The Australian versus everything

The Australian today offers another editorial on the subject of opinion poll commentary which, despite its querulous tone, is somewhat less absurd than its notorious dummy spit of July 12. The paper nonetheless contrives to exempt itself from its critique of the polling analysis glut, placing the blame on “the rise of the Galaxy Poll and Fairfax newspapers’ attempt to become competitive against Newspoll with its AC Neilson (sic) survey” (to say nothing of the efforts of “a number of internet blogs”). So when its reporter Tony Barrass observes a surprisingly weak Newspoll result for the Western Australian state government and finds federal implications galore, you can rest assured that this is not merely “the reporting of politics as if it were a sporting match”, such as you might get from Michelle Grattan. We should instead consider ourselves privileged spectators to the exercise of The Australian’s mystical power to unlock the hidden secrets behind the only opinion poll that matters.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

407 comments on “The Australian versus everything”

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  1. Behind the article is the assumption still that it’s The Australian v Labor supporters… it’s bad journalism.

    As soon as I read the word “Howard-haters” I knew it was silly. Just because you’d rather a more balanced observation of polling doesn’t mean that you hate Howard.

    Then they go on to give the spurious examples of ’93 and ’98 yet again. Honestly it’s very very frustrating reading these things.

    Also, the statement “When results favouring the Government have been overtaken by more newsworthy events, our critics have been mute.” is mind blowing since poll results favouring the Government are never overtaken… they’re given front page billing with huge headlines.

  2. Clearly a response to Possums incisive analysis of Pearsons article fromm the weekend GG.

    This piece further reveals thier ineptitude in regard to Psephological analysis but also the big old GG does not like losing its sole status as purveyor of the numbers.

    Maybe they cannot see their bias? I doubt it.

    Just how poweful is the MSM in swaying votes?

    I give a nother nod of thanks to the likes of William and Possum and Bryan and indeed many bloggers considering the education I have had this year in regard to poll reading etc.

  3. They ask if the newspapers will question whether money spent on polling was well spent. I am assuming they are referring to papers not including the Australian? This seems odd, because analysis aside, all the polls have shown the same thing. A big lead to Krudd. Swings are never uniform, but that aside, it is difficult to ignore the reality that the polls are representing. The marginal seat polling to come will be of most interest to me, and it will be fascinating to see the treatment given to these by the Australian (and particularly my favourite cretin Shanahan) should Newspoll show what Labor’s internal polling is showing – a crushing lead to the ALP in many marginal electorates.

    I have a mate who works in a libs office on the hill and he was pointing to 1998 today to recommend that the ALP would get close, take a few outer suburban marginals, but not quite make it. Do you think they believe that?

  4. On re-reading the Oz’s editorial, there’s also a rather strange and none-too-subtle subtext running through the article:

    “We don’t like all this competition, waaaaah.”

    By ‘competition’, I mean the formal commercial competitors the Australian has in it’s pollster and publishing rivals. And also the informal competition of other, better things to read.

    Like all the loudest free-market tub-thumpers, they believe passionately that competition is a good thing – for everybody else.

  5. This strikes me as reminiscent of Microsoft’s campaigns against its competitors: our product is superior, but only for arcane reasons that are best appreciated by us, and that you consumers are not able to understand without our generous help (i.e., tortuous explanation).

    One question that arises, though, is why The Australian would ever report leaked internal party polling? This would just exacerbate the “problem” of too much polling being available to the public, no?

  6. Clearly a response to Possums incisive analysis of Pearsons article from the weekend GG.

    Blogs such as these have taken away the supposed power of the GG Journalists to influence what people think by actually giving credible analysis that doesn’t fit well with the agenda they are trying to push,which is the re-election of John”I’m the messiah”Howard.

    Go get ’em Possum,you have them shaking,rattling and rolling in their inept little boots.

  7. Meng, it certainly is a similar approach to Microsoft. However, it’s hard to envision the owner of the product turning philanthropist and giving billions to charity.

    This is absolute rubbish, showing that editorial writers really don’t feel the need to let facts get in the way of an opinion piece. I’ll never buy another Australian, until Rupert sells it and/or they get rid of 80% of their staff.

    I just wrote them an e-mail and told them so:

    This letter is to let you know that I am fed up with your bias and constant support of the government, no matter what. You are, and have been, complicit in what this government has done to our country, with articles by the majority of your editorial writers showing a pronounced bias towards the conservatives.

    Unless this changes in the near future, it will be many years before I buy another Australian newspaper.

  8. From the editorial…

    “But polling also shows that people think the country is heading in the right direction”

    There is so much tripe in this piece, but then to selectively use a Morgan (!) question to show us why the Coalition will, and should, win is plumbing the depths of opportunism.

    But they are desperate.

  9. taken away the supposed power of the GG Journalists

    I agree with the trust of what you said, but believe you’ve made a mistake in using the word ‘journalists.’ Journalists have ethics, maybe not many, but some, and they are supposedly impartial – reporters of the facts and nothing but the facts. Neither quality can be found in most of the scribes toiling for Murdoch’s coin.

