September 09, 2011

Dr Wadan Narsey: Shoddy Tebutt Opinion Poll by the Lowy Institute

The interpretations that the Lowy Institute and coup supporters are putting on the recent Tebbutt Research Poll in Fiji would be laughable, if only the long-term consequences of such propaganda were not so tragic for ordinary people of Fiji.

Students of survey methodology should find this “Lowy Institute Poll” extremely interesting, in a perverse kind of way, on how not to conduct, and how not to interpret sensitive opinion polls in a Fiji, dominated by a climate of fear and intimidation.

A number of relevant questions need to be asked:

1. is the poll genuinely representative of the views of Fiji people?

2. could the questions be understood by ordinary Fiji citizens in the time given?

3. could citizens honestly answer, given the climate of fear in Fiji (cf the Charter)

4. why did the Lowy Institute not report all the tables?

5. which tables did the Lowy Institute choose not to release?

6.  Why did the Lowy Institute ignore the political climate of fear in Fiji? 

7. who financed the poll and their interests in Fiji.

8. links between Tebbutt Research and the Bainimarama Regime and functionaries?

1.  The Tebbutt sample was not representative of Fiji but systematically biased.
The experts in the Household Survey Unit of the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics will tell you that to randomly select and poll even one thousand households from the 180,000 households  throughout Fiji, is extremely difficult.

You would need to use the 2007 Census locations for all the households through Fiji (urban and rural, including the islands) and randomly select a properly stratified sample of 1000 households, a very technical and difficult statistical exercise in a country like Fiji. Secondly, it is a logistical and cost nightmare to train, transport and accommodate interviewers throughout the length  and breadth of Fiji.

No doubt, to save time, effort and money, the Tebbutt Poll restricted itself to urban and peri-urban areas on Viti Levu: Suva, Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori in Central Division, and Nadi, Lautoka, and Ba in the Western Division.

In other words, all households in rural Viti Levu and rural and urban Vanua Levu, and all other islands were left out.

Rural households are the traditional supporters of Qarase and Chaudhry both marginalized by Bainimarama.  In many rural areas, their traditional leaders continue to oppose the Bainimarama Regime: Naitasiri (Takiveikata in gaol); Rewa (Ro Temumu Kepa continues to suffer persecution by the Regime), and Cakaudrove (Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu forced to lie low). 

The ommitted rural households have also fared very badly since 2006, while urban households  have not suffered so much.

The results of the latest poverty analysis shows that, between 2002 and 2009, poverty in rural areas has worsened:  the sugar industry has been decimated and most of the farmers and cane cutters dependent on the sugar industry will not have been polled. 

While the polled urban households generally gained between 2002 and 2009, largely because of their dependence on formal sector employment (with wages and salaries not being cut despite the  economic depression) and large remittance inflows from abroad.

The poll was therefore systematically biased towards favourable responses (even if they were genuinely given) and left out rural responses which would have been more negative.

The Lowy Report tries to create the impression of the poll being very scientific. It claimed (in italics) and my comments (in parentheses) (page 23 of the Report): 

“The sample was stratified by ethnicity (iTaukei, Indo-Fijian, and other ethnicities), gender, age, and location”.

[The statisticians at FIBoS and Australian Bureau of Statistics would laugh at how Tebbutt Poll would have done this incredibly difficult exercise, which even FIBoS struggles with].

“Start points were selected at random, and respondents were selected at random from within the household, to quota.”

 [Start points may have been selected at random, but it is extremely unlikely that the interviewers would have randomly chosen all the next households to interview, until they reached their “quota”. Probably those closest to the man roads.  More laughs]

“Data was post-weighted to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics population estimates (based on the 2006 census)”.

[All the Tebbutt Poll would have done was ensured that the responses were scaled up to the same national proportions of the ethnic groups recorded by the 2007 Census.  But there is absolutely no way that urban responses on Viti Levu can be scaled up to represent possible rural responses throughout Fiji, or both urban and rural Vanua Levu. More laughs from the statisticians if this survey claims to represent all Fiji.]

And the final outrageous statement suggesting great statistical accuracy “at 95% confidence level”:  

“A truly random survey of the sampled population with this sample size, surveyed with 100% response rate, would produce results with a maximum ±3.04% margin of error at 95% confidence level.”

Yes indeed, this might be true IF it was a “truly random sample”.  But it blatantly was not a random sample, instead, systematically biased towards favourable responses given under fear.

