More of Shanas’ Magic Looking Glass?

If you thought Dennis Shanahan was squeezing the last drop of good news for the Coalition out of this week’s Newspoll, as suggested in the last piece on TPS Newspoll through Shahas' Magic Looking Glass, take a look at his analysis of the Important Issues survey (pdf) that accompanied that Newspoll.  You’ll find it in his two pieces in Wednesday’s Australian: Protest poll flags rush to Coalition and Coalition making inroads in all areas.

His theme is announced in his headlines and the opening paragraphs:  “The Rudd government just lost its comfort zone, its ability to argue that everything will be fine because of its success in avoiding recession and that its lower polling is just Tony Abbott's media honeymoon. Voters have declared they prefer the Coalition, once again, as economic managers and have rushed towards the Coalition on climate change, water conservation and the environment.” and “The Coalition has recaptured popular leadership on the economy from the Rudd government, which seems to have lost political gains made on economic management during the global financial crisis as the fear of recession in Australia passes and unemployment peaks.” 

Having set the scene with words like “Voters ...have rushed towards the Coalition” and “The Coalition has recaptured popular leadership on the economy...” he proceeds to amplify his claims.  Referring to the Important Issues as seen by voters, he says: “The economy has also dropped dramatically as the top priority in an election year, being overtaken by health and education as the Coalition makes inroads into Labor's leads on all key issues, including climate change, the environment and water management.”

So let’s look at the figures. 

In the first table, the Important Issues, the economy has dropped from first to third and is now rated 74 on the importance scale, down from 83 a year ago, but about the same as two years ago.  Should this come as a surprise – a ‘dramatic drop’ as Dennis would have it?  A year ago the country was in the midst of the GFC from which it is now emerging.  The variation in the level of importance portrayed in the survey is exactly what one would expect.  I suppose Dennis was trying to make the point that any advantage the Government thought it might have had in managing the GFC successfully is being eroded because of its fall in importance in the electorate.

In the table on who is best on economic management, 40% of those polled said Labor and 45% the Coalition.  Dennis describes Labor’s rating as steady but in fact it has gone up one point from 39%, and the Coalition’s rating has gone from 40% to 45% during the last year.  We know we should not get too excited about small movements in ratings, but Dennis is happy to attribute significance to them when it suits his argument.  But look at the five ratings for the Coalition after the October 2007 rating (the first listed): 53, 44, 44, 43, 40, 45, and for Labor 29, 37, 34, 39, 39, 40.  After the 2007 rating there’s not much movement there for either party; the Coalition has recovered 5% from a year ago, but is close to its rating for the two years before that.  Does this set of figures warrant the comment: “...the public has started to move away from Labor on economic management”?

Let’s take a quick look at the other figures, that range over the period October 2007 to February 2010: On health & Medicare, education, the economy, water planning, welfare and social issues, national security, the environment, climate change and industrial relations, the Coalition's ratings were 32, 32, 45, 31, 27, 43, 27, 30, 33 and Labor 47, 40, 36, 51, 37, 34, 35, 49.  You may find it easier to look at the tablesLabor is ahead on all except the economy and national security.

On handling climate change (over the period July 2008 to February 2010) the Coalition rated 18, 22, 19 and 30, and Labor 45, 37, 38 and 35.  Labor is ahead but not as much as in previous years because the Coalition's rating has gone up by 11% in the last year.  No doubt the Coalition will take heart from this and see it as endorsement of its Direct Action plan, at least in part.

Do take a look at the individual tables for health & Medicare, education, the economy, water planning, welfare and social issues, national security, the environment, climate change and industrial relations that extend over six surveys from October 2007 to February 2010.  What is striking is how consistent the ratings have been over the years.  There certainly have been small changes in the areas of water planning and the environment in the Coalition’s favour and in management of the economy.  Labor is ahead of the Coalition on every aspect except the economy and national security, areas in which the Coalition has always rated well with the electorate.  Dennis concedes this near the end of one of his pieces when he says: “Voters still rated the Labor Party as better able than the Coalition to handle all the electoral issues except the economy and national security -- traditionally Coalition political strengths.”  Anyone reading his article to the end might have been surprised after reading the negative headings and comment that preceded that concession, and mystified by his conclusion: “This is a protest poll.”

