A Rebuttal of Dr Wadan Narsey's Arguments on the Validity of the Lowy Poll

Dr Wadan Narsey
By Crosbie Walsh

As predicted, those who were disappointed with the results of the Lowy Institute/Tebbutt poll — which found two-thirds of those sampled supportive of the Bainimarama government — have found fault with polls or the poll methodology as a means of accurately determining people's opinions.

They range from Dr Steve Ratuva's concerns that I addressed in an earlier post to those of Samoan PM Tuilaepa who dismisses all polls as nonsense; to FTUC secretary Felix Anthony who said the poll showed how intimidated people were; fellow unionist Attar Singh of the FICTU who thinks the Lowy Institute should not have commissioned the poll (see separate posting), to Dr Waden Narsey  who has written a long critique of the the poll methods,  interspersed, as is Wadan's way, with his opinions on the Bainimarama Government, the Lowy Institute, Tebbutt Polls, poll experts Fergus Hanson and Sol Leboric (who should hang their heads in shame), Caz Tebbutt, Sharon Smith Johns,  and "coup apologists" Graham Davis and Croz Walsh.

Several of the critics, including Wadan, have suggested ulterior motives and or pecuniary motives by the poll sponsors and organizers, "a systematic bias towards favourable outcomes,” and the deliberate re-shaping and withholding of unfavourable results. Wadan went one step further and said ordinary people are too uneducated for their poll opinions to mean anything: an interesting view from a democrat and former politician.

None of this is particularly surprising though I was disappointed none gave any credit to an attempt to find out what ordinary people think about the Bainimarama government, given the well-reported claims from the so-called Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement that Bainimarama has no support and is only holding on to power by the use of force. One might have thought that ordinary people's opinions were important to any discussion on democracy and good governance.

Only Wadan seems to have actually read the full poll report and provided us with a serious critique. I share his concern at the number of questions asked in the time allotted, and the complexity of some of them. I accept that some results are probably less reliable that others. But the results would have had to be very, very different to be wrong on the most important question: support or otherwise for the Bainimarama government.

Readers are invited to read what Wadan has to say, and then look back at this critique of his critique.

First though, some readers may need to know about Wadan's credentials. He is an economist who has been used by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics to analyze data supplied by the Bureau on its Household and Expenditure Surveys, and he analyzed data supplied by ECREA from a survey on poverty. As far as I know, he was not involved in the research designs, methodologies or the supervision of the surveys.

In all of this work he has been meticulous in defining terms and describing the statistical tool used, but I can find no reference in his Quantitative Analysis of Poverty in Fiji to the sampling methods used in the 2002-2003 HIES, or any possible shortcomings in the sampling method chosen. This is quite extraordinary.

In Fiji: an Encyclopaedic Atlas, I have expressed considerable concern about their use of  “residential areas” as the random sampling frame for reasons that are too detailed to go into here. My only point is that Wadan mentioned nothing of the sampling methods used in his book, which requires explanation and comment, and yet this was his first point of objection to the Lowy Poll.

He criticises the poll's use of urban areas, saying that anti-government opinion is strongest in rural areas. Maybe, maybe not. But rural people are likely to be even more uneducated than those surveyed in the poll.

He infers none too gently they have deliberately deceived readers by concealing their methodology. This is not so. The methodology is spelt out at the end of the report. They clearly state urban areas; they cite the numbers interviewed (an omission in Wadan's report!); their use of 'starting points' is at least as reliable as Wadan's use of 'residential areas;' and their use of weights to produce results according to ethnicity, location and so on is no less reliable than Wadan's use of the weighted HIES surveys results.

They make no claim that the poll was truly random, and pointedly place limits on the probability of their results. Wadan does not acknowledge this. I found their explanation of methods far fuller than those explained in Wadan's poverty report.

It is obvious that no sample poll is perfect. The critical question, in the case of this particular poll, is roughly how representative it is likely to be of the opinions of urban people, and, if we discount its wider application to urban Fiji, how honestly did it reflect the opinions of the 1,000 people interviewed?

Wadan asks these eight questions. My comment is shown below. 