The Director of Polling (Fergus Hanson) and Research Consultant (Sol Lebovic) should be hanging their heads in shame that they did not point out all these very serious statistical qualifications that were omitted from the Lowy Report (deliberately or otherwise).  Just as well for Caz Tebbutt that it is not her Report but the “Lowy Report”.

2. The totally unrealistic questions asked
There were some 25 questions in each interview lasting a total of 10 to 15 minutes according to the Lowy Report, or roughly 24 seconds to 36 seconds per question.  Let us just say 30 seconds on average.

But look at the questions below and imagine how they would have been understood by average Fiji persons, in English or, heaven forbid, in Fijian or Hindustani translations.

On average, it would take at least 20 seconds to ask most question (some would take five minutes), leaving 10 seconds for the person to think about and given their answers.

Table 1a: Please rate your feelings towards some countries, with 100 meaning a very warm, favourable feeling, 0 (zero) meaning a very cold, unfavourable feeling, and 50 meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to 100: the higher the number the more favourable your feelings are toward that country.

There were 14 countries to comment on, in 10 seconds?

Table 1b: Thinking now about the Fiji Government’s relations with governments from other countries, do you personally agree or disagree that it is important for the Fiji government to have a good relationship with the governments of each of the following countries…

Again, 14 countries to choose from:  and what could the answer possibly be except yes to all.

But wait: note the rankings of the countries in Table 1b:  At the top are, in order of popularity:  Australia, NZ, US, and UK.  All countries who have totally disapproved of and acted against the Bainimarama Regime in stopping aid from the EU and getting expelled from the Commonwealth and Forum. 

China and India, the countries that have supported the Bainimarama Regime come only fifth and sixth, while the Melanesian Spearhead Group countries who Bainimarama has been actively courting, come even lower down.

Table 2a: Do you personally agree or disagree with the approach the Australian Government has taken towards the current Government in Fiji in response to the 2006 coup?

Table 2b: Following the 2006 coup, the Australian government imposed travel sanctions against members of the Fiji Government and Military and supported the suspension of Fiji from the Commonwealth. Which one of the following approaches do you personally think the Australian government should now take?

How on earth could an average Fiji citizen assess such a complex foreign policy measure by Australia, which flummox even academics and Think Tank experts, like Jenny Hayward-Jones.  But hold it. An amazing 36% of Fiji citizens agreed with the sanctions?

Table 3:  Foreign countries should try to pressure for democratic elections in Fiji, OR Foreign countries should allow Fiji to sort out its return to democracy on its own

Table 4A:  Do you personally agree or disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth?

Table 4B: Do you personally agree or disagree with the decision to exclude Fiji from participation in the Commonwealth Games?

What on earth can be the normal reaction of ordinary citizens to any kind of sanctions against one’s country and one’s people?

Table 5: Due to travel sanctions, Fiji’s rugby team might miss out on participating in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. I am going to read you three statements about this, and please tell me which one you agree with most.

Astonishing for rugby mad Fiji, 37% agreed that the sanctions were necessary.

Table 6A: Do you personally agree or disagree that Fiji currently plays a leadership role in the Pacific?

Table 6B: Thinking back to Fiji’s leadership role say 5 years ago, and comparing that to nowadays, would you personally say that Fiji’s leadership role in the Pacific is now stronger, weaker or about the same?

What on earth is happening?  45% of the respondents said that Fiji’s role in the region was now stronger?

Table 7: Please think now about regional organisations. Overall, which one do you personally think is more important for Fiji…

Only 16% thought that MSG was more important for Fiji, compared to 51% for Forum.

What? The organisation that Bainimarama is most contemptuous of, got four times the approval that the MSG gets?

Table 8: Do you personally think that Australia/New Zealand) should be a member of the Pacific Islands Forum?

Now which Fiji citizen would know about the implications for the Pacific countries of having Australia and NZ as members or not members of the Forum?

Table 9: Do you personally agree or disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum?

What on earth could be the answer to this from ordinary Fiji citizens?

Table 10: Overall, how good a job do you personally think Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is doing as Prime Minister?

Wow.  66% approved of his role as Prime Ministers.

Which person in his right mind in Fiji today would dare tell some interviewer from Suva (who could well be an informer for the army) that Bainimarama was not doing a good job?

What does such a question mean, if there are no alternative Prime Ministers given such as Qarase, Chaudhry, Mick Beddoes, Jai Ram Reddy or Madraiwiwi?