Of course what Dennis is asserting is that there is movement away from Labor to the Coalition on so many parameters that this represents a significant turning way from Labor.  It is true that the Coalition has made gains; as Dennis puts it “On every main electoral issue, including health and education, support for the Coalition rose and Labor's fell or remained static to put the Coalition in its best position since the 2007 election”   He asserts that it is this movement that accounts for the changes in voter preference rather than the advent of Tony Abbott.  The question is how significant the movements are given the MOE of plus or minus 3% for this survey of 1151 people.  Dennis attributes major significance to them.

For those of you inclined to a deep statistical analysis of this data set, do take a look at Possum’s thorough piece on Crikey, The pitfalls of Better Party To Manage.  His piece seeks to interpret the movements in the figures.  Towards the end he says: "Perhaps long term relative changes in which party is best perceived to manage a given issue, perhaps we can identify if issues cease to become a strong issue for a party over a long period of time. Any sharp jump in value for a given issue that is above and beyond that achieved by other issues in that poll is also something that would be meaningful and worth taking a second look at.  But for ordinary poll to poll movement, we can’t actually pull much pointy end value out at all because large parts of the variation are simply a function of generic approval of the party leaders."

So where does the truth lie?  Is Dennis’ narrative a true reflection of the figures?  Do his words match the figures?  While it cannot be said that Dennis’ statements are inaccurate, do they paint the same picture as do the figures?  Is this another example of how the mindset of the author, one that seems to be searching for positives for the Coalition and negatives for the Government, has over-ridden the objectivity that poll analysis requires, and has lead him once more to extravagant language?  Is this more of Dennis seeing poll results through his Magic Looking Glass?

You be the judge.  What do you think?

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Sir Ian Crisp

18/02/2010As you well know AA, I have been warned off Mr Shanahan and his vile opinions. I have you to thank for protecting me. I'm prepared to lead a campaign to reintroduce capital punishment for anyone or group that dares cast our dear leader in poor light.

Ostermann

18/02/2010Hi Ad I won't even try to understand Polls but I found this article http://www.pipingshrike.com/2010/02/the-curse-of-anti-politics-returns.html, which touches on the subject, but goes into more detail as to why the polls are moving, and possibly explains why Dennis's views stand out so much now, and this little get from the Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/tv-networks-slam-tony-abbott-over-license-fee-bribe-claim/story-e6frgczf-1225831522577, maybe Tony's dream media run might come to a brutal end.

Ebenezer

18/02/2010I would not worry Ad, not many would read the inane trash coming out of his articles. Most watch the news grabs the morning after the poll is released. Commercial Lib TVs(9)headline, was Labor increases poll lead over Coalition from 4 to 6 points, after that they turn off. Cheers Eb. :)

Ad astra reply

18/02/2010Sir Ian It's Shanas' objectivity I'm questioning, not his criticism of our dear leader. Ostermann Thanks for the links. The Piping Shrike piece is first class, yet another that reinforces his 'anti-politics' theme, about which he has written so much. The networks are probably not yet done with Tony Abbott over his 'bribery' remarks. Let's see what Laurie Oakes, Paul Bongiorno and Mark Riley have to say to him when next they interview him. Eb I wish that there was more balance in media reports on polls. At least we can rely on Possum [i]Pollytics[/i] and Bernard Keane of [i]Crikey[/i] to offer an objective counterbalance, but how many read them? Of course you’re right, few take the intense interest in politics we tragics do.

