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Claims of wind farm bias are ridiculous, says Lincolnshire County Council leader

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: January 19, 2013

'Underhand way': Some residents are complaining that a county council survey asking for people's views on wind farms is biased. Mike Rogers believes the questions are "loaded". Picture: John Jenkins

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An expert has claimed a county council survey to find out what people think of wind farms will not get accurate results.

Dr Simon Hampton, a psychology lecturer, said the survey does not give equal chances for people to show support for or reject an anti-wind farm stance.

He added there was a risk of social desirability bias, where people choose answers they believe are most morally acceptable. It comes after more than 100 people signed a petition that asks Lincolnshire County Council to remain impartial on the issue.

The authority wants only a limited number of wind farms i the county and to see certain areas protected from them ever being built.

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It will also use the survey to form a policy for when it is consulted on applications.

It published the questions in its County News magazine and on its website.

Dr Hampton, of the University of East Anglia, said: "When I read through this I thought 'this has been written by someone who doesn't like wind farms'.

"If the council didn't have a policy and they wanted to find out what would be the most popular position, this wouldn't be a very good way of doing it.

"You have to look at the intention and the outcome. They may have not intended it, but I think the outcome of this is that it is a biased survey."

The council's leader denied the survey was designed in a way that would give results that supported its stance.

Councillor Martin Hill said: "The survey simply asks people to offer their views on our position.

"They are free to disagree with any of our proposals, so any claims of bias are frankly ridiculous.

"Interestingly, when asked whether wind farms have any part to play in meeting our energy needs, the response so far has overwhelmingly been 'no'.

"This suggests that local people are far from convinced by the claims that have been made by the pro-wind lobby."

Comments by petitioners include a claim that the survey does not allow people to state what they really think".

Another petitioner said wind turbines should be used now and taken down when alternatives were found.

Mike Rogers, 70, from Bardney, who read about the survey in County News, said: "It's a loaded survey.

"It looks like the questions have been designed to give the answers that they want.

"You can't give an honest response.

"It's been done in an underhanded way."

Dr Hampton explained some details in the questions could influence people's answers.

He said: "If you were asking a friend which pub they wanted to go to, and asked 'should we go to this one first?' they are more likely to say yes.

"People can assume attitudes are ready-made in people's heads, but they are formed in conversation and people are influenced by external factors."

He explained some questions in the survey would sometimes be termed as "no brainers" – where the proposition is difficult to disagree with.

One example was a question that asked how important the impact of wind farms was on "Lincolnshire's landscapes, including areas of outstanding natural beauty and coastal conservation".

"Very few people would say it wasn't important," he said.

He added a question asking about the importance of wind farms' impact on areas of "historic or scientific interest" was "not a fair question".

"You could potentially pick one or both of these things as important, but the survey does not allow you to do this," he said.

The survey can be found www.lincolnshire.gov.uk

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  • Lincsbear52  |  January 22 2013, 8:53PM

    This so called 'survey' was biased and misleading, full of leading questions that merely invited the respondent to agree with the county council`s anti-wind farm/turbine stance. This is not true consultation. It is a crude attempt to drum up support for a already taken decision! It`s another reason why politicians are held in such contempt by the public!

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  • Tithe Farm  |  January 21 2013, 8:58AM

    That survey would have produced a Fail if part of a GCSE Statistics project.

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  • Bolshie  |  January 20 2013, 9:09PM

    Pete67 & Dave_Burling - I agree surveys such as this are a waste of time - you have to ask yourself why they even bother asking at all. Were this a survey on whether or not parking charges should rise I expect almost all the poll population would say no - so the council won't seek public opinion on such issues. On issues where public opinion is likely to be divided they will 'survey' and introduce bias in the question set to increase the probablility of support for their own stance whilst appearing to be pro-democratic on emotive issues. Bottom line is that you elect a councillor to represent your views - if you feel strongly about something write to them and make clear that his/her support for a motion you disagree with will cost them your vote at re-election time. Given that 99% of the electorate can't be bothered to try and influence what their councillor does 'on their behalf' I expect few will lose any sleep and we'll continue to follow the hare brained ideas set forward by a bunch of mediocre local politicians who know they are safe to do as they please because, to a large part, people follow traditional party political allegiances in local elections and don't loook too deeply at the competence of the individual standing to perform the job you want them to do. In days gone by they would be held to public account by journalists working for local newspapers - that art has, sadly, died in Lincolnshire and the 'newspaper' only reports what they are given by the council to say. Given public and journalistic antipathy I can't see any way that things will improve and local government will continue to follow any folly they choose free from any worries over public accountablilty.

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  • Pete67  |  January 20 2013, 5:44PM

    BCS Ltd Snow & Ice Clearance - - - Maybe so, but it's a good way to tax fresh air.

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  • BCS Ltd Turf  |  January 20 2013, 4:54PM

    seems like a lot of wind to me

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  • nigelsparky  |  January 19 2013, 11:02PM

    When is everyone going to realise these "wind farms" are just an expensive folly, that just don't flipping work! How the last government could have been so stupid to have signed us up to an absolute ludicrous mandate with the EU meaning that we have to shut down perfectly good power stations, putting thousands on the dole, without any plausible plan in place to meet our energy needs, is nothing short of scandalous and incompetent. And this decision is based on what? a bunch of scientists theories on "global warming" , oh that's right that term is no longer used is it! Why? because these scientists predicted some 20 years ago that the temperature of the planet would rise by 2 degrees over the last 20 years, and it hasn't, so we don't call it "global warming" now but "climate change", which we should all know, climates never stand still, never have done and never will do, regardless of what mankind does. Now we have an immense amount of "renewable" companies springing up from all over cashing in on the vast sums of tax payers money being thrown at the industry, blighting the landscape with giant propellers, that if the were lying down, would, on a good day,take Usain Bolt about 12 seconds to sprint the length of them. Well done guys!!!

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  • Ian_Heighton  |  January 19 2013, 3:40PM

    It has been reported that ever the Met Office has admitted that the claims of "Global Warming" have been exaggerated. It's about time this costly build of wind turbines is stopped, not just to save the landscape but to save the exorbitant increase in power bills that we all have to pay.

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  • David_Burling  |  January 19 2013, 9:17AM

    Anyone with any knowledge of survey creation and manipulation of answers knows that that this survey is biased to create a negative view of wind farms. Even the preamble makes it clear that the decision has been made. LCC's underhanded tactics, and Cllr. Hill's arrogant dismissal of genuine concerns both highlight the contempt the current administration contempt for genuine public opinion. The truth and genuine democracy have no place in the political agenda or the Lincolnshire Conservative Association!

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  • Pete67  |  January 19 2013, 7:17AM

    'It looks like the questions have been designed to give the answers that they want.' - - - Councils these days ALMOST ALWAYS do this. Why don't they just use a small piece of paper with the simple question 'Do you want wind farms yes/no'. Very much cheaper, simpler and truthful. But no as it might give them an answer that they don't want or can't purposely misinterpret.

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