Note: Wikileaks has just revealed that John Samy admitted to the US Ambassador before departing for New Zealand that the alleged public approval of the Charter was strongly influenced by the army intimidation. But no public revelations yet.

Table 11: Overall, do you personally think that things in Fiji are going in the right direction or in the wrong direction?

How on earth could this question be interpreted by the average Fiji citizen?  Right direction?  Wrong direction?  With respect to what policy?

Table 12: Overall, would you personally say the government is doing a very good job, a fairly good job, an average job, a fairly poor job or a very poor job of listening to the views of people like yourself?

87% allegedly said this Military Regime is doing a good or average job of listening to the ordinary people?

In a country where the Parliament (of ordinary people’s representatives) has been closed, whose GCC has been shut down,  where sports organisations have been taken over by the Regime; where legitimate gatherings of (some) churches and unions are banned and people prosecuted; where dissidents are taken up to the camp for “questioning”; where a regional university can be financially blackmailed to get rid of questioning academics?

Table 13:  How good a job do you personally think the Government is doing in terms of delivering services in education, health, transport:  More than 69% said good.

Which ordinary citizen being polled will know how much this coup has cost the country in terms of lost incomes and government revenues and services (more than a billion dollars over four years) in return for a few tens of millions thrown at school busfares or squatter housing? 

Which ordinary citizen being polled will know about the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-payers’ funds gone missing and four years of Auditor Generals Report not being released by the same Bainimarama Government?

Table 14: How would you rate what the Government is doing in terms of working on…

More than 80% said good or average for the following (but, the facts say otherwise).

Ending racial inequalities and divisions (worse new)
Improving land ownership laws (nothing doing)
Increasing employment opportunities (worse now)
Improving the economy  (worse now)
Reducing poverty (worse now)
Preparing to draft a new Constitution  ( what’s the hurry- wait another 3 years?)
Making progress towards elections (what’s the hurry? wait another 3 years)
Reforming the electoral system (hey, what’s the hurry? wait another 3 years)

Table 15: Thinking about what effect the new constitution will have, please say whether you personally agree or disagree with the following statements…More than 70% agree:

            Will lead to a better democracy in Fiji
            Will end racial inequalities and divisions in Fiji
            Will end the coup culture in Fiji

Table 16: Please say which one of the three statements comes closest to your own personal views about democracy.

Preferable to any other kind of government 53%
Non-democratic government preferable under some circumstances 25%
Doesn’t matter to someone like me 21%

What on earth will ordinary citizens (or even the experts) say about questions 15 and 16, when they don’t even know that the Charter, Roadmaps etc are all repetitions of whatever is there in the 1997 Constitution, and they have no idea at all of what a genuine democracy is, or that a “non-democratic government” is here a surrogate for an illegal  treasonous military Regime?

Table 17: Do you personally think that the Church and other religious organisations should be involved a lot, a little or not at all in politics?

66% said “Not At All”, obviously thinking only of the Methodists being currently bashed by Bainimarama- not of the Hindus, Catholics and Muslims who politically and actively supported Bainimarama’s 2006 coup and his and John Samy’s Charter charade.

Table 18A: Overall, do you personally approve or disapprove of the RFMF’s role in Fiji at the moment?  68% approved. 

Who in Fiji would dare to tell an interviewer that they disapprove of the army in the current climate?  How much do the ordinary citizens know about how much extra tax-payers funds the military has been illegally swallowing up since 2006, denying them funds for health (shortage of basic medicines at hospitals- buy your own says Neil Dharma) education  and social welfare. 

But hold it.  31% actually said they disapproved, even in this biased sample?  What would the number be without the media censorship, Public Emergency Decree and arbitrary arrests?

Table 18B: Still looking to the future, do you personally agree or disagree that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces should play a permanent role in politics?  53% agree.

Well, well, well. 

Table 19: Since the December 2006 coup, do you personally think the local media
in Fiji has become more reliable and trustworthy, less reliable and trustworthy or is it about the same as before the coup?

In a country which continues to suffer from total media censorship, with one newspaper owned by a totally pro-Bainimarama business (which also has extended its tentacles to  the Fiji Pension Fund and the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority), one newspaper whose owner is in gaol and facing more charges, one radio station run by Aiyaz Khaiyum’s brother, and a television station whose control is about to be taken away from Yasana Holdings (the current majority shareholder), by the Military-controlled Fijian Holdings Limited.  A country where no critical news are allowed about the missing hundreds of millions at FNPF, all kinds of secret under-the-table deals bypassing the tenders board, pensioners’ views on the imminent cutting of their pensions not allowed in the media, or the views of some economists critical of this regime ....

43% of the poll respondents said the media was now more reliable;  31% same; i.e. 74% said the media was the same or more reliable after the 2006 coup.

This must really take the cake as far as the reliability of the Lowy Institute Poll is concerned.   Heh heh heh heh heh heh.  Please pick me up from the floor. 

20.  Importance of human rights:

The right to freely express yourself (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to freely vote in national elections (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to a fair trial (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to a media free from censorship (no such freedom in Fiji)

With no Bainimarama presence hovering over this question, more than 95% of the respondents said yes. 

Yet the Bainimarama Regime has deprived Fiji’s people of all these basic human rights.

What is reported and what is not reported
Earlier Tebbutt Poll reports (for The Fiji Times) usually gave break-downs by ethnicity, age, gender and division.  They consistently showed greater Fijian support for Qarase than for Bainimarama; and that Indo-Fijians showed greater support for Bainimarama- largely because of his rhetoric of racial equality.

Whether that Indo-Fijian support would still be there today in a secret referendum is an interesting question, given that the sugar industry has significantly declined, casual wage earners (mostly Indo-Fijian) have suffered badly because of the stagnating economy, and Indo-Fijian leaders have been marginalised  (a few swallows don’t make a summer).

The detailed ethnic break-downs are not given for every table, however dubious the results.

Were the rural areas to be randomly polled as well, all the results in support of Bainimarama would go down, despite the upward pressure from the “fear factor”.

Clear Lowy Report bias towards Bainimarama
The Report may be easily characterised as portraying the Bainimarama Regime in a good light, not just from the cover picture of a very respectable looking Bainimarama speaking at the United Nations.

The introduction to the Lowy Report alleges that the differences between the Qarase SDL/FLP Govenrment and Bainimarama emerged over the three contentious Bills- Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, the Qoliqoli Bill and the Land Tribunal Bill.

But more and more evidence is coming out that Bainimarama had been planning the 2006 coup from the time that the Qarase Government wanted him prosecuted for the several deaths in military custody, surcharged for over-spending the military budget in 2004, 2005 and removed as Commander for insubordination. 

Some allegations are now being made by Major Mara that Bainimarama may have initially supported the 2000 coup and the removal of Chaudhry’s Government.

But the Lowy Report simplistically claims  

“When the government did not meet all the military’s demands, Bainimarama seized power and assumed the position of Prime Minister, which he has maintained to date. He promised to engage in a clean-up campaign to rid Fiji of corruption and to eliminate racial inequalities in Fiji. Bainimarama said elections would be held when the country was stable and when appropriate electoral reforms were implemented”.

No comment at all on all the broken promises since 2006 or the final treasonous abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in 2009, by a manipulated senile President.

The Lowy Report is full of strange strained logic which puts a positive spin on the Bainimarama Regime, and tries to ultimately suggest that Australia is out of line and should lift all its sanctions and restore all links with the Bainimarama Regime.

This is the line that Jenny Hayward-Jones has consistently taken over the last couple of years, driven largely by the view that Australia has been out maneuvered and being displaced in the Pacific by China.

It would be more honest of the Lowy Institute if they were to honestly come out and maintain their arguments purely on foreign policy interests of Australia vis a  vis China.

There was no need to engage in a statistical charade of an opinion poll, with unrealistic questions being asked of ordinary Fiji citizens in a climate of fear, with outrageous conclusions being reached based on the unreliable responses received.

It does not help that Caz Tebutt has personal business interests in pushing the Fiji Australia Business Council line for restoration of normal Australian relations with Fiji: her opinion poll business took a nosedive with the 2006 coup and Australian sanctions on Fiji (but ironically encouraged her to extend her business to the Pacific and earned her an Exporter of the Year Award). Her business could do with a revival of the Fiji economy.

It is not plausible of the Fiji Regime spokesperson (more than a passing acquaintance of Caz Tebbutt) to claim that the Regime had no idea that such a great expert survey was being conducted.  Nor is it plausible for Tebutt Research to claim that they did not ask for permission from the Regime but just “sought legal opinion”.

It also does not help the Lowy Institute reputation that this poll was co-financed privately by one Mark Johnson AO who supposedly has mineral exploration interests in Vanua Levu. 

