The Conservative Party website has a poll, purportedly asking the public whether we agree with their plans to cut and cap benefits. Great – politicians listening at last!
Well, not quite. It turns out that the ‘poll’ consists of two questions, each of which makes those questions you see after a game or talent show look like the Office of National Statistics. You know the ones:
Which of these people was among the first to land on the moon?
A) Buzz Aldrin
B) Buzz Lightyear
C) Dot Cotton
(Calls will cost £1.50/min from a landline but from mobiles may cost considerably more)
Those quizzes are designed to sucker the gullible into calling by making the answer so easy and obvious that anyone can get it and call in – with the aim of maximising profit.
The Tory quiz is even worse, in its way. It’s a classic example of the kind of leading questions that would be death to the reputation of any decent polling or statistics organisation, and which are clearly designed to ensure that the only people who actually vote are those who are stupid enough to have already fallen for the Tories’ demonising, divisive tactics.
Here’s the section from their site (please don’t try to complete the survey on this page!):
Have Your Say on Benefits
(In case they decide to change the questions or take the page down and pretend it never existed, I’ve saved a copy of it on Freezepage here)
Do you see what they’re doing? It’s vile without being very subtle. By framing each question as a yes/no, binary choice, and wording the question so that only a ‘no’ answer is viable, they’re pre-deciding the results as well as pre-selecting the kind of people who’ll actually choose to answer. It’s shamefully dishonest.
Let’s imagine the debate was about capital punishment, and I wanted to be able to report a big vote in favour of it. To use an extreme example, I might phrase my own question like this:
Do you think that murderers should:
A) Be executed?
B) Do 6 weeks’ community service?
Nobody is going to say that a short community service sentence is adequate punishment for a murderer – which doesn’t mean that you agree with capital punishment. But the ‘poll’ doesn’t give you any other option. You might believe a life-sentence should mean life, or that 15 years is adequate, or 25, or whatever else. There are all kinds of other possible opinions, potentially as valid as the one I’d be trying to steer you towards, or more so.
But you can’t vote any of those. So most people either choose execution, or don’t bother answering. I’m then able to report that 95% of people believe that murderers should be executed. Assuming, of course, that I have no scruples.
Right answers to the Tories’ questions could include ‘None of the above‘, or ‘Most benefit claimants are working people!‘, or ‘No, it’s not right, but that’s because working people should be paid more too‘, or ‘wages AND benefits should be rising at least in line with inflation‘, or many others. Or ‘Cap rents, not benefits‘ – that’s a very appropriate response, too.
But you only get to put that kind of response in the comments section, which won’t affect the response stats, and only after you’ve answered both of the Tories’ loaded questions. If you give the answers to those that they want, they’ll trumpet them. If you don’t, you provide them with fodder for a campaign saying ‘Lefties flood our questionnaire and think skivers should get more than strivers!‘, or something similar, and the clarifying comments will never see the light of day.
Because the truth of the matter is that we’re all getting ripped off by the Tory-led coalition – except for the tiny, wealthy minority – and the solutions have nothing to do with demonising and further impoverishing those who are already struggling. The Tories claim their measures are to ‘make work pay’, but they’re not making work pay – they’re just punishing those who need benefits and trying to frame it as ‘strivers vs skivers’, but 60% of benefit recipients are working people who are paid so poorly by greedy bosses that they need state help. They claim it’s about fairness – but there’s nothing fair about punishing people who are out of work when there are 5.43 unemployed people for every available vacancy. There’s nothing fair about penalising disabled people while giving tax-cuts to the richest. And so on – and on, and on.
But that’s not what the Tories want us to think, so they frame their question so that only one answer looks viable – and so that even a mass protest vote would give them something to turn into propaganda, and they win either way. This kind of deep-rooted, intentional dishonesty runs through their behaviour in Parliament, their interviews with news stations, their comments on panels – through everything they say, basically.
That the Tories are prepared to frame their questions in this way shows the contempt with which they regard the majority of people. They think we’re either idiots and won’t see what they’re up to, or are irrelevant and what we think is unimportant.
It shows the weakness of their case, too. They’re fully aware that the measures they want to push through really benefit only the so-called ‘elite’ and are bad for the vast majority of ordinary people – so they know they have to lie, deceive and mislead if they’re to be successful.
It also shows that they’re morally bankrupt, callous, determined to divide ordinary people against each other – and they’ll stoop to any dishonesty if it will allow them to ‘validate’ their ideologically-driven measures. People deserve better than that – and we shouldn’t allow the Tories to get away with it.
So, I’m going to post my own poll on here. I’ll do my best to frame it in a way that offers people the chance to vote for answers that would please either side. Unlike the Tories, I don’t fear what genuine responses to honest questions will show, so I don’t need to try to skew the results.
If I can get it working, I’ll post it tonight or in the morning. Please come back and cast your votes – and then we can tell this government what we really think about what it’s doing.
Update: the poll is now online at: http://wp.me/p2sftc-2Kd