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Public Support For Anti-Smacking Law – New Polling

Public Support For Anti-Smacking Law – New Polling


By Pattrick Smellie for Scoop

New Zealanders strongly support the “anti-smacking” law changes by a margin of almost 2:1 over those who strongly oppose them, according to pollsters UMR Research.

In research for the Children’s Commissioner undertaken in July, UMR found that 21% of those polled strongly supported the amendments to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which make it an offence to claim parental discipline as a defence for child assault.

Only 12 per cent said they “strongly opposed” the controversial law change, which was widely cited as a bellwether for public disenchantment with the Labour Government in last week’s election.

Total support for the legislation stood at 43 per cent, with 28 per cent opposed, and fully 26% of those polled having neutral views on the issue.

People were well aware of the law change (91%), and 72% reckoned they knew “a lot or a fair amount” about the issue.

More tellingly, there was 89% agreement with the statement that “children are entitled to the same protection from assault as adults”. A mere 4% disagreed with this statement.

Awareness that police are not obliged to prosecute parents if they find a complaint to be of a minor nature was high also, at 81 per cent, although only a third of those polled were aware of the 2010 review of the law.

“This survey presents a different picture to the images pushed by opponents to changes to the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007,” said Childrens’ Commissioner Cindy Kiro. “Since the law changed in May last year, there has been vocal opposition to it from groups who want to cling on to violence in the name of disciplining children. Ironically, these are often the same groups who claim New Zealand society is excessively violent.”

Dr Kiro said attitudes towards child discipline had changed since the office first surveyed people in 1993. At that time, 87 percent of survey respondents thought there were times when it was all right to use physical punishment with children. This year’s survey showed that had reduced to 58 percent of respondents.

The poll had a sample size of 750 people, nationwide, and a margin of error of 3.6%.

Pattrick Smellie opposes the s59 referendum to be held next year.

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