Sep 9, 2013

Election poll war: landline lives as mobiles fall flat

The votes have been cast, so we put our pre-election pollsters to the test. Who got it right, who got it wrong -- and which methodologies seem to have yielded the most accurate results?

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

Following an election campaign dominated as much by debate about polling methodologies as policy, traditional fixed-line phone pollster Galaxy, robo-poll upstart ReachTel and mongrel Roy Morgan Research are shaping up as this election’s most accurate pollsters.

At a national level, most of the big pollsters appear to have performed well, regardless of methodology. But individual seat polls showing a wipeout for Labor in western Sydney and Queensland — including the loss of Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith — did not eventuate.

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12 thoughts on “Election poll war: landline lives as mobiles fall flat

  1. Gavin Moodie

    A process for finding information is a *method*. Methodology is the study of methods.

  2. Novocastrian

    Anthony Green says “This country is crying out for someone to commission state-level polling.” Surely the one thing we can all agree upon is less polling – it would surely be much healthier for our democracy if our news focused less on polls and personality and more on policy. It would also be a great personal relief if we could go a few days without Dennis Shanahan and others “re-interpreting” the most recent Newspoll results (and fantasy head to heads) to put a pro-Liberal spin on the result.

  3. klewso

    All that verbiage – for the sake of having something to say or write?
    The same “experts” will be relied on again no doubt? Why would you sack such under-achievers…?
    They’re like economists aren’t they – how many of them saw the GFC coming – but they keep being feted as “experts”?

  4. michael r james

    You’re being too lenient on Mackerras. Here are a few things he wrote in Saturday’s paper:

    –“Kevin Rudd will lose Griffith today”

    Perhaps most astounding from an experienced psephologist is: “but today I concentrate on the Senate where, due to the proportional representation system, prediction is quite easy.”

    –South Australia will see the defeat of Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and her replacement by the third Liberal candidate, Cathie Webb.

    –In Tasmania .. Labor will lose its third senator (Lin Thorp) to the Liberal candidate Sally Chandler.

    –In Queensland, “…will be James Blunden from Katter’s Australia Party.”

    –“In Western Australia … today’s result will be the same as it has always is, three Liberal, two Labor and one for the Greens, the incumbent Scott Ludlum.”

    –In Victoria, Mackerras got it partly right: “The new Greens senator will be Janet Rice”.

    –In NSW, Mackerras prediction is still in the running: “The new Greens senator will be Cate Faehrmann.”

  5. Kevin Bonham

    “Morgan breaks its results down to one percentage point, unlike other pollsters.”

    Morgan actually rounds to the nearest half a percent rather than the nearest whole. It does not break down to .7, .8 etc.

    ReachTEL breaks down its published primary to one decimal but rounds the 2PP to whole numbers. The published primary can be used to calculate the actual 2PP, which was about 52.7, following 52.4 and then 53.4 on the two previous days.

    There is more to accuracy than just the final poll. Accuracy involves also publishing reliable polling through the campaign, and looking at not just the final result but also the path the pollster took to the final result.

    And I believe we should look at seat polls in determining accuracy, because when a pollster is polling something no-one else is polling, that is a truer test. When a pollster is polling the national picture they have the possibility of letting the results of other pollsters influence their scaling assumptions (aka “herding”.)

  6. cnewt27

    I got all my election news from the ABC- Fran (the narrative)Kelly and 7pm tv news. For weeks the campaign coverage began with “the polls show Labor will lose” and that then shaped all discussion, led all interviews and generally dominated what was a fairly lazy coverage. The ABC ran heavily seat polls (eg Rudd to lose with a 10% swing) then a week later, without any embarrassment, ran a state wide poll showing only a 4% swing in Qld. Not discussed as either a +6% swing, not discussed as “what’s wrong with our polls?”
    Why not ban publication of polls once the writs are issued? Then discussion could focus on policy.

  7. frednk

    [ Limiting it to ordinary election day votes to ensure we’re comparing apples with apples (pre-poll and postal voters being generally more motivated and hence less prone to informal voting), the informal vote rate has progressed from 4.18% to 5.82% to 5.92%. ]

    About all one can say is pre-polling is increasing rapidly and I am disappointed to discover that William will also mis-use statistics.

    It would be interesting to know what the combined prepoll and election day result is, it might actually tell us something.

  8. klewso

    I’m not too sure the ABC (TV?) news/commentary is very reflective about anything any more.
    It’s more interested in the Currant Affairs Race orientation – wrinkled, second hand/not fresh and half-baked, used in recipes?
    [I reckon “political commentary” is too often more self-aggrandisement, strained through the personal views of the person reporting (to those that couldn’t be there when it happened) and a symptom of just how shit political analysis has became – in the interests of “entertaining & ratings”. Their translation/interpretation – for punters “that can’t grasp the subtle nuances of these events”, they reckon we’re that dumb……. but then, when you have a look at the record of the op-ed “experts” for getting things right …..?]

  9. Bort

    I wonder if the bandwagon effect comes into play with pre-polling. Bob Ellis was right about one thing, Labor politicians should’ve been telling journos to forget about polls, can we talk policy for a change.

  10. Saugoof

    Thanks Gavin Moodie #1, something that really annoys me too. Although these days “methodology” has become so widespread it’s more or less morphed into the “correct” form.

    One thing I’d be interested to find out is how it was possible for Kevin Rudd’s poll to nosedive this quickly during the campaign. Surely it can’t just be that people thought they liked him more while he was out of the picture and then discovered that they really didn’t care for him once he was back on TV. I don’t recall him doing anything particularly off-putting during the campaign either and yet he started off with very high personal ratings and within a short couple of weeks dived below even Tony Abbott’s approval ratings.

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