TVNZ KiwiMeter quiz 'flawed on many levels'

8:56 pm on 27 March 2016

OPINION: It is difficult for me, as a Māori researcher, to take TVNZ's online KiwiMeter survey seriously.

A screengrab of advertising for the TVNZ quiz, which has been criticised as biased by New Zealand's Human Rights Commission.

A screengrab for the TVNZ quiz. Photo: TVNZ

KiwiMeter was launched in March with TVNZ calling it "the biggest survey of national identity ever undertaken in New Zealand".

Since then KiwiMeter has attracted criticism from the Human Rights Commission and a number of opposition politicians. Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis went as far as saying a question which asked whether Māori should not have special treatment was designed to incite racial intolerance and should be withdrawn.

KiwiMeter is flawed on far too many levels beginning with the name 'KiwiMeter'.

Naming is important. In any project or poll or survey, naming gives the participants an idea of what is being explored. The KiwiMeter tells us it explores the question: 'What kind of Kiwi are you?'.

The assumption being that all in Aotearoa consider themselves to be 'Kiwi'. So what happens for those that do not identify as 'Kiwi'? I have always been perplexed by the idea that identification with a nocturnal, bug eating bird that does not fly is how many chose to define us all. This is one indicator of the kinds of assumptions that underpin the design of this poll.

To be Māori, to not identify as Kiwi is from the beginning positioned as problematic.

So I am not surprised that the debate around the framing of questions as leading and racist has become a focus of discussion. Questions such as: 'Māori should not receive any special treatment' have been accused as being racist. Is it a racist frame? Yes it is.

But it is not only the framing of questions that can be problematic, it is also how the responses are analysed. All good researchers know that if you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer and the analysis and outcomes will be flawed.

So we need to ask whether the outcomes of a racist question be used to identify the levels of racism in Aotearoa? Highly unlikely. Will the outcomes be used to justify less resources for Māori? Highly likely. Given the assumptions underpinning this poll the formula could potentially read: racist questions + uninformed analysis = racist outcome.

Should we be worried about that as Māori? Yes we should.

KiwiMeter is promoted by TVNZ as "the biggest survey of national identity ever undertaken in New Zealand", when a more honest statement would be that KiwiMeter is "the biggest TVNZ self-promotion poll undertaken". KiwiMeter serves as a driver for promoting TVNZ and is a good example of how broadcasters 'create' news stories that serve their own interest and need for audience catching headlines.

KiwiMeter is not a survey, it is based on the same online political polls that Vox Labs run prior to national elections and considered by many to 'lean' in favour of particular parties.

KiwiMeter is a poll, a poorly constructed, easily manipulated poll.

In completing the poll I was defined, predictably, as a 'globalist' that "are the least likely among New Zealanders to express a sense of nationalism" and "tend not to see New Zealand as an exceptional place in itself".

A little spotted kiwi (photo provided by Wellington's Zealandia)

"I have always been perplexed that identification with a bird that does not fly is how many chose to define us all" - Leonie Pihama. Photo: Kimberley Collins

To have Māori understandings and a critical view of colonisation equates to not having a sense of nationalism. It is clear that KiwiMeter measures a particular view of identity in this country. It names it in line with a dominant 'we are one people' ideology. This is not a reflection of what identity means for me or my whānau. But then that is not surprising, as it is after all TVNZ.

KiwiMeter was launched on 3 March 2016 with TVNZ News reporting later that month that more than 180,000 people had taken part.

*Leonie Pihama is associate professor and director of Te Mata Punenga o Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato. She is also director of Māori and Indigenous Analysis Ltd, a kaupapa Māori research company.