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