Opinion Polls: Handle with care

On Monday morning the BBC, God bless ’em, trumpeted an Independent report saying that “68% of the public support on-shore wind-farm development”.  My first thought was: “That’s odd.  How come I never meet any of them?”.

But with opinion polls, it all depends on who’s asking the question.  I haven’t been able to find the full details of the survey on line, and I can’t phone pollster ComRes because of the bank holiday.  But I did find a ComRes report on a similar survey undertaken amongst political candidates — of which more in a moment. Suffice it to say it was commissioned by Renewable UK, a pro-wind lobbying organisation.

Consider two possible questions.

“Do you approve of clean energy from a free resource — wind?”.   Or:

“Do you approve of wind farms which blight the landscape; deliver an intermittent, unreliable trickle of very expensive electricity; require conventional back-up; drive pensioners into fuel poverty; undermine our industrial competitiveness; prevent economic recovery; and cost jobs?”

I suspect that these two questions might get a very different answer.

Coming back to the candidates’ questionnaire, we should bear in mind the “Emperor’s Clothes” fallacy.  There has been so much relentless green propaganda pumped out by the BBC and papers like the Independent that large organisations, political parties, and candidates, are terrified of taking a different line.  So there is an in-built “Yes” bias.  It takes a certain independence of mind to go against the flow and speak up for common sense against well-entrenched nonsense, which is perhaps why it falls to UKIP to make the case for a rational energy policy.

But the actual questions in the survey are interesting, and appear to me designed to muddy the water.  “Do you agree that Britain should have 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020?”.  Nothing specific about wind, much less on-shore wind.  Candidates could answer “Yes”, yet have in mind solar photo-voltaic, tidal, Severn Barrage, hydroelectric, or even off-shore wind.

Or this:  “Do you agree that investment in new electricity grid infrastructure, renewable generation (including wind farms) and other forms of generating capacity is a top priority over the next 20 years?”.  Their parentheses, not mine.  They’ve slipped in renewables as just one item in the middle of the list — and who could argue with new grid infrastructure and “other forms of generating capacity”?  And after all that, they’ve slipped in wind in parentheses.  Even then, no reference to on-shore wind.

This sort of research is deliberately self serving, deliberately misleading.  We need to take “research” from the renewables lobby with a pinch of salt.

 

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9 Responses to Opinion Polls: Handle with care

  1. I am so glad you have noted this.
    The other thing that simply stops all argument is “Research shows………..”
    Whenever I hear either of these two Shibboleths used, I shall quote you!

  2. ‘Research’ shows that 100% of all residents who own houses less than 1,000 meters from 410 feet tall wind folly array proposals on the fens oppose the idea. Polls carried out over wider areas, out to two or three kilometers suggest that over 80% of the return slips are from people opposed to the development. The science suggests that if you have enough rodents on exercise wheels, they can generate the electrical requirements of a city. A recent poll carried out by Fenbeagle asking where large wind follies should best be sited, either at (A) local beauty spots. (B) Denmark. Or (C) at Chris Huhnes houses…. Suggests overwhelmingly that they should be sited at Chris Huhnes houses.

    • It’s easy to persuade local residents that they’re opposed to wind power when a 400 foot mast appears virtually in the back garden. But I see it as part of my task to convince people who live miles away from a wind farm that they have the same interest, since wind power generates expensive and unreliable power, drives up bills, forces pensioners into fuel poverty, undermines competitivenes and jeopardises security of supply.

  3. georgyporgie says:

    A real survey/opinion poll about wind-turbines, their degree of greeness, their full costs including back-up and reserve energy requirements, new transmission infrastructure, additional power line energy losses should be conducted. Most surveys definitely angle the questions in a biased way. If the full truth were exposed that in the total evaluation of the degree of goodnes of wind-turbines versus the degree of harm, most people would honestly vote against any form of wind energy.
    The truth is that an accurate analysis would show that there are no overall carbon dioxide emission savings through the deployment of wind-turbines, they are more than double the cost of gas-fired power stations and they do not generate on average for 80% of the time and not at all on the coldest highest electricity demand days when electrical energy is needed the most. They are a sad and very expensive failure.

  4. maureen gannon says:

    Their parentheses should that not read Their propaganda ?
    We live on an island surrounded by the sea I have to ask why wind and not waves? could I be over cynical that the snouts have a nice little earner going down with wind, Call me Dave’s dad earns £7000 a week from the pylons on his land we all know that Green Chris Humhe does it for his love of the enviroment hahahaa, and then of course we have Mrs Clegg and her involvement with the Spanish manufacture of the monstrosities , need I go on.

  5. David W. says:

    The office of the local survey maker is/was in a million-square-foot shopping mall; and they ply their trade in the mall. Most of the working population doesn’t frequent the mall when the surveys are conducted — they’re at work. So it’s pretty safe to say those most frequently surveyed are young, jobless or working in a low-wage position, or they’re independently wealthy and don’t need a job.

  6. Ivor Ward says:

    The real hidden conspiracy is that the turbines are being funded by The Pensioners Alliance and that when enough have been built they are going to reverse the power flow and use them to propel the British Isles further south to a warmer climate. Hence no further need for central heating. Climate Change Act 2008…provisions completed. I hope they remember to unplug the French Nuclear power interconnector before they leave.

  7. Mike Spilligan says:

    Mr H: As so often, my response is a question. Did the BBC programme state that the survey was commissioned by Renewable UK? – and as that is a fairly opaque name (changed about a year ago from something much too clear) was that stated? If not, why not? The BBC is always keen to label some people “right wing” (but rarely “left wing”) and my guess is that omitting that “health warning” goes against its Charter commitment to impartiality.
    Incidentally, generally there seems to be some movement against on-shore wind generators, for the obvious reasons; but off-shore generators are said to cost three times as much per MW of power generated and in economics terms are three times as unwelcome.

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