1. Is the poll genuinely representative of the views of Fiji people?
No, and it does not claim to be. It is a reasonable attempt to disclose the opinions of urban Fijians. See above.

2. Could honest answers be expected in a 'climate of fear'?
The organizers reported no “climate of fear” and Lowry's Jenny Hayward-Jones, who, it should be pointed out, did not like the results, has made no suggestion of any irregularities. (I see from an ABC interview, she is now, for the first time,  talking of  a "climate of fear.")

Dr Narsey dismissed the results that showed opposition to Australian, Commonwealth and other sanctions, saying that it was "natural" for people for people to defend their country. This really is a most unconvincing explanation. It is also Dr Narsey's country, and the country of those overseas Fijians who approve and wish to see an increase in sanctions even to the point of causing major harm to the economy and the livelihood of its citizens. Why is it also not "natural" for them to oppose sanctions?

3. Could the questions be understood by ordinary Fiji citizens in the time given?
I think too many questions were asked in the time available and the more complex questions (e.g., giving countries a score out a hundred) could be less reliable than direct questions such as 'Is Bainimarama doing a good job?”  and "Is Fiji on the right track?" These question would definitely be understood — in English, Fijian and Fiji Baat.

4. Why did the Lowy Institute ignore the political climate of fear in Fiji? 
Wadan assumes ordinary Fijians are living in a climate of fear. This may be so for Government opponents but many people returning from visits to Fiji report no such climate. In fact, most say their impression is that most people support what Bainimarama is doing.

The quesions on Australia, the Pacific Forum and the MSG were clearly intended to address issues important to the Lowry Institute that has a place in informing the Australian government on foreign policy issues.  In my view, they were of less importance than the questions on Fiji which comprised the other half of the report. 

5. Why did the Lowy Institute not report all the tables? 6. Which tables did the Lowy Institute choose not to release?
I was not aware that it did but this is not unusual in survey reports. Itaukei and Indo-Fijian opinions were shown separately on some tables, including the one on Bainimarama. Wadan infers a sinister purpose. I doubt it.

Most poll answers showed a range of responses from approval to disapproval. The range, in question after question, is not consistent with a population living in fear. One-third of the people thought Bainimara's performance was poor, very poor or only average!

7. Who financed the poll and their interests in Fiji?
There is no secret about this. And my quess is that the Lowry Institute expected a very different result.
It would to interesting to know what Tuilaepa, Anthony, Singh and Narsey would have said had it been so. I doubt they would have found any fault with the methodology. The criticism of methods is because Government opponents do not like the poll results.

8. Links between Tebbutt Research and the Bainimarama Regime and functionaries?*
I think Wadan is referring to the "friendship"  between Caz Tebbutt and Sharon Smith Johns, the permanent secretary of Information. I agree with Wadan that someone in government must have known of  the poll (but not necessarily Smith Johns) and, of course the two women know of each other (Suva is small place) but I see nothing sinister in this. Sharon tells me she hasn't spoken with Caz for over two years.To infer collusion from acquaintanceship would leave most Suva citizens colluding about something.

To significantly influence the question outcomes would have required a major effort by all the key people involved.  Caz Tebbutt could not have done it alone, even assuming she wanted to. Had there been interference as Wadan clearly claims, it would be the end of  Tebbutt Polls in Fiji. Few business men or women would take that risk. 

Wadan's innuendos and personal attacks on those involved in the poll detract from his arguments and academic reputation. By all means attack the poll but he should not have attacked the polsters unless he had  evidence to support his claims. In doing so he leaves himself wide open to charges of libel, and does little for his reputation as a researcher.  There is a "probability" that his criticism is "95%" polemic — and only 5% good reseach.

* The next two paragraphs have been slightly changed from the original due to further informaton received.


Anonymous said…
How many people were approached to participate in the poll declined?

If I was a fly on the wall at each interview request, and witnessed the dialogue that transpired, I would have a 100% accurate poll with only a sampling of 10 people.

The best sampling tool in Fiji that has worked for me 100% accurate every time for election results is to ask every taxi driver on every ride you take for his opinion and the general opinion of his passengers.

