Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The media's calculated insult to public opinion

How much longer will the political and media elites persist with their extraordinary arrogance in referring to New Zealand as Aotearoa?

We have now, in the space of two weeks, seen two reputable polls showing conclusively that the majority of New Zealanders prefer the status quo, and by a very substantial margin.

First there was the Curia poll, commissioned by the lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, in which 39 per cent of respondents were “strongly” opposed to a name change and nearly 10 per cent were “somewhat” opposed, making a total of 49 per cent in favour of keeping things as they are.

Against that, 18.4 per cent "strongly" favoured Aotearoa and a further 9.7 per cent were “somewhat” in support, with 22 per cent of respondents neutral. That’s a decisive majority – 49-28 – who want no change.

No doubt there were aggrieved supporters of a name change who pooh-poohed the findings because (a) the poll was commissioned by a group opposed to the change and (b) Curia was formerly the National Party’s pollster and is therefore associated in some people’s minds with the centre-Right.

But hang on a minute. TVNZ last night reported a 1News Colmar Brunton poll that found even stronger public opposition to the adoption of Aotearoa.

Asked “What do you think the country should be called?”, 58 per cent of respondents said New Zealand.

1News put its own slant on the findings by then saying that 41 per cent “opted for Aotearoa to be in the mix”. But in fact only 9 per cent – I repeat, 9 per cent – wanted New Zealand renamed Aotearoa. 

That's only half as many as in the Curia result. Of the rest, 31 per cent took an each-way bet, preferring "Aotearoa New Zealand".

These figures should put the naming issue to bed once and for all, but don’t expect that to happen. The elites will continue using the inauthentic name Aotearoa because they are contemptuous of public opinion. The saddest part of this for me is that the poll results confirm the news media have completely lost touch with the society they purport to serve.

Notwithstanding the above, I remain more or less neutral on the naming issue. There are good arguments both ways. But the bottom line, as long as we continue to maintain that this is a democracy, is that the people should decide.

An exception can be made for privately owned news organisations, which are entitled to use whatever nomenclature they choose. This is a free society, after all. But they should realise that in calling New Zealand Aotearoa they risk alienating the viewers, listeners and readers who keep them afloat.

For publicly owned media such as TVNZ and RNZ, however, a different rule applies. I believe they have a clear moral obligation to respect the views of the people who provide their funding and to whom they remain accountable.

That means referring to this country by its official, recognised name. To do otherwise, in defiance of two credible opinion polls that clearly show what the people want, is a calculated insult to public opinion.

Addendum: The Dominion Post published the following letter from me yesterday:

Thomas Manch devoted a substantial article to the Aotearoa name change debate (“Name debate bubbles away”, Sept 27) but strangely omitted one very significant piece of information.

In a Curia poll released this month, 49 per cent of respondents opposed changing New Zealand’s name – 39 per cent “strongly” and 9 per cent “somewhat”.

Against that, 18 per cent “strongly” and nearly 10 per cent “somewhat” supported Aotearoa. Slightly more than 20 per cent of respondents were neutral.

The poll was conducted early in September and surveyed 1000 people.

It was commissioned by the lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, which strongly opposes a name change. Some would argue that this undermines the poll’s credibility, but Curia is a reputable research company and unlikely to  compromise its reputation by producing a dodgy result.

In any case, the media – including Stuff – frequently report on political polls carried out by UMR, which is the Labour Party’s pollster. This makes it puzzling that the Curia poll – the only one, to my knowledge, that has recently surveyed public opinion on this highly contentious issue – appears to have had no publicity whatsoever.

I left it to Dom Post readers to form their own conclusions about why Thomas Manch, a senior Stuff political reporter, failed to mention the Curia poll, which was painstakingly ignored by all the media.


Jade Warrior said...

Totally agree with you Karl. I was actually quite amazed to see this poll headlining the TV1 news last night. Why? Isn’t their job to report the news? Why are they engaging in what is essentially social engineering? But I digress …

What I found particularly interesting in that poll is the 31% who think the country should be called “Aotearoa-New Zealand”. I hate hyphenated names and I don’t think it’s really an option. We need to choose - Aotearoa or New Zealand? A victory for the hyphenated name would in reality be a victory for “Aotearoa”. It would simply set us on a similar road as that of Mt Taranaki - Egmont. “Mt Egmont” is still an official name for that peak, but who (especially among young New Zealanders) would know that today?

Then again, if TVNZ didn’t have that hyphenated name as an option in that poll, then I suspect that at least half of that 31% would have opted for that status quo. So the real proportion of people who want to keep the status quo is probably more like 75% or higher.

Phil said...

TVNZ News also used the spin that the gap is closing. The one that bugs me is Tamaki Makaurau which only became commonly used a few months ago. I am sure the Government is behind the use of that name instead of Auckland.

David McLoughlin said...

You sent me looking for reporting of the One News poll, Karl, which I did see on the news last night.

I have gone through the whole of the Stuff site and I could not find it, even drilling down into sub-sections like "politics" and "national news". Similarly I can't find anything on the RNZ website. I might have missed a story, but none was prominent, and both sites have stories saying Judith Collins is doomed because of the One News poll of the night before.

Over at the NZ Herald, there was no trace on the front page so I went to "politics". The lead item there just now is 60,000 sign petition for Aotearoa rename and trumpets the Māori Party petition calling for a name change.

Down in that story we read: The numbers come on the back of a 1News Colmar Brunton Poll, which revealed 41 per cent of respondents wanted Aotearoa to be either the official name of the motu or favoured a dual-naming.

