A survey used by a parliamentary committee to gauge the public’s views about the Religious Discrimination Bill had “multiple, significant flaws”.
Neil Francis, who is author of the Religiosity in Australia series and a Fellow of the Rationalist Society of Australia, has identified many problems with the survey in an analysis piece for the #DontDivideUs campaign.
“There are multiple, significant flaws in the survey. These include research design, timing, sampling, vagueness and confused wording, bias in questions, and omission of important questions,” he wrote.
“The Committee should treat responses with extreme caution, and only as exploratory, partial, qualitative, and unrepresentative.”
As part of the submission process into the Religious Discrimination Bill, the Joint Committee on Human Rights used online platform SurveyMonkey to survey attitudes towards issues raised by the government’s legislation.
The survey has been widely criticised for appearing to be framed in a way likely to bolster the case for the bill.
In his analytical piece, Francis writes that most questions in the survey are biased, presuming a positive stance towards the legislation.
The vagueness of the questions “invites simple ideological responses rather than principled responses that consider a balance of rights and responsibilities.”
Instead of being a reliable indicator of attitudes to the Religious Discrimination Bill, Francis argues the survey serves largely as a tool for ideological lobbying.
“It would be ethically untenable to state, imply, or allow to be passively imputed that the responses to the survey represent a quantitative, balanced, sufficiently ranging, or authoritative measure of the mood of the Australian public on the matter.”
The RSA is among a coalition of 11 freethought and pro-secular community groups supporting the #DontDivideUs campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill. You can support the campaign here.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman