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2007 QLD Govt
research: review

Why is Brisbane
afraid of the dark?


Dual time zone or 'double standard' time

When a faded curtain is not a joke

Hold back the night

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A review of the QLD Government DST Research report 2007: Understanding Attitudes to Daylight Saving in Queensland [1]



Introduction

In the opinion of Light of Day, the much anticipated Queensland government report Understanding Attitudes Towards Daylight Saving in Queensland [2] is a disappointment.

Labelled a 'research study' by the Queensland government and media, the report is little more than a glorified opinion poll designed to round up all the usual daylight saving stereotypes. In addition, some key findings are so muddled, and statistical interpretations so vague, that they have provided fertile ground for distortion by the media - to look as if support for daylight saving in Queensland is much more favourable than it really is.


Summary

The major problems that the Light of Day identifies in the report, and which will be discussed in more detail below, are:

1. The vague interpretation and unfair wording of Question 19. The wording of the question asking respondents about their 'degree of support' for daylight saving is too loaded to yield an objective response. The Executive Summary also gives a misleading interpretation of the question. This is unacceptable considering that it was bound to become the most widely reported question of the survey.

2. Explaining away the rejection of a split time zone. The report fails to adequately analyse the survey respondents' statewide rejection of a proposed split time zone, other than to explain it away as due to a lack of information. Neither does it provide feasible alternatives for respondents to consider and comment on.

3. Failing to identify that the survey results inadvertantly challenge many prevailing DST beliefs. On a range of issues, the survey responses inadvertantly challenge many standardised myths about daylight saving attitudes. Yet the report fails to acknowledge these challenges in its key findings.

4. Reinforcing stereotypes and perceptions as facts. Time and again, the report falls back on cliched assumptions about why people generally accept/reject daylight saving, presenting these assumptions in a manner that makes them appear factual.

5. Sacrificing objectivity for value judgements. The wording of several questions, as well as several summary interpretations, values evening over morning daylight usage and outdoor over indoor leisure pursuits, both of which favour a pro-daylight saving outcome.


1.
The vague interpretation and unfair wording of Question 19

The response to question 19 (Q19) on the residential survey was by far the most widely reported in the media. Yet, neither the report's Executive Summary nor the media reported that the question was actually in three parts:

Question 19

On a scale of 0-10, to what extent do you support ...

(a) daylight saving as a principle in general
(b) the introduction of daylight saving to the whole of the state
(c) the introduction of daylight saving to your local area?'
[page 249]


In fact, the report's interpretations of the overall response to Q19 are very confusing. T
hose who registered 'positive' support for daylight saving as a principle in general, that is (a) above, amounted to 59 per cent of those surveyed statewide. In southeast Queensland, the figure was 69 per cent.

However, in terms of stating their 'positive' support for the introduction of daylight saving to the whole state, that is (b) above, the figures were 52 per cent statewide, and 60 per cent for SEQ. [page 74]

This distinction is very important because it shows that a significant proportion of those surveyed support daylight saving itself, but not its introduction to Queensland. Yet this result was ignored in the report's Executive Summary. In its place, the Summary made a strange claim:

The survey results demonstrate a shift in opinion towards support of DST [daylight saving time] since the 1992 referendum, with an increase in support from 46% to 59% in 2007 to the principle in general. [page 10]


This is clearly a comparison of the government research findings for Q19 with the results of the 1992 referendum in which 45.5 per cent voted Yes to daylight saving. Yet, when you compare the wording of Q19 with the 1992 referendum question, the claim of a 13 per cent 'increase in support' is spurious. Here is the question that appeared on the 1992 ballot paper:

Are you in favour of daylight saving?   Yes    No   [3]


No one voting in that referendum was in any doubt that the objective of a majority Yes vote was to introduce DST to the whole state on a permanent basis. So to compare the 1992 Yes vote with the 2007 response to Q19a - while ignoring the response to Q19b - is an utterly misleading comparison.

Predictably, the media latched on to the '59 per cent' figure and has continued to misrepresent it as the percentage of Queenslanders that 'want' daylight saving (see Light of Day News, 'Without a trace: the mysterious case of the vanishing 52 per cent'). Yet there has been no trace of any querying, in either the media or its blogosphere, as to why the percentage of Queenslanders 'wanting' DST got so high all of a sudden (unlike people who run anti-daylight saving websites). This is especially odd considering hardly any daylight saving surveys undertaken in Queensland over the last 15 years have revealed any significant swings to daylight saving at all. In particular, one other statewide independent poll, taken at the same time as the 2007 government research and published in the Sunday Mail on 1 July, revealed that only 45 per cent statewide wanted DST introduced - i.e. no change at all from 1992. [4]

Another very important point to consider is that, from a daylight saving opposition viewpoint, Q19 is simply not a fair question. As people who work in advertising and marketing well know, wording psychology can make a huge difference to customer response. A question that asks people 'to what extent' they 'support' something focuses the listener's thoughts more on their degree of support - and less on whether or not the issue deserves supporting.


2. Explaning away the rejection of a split time zone

In response to the prospect of dividing the state into two time zones (Q28) [page 260], Queenslanders were somewhat underwhelmed. Only 33 per cent statewide, and 41 per cent in SE Queensland, were in favour of dividing the state (other opinion polls have shown even lower figures [5]). However, instead of assuming the naysayers might have a point, their views were dismissed largely as ignorance:

There is a general lack of understanding by Queenslanders of the reasons for introducing 2 time zones ... A demonstration of differing summer sunrise times across the state via the use of a satellite map introduced an appreciation of the logic for split time zones. [page 14]

The irony of this statement seems to be completely lost on whoever wrote it. For thirty years rural-regional Queenslanders, as well as metropolitan DST opponents, have used the differing summer sunrise (and sunset) times across the state to give weight to their own case against statewide daylight saving. Undoubtedly, the above statement is an argument in favour of a split time zone; however, it is an even more important argument against forcing the whole state onto DST simply because of the strident demands of a populous but tiny area at the bottom the state.

Other important split time zone revelations went unremarked. For example, Mackay residents were described as being 'particularly opinionated and negative to split time zones' [page 129], but the report writers failed to connect this observation to Mackay's proximity to the separate daylight saving time zone of the Whitsunday Islands and Airlie Beach.

There was also a tendency to casually gloss over important forewarnings of ongoing divisiveness and controversy, should a split time zone be introduced:

While there is a general consensus (apart from Toowoomba residents) that a logical western border for splitting time zones is west of Toowoomba ... [page 14]

There was some question why the proposed zone would not be extended further north to include the larger northern towns such as Bundaberg, Rockhampton or even Mackay.
[page 126]


These issues represent only the tip of the iceberg. According to many of the emails received at Light of Day, residents from the thoroughly anti-DLS towns of Toowoomba-Gatton-Nambour are justifiably angry at the prospect of being forcibly trapped in a separate daylight saving zone. Likewise, many angry pro-daylight saving Bundaberg-Gladstone business people are convinced their businesses will suffer if they are not included in any split time zone arrangements.


Ultimately, the report falls into line with the 'all or nothing' approach rather than attempting to push for alternatives, implying that a consensus is just too hard to reach. This is probably why the only real action the report recommends on the split time zone issue is to:

... educate residents and businesses on the debate, logic and decision process. [page 14]

In the language of daylight politics, this translates as 'keep lobbying until you get what you want'.


