There was a survey about parental attitudes around sex education getting some quite prominent coverage in the press towards the end of last week  (it’s cited here for instance, and here, and here).

Now if you’re anything like me, you might have wondered about the coincidence of such a survey coming out in the very week that, thanks to Wednesday’s 10 minute rule bill on the subject from Nadine Dorries, sex education in schools was set to become a really hot topic. Indeed, following on from the Parliamentary debate, Dorries even used the survey herself in one of her own ‘blog’ posts to help illustrate the support her bill had attracted, and to help reinforce her argument that abstinence education for girls is something that the majority of parents want:

“We are excited that a very high profile individual, not from the world of politics, wants to come on board. Pollsters conducted snap polls and the results were so favourable, I was shocked. Which makes this following link to the BBC report re parents concerns re sex education in schools, no surprise.

And yet it now turns out that there was no coincidence or serendipity involved  in the date of the survey’s publication:  because the so-called ‘survey’ isn’t so much a survey as a marketing stunt by PR company 10 Yetis.

And a very cynical marketing stunt at that.

Unity has already covered this extensively over at the Ministry of Truth – Sex Education, Churnalism, and 10 Yetis – A Cornucopia of Crap, and now so has Tim at Bloggerheads – 10 Yetis, BabyChild, and the many deceits of Charlotte Horsfall. Liberal Conspiracy covered it yesterday with Sunny’s post  – BBC churns for Dorries without checking source, but now I’m going to weigh in on this one too.

And that’s not just because I was involved in helping with the research on this over the weekend along with Tim, Unity, and Richard Bartholomew, but because, as I’ve already pointed out before on this blog, the media’s willingness these days to simply churn out press releases and present them as fact really bloody matters.

In this case it matters because of the way 10 Yetis (or their own white-label store BabyChild who allegedly commissioned the ‘survey’) have chosen to interpret the ‘survey’ results. No, scratch that: it matters because of how 10 Yetis weighted the ‘survey’ questions in the first place.

Actually, truth be told, it matters because the entire ‘survey’ is flawed from start to finish, and the results could have been interpreted in a myriad of different ways. In fact the cynic in me suggests that had Dorries’ bill gone the other way, 10 Yetis would have found a way to make their ‘survey’ fit, and the press headlines about it would have read somewhat differently. As Tim so eloquently points out: “10 Yetis could just as easily have come out against what Dorries proposed, because the ‘findings’ of this poll are a meaningless muddle of mendaciousness.

Here, have a look for yourselves – Click here for the ‘survey’

Just as an example, do you see that first question? “Do you agree with the fact that sex education is often taught to children in schools, even from a young age?” Well even I would have answered ‘no‘ to that. And that’s not because I don’t agree with sex education being taught to children in schools even from a young age, but because I don’t agree that it is a “fact that sex education is often taught to children in schools, even from a young age.” That question is so unclear it renders the result completely bloody meaningless.

As for the last three questions, again, I agree with Tim: “using these last 3 questions, one can use it to argue strongly for sex education in schools; the respondents’ children appear to seek information about sex at a younger age than it is taught in schools, and the majority of parents are ill-equipped to deal with it themselves.”

So anyway, what we basically have here is a ‘survey’ commissioned by a company that is owned by the very same people that own the company that carried out the survey in the first place, produced solely in order to generate publicity for their two companies. It’s a survey that would have come out last week whatever the result of Dorries’ 10 minute rule bill, and that probably only came out last week because of Dorries’ 10 minute rule bill. The only thing that might have been different about it would have been if Dorries’ bill had been rejected, in which case the conclusions 10 Yetis drew from the survey would have been entirely different too.

And yet because they were sent a press release about the survey, and because they can’t be arsed to check their sources anymore, the Daily Mail, the BBC, the Mirror and other parts of the mainstream media have been spouting the “parents  oppose school sex education for children” shtick like it’s the fucking gospel.

That’s churnalism for you.