Flat White

There’s polling – and there’s polling

1 September 2021

5:24 PM

1 September 2021

5:24 PM

Whenever you read a piece on polling by honest commentators like our own Charles Pier, you’ll find a line in there somewhere saying that polls shouldn’t be treated on their own but compared with others — as illustrated very well by a polling shop itself this week.

On Monday, a YouGov poll commissioned for the Australian Conservation Foundation was splashed across the front pages of both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, accompanied by the headline “Australia’s biggest climate poll shows support for action in every seat“.

“Voters in every federal seat in Australia support increased action on climate change and the adoption of renewable technology over the government’s plan for a gas-led recovery, according to the largest poll ever conducted on climate change and politics in the country,” the piece said.

“The survey of 15,000 Australians conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation found 67 per cent of voters believed the government should be doing more to address climate change, including a majority in all 151 national seats…”

There was even an exciting graphic that could let you see just which electorates were keenest on returning to live in caves, dying at the age of 30 and so on.


In The Australian the following day there were lotsa graphics too, including a table headed “Which of the following are your biggest worries or fears at the moment?”, featuring data also from YouGov. (It’s too big to fit it all in, but the totals are the figures in white on black).

Notice anything?

Climate didn’t rate a mention in the “worries or fears” table —  unless it was included in the eight per cent “none of the above”.

Yet The SMAge piece says “support for increased climate action was similar across states and territories, with the highest being the Northern Territory where 71 per cent supported more action and the lowest being NSW, where 65 per cent wanted more”.

How to explain the complete discrepancy between the two polls by the one company?

It’s all in the questions.

And what does that say about polling?

We report. You decide.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.


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