3.
Failing to identify that the survey results inadvertantly challenge many prevailing DST beliefs

One major preoccupation of the research brief was the gathering of a lot of information about Queenslanders' daily routines and behaviours, like when we get up in the morning and when we prefer to feed the dog. This makes for some interesting reading, and actually dispels a few long-held DST myths. However, this myth-busting was largely inadvertent and does not appear to have been part of the research brief. It includes:

  • Less than 5 per cent described themselves as rural workers [page 39] - discounting the belief that it's farmers who drive Queensland's daylight saving opposition.
  • 81 per cent had experienced daylight saving before [page 64] - contradicting the belief that people mainly oppose a daylight saving/split time zone system because they don't understand how it would work.
  • 31 per cent said they rise before 6.00 am, and 61 per cent before 6.30 am [page 18] - disproving the claim that not enough people are up in the mornings to affect the energy saved by turning on the lights an hour later at night. During the daylight saving months, sunrise would seldom occur before 6.00 am in south-east Queensland, or before 6.30 am throughout the rest of the state (and 7.30 am in the far north and west).
  • Among DST advocates, children did not feature at all among the cited benefits (Q21) [page 86] - casting doubt on one of the most common claims made in support of daylight saving, i.e. that it benefits children and families. By stark contrast, one in three respondents (30 per cent) cited concerns about children's health (including the skin cancer risk), and disruptions to children's sleeping and commuting routines, as drawbacks (Q22). [page 91]

  • Much of the traditional political rhetoric regarding daylight saving's benefits seemed to have only minimal impact on the residents surveyed. For example, only 2 per cent of residents cited energy saving as a benefit, only one per cent said that daylight saving would improve Queensland's reputation, only 10 per cent said that it would improve business activity, and only 6 per cent were concerned about the difference in time zones between the states. As for road safety, no one even mentioned it at all. [page 86]

Unsurprisingly, none of the above interpretations feature in any key findings or summaries within the report.

4. Reinforcing stereotypes and perceptions as facts

Instead of presenting an analysis of how specific Queensland conditions affect the acceptance or rejection of daylight saving, the research team seemed more interested in making interpretations that simply reinforced daylight saving stereotypes that have existed worldwide for decades.

This was done with the help of analytical categories like 'Demographic Findings', 'Regional Insights and General Observations' and the bizarre 'Understanding Mindsets' (no prizes for guessing whose).

All the old prejudices are there, only the names have been changed - literally! DST supporters and opponents were repackaged with brand new titles: the 'Convinced' and 'Unconvinced'. (May as well have been 'Us' and 'Them'.) Even the neutrals did not escape a value-loaded judgement - they were called 'Sceptics'.

According to the selection of comments that made it to the pages of the report, the Convinced say awfully decent, open-minded things like:

Queensland is such a big state with so many different industries from agriculture in the west, mining, tourism in Cairns ... it's great there is something for everyone. [page 127]

Conversely, the Unconvinced say dumb, insular things like:

Why would you want to eat dinner at eight anyway?

[My] husband would spend more time at the pub. [page 124]


If the selection of quotes are any guide, we are expected to believe that the Convinceds were on their most enlightened behaviour during their phone interviews and never succumbed to any ranting or raving about curtains, cows and Dark Ages ignorance. Likewise, any Unconvinceds who might have provided clear-sighted arguments on the negative DST/split time zone implications facing all Queenslanders must surely have been out when AC Nielson called.

The Convinced appeared to have like-minded values to those of the report writers - enough for several key findings to demonstrate a considerable degree of empathy with how they think:

The Convinced see a clear north, south, west divide, but in contrast to the ... Unconvinced, they are comfortable with the social and economic differences. [page 127]


The wording used to describe the Convinceds was inclined to be objective rather than subjective. As a result, the Convinceds' perception of DST's benefits tended to come across as irrefutable, universal facts:

Not surprisingly, the convinced are strong supporters of DST because of the lifestyle benefits it provides. [page 127]
           
The benefits of DST are primarily lifestyle driven - providing longer daylight hours for activities including exercise, gardening and socialising with friends. [page 10]

On the other hand, DST/split time zone disadvantages were routinely described in indirect terms - as 'perceptions' or 'concerns' on the part of the Unconvinced - thus diluting their validity. Unlike the Convinced, the views of the Unconvinced tended to be treated more as reactionary responses and, at times, subjected to psychobabble:

The Unconvinced mention a range of drawbacks, the core emotive reasoning relates to a general resistance to change ... [page 124]

There is significant concern that introducing two time zones will be divisive ... [page 11]

Mackay residents are particularly opinionated and negative to split time zones ... [page 129]


The writers also appear unaware of the existence of several studies that actually debunk perceptions about DST's beneficial effects on road safety, health and energy usage, particularly outside the summer months (see Light of Day links):

Information presented on the lower incidence of road accidents with DST is not believed by the majority (even though it is factual information). [bold ours] [page 130]


5 . Sacrificing objectivity for value judgements

It's very hard to create a values-free questionnaire. However, the research questions 'developed in consultation with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet' were steeped in many of the usual seize-the-day value judgements that unwittingly attach themselves to daylight saving surveys. When asked about their typical evening routine (Q9), respondents were read out a specific list of choices:

... outdoor exercise/ indoor exercise/ driving others to outdoor activities/ outdoor hobbies, interests, clubs/ indoor hobbies, interests, clubs/ outdoor dining at home (like a BBQ)/ outdoor dining away from home (like a cafe, resaurant, or someone else's home. [page 247]


Phew!
If we kept this up every night, we'd all collapse or go broke. Respondents were given little to no opportunity to consider whether (or how often) they spend evening time at home and indoors - resting, reflecting, winding down from the day, cooking or catching up on housework. (To be fair, the categories 'None of the above' and 'Others (specify)' were included on the interviewers' script but, curiously, with instructions not to read them out.)


Also notable by its absence was the 'watching TV' option - far and away the nation's most consistently popular evening pursuit ... in all seasons. Apparently, coming home from work exhausted and flopping in front of the box does not happen in daylight saving research-land. And, while outdoor dining and going out to eat were included among the evening options, the daily tasks surrounding a typical household (indoor) evening meal - shopping for food, preparation, cooking, eating and washing up - were not.


Some conclusion
s ...

From the point of view of an anti-daylight saver, there were many disappointments in the report. However, by far the biggest disappointment is that nowhere in the questionnaire or interpretations is there any mention of alternatives to the clock-change option - either for south-east Queensland or the state as a whole.

For example, respondents could have been asked for their views on alternative options, such as changes to existing contract and licensing laws and retail and work practices, that could make it easier for businesses to operate across time zones and for people to start and end their work day earlier. While the report recommends that information campaigns would be useful in educating the public on how split time zones would work, there was no suggestion that information campaigns could also encourage people to reorganise their daylight usage under the status quo.

Instead, the choices given were clearly limited ones - i.e. between whether the clocks are changed in south-east Queensalnd only or throughout the whole state. (This is not necessarily the fault of the researchers - more the limited scope of the brief.

What the so-called research does indicate is that the polarisation of debate along a perceived demographic faultline - with a 'sophisticated', 'metropolitan' south-east Queensland on the one side, and a 'backward', 'yokel' rest-of-the-state on the other - is still very much alive. In the words of one south-east Queenslander:

I don't mean to be rude to those people who live up there, but there's more of us down here ... For them on the farm or whatever, does it matter if they get up an hour later? [page 126]

Notes

1. This review concentrates on the residential (not business) survey. Although the views of south-east Queensland businesspeople overwhelmingly drive the DST and split time zone campaigns, it is the results of the residential survey that is more relevant to how Queenslanders would vote in a referendum.

2. Understanding Attitudes Towards Daylight Saving in Queensland, The Nielson Company 2007. Released 1 October 2007, the report covers the results of two questionnaires - one residential, one business. The residential questionnaire comprised a 15-minute phone interview with 1000 residents statewide - 600 from south-east Queensland and 400 from the rest of the state.

3. Daylight Saving Referendum StatisticalReturns 1992, Electoral Commission of Queensland, 1992, p.11

4. 'Don't split our state,' Edmund Burke, Sunday Mail, 1 July 2007, p.1, p.5

5. ibid. p.1, p.5

December, 2007

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