Tuesday, 4 September 2012

New survey shows 80% of parents agree: “It’s okay to beat your children!”

I bet that headline made you sit up and take notice. Feeling uneasy?

Here’s one of the questions from that survey and its answers:

QUESTION 1.4.1) “It’s very bad to beat your children”

Strongly disagree 28.2%
Slightly disagree 23.9%
Neither agree or disagree 29.3%
Slightly agree 10.4%
Strongly agree 8.3%

This statement mainly generated disagreement amongst respondents suggesting at the current time parents do not feel that beating children is bad. However, 18.7% of parents were in agreement that beating children is bad.


These survey results have been picked up by a politician, who trumpets in the press that “80% of parents believe that beating their children is okay”

But how on earth did the survey come up with these alarming figures? (In fact just 52.1% of parents could actually be said to agree with beating their children.)

Of course, it’s arrived at by sleight of hand. First of all we need to filter the respondents to the survey at the outset, so that we have our ‘representative sample.’ Let’s try: “Have you slapped your children in the last twelve months and do you intend to do so again in the future?” If they answer “yes” to this question we can continue.

Now are we surprised with the results from the survey? No, of course not. We are dealing with a pre-selected group of people who are likely to give us the results we want to see.

Does all this sound far fetched or unbelievable? Perhaps.


In fact, I invented that question, but not the results of the survey or how they were reported in the press and spoken about by a senior politician. The survey I am actually writing about here was not about beating your children at all. It was about people's perceptions about wind farms.

It was conducted for Visit Scotland and was entitled “Wind Farm Consumer Research

This was the actual question in the survey:

Question 1.4.1) Wind farms spoil the look of the UK (Scottish) countryside

  UK Sample Scotland Sample
Strongly disagree 28.2% 27.5%
Slightly disagree 23.9% 24.6%
Neither agree or disagree 29.3% 28.3%
Slightly agree 10.4% 10.6%
Strongly agree 8.3% 9.0%

This statement mainly generated disagreement amongst respondents suggesting at the current time UK/Scotland consumers do not feel that wind farms spoil the look of the UK/Scotland countryside. However, 18.7% of UK consumers were in agreement as well as nearly 20% of Scotland respondents that the countryside was spoilt by these structures.


To start with, have a look at the second paragraph of the Wind Farm Consumer Research survey document. In it, it states: “ A screening question was put in to the survey to ensure that the respondents had taken a holiday/short break in the UK in the past 12 months and would intend to do so again in the future.”

Now this question, on the face of it, appears entirely innocuous. After all, if visitors had not taken a short break in the UK recently, how would they know about wind farms in the countryside?

But the sample excludes those people who are fed up looking out of their hotel/B&B windows at industrial structures spoiling the hilltops and have elected to spend their holiday time elsewhere. It also excludes those potential holiday makers who couldn’t afford to spend a holiday last year. It excludes all those holiday makers who have so much dosh they have no intention of risking dodgy UK weather and want guaranteed sunshine. I don’t know for certain how these excluded groups would have answered the question, but let’s make some guesses.

The first group would definitely be anti-wind farm. They have had enough of looking at industrial structures in wild places.

The second group are from an economic group who have seen their energy bills rise dramatically in the last few years and are now the category “fuel poor,” with wind farms subsidies accounting for a large chunk of their lack of money. I can’t see them being too keen on looking at wind farms, either.

The third group is harder to second-guess. The well-heeled Guardianistas will probably be supporters of wind farms. The well-heeled Times & Telegraph readers perhaps less so?

The screening question also says that this screened survey group should intend to holiday again in the UK – again narrowing down the sample to those more likely to be content with wind farms in the countryside.

Whatever. The reality is that there should not be a screening question in the first place if you want a truly representative sample.

However, for SNP Energy Spokesman, Mike Weir to say that “80% of visitors do not agree that wind turbines spoil the look of the Scottish countryside.”  is just telling lies.


  1. SNP Energy Spokesman, Mike Weir to say that “80% of visitors do not agree that wind turbines spoil the look of the Scottish countryside.”

    That's his job.

    Wind Turbines rely on Spin
    Politicans rely on spin

    What do you expect?

    "Lies, Damned Lies And Statistics"

    1. The pro-wind trade bodies delight in teasing the truth out so far it snaps. It does them huge discredit.

    2. But sadly it appears to pay them huge profits £££$$$.

  2. Replies
    1. And I have met some really nice Bar Stewards in my time. But this lot just tell porkies, so anything they say becomes suspicious. Shame really.

  3. Replies
    1. I shall be writing more on the controversial wind farms proposed surrounding Loch Ness shortly. You would not believe what the wind industry is trying to pull there...

    2. No I would.
      They don't live there.
      They don't go there.

      Scotland is harvesting it's wild land for a one off cash crop.