For anybody who can't afford a Tebutt poll, my suggestion would be get one each itaukei, kai dia and kai vulagi interviewer , a few dollars for taxi fare and send them around the city with the right questions to ask with secret recording, so as to analyse conversation and eliminate any bias depending on interviewers ideology.
Proud Fijian said…
Sounds very scientific. The driver thinks you're a Fiji Nationalist Extremist and says what you want to hear - Bainimarama is performing poorly and AUS/NZ sanctions should remain cause i like to struggle financially.
Personal Attacks said…
Respectfully. You and other junta supporters and collaborators make constant personal attacks on the Hon Qarase and those who support democracy and freedom. Yet you decry alleged personal attacks on those who openly support the junta? Is this not double standards?
On this Lowy survey of 0.125% of the population and the inferences made from it, I have serious concerns. The survey was undertaken by an junta supporter and funded by a person with business interests in Fiji. The survey has been undertaken in an environment where people are subject to a PER and a very repressive and intimidating regime.
The people of Fiji cannot express themselves freely and vote. Yet some people are trying to tell us a self appointed PM (who took over an elected government with guns) is ok because of a compromised survey? thankfully the members of the Forum and the EU see things very differently.
Polly put the kettle on said…
Good analysis. Wadan Narsey took the wrong guy on! the poll was disappointing for Narsey because it shows that his views might represent a minority. Dear dear, how tragic. As for his long 'critique' methinks he doth protest too much! How bitter is the kerela (bitter gourd) of defeat!
Croz Walsh said…
@ Personal attacks ... You write "respectfully" and then say I am a junta supporter. As you must surely know from my criticisms of the "junta", my support is qualified. I do not see things in blacks and whites.

You say I have made personal attacks on Laisenia Qarase. This is not so unless you count calling someone a racist for seeeking to introduce racist legislation.

Attacks on people's ideas, philosophies and actions are legitimate criticism.

Public attacks such as Wadan's on the personal integrity, honesty and professionalism of individuals without producing one single shread of evidence in support of the aaccusations is personal and probably libellous.

As for the 0.125% (haven't you made this comment already?) you clearly have no knowlege of how polls are conducted.

Now a question to test your honesty: would you still be making the same accusations against the poll if it's results supported your political position?

The poll is not perfect but it is likely to be more representative of urban Fijian opinions on its main questions than your ideas pulled out of the ether.

With your contacts in Fiji, why not conduct a straw poll of taxi drivers as one reader has suggested? Let me know the results.
sister saras said…
I thought Wadan was a reasonable guy, but I have been wrong before too. He seems to have gotten worse since after his sister and bro in law were expelled from Fiji. Wadan can write anything he likes, FDFM can bark as loud as it wants, it will make no difference whatsoever to the resolve of this govt. Having said that, any poll conducted by anybody, either affirmative or negative will have zero impact as well. This govt is focused on building a better Fiji, and nothing will distract it.
Personal attacks said…
Respectfully. Your indecision on whether you support the military junta or not is something for you to work out. Perhaps the fact that you acknowledge your confusion is a good start. I personally have no such indecision or delusion. Thugs with guns who brutalise and intimidate people are vermin.
I note that every now and again, usually when you are in a corner (which like bainimarama these days is often) you throw our the old chestnuts like 'racism' or 'libel'. That is just chin dribbling and could be corrected if you get your missus to wipe your chin? Move on from this week lad. You and the junta need to get over the kick in the guts at the Forum this week and the support for their stance against the bainimarama from the MSG, EU, US, Commonwealth and every one else who attended except for that fellow from Kiribati. Harden up croz, get your chin wiped and stop personalising everything.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Personal attacks ... Your response leaves me feeling sad because it's with people like you that Goverenment must eventually dialogue. If they don't, they'll be accused of not being inclusive.
Kahukiwa said…
Poll or no Poll, I'm still waiting for the first PRO regime march or demonstration to be held - come on Croz, whats wrong with you guys!?
SOE said…
@ Croz