    Those scribblers are merely spruikers for whatever line best serves their master’s purpose, nothing more.

  10. The point is surely going to come when the GG will need to make a call – if Howard is going to lose, does it want to go down with him and have its reputation tarnished for years to come? Or will it attempt to step back from the brink and at least try to seem unbiased. At the moment I can only gasp imagining what its editorial endorsement of Howard will look like on the eve of the election…

    There is a big call to be made and News Ltd shareholders should seriously consider whether their interests are being served by the current bare-faced barracking for Howard.

  11. The obvious reason for the Oz’s discomfort is that in the past they could control the interpretation of polling figures because only their journos would provide the story accompanying the numbers. Now people more knowledgeable and less biased than them are pulling apart the figures and not letting them spin their story.
    The fact that Possum’s amazing analysis of the Crosby-Textor report and the Newspoll quarterly data has gone just about unreported in the newspapers should give everyone an idea of how scared they are of the real story being told by the data.

  12. As sad as the Australian might be with their editorials, a GF of mine who lives in Perth says that the West Australian is worse. She is a Greenie voter and she reads the Australian in preference to her local paper as she says it is better. Yikes!!! ….. Perhaps some of our WA posters would care to comment? I live in Sydney so don’t read the WA unless I am going online to follow up on a specific article or news story.

  13. Big News in Boothby! Voters Shun Cornes

    The Advertiser today :,22606,22483082-5006301,00.html

    “ALP celebrity candidate Nicole Cornes is facing a humiliating federal election loss in Boothby as voters prepare to abandon labor…”

    Thats the first line from an article in todays Advertiser newspaper (linked above.

    The newspaper conducted a poll of 649 voters in the seat of Boothby on Monday night, showing that on a 2PP basis in Boothby Liberals lead labor 54 to 24. On primary vote, Celebrity Candidate “Nikki” runs at less than 1/3rd of the vote on 29%.
    With these numbers, an 8% swing to Labor would be required required, rather than the 5.4% perviously required, putting Boothby well outside the union claws of Labor.

    Tip for Nicole: Stick to the gossip columns.
    Tip for Labor: Stick to your Union Bosses.

  14. Matthew: you mean it’s 54:46?
    At odds with the latest Sportingbet odds which have Nicole Cornes and Andrew Southcott level on 1.85.

    Perhaps the GG will drop Newspoll and start looking for another polling outfit that can deliver them pro Howard polls?
    Thank goodness for the internet, where one can get unbiased information from our good moderator William and other intelligent sources.

  15. Re. Boothby.

    Memo to the ALP, candidates with substance win votes- celebrity candidates better know for gossip, not so much.

    I don’t know anyone in Boothby who thinks Cornes is a good candidate, even those who normally vote Labor. It is a shame that they knifed Linda Kirk, yet preselect a ‘celebrity’ for a seat like this.

  16. Strangely enough… the Advertiser article lists the 2PP (in Boothby Only) as 54:24, but that cant be right…. It must be 54:46.

    Despite the error, Howard Hater, you have missed the point of the post.

    The important thing to note is that Nicole Cornes has not gone down well in the electorate, and this poll only backs it up. Her primary vote is at a measly 29%.

    It is just interesting to note that despite a national swing to Labor currently, Nicoles voter popularity is still dwindling.

  17. Mathew

    The same article says 7% of labor voters are now going to vote liberal whilst 9% of liberal voters are going to vote labor.

    This means a swing of at least 2%, more likely higher to labor.

  18. Well the Australian is about selling newspapers, at the end of the day. So they have to have an angle or story that get’s readers in. If they just supported the line that Rudd had it in the bag, people would stop reading. Similarly if they simply ignored the polls and kept the man-of-steel narrative like nostrodamus, they’d lose credibility (ahem).

    The fact that hundreds of anti-howard voters will read this blog and the article shows that it is interesting. If it was more of the same it wouldn’t be news surely?

  19. There could well be significant green preferences for the ALP in Boothby, although Nicole Cornes probably needs to be polling more like 35% on the primaries to have a good chance of winning.

  20. I dont know about the processes – is it too late to disendorse her? Ive never heard of her (some ‘celebrity’!) but then Im not from SA.

    All I can say is she looks like a complete drongo. Straight outa Sylvania Waters.

  21. I don’t really understand why she was chosen to start with. I’ve never heard of her either but I haven’t been impressed with any of the media I’ve seen of her.

  22. RE: Boothby

    I have to agree with B-Mann. None of my neighbors reckon Cornes is a good candidate, but most of them are planning to vote Green or Democrat as a protest, knowing that preferences will flow away from Southcott anyway.

  23. “bryce, do you mean one huge vote for undecideds of 10 percent? Because according to the poll, others/independents are at 2%.”

    I think bryce means the Greens/Democrats/others/undecided total is 27%, which is rather high for a poll.

    Still, not good signs for the ALP in Boothby.

  24. Julie #14

    The West Australian ‘Tabloid’ is so biased in favour of the Tories it makes The Australian look like The Socialist worker news 🙂 No I’m not joking either, it is truly a dreadfull rag that knows it can get away with its obvious bias because it is the only player in WA.

