Letters to the editor - The Esperance Express

Push poll: In this week's letter to the editor, Richard Grant discusses the shire's survey on the draft concept design for the replacement jetty. Photo: Stock.
Push poll: In this week's letter to the editor, Richard Grant discusses the shire's survey on the draft concept design for the replacement jetty. Photo: Stock.

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Survey or “push poll”?

Was the Esperance Shire Council’s recent survey testing support for its draft concept plan for a replacement jetty a case of “push polling”?

A “push poll” is a marketing strategy in which an organisation attempts to manipulate beliefs under the guise of conducting an opinion poll or survey.

It is a sleazy and questionable form of campaigning, and an effective way of maligning an opposing point of view.

How was this survey a “push poll”?

For starters, only one issue was considered: whether you like the draft concept plan or not.

Yet there are two issues on the table, and whether the Shire likes it or not reconstruction is a viable and more prudent alternative to demolition and replacement.

By seeking feedback on only one point of view creates a wrong impression.

That is all there is to consider, and under these circumstances many people naturally believed that a replacement jetty was better than no jetty at all.

One only has to look at the state of disrepair of the current structure to come to this conclusion.

This was misleading.

Misleading the public is a typical “push poll” tactic.

There was also the small number of questions; with each one skewed toward a single required outcome - do you like the concept plan?

Legitimate surveying asks a range of questions about all the issues at hand and they enable numerous and varied responses to be considered.

This survey was certainly not in this category.

Furthermore (and typical of a “push poll”), was the size of the survey sample – 2000 people were sent a survey to represent a town of about 13,000 people (or 5-6000 ratepayers).

This means one ratepayer in three was asked for their opinion - that’s extraordinary.

In a major city the sample size would be about 500 people.

The larger the number of people push poll surveyed the greater the result is skewed.

Another tactic employed here.

And what seems most convincing that this was nothing more than a “push poll” was the fact that no demographics apart from age were sought from respondents.

There was no interest in what people thought of the overall issue, nor indeed a need to seek opinions.

The result was a foregone conclusion.

It was unfortunate the Shire did not attempt to close the book on this contentious local issue, particularly considering the survey costs involved.

A simple “Which do your prefer - reconstruction or replacement?” would have provided an answer.

But there is an old adage that says ‘You don’t ask a question unless you know the answer.’

The same applies if you know the answer and it’s not what you want to hear.

Then you don’t ask.

That is why the Council had to use a “push poll” to try and convince us of nothing more than that some people liked the only option presented for consideration.

Basically it was an abuse of public trust to gain an outcome under false pretences.

Richard Grant