I could not agree more with your view that it is unguarded and most revealing that Professor Wadan Narsey should allude to the lack of education among all those questioned in this Poll. As though ordinary people (and even out-of-the-ordinary?) might have no conception or reaction to the climate on the ground and this was reflected in their response to any improvement or benefit in their daily lives? Most people will respond to safety and security in their daily lives. For without it, there is little of value. Might this be relevant? Former Prime Minister Qarase had such a low opinion of 'safety and security' that he had his LAST government planning Committee (Justice, Law & Order) designated SWG9. This was his choice. May we suppose that most of the respondents in this poll felt otherwise?
Courting Power from an Ivory Tower said…
It is disgusting, reprehensible even, to hear former parliamentarians comment in this disparaging way on those whose votes - not so long ago - they were chasing! Let this be a lesson to those who may believe that academics are a 'good bet' when elections return in 2014. For secretly and sometimes not so secretly so many of them are arrogant, self-regarding, cloistered individuals with no real comprehension or care for the daily concerns of constituents. Their true interest lies in courting the insulated existence of global power-brokers: so much more rewarding. Their voters are a mere convenience along the way. And living off the taxpayer is its own reward!
Anonymous said…
For Wadan to suggest that ordinary people in Fiji dont have the necessary education to decide for themsleves what is best for them, is the height of arrogance. His philosopy goes something like this: "look, you imbeciles in Fiji dont have the educational qualifications like me...as a professor of economics I know what it best for you...so just do as I say".

Come on Waden, where is the respect for individual opinion and democracy that you are harping on about?

I agree with Croz, personal attacks against the integrity of those who disagree with his (and the FDFM) views is both libellious, totally below the belt and once again, shows his arrogance. To use a rugby term Waden should 'play the ball and not the man'.
Fair Play said…
@ Playing the ball and not the man....

If many of these opinionated people had played rugby and/or cricket their mindset might be somewhat different? Most would never last forty minutes in the XVs, let alone eighty. What does this say for their basic understanding of how many Fijians might ground their values? Both games require and demand Fair Play and eschew cheating. In fact, if you cheat you will be found out and humiliated in public view. A very good state of affairs for most politicians and those with aspirations?
Lesley said…
After being in Fiji for 9 days and spending the past few days in Suva and asking grass root people what they think about what is going on in Fiji - the poll seems to be pretty spot on. Most are concerned more about the cost of living and that flour and rice prices are rising - which is also happening globally. Some would like the PER to be lifted but most I have spoken to believe that what the Fijian Government is doing is the best for Fiji's future.
Anonymous said…
I think Professor Wadan Narsey should dismount from his high horse, as he sees those beneath as people who are incapable of articulating their views through simple research questionaires. Tebbutt Research uses user friendly methods to elicit true response from people they include in their research. Because of his perch high above others he has absolutely no idea of the pulse of the ordinary rural dwellers. If this research was done in rural areas the percentage of support for Frank Bainimarama would have been much higher, certainly above 75 percent. So Professor do not delude yourself, academically manipulating the result. But it is not uncommon for academics to be detached from reality. Australia and New Zealand are insisting on sanctions because they fear offending the Chinese who are consolidating their position in the Pacific and Fiji is its prime target.
March of Folly and the Wars on Terror said…
The American right wing politician Pat Buchanan has written a 'Sept 11 2001 analysis' for Newsmax magazine's 10th anniversary commemorative edition. It has prompted much reflection amid the realisation that eleven years ago, in the year 2000, Fiji suffered a serious orchestrated act of terrorism with multiple ramifications and various collateral damage done.

If there is one consequence from reading this analysis, it is the understanding that President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have both done what needed to be done. May 2011 has seen Osama bin Laden dispensed with in Pakistan: despatched by US Navy Seals in his Abbotabad hideout. An important measure of closure for the entire free world and a demonstration of intent.

The title of the article is : "9/11 Wars - MARCH OF FOLLY". And reference is made to historian and author Barbara Tuchman. Acts of terror result in retribution. This is to be expected. "And George W. Bush rose to the occasion" says Buchanan.

Yes, he did. And so has President Obama. "Blowback from the mission to kill bin Laden has been severe". Yes, it has and even today the threat level is High in the US: evidence of this assertion.