lyn1

18/02/2010Hi Ad Dennis Shanahan is just a part of the Murdoch plan to have the Coalition reinstalled, hense the breakfast with Tony Abbott along with whatever else we do not know about. I know it's disappointing to see what Shanahan and the MSM are trying to do. Remember Glenn Milne writing in his column in 2007 "the Coalition has to be seen to winning in the polls so they can win the election", how can anyone understand them. I am like Ostermann I do not try to understand the polls, and as you do Ad, I rely on Possum, Mumble, Grog, the Poll Bludger http://grogsgamut.blogspot.com/2010/02/newspoll-alp-53-lnp-47-or-bound-in.html http://mumble.com.au/ I agree with you Ad (The networks are probably not yet done with Tony Abbott over his 'bribery' remarks. Let's see what Laurie Oakes, Paul Bongiorno and Mark Riley have to say). I also do not think the near Fatal accident on the Pacific Highway involving Tony Abbott orgainising a press conference on a dangerous piece of road is going to rest either. especially on the blogosphere. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/18/2823083.htm?WT.mc_id=newsmail http://www.notthecairnspost.com/2010/02/17/tony-abbott-sets-up-his-own-demise/

HillbillySkeleton

18/02/2010I also seem to remember that, historically, whenever the Big Boss is in town the News Ltd. opinionistas behave like performing seals in order to impress Uncle Rupert. Christian Kerr even named his son after him. How's that for slavish? One imagines that the News Ltd. hacks and hackettes have all given 'Fair and Balanced' Fox News in the US the once over, and believe that that is what the boss wants to see more of back here in Oz. Rupert, of course, in his megalomaniacal way, probably believes he is powerful enough to swing elections whichever way he chooses, and as he becomes older and more conservative( a natural progression for most), so his political inclinations are following suit. It's just such a shame for the younger generations that this man, with his damned longevity genes, is skewing the debate on the issues which are important for our society's future.

Acerbic Conehead

18/02/2010lyn1. Re the "near fatal accident on the Pacific Highway", the police say they are looking for SIUV 2010 (Suspected Illegal Uturning Vehicle). Meanwhile, through an anonymous go-between, the driver is reported to have admitted he wasn't totally in control of the car, but there were extenuating circumstances. "I had it on weathervane cruise control and then the bugger took on a life of its own!", he confessed. If found guilty, police say the driver is liable to receive a sentence of at least five years hard ironing.

Ostermann

18/02/2010Currently reading "Power Plays" by Laurie Oakes a collection of Political Journalism that he wrote for the bulletin 1987 to 2007 and he quotes former Governer of Colorado Richard Lamm, "There is a symbiotc relationship between the press and politiians. It's like the great apes that sit around and pick the fleas off on another" Laurie calls it as he sees it and I have always enjoyed Laurie's perspective, unlike other journalists who try to appeal to the lowest common denominator trying to win favour rather than respect, and unfortunately I think our mate Shanas falls into the former, there are too few good political journalists in this country who can move with the shift in politics, and we are seeing a shift, we may not agree with their views but it is honest. How as voters can we decide what is best for our country if we are fed prime time tripe, if we care we have to search deep and hard for it. Lyn1 I also saw the near tragedy with Tony Abbott, and it does highlight a problem that needs to be addressed, how the media handles it will be interesting to see, Abbott and Rudd should develop a bipartisan solution given that it is so close to home for them, this event will be the true test of our politions and political journalists, I can't wait for to see the outcome. Well guys it is time this little black duck jumped into the pond. Good night all

You must be kidding

19/02/2010I'm not sure it is just Shannahan ... I mean this Matthew Franklin bloke is just as bad. His commentary today on the OZ is so biased and over the top that it turns anything that Shanners has to say into fairy dust. I mean how dare he list so called election promises and compare them with reality. Evrryone knows election promises should never be believed for heavens sake and here he is questioning whether our PM should be brought to account. My goodness there are responses for each of the things he raises and we all kknow the government is working on them ... so why raise them now? I suspect it is the editor who has asked Shanners and Matty to write uncomplimentary pieces about the Government to give the lines for Abbott to use on the TV news. I mean these types of things are then run buy the shock jocks and then we have public opinion being changed. This is Rupert's fault I would suggest. He doesn't like our PM and has told his journos to stick it to him. Unlike Stokes and others who run the TV stations Rupert does control editorial ... I mean he owns the thing just like the others do with their stations but he seems to be the most driven to control editorial. This is why Franklin has written his coalition propoganda ... all wrong no doubt.

Ostermann

19/02/2010YMBK This may have something to do with it as well http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/02/18/crikey-says-is-murdoch-lining-up-behind-tony-abbott/

lyn1

19/02/2010Hi Ad Ostermann you got it dead right, everyone will enjoy the 2 links below I think. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/19/2824372.htm http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/politics-drowning-in-spin-as-media-audiences-fragment-20100219-ojai.html

Ad astra reply

19/02/2010Lyn1 Again, thank you for the interesting links. It's curious that so little has been made of Tony Abbott's use of the media to make a political point about road safety that could have resulted in loss of life or injury. On the face of it, it does seem dangerous to attempt to turn right into a minor road from a busy carriageway with traffic travelling in both directions and a camera crew in full view filming it. A close call resulted, but Tony gets ‘action man’ status from most of the media; Jonathan Green has written the most balanced piece and [i]Not the Cairns Post[/i] blogger puts it even more pointedly that this was a questionable exercise. HillbillySkeleton Uncle Rupert has always had an influence on his editors despite their protestations to the contrary. When all except one of his outlets editorialized in favour of the Iraq war, it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that they knew well what Rupert felt and followed his lead. Grog’s Gamut quotes Upton Sinclair: [i]“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."[/i] Likewise it is difficult to get a editor to be independent when his salary depends upon going along with the boss. Acerbic Conehead, Ostermann You too raise the Abbott near-miss affair and the role of the media in it. Questions remain to be answered, but probably never will be. Laurie Oakes [i]Power Plays[/i] is a good read. History shows he’s been right most of the time. YMBK You will have to help me out with the link to Matthew Franklin’s article. I can’t find it.

HillbillySkeleton

19/02/2010You Must Be Kidding, 'I mean how dare he list so called election promises and compare them with reality.' * That isn't the point, YMBK. The point is that you never heard a peep about 'broken election promises' when 'Mr Non-Core' Howard was in office. Thus it is pure hypocrisy on Franklin's part to be making such a big deal about it wrt the Rudd government now.

HillbillySkeleton

19/02/2010AA, Time to get on the grassy knoll, I suppose...It is suspicious, is it not, that an ABC camera crew just happened to be filming Abbott turning Right(lol), to go where???...as he was wanting to make a point about that normally dry and boring topic, Road Safety, which normally wouldn't have made it to the top of the Nightly News bulletin, an almost accident was a surefire way to get it there. I can't remember seeing much traffic coming the other way and getting in camera shot, either. So why didn't the car turn? Also, from the footage that I saw, the Press Bus in front of Abbott's Com Car, was going straight ahead down the road, having to move out of the way of the truck barreling up behind them. You would have thought that they would have been following Abbott down 'The Road to Nowhere' ;)

Ostermann

19/02/2010I wondered why the opposition was initially fairly quiet on Conroy giving back 250 million to the networks. When Chris Pyne was asked about it by Barrie Cassidy he was almost silent, then Tony in his finite wisdom blurts out "it's a bribe to the networks for favourable coverage" once the Murdock meeting becomes public. oops, no double oops!!! meanwhile back on the magic roundabout.... "Hmmm! said dougal".

Ostermann

19/02/2010HillBillySkeleton you conspiracy theorist you, I love it.

Ad astra reply

19/02/2010Folks A 17 February [i]Roy Morgan[/i] poll of 668 men and women aged 14 or over interviewed by telephone on February 10-11 (close to the timing of the [i]Newspoll Important Issues survey[/i] found that those polled felt the most important problems facing Australia today are still economic issues 29% (down 2% since November 2009, and down 22% since May 2009), ahead of environmental issues 25% (up 1%, and up 8% since May 2009). This change corresponds with that in the [i]Newspoll[/i] but still has the economy ahead. Morgan’s sample size was about half of that of the [i]Newspoll[/i] so the MOE would be higher. Nevertheless the disparity between the two polls about the importance of the economy in voters’ minds illustrates how unwise it is to draw profound conclusions from just one poll, as Dennis did when he asserted that with the fall of importance of the economy in [i]Newspoll[/i], the Rudd Government had lost the advantage it held through its management of the GFC. Columnists like Dennis have such touching faith in the accuracy of polls, particularly [i]The Australian’s[/i] very own [i]Newspoll[/i], such faith in the significance of small variations from poll to poll, that they are prepared to draw any conclusion that suits their purpose, without caveat. Disappointing. The [i]Morgan[/i] poll is here: http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2010/4468/

