Official Blames “Silly Answers” For Removal Of LGBT Questions From New Zealand Census

"Something like 51,000 people put down that they followed the Jedi religion," says Stats NZ's James Shaw.

New Zealand is omitting questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity from its upcoming 2018 census.

The items had appeared on test surveys in 2016 and 2017, but Statistics Minister James Shaw says they were ruled out “on statistical grounds.” The main issues, Shaw claimed, were “silly answers” and people using different terminology to describe themselves.

“There’s also a lot of people who, frankly, spoil the result by putting in silly answers,” he told New Zealand’s The AM Show. “You see in the questions on religion, for example: Something like 51,000 people put down that they followed the Jedi religion.”

Both issues are fairly common in self-reported surveys, but there are simple statistical measures to solve them: “Silly answers” can be removed from the overall denominator, with an explanation that “X respondents were not included because they didn’t reply to the question seriously.”

Regarding different terminology, statisticians can group multiple labels under an umbrella term: What I’ve seen done in data, for example, is “bisexual,” “pansexual,” “omnisexual” and “polysexual” all categorized as “bi+” or “sexually fluid.” Then researchers can make a note in the final report as to which responses were grouped in each category.

Instead, information on the LGBT community will be collected through the New Zealand General Social Survey.

In the U.S., LGBT advocates have called on the 2020 Census to include questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, something the Trump administration doesn’t seem eager to do.

Zachary Zane is a writer and activist whose work focuses on sexuality, culture, and academic research. He has contributed to The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and The Advocate.