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Fairfax Media poll puts the art into brainfart

August 1, 2011

A Fairfax Poll: It’s like Ronald McDonald trying to tell us what Kiwis would prefer for lunch!

Fresh from escorting the Prime Minister around the United States, The Dominion Post’s sycophantic political editor has returned to Wellington to help milk the results of Fairfax’s flawed opinion polls.

As Tracy Watkins herself notes in Saturday’s Dom: “The Fairfax Media-Reseach International Poll has cemented the perception that Labour’s position is hopeless”.  And this, ofcourse, is the whole point of the poll.

Unlike the more reliable and highly credible Horizon Poll – which shows the two potential governing coalitions running virtually neck and neck – Fairfax’s  poll applies a flawed methodology in order to influence voters, rather than inform them.  Media commentator Martyn Bradbury calls them “cheap brainfart polls” because they only measure “decided” voters who answer their landlines in the evening.  It presents a picture of what is largely National’s core support, without measuring the undecided voters, or the thousands of dissafected voters who either don’t have a landline, or aren’t home at tea time to answer the call.

It’s the same flawed data gathering technique used by National Party blogger David Farrar’s one-sided polls for the New Zealand Herald.    It’s the same methodology that told New Zealanders that John Banks and Len Brown were running neck and neck in the Auckland super city election, just before Len Brown’s landslide victory.  The same methodology that had the mainstream media telling us Hone Harawira might lose Te Tai Tokerau, or just scrape back in, the day before he won by more than nine percent of the the vote.

In other words, the mainstream media’s polls are a joke, including and especially this latest effort from Fairfax.  

But, instead of seeing their flawed methodology as a weakness, these Rightwing media organisations see it as a strength.  And, in terms of propaganda, it really is.  Publishing a barrage of headlines telling us how their boys in the National Party are untouchable, and how the Opposition don’t stand a chance, directly influences voters and is nothing more than dishonest, propagandist electioneering for John Key’s Government. 

Even if this poll has been conducted honestly – and we can’t even take that for granted with the level of anti-democratic pro-National bias at Fairfax Media – the fact that a large, influential, and naturally left-leaning section of the electorate has been left out, means that this is simply a snapshot of comfortable Kiwis who answer their landlines in the evening.  It’s a cross-section of the part of the electorate that has been largely sheltered from feeling or even seeing the effects of National’s economic Darwinism and financial incompetence.

For Fairfax to then spend the week printing well-spun stories under headlines like “Nats could govern alone“, “Friendly, rich, family man – what’s not to like?“, “John Key a hit with female voters“, “Nats have best plan, poll finds“, “National escapes blame for jobs crisis” and “Strugglers still backing National” is nothing short of blatant, dishonest, heavily partisan propaganda. 

Honestly, have they actually even spoken to a single genuine “struggler” before making these wild claims?  I would suggest that many of the real strugglers in New Zealand are either out working in the evening, don’t answer their landlines, or simply don’t have one.

Using a data collection system that is conveniently exclusive to show exactly the kind of figures Crosby, Textor, Fairfax and Key want, is aimed not at informing readers, but directly influencing them.  It is simply Fairfax’s latest assault on our democracy and should be treated with the absolute cynical contempt it deserves.


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One Comment
  1. I’m not convinced that Horizon polls have it right. Their sample is still biased toward people who are interested in winning a prize for giving their opinion; and skewed to folk with an internet connection and the inclination to use it for more than pragmatic uses.

    The opinion polls got the election results broadly correct at the 2008 election, so measuring ‘decided’ voters has not been ineffective in the past.

    I’m more concerned by phone polling becoming skewed as land-lines become less prevalent and cellphones cheaper. Apparently many far North Te Tai Tokerau voters do not have a land line, as cell phones are cheaper; so polling for Harawira is probably low.

    I don’t believe that the actual polls of NZ Herald and Fairfax themselves are skewed; they ask the question, and collect the results. I also don’t think the Horizon is inherently left-wing in their data collection. However, it is clear that NZ Herald reports on the polls with a right-wing lean; it can be unpleasant at times, but I think voters can see it for what it is. Horizon leans left a bit though.

    I think I’d put money on most or all of the major polls (TVNZ, TV3, NZ Herald, Roy Morgan and Fairfax) all coming closer to predicting the election result than Horizon, based on thier very good performance predicting the 2008 election.

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