Alert readers will have noticed that the Conservatives and most of the right-wing press have recently embarked on a hyperbolic campaign against the Scottish Government’s “named person” child-protection legislation. The latest assault is in today’s Daily Mail:
The shriekingly furious lead article thunders in outrage that “nearly two thirds of Scots have condemned the SNP’s state guardian scheme as an ‘unacceptable intrusion’ into family life”, which sounds like a pretty damning verdict.
It’s not until you look a little deeper that it all falls to pieces.
Before we get into anything else, it’s worth seeing the question preamble.
That’s nearly unreadable, so we’ve transcribed it below. Make a sandwich, you might need a break halfway through it:
“The Scottish Government is introducing the ‘Named Person Scheme’, where every child will be assigned a health visitor or teacher tasked with monitoring that child’s ‘wellbeing’.
The external Named Person is expected to look at various aspects of family life, including whether parents argue, whether the child misses GP or dental appointments, whether they enjoy spending time with their parents and whether the child is consulted before major family decisions are made.
The Scottish Government claims that the scheme will’work with children, young people and their families to get the help they need, when they need it’.
However, opponents of the scheme, including the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, argue that the Named Person represents an unwelcome intrusion which effectively turns the State into a co-parent. Somebelieve that aspects of the Scottish scheme may eventually be rolled out across the whole of the UK.
Taking the information that you have read on the previous screen into account, do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements about the ‘Named Person Scheme’?”
So that’s not a biased, leading question at all. But it gets much worse.
Again that’s hard to read, so to save you clicking we’ll blow part of it up:
So what the Mail describes as “nearly two-thirds of Scots” is in fact ONE HUNDRED AND TEN PEOPLE, taken from an unweighted Scottish sub-sample of just 181.
(“Unweighted” in this context means that unlike in a proper Scotland-wide poll there’s been no attempt made to have the sub-sample form a representative balance of the Scottish population. Every single one of those 181 people could be a male Tory-voting pensioner from Kirkcudbright.)
The number who object to the imposition of a “named person” is even lower: 91.
And the number of the 181 Scottish respondents who were actually parents? 44.
Yet at the very end of the article the Mail claims that “ComRes polled 523 adults in Scotland”. As far as we can make out that’s a flat-out lie. The poll was UK-wide and sampled 2030 people in total, so over a quarter being from Scotland would have been absurdly unrepresentative, and the actual ComRes tables say 181 all the way through.
Even if it had been 523, that’d be a very suspect poll – a properly weighted 1000 is generally considered the minimum halfway-reliable figure for polling. 523 unweighted (as subsamples nearly always are) would be basically worthless. But an unweighted subsample of barely a third that many is some way beneath the level of “farcical joke”.
(The only occurrence of the figure 523 we can find in the poll is the number of women in the UK who, on a scale of 1-10 for how much nurses should be responsible for the general wellbeing of children, gave a score of between 4 and 7.)
When this site polled a properly weighted, full-sized sample of Scots about Named Person a few months ago, the results were somewhat different.
The unholy alliance of Tories, right-wing hacks and mad fundamentalist religious loonies ranged against the legislation aren’t going to let minor things like the truth get in the way of their latest “SNPBAD” witch-hunt. But readers can decide for themselves which data looks the more trustworthy.