Our protracted March of Folly in Fiji is yet to produce the goods: evolved democracy and death to multiple coups d'etat. The insulting and baying language hurled daily at all who live in Fiji from afar and on those who claim to understand our trials and on-going tribulations show that folly abounds aplenty, still.

Democracy requires moderation and restraint under the rule of law. Acts of terror will be requited. Those who aid and abet them will be brought to justice. At the end of the day, eleven years on, it is safety and security that are pre-eminent. All the rest is icing on the cake.
sara'ssista said…
as was pointed out on coupfour, wasn't Qarase popular too before being overthrown?? But this doesn't count? The same pollster asked about the job andrew hughes was doing too, and guess what? So quick to ignore that and claim some sort of win with a very suspect poll. and the point is well taken about a poll taken during the reign of this regime. It s quite laughable. Where was the 'peoples movement' that drove Qarase from power?? Oh and Croz point about he calls someone a racist who enacts racist legislation, well i will take your cue and call bainimarama an ignorant, arrogant thug with a Napoleon complex given his record thus far.
Ask Why said…
After this poll, scientifically conducted by an institute which supports the current government in Fiji there is no doubt in my mind that Bainimarama has overwhelming support of the people. Otherwise we would see scenes like in Syria, Libya on Suva's streets. There remains the question why is there such a strong support for a regime that is - well how should I phrase this - a bit misunderstood by the outside world. Could it be that you think twice about a critical remark when a journey to the barracks and a bit of physical re-education is a real possibility? Could it be that Fiji's population has in the meantime understood that free speech is not part of the PER. Or is it perhaps because people believe what the Fiji Sun reports Bainimarama has introduced reforms that empower the population? Myself, I believe that repression in Fiji has not yet reached the point where the balance tips towards mass action and serious resistance. But hey, it is early days for a dictatorship that is just five years old. Gaddafi has terrorized his people for 42 years until they felt enough is enough.
Anonymous said…
what happened to democracy was foreign flower, i agree with the cause not the means. how does it feel to have the boot up you ass for a change?
All Hail the Philosopher King! said…
@ Personal Attacks and boots up anatomical parts.......!

Getting cornered is an unsmart thing to do. But we all do it from time to time. Being confused is another unsmart thing but sooner or later we 'figure things out' and get ourselves 'unconfused'. This is all part of being an ordinary human. Why are we so unprepared to tolerate ordinary humans? Because, being democratic will insist that we do. Like it or loathe it, the insistence upon democracy with all its freedoms and responsibilities brings us inevitably and inexorably to a place where we must learn to co-exist with the confused/the unconfused and, yes, the ill-educated or the ignorant.

So what is the chink in your democratic armour? A preference for the Philosopher King? 'pace' Plato? And where will will you fit in?
sara'ssista said…
so after years and years of military dictatorship, is fiji a more inclusive country ? Hell no, it is as divided as it ever was, just ostracised and marginalised than ever. The feelings and attitudes are all still there, just waiting for an opportunity.
Just waiting for an opportunity.....for what? said…
"Just waiting for an opportunity"..? An opportunity for what?

Divided societies need to get themselves 'undivided'. They need to get out of their bubbles and "Go beyond borders". The world is now a global world and the global economy waits for no one. Getting 'unconfused' and 'undivided' are pre-requisites for progress and for economic growth.

Surely, this is the 'opportunity' you allude to, sara'ssista? What else could it sensibly be?
sara'ssista said…
well that's not what I allude to. Divided societies do not get 'undivided' by a military regime 'requiring' them to. This regime has absolutely no moral authority to lecture anyone on anything and they are simply entrenching views. It only takes an event, an interrogation that goes bad, a killing , a vicious beating to create an event that will cause a change. Haven't you read the international news recently? Everything this regime touches and every decision it makes, every decree it proclaims, everyone it touches is tarnished and poisoned. Whatever the alleged interntion it will all end in tears and someone will have to clean it all up , again. We are just killing time.

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons from Africa

The Ratu Tevita Saga, Coup4.5, Michael Field, the ANU Duo, and Tonga