    3. It will soon be very difficult to plot a route across Scotland for the TGO Challenge that avoids wind farms. Unless, of course, you follow the Wallace Arnold coach routes - the Scottish Governmant are keen that wind farms should not be visible from tourist routes.

  4. Great post Alan. Though I have to say...I enjoy reading the Guardian compared to most papers. I like the Independent and Times too. I'm no pro-wind farm stat ;)

    I don't mind wind turbines in truth. Even small ones on houses. What I don't like is the spin, the subsidies, increasing fuel costs, and destruction of our beautiful countryside by the bloody things.

    I'd much rather see them out at sea. It's not like the UK is surrounded by Atlantic depths is it? I guess I wouldn't mind paying extra if that's where they all went. Or most at least.

    So, on reflection I suppose I'm not so pro-wind....but just because I read the Guardian (or owt else) don't mean I'm a cliche or bygone age stereotype lol

    1. Hello Sweetheart!
      I too read the Guardian, old fella. Forgive my sweeping generalisations, but I *did* say "will probably be wind supporters"
      There are some glorious exceptions amongst us!

    2. LOL I was only speaking out for those of us who have both left, right and liberal tendencies ;)

      I often find it's a generation thing. I just vote or argue for what I feel is right for society's benefit. And I applaud your posts on the subject of wind farms, sir.

      Wind farms, though nice on paper - well, they're a waste of money in the main. That much is clear. To muddy the waters of the whole argument is futile. Strip it down to the bone, it's not wind farms we should be subsidising as a society.

      It's wind power on a small scale for homes. It's solar panels on rooftops (and that one good thing has seen subsidies cut!), tidal research and hydro power.

      Climate change or not - (well I guess there is but whether it's man's influence or not is another argument), green energy is good. It makes sense!

      Government should be taking the lead and investing, encouraging private businesses to invest in a 'diverse' range of solutions for energy.

      It's common bloody sense. Homes are different, neighbourhoods et al.

      As every year goes by, I cannot help but look around me and think how the time of plenty is coming to an end. We'll all be back to growing veg patches, collecting and saving water by or near our homes! Using horses for travel and wearing wool for clothing! ;)

      So I commend you Alan on your mission to enlighten us all to the wind farm debate.

      I applaud the Scottish Governments efforts in green research. But I don't applaud their rough shod antics, ideologically driven political madness in taking advantage of how the many have lost touch with our landscapes and take advantage of that for the selfish and ignorant few.

      Rant over ;) lol

    3. As Janice Nichols once said "I'll give it five" or perhaps more accurately, "Oi'll give it foive", Terry.

  5. I have to admit that i used to beat my children.
    And I loved it.
    Didn't matter if it was tennis cricket squash or snakes and ladders - Competitive Dad always came out on top.
    Then the little sods went to secondary school and started getting the odd freak result.
    So I picked up the ball and went home.

    Just to mention that you probably don't realise how many people will be delighted to see you back in town and breathing your usual fire and brimstone.

    1. That's very sweet of you to say so; I think the iron infusion is kicking in at last.
      Now to get on with some serious kicking.

      I recall my boys beating me at cricket way before they got to their equivalent of secondary school... Pretty nifty with bat & ball they were...

  6. A not-all-that-well-heeled Guardianista writes...

    Aaargh...bad statistics. I hate 'em.
    The statement is present tense. A much more telling statement might have been:

    When we've peppered the countryside with windfarms so that it has begun to resemble a diseased porcupine it will spoil the look...etc etc.

    The results you get are only as good as the question you ask, and that's not much of a question.

    OK, have to go now, I'm fashioning a pair of sandals from macro-biotic tofu.

    1. The survey was funded by Visit Scotland, an organisation funded by government. Visit Scotland receives virtually ALL it's funding from the Scottish Government. The minister they ultimately report to is Fergus Ewing, who holds the brief for Tourism and, coincidentally, Energy...
      Going ultra light, then Mark? Dual use shoes. Neat idea, but that tofu is about as tasty as leather. I would rather weave the shoes from licorice.

    2. Tofu sandals...

      When Mawson was in the Antarctic and they lost most of their food down the crevass (and the sledge and driver sadly).
      They did indeed try to eat their finesko shoes.
      So in theory this is an adaption of an older technology.

    3. There's absolutely no way I would eat my trainers after a few days in the hills.
      I would rather starve!

  7. I've never been so desperate as to eat my footwear. Yet.
    I think I once preferred the packaging over the contents of a dehydrated 'meal' however.

  8. Another brilliantly cutting post. Alan, you really should have a wider audience!

    The other thing about questions such as this is - I believe - they have a slight "naughtiness" about them in that it is not that hard to misconstrue the meaning - especially on casual reading.

