Friday, 23 August 2013

There are questions being asked

all over the place right now. Of course questions are asked all the time but we are in the middle of an election campaign and the pollsters have  been busy.
We seem to have two sorts of polls these days. There are the traditional sort of polls from the Morgan-Gallup people, the Nielson people, the Newspoll people and the Galaxy people and other pollsters. There are also the relatively new kids on the block, the "robo-pollsters", those automated telephone polls. In the Cat household we politely decline to answer the first and put the phone down on the second without continuing to listen.
Why?
I once met Gary Morgan of the Morgan-Gallup poll. After we had discussed the issue he wanted to talk about we talked about the way his company worked. It was interesting and informative but it made me no more inclined to answer pollsters. I believe, and the Senior Cat believes, that the way we vote is our affair.
I know that, like me, the Senior Cat will vote "below the line" on his Senate paper. (Voting below the line means making your own choices and not voting according to a party ticket in our compulsory preferential system.) I do not know how he will vote however. I do not want to know. I will not ask him. He will not ask me.
Pollsters seem to believe they have some sort of right to invade our privacy and ask such questions. I was in a room full of people last week and the person running the meeting asked how many people had been polled about voting intentions. In the context of the meeting it was a legitimate question and we were not being asked what our voting intentions were, just whether we had been polled about them.
Interestingly almost everyone in the room had been polled. Even more interestingly most people had either declined to answer or given a false answer. I have reason to believe that this might not extend to the wider population. It seems that if a thousand people do answer the pollsters then the margin of accuracy is within 3% if the poll is conducted in such a way that it takes non-compliant cats into consideration.
So, it would take a movement of more than 3% before the results were significant, and only if the poll is conducted in accordance with the sampling rules that most pollsters seem to agree on. Oh yes, they know something even if they do not know everything.
And don't believe those people who tell you that only those with old fashioned landlines are polled. These days the "reliable" pollsters are up to the mark on that one too. They have to be.
It seems too that we are addicted to the wretched things. Politicians will tell you publicly that they are not addicted, that the only poll which matters is the one that occurs on the day of the election. 
Yes, it is true that the only poll which matters is the one on election day but I know that every poll is being watched and analysed and that internal party polling is being conducted, especially in "marginal" seats.
I suspect we have an unhealthy addiction to polls. They caused the downfall of the current Prime Minister in his first term. They caused the downfall of the woman who replaced him. They may yet help cause his downfall again. The Leader of the Opposition has never been particularly popular though and he has somehow retained his position. 
I really don't know what to make of this polling business.   

2 comments:

Judy Edmonds said...

This is the first time I have responded to an election phone poll - two years ago I moved house and into one of the most marginal electorates in Victoria, and I figured that it might be of interest.

catdownunder said...

Ah, a marginal electorate. We are in one too - although less so since the change of PM.