lyn1

19/02/2010Hi Ad Ostermann and HillbillySkeleton conspiracy theorist I love it too did you read http://www.notthecairnspost.com/2010/02/17/tony-abbott-sets-up-his-own-demise/ that I posted on my first comment When you read NOT THE CAIRNS POST note the one comment:- You’re totally right. In fact it is illegal to do a u-turn on a two lane high speed road as Mr Abbott was. Either they caused the near-accident or set it up with a stunt truck driver. All totally suspect. Mr Abbott’s driver should have his license revoked and his car should be crushed into a cube. February 17th, 2010 at 8:08 pm As said by Ad, questions remain to be answered but more stunts are going on today. http://www.news.com.au/national/tony-abbott-bemoans-lack-of-sex-on-campaign-trail/story-e6frfkvr-1225832104043 What is possessing this man. Honestly Mad Monk, Captain Catholic, straight shooter, Man of Action, Superman, Stunt Man, Phoney Tony anyone know any more.

Ostermann

19/02/2010Lyn1 "What is possessing this man", Rudd is, it's the revenge of the Nerds, how can some dorkly little bloke who speaks funny be more popular than me, and Rudd has everyone flummoxed, Kevin is just Kevin and not a product of the party, he has no affiliations to the factions or the unions, and everyone was expecting to fight the Labor scurge on predefined rules, so what appears to happening is the old school boy in Tony has come out, look at me, look at me, because Rudd is different which is what all the anti-politic is about. So there you go Rudd is the devil who has led Tony into temptation.

Ad astra reply

19/02/2010Folks The latest Face-to-Face [i]Morgan[/i] Poll conducted over the last two weekends, February 6/7 & 13/14 shows the ALP (57.5%, up 1% since the last Face-to-Face poll conducted on January 23/24 & 30/31) maintaining a strong two-party preferred lead over the L-NP (42.5%, down 1%). http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2010/4471/ Same TPP gain at in [i]Newspoll[/i], but in this one the primary vote was 47/37. The sample was 1811 and the MOE around 1% at the 95% certainty level. So much for the gains touted by Dennis, as if [i]Newspoll[/i] was the only legitimate poll.

HillbillySkeleton

20/02/2010Ad, What about the following Morgan poll, which had the TPP much closer to the latest Newspoll result? http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/polls.cfm * I know the poll you are quoting is more recent, but does the above poll not show that there is still a lot of volatility out there?

HillbillySkeleton

20/02/2010lyn1, I think calling TA, Tony Baloney, or the Machiavellian Monk, is apt.

HillbillySkeleton

20/02/2010Go hard, Bushfire Bill! For you know, as we all do, that the Coalition led by Tony Abbott will find no stoop too low to descend to in order to besmirch the achievments of the government. Peter Hartcher's column in the Smage today is especially apt: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/common-ground-for-rudd-and-obama-the-opponents-are-surging-20100219-olqz.html

Ad astra reply

21/02/2010HillbillySkeleton Sorry for the slow response - I've been looking mainly at BB's post. We're both looking at the same [i]Morgan[/i] poll. Although like [i]Newspoll[/i] [i]Morgan[/i] TPP went up by one percentage point for Labor and down one for the Coalition, the actual TPP gap was much higher in [i]Morgan[/i] 57.5/42.5 (15 points) than in [i]Newspoll[/i] 53/47 (6 points). Peter Hartcher's piece too draws the comparison between the Republican's treatment of Obama and the Coalition's treatment of Rudd. Both are from the same song sheet. As we're getting mostly spam now on thos post, I'm closing comments
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