    Coupled with that, it kind of leads the respondent down a particular direction. You see the words "wind farms" first, then "strongly disagree" at the top of the choices. The temptation is very much there to couple the two and assume you are "strongly disagreeing" with wind farms, no? Not the statement? It's quite clever and sneaky, to my mind. It would be interesting to compare the answers from the above to those from far less fuzzy questions.

    And then there is Stats! You could just as easily argue from the responses that around half the people asked find they DO spoil the countryside!

    1. Hi Jules
      A good analysis there of the question - it was deliberately contrived to sucker people into the required result.

      It's jolly good that an independent body is reviewing the Scottish independence question, or I could see wily Wee Eck pulling the same trick.

  9. I completely agree with you Alan that the second part of the screening question ensured the desired result. By only including those who intended to come back to Scotland, they have made sure those who are royally pissed off about wind farms would have no input on the survey. It is extraordinary that this should not have been picked up by MSPs and journalists, but then again, nothing surprises me any longer when it comes to 'green 'energy media spin.

    A couple more comments. I also agree with Jules that the wording is misleading (just marginally better than 'do you disagree that wind farms are not a bad thing'). Some folks might have got confused.

    A further point which the VisitScotland document does not clear out (I've read it in a hurry though) is whether the questions were put in person, via telephone or via an electronic/printed survey. If it was face-to-face I'm sure folks will have been wary of expressing strong opinions against wind farms because again the media campaign to discredit opponents has been very effective.

    Finally, it is interesting to note a fair proportion of respondents agreed (or didn't disagree) that the main attraction at the moment is that there wind farms aren't everywhere (which is false, but let that pass). And an equal high proportion would not like to see them at popular tourist resorts.

    So even asking a carefully selected body of opinion (those who would come back anyway), the results clearly point to the fact that further *expansion* of the number of plants and turbines is *not* desirable. I think that a sober reading of the survey should disabuse Salmond of any misplaced confidence he might have about the long term effect of a *doubling* of the number of onshore turbines he's envisaging.

    Once he's screwed up the sea views too (there are some huge off-shore plans going up near Edinburgh, in the Moray Firth and near Arran), then things will change.

    As for the coach brigade: that's again a bit of a mystery.

    I was up in the 'Gorms for a couple of days' backpacking and took advantage of the bus to the ski station (did an Aviemore to Blair Atholl crossing over Macdui/Glen Tilt). Now that they've gone back on the planning conditions for the funicular, allowing an open system, the funicular is really busy even off season and it's not just the coach brigade using it but also those in-between coach tours and active holidays. They go up for a daunder across the plateau using the funicular to avoid the sweating. At the mo, you can see three wind plants from the plateau. If the Ring of Steel that you're exposing in your other post goes ahead, those doing the Cairngorm experience will be looking at a sea of white towers to the West, instead of the Torridon peaks skyline.. Absolutely suicidal of Salmond. But I'm sure he'll go ahead with all of those plants. Which will screw up Affric as well.
    You may also have noticed that Ewing has approved another wind farm on Lewis. The eagles will be so pleased. The Harris hills used to be the wildest place in Britain. Not for long now.

    One more point about the survey: 33% of the respondents reported not having seen wind plants! (either it was too cloudy or they didn't go anywhere near them or didn't notice them). So the actual percentage that is claimed not to mind wind farm is ridiculously small even after the preliminary screening.

    Well done Alan on picking all of this up!

    1. Hi Andy
      OnePoll, an online market research company carried out the research. And yes, the only time I have seen this survey quoted is the heavily skewed/deliberately misrepresented answer of Question 1.4.1, which, if you think about it - was the the commissioning entity's sole purpose of the survey.
      It's a complete whitewash. I mean - who in their right minds would look into the actual questions? No journalist that I know of, that's for sure!
      The Cairngorm Funicular was ALWAYS going to let lazy bastards use it for gaining access to the tops. That much was clear as a pike-staff, even when the rules stated the opposite at the outset.
      The fragile ecology of those tops will be destroyed.
      Once wind farms are in place, new walkers will just accept them, as they will not have known the wildness of these places before the era of the turbines.
      With Salmond now wanting to teach school children all about the beauties of turbines, they will be well and truly indoctrinated by this bilious green rubbish.

  10. Hi Alan
    Thank you for sharing this :-) I am disapointed to see that The Monaldeith Mountains the "Clan MacGillivray Wild Place" is no longer to be a free and natural environment for people and creatures to be. My Grandfather was the last chief of the Clan MacGillivray. John William MacGillivray the 13th Laird of Dunmaglass (Glengarry 1864) was presumed to have died childless in 1914 however after some research I have found that my father was his son. We are a lost bloodline found again. I would lke to help to preserve this land and its flora and fauna for the future. If I can help at all please let me know. I have no money but plenty of faith and determination :-)Kind regards Ann MacGillivray

    1. A fascinating tale, Ann.
      I wish you well with your efforts.


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