I noticed that today the Herald weighed in on the “Yes” side of the referendum. They had a poll. They had graphs. They had a lone “No” opinion for “balance”. They had a touching testimony from a loving, well-adjusted family who had not used smacking in child-rearing for generations (Discipline without pain for 50 years – Nice, emotive title). They even had a Swedish “expert” who was shocked by our culture of violence. The clear implication being that smacking children is somehow a symptom of our sick, violent culture. The only thing missing was a nice editorial about the evilness of smacking and how we must all do something about child abuse. Apparently they are leaving this until later because this week they seem to be too busy licking Phil Goff’s wounds…
The MacDoctor reminds you of MacDoctor’s first rule for interpreting statistics. All statistics are misleading. And the apparent sudden drop off in the frequency of smacking as seen in the Herald’s poll is very misleading indeed.
First up in the complete lack of scientific rigor. By this, we mean the comparison with the statistics of Jane and James Ritchie is quite invalid. Both the Ritchies research and the Herald poll had 200 participants and there all resemblance ends. It is on par with saying elephants and mice are similar because they are both grey and have tails. The Ritchies were conducting a proper piece of scientific research using 200 standardised questions. There was no pressure on the parents to answer in any particular way. Smacking had yet to be denigrated as a barbaric form of discipline akin to child abuse. It had yet to be made illegal. Contrast the Herald poll of only eight questions, asking for immediate responses over the telephone. Smacking is both frowned upon by the intelligentsia and made illegal by a tyrannical government. Far fewer people will now admit to smacking their children.
I’m stunned. [/sarc]
This is not telling you that there are actually fewer people smacking their kids. It is not telling you that the law is “working” (if by working you mean stopping people using smacking, rather than reducing child abuse, which it clearly does not). All it is telling you is that fewer people will admit over the telephone that they smack their kids. It is telling you that they are afraid.
How can I tell this? Simple. Look how many people are going to vote “No” in the referendum. 85.4%. That is despite the fact that many of them think the question is misleading. Only 10% of the country believe that a smack is flat wrong. Yet 66% of New Zealanders claim they rarely, if ever, smack their children (up from 21% in 1997). My knowledge of human nature tells me that this is probably nonsense. I expect the law to have some dampening effect on smacking, but I think this level of effect is just wishful thinking. If 85% of New Zealanders want to make smacking, for the purposes of correction, legal again, then you can more or less guarantee that most of them still smack their kids. We humans will always vote in our own best interests.
So there you have it. The Herald is telling us that people are afraid of this law. The word for a law that everyone is afraid of and nobody wants is tyranny. Only, in a democratic (once every three years) society, we use the more polite word, arrogant. If John Key wishes to avoid this label, he will take the result of the referendum seriously. Otherwise he will be like those people who drink and drive – a bloody idiot.