Monday, 17 June 2013

"Opinion polls" are

slippery things - and political opinion polls are more slippery than most.
I was once asked to give my opinion for a well known opinion poll service. I declined. I also told the interviewer the reason I was declining was that there was no category in the responses for "declined to answer".  She was a little puzzled by that.
"Well of course some people don't answer,"she told me. I pointed out that this skewed the results. All that "random sampling" counts for nothing if enough people refuse to answer. 
More responsible polling will now include an "undecided" category - presumably where the "declined to answer" answers go. It is still not  satisfactory but it is, I suppose, a little better.
Politicians will tell you they ignore opinion polls. Our Prime Minister has been ignoring them very assiduously of late - or so she would have us believe. There is apparently yet another one today where her support has dipped again. Tomorrow is likely to be crunch time. There will be a Caucus meeting. The leadership issue will come up. The party is divided. It may unite under a new leader to save some seats - although that may not be enough to save the government. The best they could hope for, according to others, is another hung parliament. That would not be a good outcome. 
What is more, as I said a short while ago, they would not keep the man the media keeps touting as the alternative. If he takes on the position and they lose government he will lose his position. If he manages to get in with a hung parliament then they will oust him soon after simply because their grip will not be strong enough and he will not be able to unite the warring factions. 
Yes, they may choose to win a battle knowing that they will still lose the war but it may not be wise. It may be better to lose some of those who have been there too long, who believe their seats are a right rather than a responsibility. Others may well regain them at the next election, gain them from the "one term wonders" who will just creep over the line. 
But all this is really beside the point. What worries me is that so many Australians seem to be unaware of the fact that they do not elect the Prime Minister. The party in power elects the Prime Minister. Theoretically the Prime Minister does not even need to be a member of parliament. They could vote in a drover's dog if they so chose. In practice of course the Prime Minister is a member of parliament. It works better that way - or it should. 
It would be much better, and much more responsible, if the media spent less time asking about "preferred Prime Minister" status and more time asking and informing people about policy. It is not going to happen though.
Personalities are much more powerful than policies in media debate. 


widdershins said...

We have just had a provincial (state) election and the premier lost her seat. One of her party has stepped aside from his seat so there will be a by-election. I have a sneaking suspicion she won't win there either, because the people who did come out and vote, voted for the man, not his party.

And they wonder why less than half the eligible population didn't vote this year.(voting is not compulsory here)

My mind refuses to be boggled by such shenanigans any more.

Anonymous said...

Do political parties have policies now? They toss a few ideas about before the election, but after it feel able to do whatever they can get away with.

And many of the candidates behave in a manner that would have most of us lose our jobs.

The media do not provide unbiased, well-researched facts so we can make well-informed judgments.

No wonder it's hard to vote responsibly.