It is surprisingly difficult to write good opinion poll questions so it is no surprise that this poll, excellent in many ways, does have some failings. Also, the aggregation of the figures into the YouGov article, Britain: still a nation of nude prudes, has obscured some important points. More detailed figures are available from a YouGov pdf file.
Other British Naturism articles concerning Stephen Gough:
- General article with links to wide range of articles, polls, and analysis
- Analysis of the European Court of Human Rights judgement
- Press release
- Personal nudity - slightly more people are uncomfortable with personal nudity than are comfortable with it, 50% to 42%.
- A very clear majority support the contention that Britain is too prudish. 65% to 24%, and for those who feel strongly about it 14% to 2%.
- About a quarter of the UK population have skinny dipped
- Which is more important, naturist's right to freedom of expression 31%, protection from harassment and distress 50%. But the premise of the question is so seriously flawed that the figures mean little.
- Knew of the naked rambler 64%, no prior knowledge 31%.
- Treatment of Stephen Gough: Too harsh 49%, about right 30%, too soft 5%.
Overall, strong support for Stephen Gough, and the poll would have been even more in his favour but for some shortcomings in the questions. Only a tiny minority, 2%, strongly support any further increase in prudery.
The figures are consistent with the anecdotal evidence and other polls. The patterns across gender, age, social grade and region are also consistent. Attitudes are broadly the same across the political parties and what differences there are may be due to social grade effects, but it needs a detailed look at the raw survey data to verify that.
Personal nudity - slightly more people are uncomfortable with personal nudity than are comfortable with it, 50% to 42%.
"British people are too easily offended by matters relating to sex or nudity?" As with most polls it pays to look at the details rather than the headline figures in the media report. Most people will have answered a different question than was asked and the conclusion often depends how you aggregate the figures. For example the figure of 24% disagree is made up from tend to disagree 22% and only a tiny 2% strongly disagree. By comparison there were 14% strongly agree and 51% tend to agree.
The other problem is that this is actually a very complex question and it is impossible to know how many people answered a different question to the one asked! This question asks for the respondents view on their perception of the public's attitude but we know from other polls that public perception of public attitude is often very different from the actual public attitude. That makes it very difficult for somebody who actually knows what public attitudes are to answer the question. Whatever they answer it will be untruthful or misleading! As one naturist wrote:
"If I was asked this question I would answer "strongly agree", but as I know the vast majority of the British people are not offended by nudity the correct answer is "strongly disagree"".
However, I doubt if that had a major impact as the figures are consistent with the anecdotal evidence. Only a very tiny minority strongly support the prudification of society.
A very clear majority support the contention that Britain is too prudish. 65% to 24%, and for those who feel strongly about it 14% to 2%.
Experience of Skinny Dipping
The figure of 27% is consistent with the 2001 NOP and the 2011 Ipsos MORI polls. The patterns across gender, age, social grade and region are also consistent.
About a quarter of the UK population have skinny dipped
This question is very seriously flawed because it starts from a false premise.
When analysing whether nudity should be punished in the case of naturism, lawyers try to consider both the naturist's right freedom of expression and the right of the wider public to be protected from harassment and distress.
Oh dear, there are so many assumptions, mistakes, and simplifications wrapped up in those seemingly simple words that it is difficult to know where to start.
- It is not just the right to freedom of expression, there are several other Human Rights also engaged.
- Naturism is a matter of belief for many people. That is why people who know about the subject use a capital 'N'.
The wider public do indeed have a right to be protected from harassment and they have a right to be protected from justified distress, but:
- Naturism is not harassment and the practice of Naturism does not result in harassment.
- Nobody has a right to be protected from their own misapprehension, myth, and prejudice. The correct response is reassurance and education. Some consideration should be shown whilst that is carried out.
As one naturist commented:
In another question it refers to "The right of the wider public to be protected from harassment and distress"
I'd agree with that statement. the only problem is that there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the 'wider public' has suffered harassment and distress.
As it stands, the question is offensive and seriously biased.
Which is more important, naturist's right to freedom of expression 31%, or protection from harassment and distress 50%. But the premise of the question is so seriously flawed that the figures mean little.
Knowledge of "the naked rambler"
Knew of him 64%, no prior knowledge 31%.
Sentencing of Stephen Gough
The YouGov document has been misprinted and part of the question is missing. However enough of it remains for valid comments to be made.
It states that Steve Gough has been convicted of "Indecent Exposure" on a number of occasions. Obviously the person who wrote the questions has inadequate knowledge of both the case and the law. There is no such offence so it is unsurprising that he has never been convicted of it. Most of his time in prison has been for doing something that a judge or magistrate told him not to.
- Breach of the peace - Scottish common law. In other words devised by judges, not Parliament.
- Contempt of Court - The judge did not agree with Mr Gough's sartorial style.
- s.5 Public Order Act 1986 - One conviction only, a small fine.
- A magistrate imposed an ASBO, having refused to even listen to the evidence regarding harm and benefit, and it is for breach of that ASBO that he remains in prison.
It is not clear how much background information the respondents were given. For example were they told that Mr Gough has spent the last ten years in almost continuous solitary confinement? Did they know about the problems obtaining medical treatment? Did they know that he has been denied legal representation? Did they know that food has been withheld? Did they know that he is denied visitors and has problems obtaining writing materials? Did they know that he has won damages for his mistreatment?
The figures from this poll are very supportive of Mr Gough and if the deficiencies in this question and earlier were rectified then they would undoubtedly be even more supportive.
Treatment of Stephen Gough: Too harsh 49%, about right 30%, too soft 5%.
- There is much more support for Mr Gough than police, prosecutors, magistrates, and judges assumed when making their decisions.
- Only a tiny minority, about 2%, have any significant problem over nudity.
- The public are strongly in favour of reducing prudery despite the government policy, and widespread propaganda, to increase it.
I don't want to appear overly critical of YouGov. Writing good poll questions is extraordinarily difficult, but please, another time, check your facts. We are always pleased to help. This would be a good example for teaching students the difficulties of writing polls!