And then the rest of the story dismisses the One News poll, starting with: Te Pati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer said the results which showed 58 per cent favoured "New Zealand" were representative of an older generational view. "This is a no-brainer for the younger population. What we have is an ilk, and sadly they're often the ones that have been polled, who are older and adverse to change."

Now, I am commenting here as someone who supports a name change, to reflect our country and its unique culture. I like all the te reo on RNZ, and I have just finished an eight-week te reo course at Vic. I have answered my phone with "kia ora" since the day Naida Glavish was threatened with being sacked for answering her phone that way.

But wearing my hat of a journalist by profession, it does look worryingly like a desire in our media to promote a name change, while playing down the clear opposition to a change by not reporting the Curia poll, then not reporting or dismissing the One News poll.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thanks, David, for exposing the naked bias (I was going to add "shocking", but we've come to expect it) of the media - exercised passively in this case by RNZ and Stuff, i.e. through omission, but rampantly and unashamedly by the Herald. Media bias is now institutionalised.

Odysseus said...

Political polls are based on the oppressive colonial concepts of one person, one vote and the equality of all before the law. In today's Aotearoa however fifteen percent of the population enjoy the status of partnership with the Crown in the governance of country while the remaining 85 percent are a mongrel miscellany whose views are of no particular importance or interest. Time you adjusted Karl to the new decolonised reality that Jacinda, with Nanaia's help and guidance, is gifting to the nation.

Doug Longmire said...

The word Aotearoa for New Zealand, is a European construct.
There is another word, in common use, that I will never use:-
My reason is as follows:- Way back in the 70’s, when activists were starting to get more air time, I watched a panel talk with a couple of Maori activists. One of them was Syd Jackson. During his rather emotional diatribe aimed at the European colonial system that he was criticising, he used the word “pakeha” repeatedly.
He spat the word out with absolute hate and spit venom.
He did not actually say the words “F**king pakeha”, but I got the intent.
Since then I have seen many instances of the word being used in an analogous, derogatory, racist context.
So for me, I will not recognize, or use this word.

Doug Longmire said...

“Pakeha” is a divisive, racist word. It divides the population along racist lines into two groups :- Maori and non Maori (pakeha.)
This racist divide is, of course, just what the Dutch and French Settlers did in South Africa.
It is a political system called “apartheid”

Doug Longmire said...

And, Yes Karl, the naked bias of the mainstream media is shocking. It is very clear that the media has been bought by the government and is now their Pravda propaganda broadcaster.

James said...

The problem is by disingenuous, and undemocratically, forcing Aotearoa on the country, the Govt (with the Media's help) is tying it to a broader agenda of ethnic division, "Maorification", and critical social justice theory. This relates to Three Waters control, Maori only foster parents for Maori children, revisionism history in curriculum, etc.

It is a completely top-down, elitist agenda.

So it becomes a complete own-goal , especially for those, more reasonable, who may wish for - subject to a referendum - a unifying move forward on a name.

Cambodia was renamed Kampuchea and Burma renamed Mynamar in coercive, top-down changes coinciding with radical "Day Zero" reset agendas by authoritarian regimes. The use of "Aotearoa" is now part of a broader, coercive ideological agenda. It's not a natural, bottom-up swell for change.

So for people like me, against change but not rabidly fixed, you'll have to, in those famous words, prise the name New Zealand from my cold, dead hands.

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Espersen said...

Well put, Eamon Sloane. In fact free people should never have anything forced on them, by neither legislation nor referenda, except what is obviously of real benefit to all – and what an huge majority want. Changing your country’s name is, of course, not “obviously beneficial”. It is just a flim-flam notion.

The question whether the issue is “of obvious benefit” could be decided in court, if any doubt exists. And perhaps we should be able to challenge, and veto, all new legislation with a binding referendum within, say, 3 months (like Switzerland).

And yes - I would include here also lockdown legislation.

Graham Adams said...

The reluctance of the mainstream media to mention the Curia poll can't have anything to do with not trusting its methods or reliability. The same week the results of their poll on a switch to Aotearoa were published, Curia also reported on the fortunes of the political parties.
The media dined out on this one because it showed the Nats had fallen to 21.2 per cent (and Judith Collins had fared worse than David Seymour).
The only possible explanation is that it was inconvenient to draw attention to the lack of support for a change to Aotearoa.

Doug Longmire said...

A good article by Amy Brooke, which describes the situation clearly:-

hughvane said...

The time has come, according to the tusked behemoth, for Karl to consider widening his audience appeal. The thought occurred to me after watching the cleverly stitched piss-take on YouTube of how the PM favours certain media personnel.

So, what about it Karl, set up your own VLOG via which you can reach a great many more people who are floundering around looking for ways, and suitable people, to respond to oppose the ever-spreading carnage that is NZ governed by the Labour Party + Cronies. Unstoppable because there’s no-one to stop them unless, of course, there is groundswell opposition, civil disobedience perhaps, and in the end, downright defiance.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thanks hughvane, but I'm not sure I even know what a VLOG is, let alone how to set one up.

johntara said...

"Whether the country should be called Aotearoa" and "Whether you mind news presenters calling the country Aotearoa" are two separate questions.

Someone calling me by something other than my official name is not the same as a name-change.

Mudbayripper said...

I sent an official complaint to TVNZ regarding the use of unofficial terminology for NZ place names in there news shows and other shows generated by them recently.
There reply basically said my complaint didn't fit there understanding of what a programming complaint could be.