harden up if you’re going to blame all of your problems on someone else, then that’s not a way to be happy.”

He said people face a number of difficult challenges – financial, academic, work – and some who do have mental illness should seek help.

“In the broader context, I said, ‘Look, sometimes you have to face up to your challenges and believe in yourself.'”

Mr Seymour said had he been asked directly about mental illness, anxiety and depression, his answer would have been different, “but that’s not the question I was asked”.

In Stuff’s ACT leader David Seymour’s ‘harden up’ line stuns Wellington students more details are given about the allegations.

Victoria University law student Sophie Wynn, who has personally suffered from anxiety and depression, was at the politicians’ debate at Victoria University’s Weir House on Monday night when Seymour made the comment.

A student in the audience raised a question about the the rise of depression and anxiety among students as a result of increasing pressures of money, work, extra curricular activities and university work, she said.

“I was completely and utterly disgusted when Seymour replied with ‘harden up’.

“I was further disgusted when I approached him afterwards, to press him further about his comment.

“I asked him if he knew about how anxiety and depression worked, and he said that those who claim to suffer from it are simply not choosing to be happy.

“He claims that people are over-medicated and that by labelling themselves as being mentally ill, they are making excuses as to why they are choosing not to be happy.

“I pushed further, and I shared my personal experiences with anxiety and depression.

“I asked him if he would tell me to harden up, and his response was a firm ‘yes’.

Seymour’s side of the story is also reported:

Seymour said the telling was “completely misrepresenting” what happened on Monday and came from partisan students.

His comment came after a long question about the wider pressures students faced and the mental health issues were just one part of it , he said.

“If you are going to blame every problem on someone else, sometimes you have to harden up.”

People with mental health issues did at times need medical help but he was not in favour medicating for every problem.

During his discussion with Wynn after the debate he told her there was a lot of help available and she should seek it, he said.

“Sometimes you have to make a choice and choose to make the most of things.”

MPs need to be very careful when commenting on mental health issues. What might seem like sensible advice to a healthy MP may not be seen the same way by someone who is suffering from mental problems, as many people are.

United Future Leader Peter Dunne heard the “harden up” comment and- like Seymour – said it was in relation to a wider question about stresses students faced.

Labour Leader Andrew Little was also at the debate and said the “remarkably insensitive”  comment was followed by a “sharp intake of breath all around”.

The student had asked a serious question and expected a serious answer, he said.

Law student Olive Wilson – who has also had mental health issues – said the comment hit her and the rest of the audience with disbelief.

An audience of students is likely to include some who are prepared and willing to take to task inappropriate comments from an MP.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said Seymour’s choice of wording was “unfortunate”.

“The idea that people experiencing mental illness need to ‘harden up’ is unfortunately a common misconception, but it is very unhelpful.

“People in distress deserve our compassion and understanding, not our judgement.”

She was pleased he had since clarified his meaning but said it was unfortunate he did not do that on the night.

“His audience was likely to include people who were negatively affected by his remarks.”

The NZ Union of Students’ Associations has issued a media release saying Seymour should sharpen up on facts over ‘harden up’ comments.

National student president Rory McCourt says official data released by New Zealand’s universities shows Mr Seymour’s dismissive approach is out of step with evidence on the issue.

“Between 2009 and 2014 New Zealand’s eight universities experienced a 24 per cent increase in counselling sessions. At Victoria University, where Mr Seymour spoke, the number of individual students being seen by the counselling service has jumped 44.7% in the same time, to 2,139 students last year.”

Mr McCourt says Mr Seymour should spend some time on campus with students and ask them about the impact of rising rents, longer working hours and unsustainable academic pressure on their studies and mental health.

“I think we’re risking creating a generation of highly-strung graduates. With rises in counselling sessions on almost all campuses, this is a real issue. We’re disappointed Mr Seymour has taken this approach despite the evidence. The data suggests this is a growing problem.”

“How bad does it have to get for politicians to take the deteriorating mental health of our students seriously?”

Hopefully Seymour will learn something from this university experience.

This has nothing to do with ‘PC’ – MPs need to be sensitive to issues like mental health.

UPDATE: NZ Herald has also covered this today – David Seymour’s ‘harden up’ talk blasted

Mr Seymour denied he made those comments, “but I actually said you did have to choose sometimes how you are going to feel about something, which I think is true. But I did not say if you have a mental illness, you have chosen it.”

“You did have to choose sometimes how you are going to feel about something” is on shaky ground when talking about mental illness.

Even in general terms it’s an odd comment. Feelings are felt, not chosen.

The Herald lists some useful contact details:

Where to get help:
 Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
 Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
 Youth services: (06) 3555 906
 Youthline: 0800 376 633
 Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
 Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
 The Word
 Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
 Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
 CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

‘Transfer of wealth’ fallacies

In a Fairfax/Ipsos poll article Pulse of the Nation: How we see Ourselves a Sociologist and Victoria University lecturer, Mark Lloyd,  is quoted (it’s not clear if he was interviewd for the article or was a participant in the poll).

Dr Lloyd says some of that sense of “us and them” has been fuelled by worldwide events and the growing transfer of wealth to just a few, which has spawned the likes of the Occupy movement. But National’s asset sales plan is the sort of issue that also helped drive that feeling.

How much of the this generated by political campaigning? Greens in particular keep promoting terminology like”the growing transfer of wealth to just a few”.

It’s ironic that those most adversely affected by the wealth gap don’t have any wealth to transfer, in fact it’s tax paid by the more wealthy that enable them to receive state assistance.

The “transfer of wealth” term is used to criticise ‘the rich”, the Greens, Labour and Mana promote transferring more wealth from rich to poor by raising taxes.

What they really mean is they want to transfer more wealth from those earning money to those earning no money or on low incomes.

Dr Lloyd is also quoted repeating common anti-asset sales talking points:

“The irony of the fact that the nation owns these assets collectively – and is now being forced to buy them back, but it’s only the wealthy who can do so . . . it’s very in-your-face.”

No one is being forced to buy shares, there is no “buying back”, and it’s not “only the wealthy who can do so”.