Poll shows 48% admit smacking

Almost half of parents with children under 12 admit they have smacked their children in the past year, according to a survey.

Lobby group Family First commissioned a market research company to poll New Zealanders on their attitudes to parental discipline since the anti-smacking law came into effect in June last year.

The poll found that of the respondents who had children under 12 years of age, 48% admitted they had smacked their child after the law change.

The changes to the Crimes Act outlawed the use of parental force against children for the purposes of correction.

The issue polarised New Zealanders with both strong support and opposition to the law change.

Green Party MP Sue Bradford's member's Bill removed from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of reasonable force to correct a child.

It was passed only after last-minute changes, approved by a large majority in Parliament, to direct the police not to prosecute inconsequential offences.

Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First, was surprised the polling showed so many parents admitted they had flouted the law.

He said 51% of mothers had admitted continuing their use of smacking.

"For a new law to be ignored by so many people who are willing to risk a police or CYF investigation indicates just how out of step with reality this law is," he said.

The national poll netted 1018 respondents in a random selection of 10,000 phone numbers, with a fairly even spread of men and women aged from 18.

About a quarter of the respondents had children under 12.

Mr McCoskrie said the poll followed a similar one taken just after the new law came into effect.

In that June 2007 survey, 78% of parents said they would smack their child to correct their behaviour if they believed it was reasonable to do so.

Ms Bradford said yesterday that indicated an improvement in attitudes given that, a year on, only 48% admitted having actually done so.

"We are well on the way.

''That is a great result," she said.

But Mr McCoskrie said the recent polling showed that those who opposed the anti-smacking law had increased to 73% from 62% last year.

Men, people aged over 60 and those from rural areas opposed the law most strongly.

He said only 19% strongly or somewhat agreed with the new law, despite the police discretion clause, down from 29% last year.

Almost half of those surveyed, 47%, strongly disagreed with the ban on smacking.

Mr McCoskrie said 85% agreed the new law should be changed to state explicitly that parents who gave their children a smack that was reasonable and for the purpose of correction, were not breaking the law (up from 82% last year).

The polling sent a clear message to political parties seeking support for the upcoming election, he said.

When asked whether their support for a party would be affected if they promised to change the law, 37% said they would be more likely to vote for that party (up from 31% last year).

The number of people whose vote would be unaffected by a policy to change the law decreased from 59% last year to 53% this year.

When asked whether they thought the new law was likely to help reduce the rate of child abuse in New Zealand, 79% responded that it was not at all likely (up from 77% last year). Organisers of a petition to reverse the anti-smacking law change have until the end of next month to gain the number of valid signatories required to force a non-binding referendum at this year's general election.

The poll was conducted during the week beginning May 12, and has a margin for error of plus or minus 3.1%.

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