Given the positive spin that this Lowy Poll has put on Bainimarama, Johnson will no doubt be glad to have Bainimarama’s goodwill over the next few years when his business interests in Fiji come on stream and he has to negotiate taxation regimes with the Regime.

Dishonest pressure on Australian Government
It is ludicrous that the Lowy Institute should use the dubious responses from a 1032 ordinary relatively under-educated citizens of Fiji, to place pressure on the Australian Government to change its foreign policy stance on Fiji.

Or to pressure the Forum countries to do the same.

It is dismaying that writers like Graham Davis, who are given credibility by national Australian newspapers like The Australian, should contemptuously contrast the “high popularity rating” of Bainimarama from the grossly biased Tebbutt Poll with the allegedly low rating of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia.

Davis and other coup supporters like Croz Walsh should note that for a proper comparison to be made, Julia Gillard would have to:

* use guns to remove a lawful government and make herself Prime Minister
* illegally over-spend tax-payers funds amounting to more than twice the Health Budget
* stop five years of Auditor General’s Reports on Government revenues and expenditure
* hide reports on the losses of hundreds of millions of dollars of pension funds resulting from decisions made by boards appointed by herself;
* illegally pay herself 30 years of back-pay for leave she allegedly did not take
* stop the audit of Regimental Funds abused by successive Military Commanders
* pay herself multiple salaries through a private accounting firm which also receives large business deals without going through proper tender processes
* have total media censorship in place, with a Public Emergency Decree that bans all meetings not wanted by her
* and ensure a judiciary that enforces Military Decrees including those which state that the Regime may not be taken to court for anything.

The list is still growing. Fiji is a small place and truth will eventually come out about  everything.

Simply because this regime had maintained a stranglehold on Fiji for the last five years does not in any way make it right or that it is going to be good for Fiji in the long run.

Nor does it mean that neighbouring Forum countries should just accept the “bad boy” back in the fold, as Anote Tong (Kiribati President) so naively suggests.

Forum countries who keep supporting Bainimarama for whatever reason they have, need to think about the day when their own soldiers or police forces may forget their oaths of obedience to the lawful elected government of the day and copy Bainimarama.

We Fiji people know now that we cannot expect any support from the US Government who (as Wikileaks has revealed) knew all the dirt on the Bainimarama Regime, but chose to not support Australia and NZ pressures on Fiji, because of their own foreign policy need for Fijian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (likewise the morally bankrupt UN). Tough luck for human rights and democracy in Fiji, eh?

For the Pacific, the Lowy Institute has just undermined itself very badly as an independent and objective “Think Tank”.

It shows itself to be just a private lobby group, indulging in propaganda, manipulating shonky opinion polls, to justify its foreign policy view for Australia, based largely on fear of China.

The Australian Government needs to ask whether the Lowy Institute really deserves Australian tax-payers funds in order to so contemptuously undermine long term law and order, constitutionality, and basic human rights in Pacific Island countries.


Navosavakadua said...

There a few questions that need be asked about this survey. The first is was it carried out with the approval of the regime. With the tight censorship in place, it’s hard to imagine people being allowed to go around asking questions about the approval rating of a tin-pot dictator without formal permission. That’s not the way tin-pot dictatorships work.

Secondly, if the regime did approve the survey, what conditions did they impose? Did they supply any of the people administering the survey? It looks like the questions were translated into the two major vernaculars by the people conducting the survey. Was there an approved translation? If so, it should be presented with the report. If not, a lot of responsibility rests with the people entrusted to carry out the survey. If these have been provided by, say the Ministry of Information, there’s a lot of scope for the wording to be badly twisted.

So the final question is: was this study commissioned by the regime itself and published by the Lowy Institute or was it commissioned by the Lowy Institute?

The front cover, covered in a picture of the tin-pot dictator himself shows all the signs of having been approved by the regime. Besides,the 82 percent approval rating of the regime’s education and 71 percent for transport are simply impossible to believe. One egg too many for this pudding.

The Regime’s propaganda rag touts the survey as a poll by the Lowy Institute, but that’s NOT what it says in their report. They launched the report, which is attributed to Tebbutt Research.

Anonymous said...

I also do not think the level of support for Frank as stated in the survey is correct.

I think his support is far greater !!

Keep The Faith said...

@ Anon 01:31

Great. Now would you and your handler/s like to stake that claim in an election ASAP?