It will surely be one of the top ten stories of the year – piracy and massacre in the Mediterranean – but what got the big headline in this morning’s Australian? An opinion poll.

This isn’t a tabloid: we expect such things from them. This is what bills itself as Australia’s quality newspaper. But it’s paying for the opinion poll, so it puts it on the front page, regardless of its newsworthiness.

As it happens, this is quite an interesting Newspoll, with its very high (16%) Greens vote. But any one opinion poll on its own is meaningless, and the more “interesting” its numbers the greater the likelihood that it’s a rogue sample. The only polls that are worth paying attention to are precisely those that aren’t “news”, because they confirm what others are saying – that’s when you’ve got a trend.

I don’t think it’s at all implausible that the Greens are doing well at the moment, given how badly the two major parties have disgraced themselves. (Whether the Greens vote will hold up in an election is another matter.) But you can’t draw that conclusion from just a single poll.

And you certainly shouldn’t give that poll pride of place over real and important news.