Jan 11, 2016

Poll position: a dearth of ‘don’t knows’ does not mean ‘let’s make it up’

If a poll does not include the "don't know" option, that doesn't mean you can infer that data, writes Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute.

Like politics itself, polling can be as much art as science. One political strategist’s “bold plan” is another’s “rookie error”, and one pollster’s carefully worded question is another’s biased push poll. But while great artists might never agree on great art, honest scientists can usually agree on clear evidence. Usually.


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6 thoughts on “Poll position: a dearth of ‘don’t knows’ does not mean ‘let’s make it up’

  1. Norman Hanscombe

    Has no one ever told you, Ben, that a key issue (and one given scant attention by the quoted ‘experts’) is whether, and how, Citizens would change their votes on an issue.
    Menzies knew that when he brought in State Aid for schools, and one would have hoped your ‘experts’ might have worked that out also by 2016.

  2. sean

    I notice Brent, despite his best efforts to pander to the Oz’s ideological obsessions has been punted.

  3. klewso

    Would that be the poll that our Curry or Maul reported was carried out by the “left-leaning Australian Institute” (28/12?) – with the implication that it was quite legitimate to dismiss, on that “biased” ground?
    Like they brand all pollsters according to Limited News labels – not?

  4. AR

    Apart from “Don’t Know”, a missing significant option is “Someone Else”.
    This fine character is streets ahead of bumBoil Shlernt as Leader of the (once)ALP…
    This ought to available on the ballot as a ‘write-in, especially for local or council elections.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    klewso, hasn’t anyone ever explained to you that to mention a poll was carried out by the “left-leaning Australian Institute” is merely to provide additional information readers could be interested in, and wouldn’t prejudice any competent analyst in the manner you fear?
    I should mention, by the way, that referring to a media enterprise as “our Curry or Maul” hardly adds to one’s credibility.

  6. Kevin Bonham

    I have responded to this article at length here:


    I do think that more care to represent quotes correctly (one quote attributed to me was in fact by Brent) would be good. Likewise for the misrepresentation of Brent’s view about the don’t-know rate (as discussed in my article). Aside from this, I hope the debate is of interest.

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