This morning’s Fairfax papers carried results from the latest round of Nielsen polling, a survey that revealed a Rudd Government still very much in charge of the nation’s confidence. That in itself is not that much of a story … we guessed.
What is interesting is that this is the first piece of Nielsen polling published by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald since last November.
Time was that Fairfax ran its Nielsen polls on a monthly cycle, a regular corrective to the dominant fortnightly publicity that attends every new round of Newspoll polling as published by The Australian. At the same point in the previous two electoral cycles, Nielsen polling ran in Fairfax each month like clockwork. No longer.
Running the Newspoll numbers acts as a fortnightly reinforcement of The Australian‘s sometimes dubious claim to agenda-setting credibility. These numbers, proprietary News Limited content that they are, are not above being subjected to the routine maniuplations that The Australian is liable to impose on any given set of facts that may or may not suit the overriding imperative of its rampant ideological agenda.
The balance brought by Nielsen, an independent reality check, has always been an important facet of the Australian psephological discussion. But polls of this type are very expensive. It would be a pity if through let’s say, financial stringency, Fairfax was no longer able to provide this valuable voice. Without wanting to push the boat too far from the shore, it would do the health of our democracy no favours.