Giving voice to the ‘silent majority’

28 February 2013

"There appears to be a widespread assumption that there is a ‘silent majority’ of people who support proposals but do not make submissions, and that those who do make submissions tend to be opposed and therefore do not reflect the true state of public opinion. The New Zealand Wind Energy Association (a membership-based wind industry association) suggested that it would be useful to examine whether this was actually the case, in respect to wind farms in particular. As researchers we were also interested in the broader question of why non-submitters might not be participating in formal planning processes, so we developed our research to address two questions: (a) how do non-submitters’ perspectives of proposed wind farms differ from those of submitters; and (b) why do nonsubmitters not make submissions?

While these questions are relevant to all development proposals, wind farms are an excellent context for inquiry because they are highly visible, and thus potentially have an impact on a geographically widespread population, and because they are known to create strong feelings of support or opposition."

Janet Stephenson is a social scientist with a particular interest in societal responses to environmental challenges. She is the Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago. Rob Lawson is in the marketing department at the University of Otago. His special area of expertise is in the study of consumer behaviour, with strong interests in the development of marketing theory.

Policy Quarterly – Volume 9, Issue 1 – February 2013

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Janet Stephenson, Rob Lawson, 2013, Giving voice to the ‘silent majority’, Policy Quarterly, Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (VUW), viewed 25 February 2017, <>.

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