  25. Re the Boothby poll, there is no indication of who did the poll. Unless we know that it can be disregarded as far as I am concerned.

    Probably internal Liberal polling a la Eden Monaro.

  26. The GG (News Ltd) having fun with the truth again endeavouring to smear Theresa Rein with some falsehood or should I say lie. And they say Murdoch doesn’t run their program?

    “Ingeus’s British arm, WorkDirections UK, is now under attack from British unions”,,22483796-2702,00.html?from=public_rss

    But on ABC this morning the Unions said they had no trouble with Reins or company – there issue was with the British govt travelling the privitisation route.

    The problem with the GG sycophants is that they can no longer get away with being as bias as hell, printing total fabrication and engaging in trash journalism without being caught out and criticised and held responsible in a growing national forum (on-line). IT is a real worry for them – they can’t both be an arm of the Liberal Party and also keep Labor voter business. They must know if the keep this nonsense up they will lose readers in the thousands.

    They also made the same mistake as last time. In crticising the enemy they promote them.

  27. Because a poll in the West shows a slide in the state government’s vote doesn’t necessarily spell doom federally. But the fact the polling organisation wasn’t named is a worry.

  28. Unicorn at #28, the Boothby poll was commissioned by the Advertiser. I’m afraid to say the Advertiser polls have been quite reasonable in the past. See post #18 for the link to the story.

  29. I’m sure they would have a seat requiring only a 5.4% swing very much on their radar.

    I’m amazed at how easily we are spooked by an unsourced poll of only 649 voters. Even if it was a genuine poll what is the margin of error with this size sample 5-6%.

  30. The editors at the Oz really do need to grow up. They do not have a monopoly on polling and political commentary… especially when they, by and large, are the worst at it. I love political analysis and have gained so much more from Mumble, PollBludger, Possum and the other sites than I ever did from the Oz (or Fairfax publications for that matter).

    Perhaps if the Oz fired Shanahan and Mitchell, then its coverage would be more accurate and we would stop bitching about the poor state of political analysis at the Oz?

  31. The editors at the Australian are under absolutely no obligation to be balanced or impartial. If they think they’ve got a market then they’ll target that market.

    If you don’t like it, just don’t read it. No need to whine.

  32. Kina @ 32, Gary Bruce #36
    Even on Newsradio this morning the lead-in to hte story was ‘Another investigation into Therese Rein’s business affairs’. Which is equivalent to a newspaper headline. Then as, Kina said, the British union chap says ‘we don’t have a problem with the company at all’ – the interviewer almost seemed a bit embarrassed. anyway, i am seriously and increasingly disappointed with what passes for journalism in this country – having done the interview how can they have that sort of loead-in?

  33. The MSM is giving Howard as much free time as he wants because he eased the restrictions on cross-media ownership. They’re all scared that Labor will turn back the clocks. Thankfully the internet and in most parts the ABC are a place to turn for an alternative view on the MSM headlines.

  34. Boothby traditionally scores a big Democrats vote, and its Greens vote isn’t that pathetic either.

    Chances are that’s where are the Laborites are fleeing, giving little to no hit in the primary vote.

    As someone who lives in this fine city and after hearing about her candidacy read her column, Labor did bad, real bad — so thanks!

  35. 5
    Dogford Says:
    September 26th, 2007 at 7:17 am

    I have a mate who works in a libs office on the hill and he was pointing to 1998 today to recommend that the ALP would get close, take a few outer suburban marginals, but not quite make it. Do you think they believe that?

    Dunno. But Labor picked up 18 seats in 1998 (not all in the outer suburbs). This time round, 18 seats would be enough.

  36. Gary Bruce at 33

    The WA poll is by Newspoll

    3% swing to state “Coalition” TPP since June.

    Of course, there is no Coalition in state WA politics.

    The other tables, however, suggest that the state Liberals have no chance of forming government with Omodei as leader.

  37. “The editors at the Australian are under absolutely no obligation to be balanced or impartial. If they think they’ve got a market then they’ll target that market.”

    Well obviously.

    But that is very different from adopting an approach which actually damages the commercial standing of a publication – the OZ’s market position is, at least in part, based upon being regarded as a serious publication of record. If this is thrown out the window to allow the pursuit of a partisan stance, in denial of the reality (of polling results even produced by a company owned by their parent) this has the potential to damage their commercial standing.

  38. Nicole Cornes first press conference was a total embarassment. I am not surprised she is struggling she looks like a ‘pretty’ lame duck unless she has actually gone to school and can now explain why she joined up with the Labor party and what policies attracted her. They should have got the husband instead – a well know SA football player and coach.

    Is it too late to replace her? Ian Chappell? someone anyone else might be better.

  39. The Margin of error for the Boothby poll would be about 3.8%.

    At the end of the day, this is a swing to Labor, but a smaller one than expected. I expect that lots of Labor voters will park their vote with the Greens as a protest, before returning to Labor in preferences. The high number of undecided voters is also noteworthy.

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