I have lost count of how many times I have been called in the last few weeks with "automated" surveys asking me for my "views" on the upcoming election.
Although I don't recognise the phone numbers I do need to answer the phone. I need to answer it because I don't remember every single number - there are several hundred at least - and it might also be a legitimate call from someone who needs to talk to me.
But these "automated" surveys? I put the phone down as soon as I hear "This is an automated...". If there is a real person at the other end of the phone they get a firm, "I don't answer these surveys" and I put the phone down for them as well.
Why? There are at least three reasons. The first is that they are an invasion of my privacy. I rate such calls in the same way as I rate people who knock at the front door in contravention of the polite notice asking them not to. The second is that what I intend to do when I fill out the ballot paper is my business and my business alone. If I choose to share my intentions that's my business too but I am not going to share them with an automated voice or someone I don't know.
But the third reason is perhaps even more important than the first two reasons. This is that these "automated surveys" are not surveys at all. They may appear to be but the questions are skewed to bring about the result wanted by those who are conducting the survey. They are designed as "push polling" - the practice of trying to persuade voters to vote for a particular party or individual.
In this current election period the union movement has been working particularly hard at this. They believe their candidate in this electorate is in with more than a chance but they are leaving nothing to chance. What they need to overcome is the anti-union sentiment among many older voters and the feeling by some that the candidate abused her position as the head of a large charity to further her political aspirations. The party in question has access to the full electoral roll and they will be targetting the "polling" largely to the older age group and people they believe volunteer.
This is how the system works. Add in our iniquitous "compulsory preferential voting" and it IS possible to manipulate the result if you have enough resources.
I know how I intend to vote. I will continue to put the phone down on all those push polling calls.