Anthony Albanese Labor

As Australian voters have just about come to terms with the impact of the federal election results, it continues to be shown that the real challenge will be learning to trust the polls again — at least if Crikey readers are anything to go by. While some readers maintained that polling had always been a sceptical exercise at best, others thought that it reflected problems of trust — or mistrust — in the system at large. And what does it all mean for Labor’s fortunes?

On the polls

Rodney Tiffen writes: Let’s be clear — poll herding is a form of dishonest, fraudulent behaviour

Malcolm Harrison writes: Nate Silver is the doyen of pollsters in the US. Yet his methods yielded a likely victory to Hillary Clinton of around 95% in the 2016 presidential elections. Whatever rationalisation he is now using to explain away his failure, “herding” for example, smacks of grasping at straws. People are now more wary and cynical about pollsters, and are more likely these days to be mischievous in their responses. During the last US presidential election there were 19 active polls running concurrently and sometimes daily. Only one of them, the Rasmussen poll, was in any way reliable. The rest were widely and often wildly off the mark. So, no I don’t find this attempt to reassure us about the usefulness of polling very convincing.

Peggy Lee writes: Unfortunately we weren’t surprised at Albo’s ratings crash. Today’s Newspoll makes a grimly intuitive sense. Since the election Labor has rolled over without a squeak. It has lost all of its confidence. And most of its purpose. To “avoid being defined by the government” (which doesn’t make sense) Albo waved through the corporate tax cuts that were going to wreck the economy in April and ditto with the recent security legislation (elements of which were also opposed under Labor policy before the election). Every single Labor policy taken to the election is apparently up for a rethink. All of them. That has shocked and upset many progressive voters. Where’s the courage? Where’s the conviction? If Albo, formerly famous for being brave, genuine and warm hearted, a true conviction politician, is trying to be “Bill Shorten lite” then he’s doomed. He must have kept on some of the idiot advisers who took Bill and the progressive voting electorate over the cliff…

Tom Osborne writes: Discussing recent Newspolls, Dennis Atkins wrote: “The primary vote for both major parties increased one point, well within the margin of error and therefore statistically insignificant”. The correct term to interpret the polls’ data is “not statistically significant”. This means that the poll change in two party preferred support were not large enough to estimate an actual change for the electorate (with 95% confidence, given the sample size). The term “insignificant” connotes that the 2PP change was unimportant or meaningless. An absence of a detectable change in 2PP support could well be important and meaningful. All we can claim is that the observed change was too small to be detected, and that the null hypothesis — of no change in 2PP support — was not rejected, something which has meaning.

Alan John Ashton writes: As a former Labor state MP in NSW I didn’t think Labor would win. Pollsters and pundits apply polling figures across seats based on previous margins with no idea of the changes in the demographics in electorates. Also the recurrent theme talking to even Labor voters was Bill Shorten’s unpopularity. Polling this far out from the next election is pointless. However already Albo is having difficulty in transitioning from knockabout bloke to serious opposition leader as Shorten had trouble trying to look like a potential PM. Still, if voters fell for the “How good are Mums? How good are the Sharkies? How good is Australia?” they will fall for anything.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey