Ah, the fun you can have with survey data. It's well known that if you get to control how survey questions are worded, you can get large groups of people to support almost anything. Take, for example, what's happening down in Australia with the fight over the government's latest plan (after many previous attempts) to force filters on the entire internet
, requiring ISPs to block a secret list of sites the gov't doesn't like. A lot of people are up in arms about this blatant censorship. But supporters of the plan can eagerly point to a recent survey that got 80% of people to say they were in favor of "having a mandatory Government Internet filter that would automatically block all access, in Australia, to overseas websites containing material that is Refused Classification." 80%? That seems really surprising.
But, it shouldn't be if you saw how the question was asked.
points us to the news about how that particular question was prefaced by asking people to read the following "definition"
of what kinds of content would be blocked:
- child sexual abuse
- sexual violence
- gratuitous, exploitative or offensive sexual fetishes; and
- detailed instructions on or promotion of crime, violence or use of illegal drugs
You read that list -- especially given what it starts off with -- and who's going to say "no, I want to make sure that's available"? Not that many people. Obviously, they're going to say they support blocking it. But that doesn't really mean they support government censorship. It seems quite likely that what people want is for the government not to focus on useless and expensive censorship campaigns, but to focus that same effort on catching those who are actually breaking the law and stopping them from engaging in the illegal activities. In fact, the very same study found that 91%
don't like the fact that the government will be censoring the internet via a secret list
. Basically, people don't want government censorship, but that doesn't mean they support the things in the list. It's just that they would prefer the government do something real
to stop it, rather than brushing it under a digital rug.