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Behind the light rail survey

By Charlotte Harper - 21 October 2015 34

Survey methodology

Surveys into whether we Canberrans are for or against the ACT Government’s planned light rail system have been in the news all week, and many of our readers have questioned the research methods used.

We contacted Piazza Research, the Phillip-based company contracted to undertake surveys on light rail for the ACT Government, to find out how they operate and seek answers to questions like these from one of our readers:

“If a lot of the calls are made to mobile numbers (which are unlisted), so how does the pollster know which mobile number to call?”

“There must be a list provided of numbers that relate to Canberra people only so who is providing that list?”

“If random calls are being made to mobile numbers does this mean people in Perth or Darwin or Woop Woop are having their answers logged?”

Piazza Research director Grant Piazza says any research undertaken by his company has to be transparent and able to be critiqued.

He says Piazza Research includes mobile numbers in its sampling for phone surveys because there is a known age skew in using only landlines.

The pollster says his company uses an industry-certified supplier of phone numbers for research purposes, the same supplier used by market research giants like Nielsen and Newspoll. The name of the supplier is commercial in confidence.

The supplied numbers come initially from phone companies and are regularly tested using digital methods for geolocality and validity. Piazza says many mobile phone numbers arrive from the industry-certified supplier with geolocality data attached, but in any case Piazza Research asks for suburb of residence during the survey and removes those not in ACT from the sample.

To start with, Piazza Research receives a list of numbers that is much larger than needed then digitally selects a random sample to call. If skews are detected, they weight the data using a statistical procedure to remove the skew so results can be generalised to the ACT population.

The company stores caller data and responses in a secure server in Canberra. Those interviewed remain anonymous and are not identified during the research. Piazza Research does not identify individuals in any research project without their informed and specific consent.

The company is a quality certified social and market research organisation (ISO 20252) governed by rules set by the industry’s peak body, the Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO). Piazza says ‘Mickey Mouse’ researchers can’t get into AMSRO. Piazza Research is also governed by its professional body, the Australian Market and Social Research Society (AMSRS). Every ISO-certified firm’s senior staff must be members of this organisation.

Piazza Research is audited every year to ensure their research methodology is correct.

As researchers, they don’t care whether the results are negative or positive for the client, they care whether the result is accurate and representative, Grant Piazza says.

Individual researchers may have views of their own, but when they design a research question it goes through 15 technical checks (to ensure it is useful, easy to understand, comprehensive enough and unbiased among other things).

Survey consultants design and check questions then a colleague checks and edits them. Often Piazza Research will run a pilot or test survey to verify that in a real situation people understand the questions and that the questions are appropriate.

Interviewers are trained. They’re not telemarketers and Piazza Research never engages in sales activity on behalf of its clients. It only collects information for research, Grant Piazza says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 Responses to
Behind the light rail survey
dungfungus 11:47 am 12 Nov 15

justin heywood said :

So as revealed today in the Canberra Times, despite the claims made by the research company and the usual cheerleaders, the actual truth is that the Capital Metro and Simon Corbell’s office took an ‘active hand’ in framing the survey questions, rejecting some of the survey company’s questions and replacing them with their own, especially in regard to comparing trams to buses.

Thus the survey was never intended to find out the truth, it was designed to provide an illusion of support and a bit of push polling as well. All at public expense, of course. Nice work Simon.

Excellent work by Kirsten Lawson at the Crimes btw.

When is Kristen Lawson going to report on the still missing audit report on the cost of relocating Northbourne Avenue underground services?

bj_ACT 9:58 am 12 Nov 15

With another article in the Canberra Times today regarding the Light Rail survey I am surprised the issue has gone so quiet here on Riotact. Maybe it’s the pro rail people who consistently raise the light rail not the other way round.

Mr Piazza from Piazza research has defended his poll techniques, but in my opinion his claims are spurious. The changes to the questions as detailed in the original article totally skew the survey towards positive benefits for light rail.

If the Light Rail Minister is going to use the survey to claim that the majority of canberran’s support the light rail expenditure, then ask the question.

Do you support the ACT Government’s proposal to spend $780 million on the implementation of a Light Rail line between Gungahlin and Civic to improve public transport?

Don’t dress it up with, Would you support spending extra money on light rail if you knew it led to long term benefits for Canberra?

justin heywood 9:12 pm 09 Nov 15

So as revealed today in the Canberra Times, despite the claims made by the research company and the usual cheerleaders, the actual truth is that the Capital Metro and Simon Corbell’s office took an ‘active hand’ in framing the survey questions, rejecting some of the survey company’s questions and replacing them with their own, especially in regard to comparing trams to buses.

Thus the survey was never intended to find out the truth, it was designed to provide an illusion of support and a bit of push polling as well. All at public expense, of course. Nice work Simon.

Excellent work by Kirsten Lawson at the Crimes btw.

bj_ACT 2:49 pm 09 Nov 15

Piazza Research claimed that when they design a research question it goes through 15 technical checks (to ensure it is useful, easy to understand, comprehensive enough and unbiased among other things).

According to the Canberra Times today they now have step 16 “Change question to suit the agenda of the Government who is paying you to do the Survey”.

watto23 4:11 pm 26 Oct 15

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Ghettosmurf87 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

As it is, the party in power didn’t even have the majority of the support of voters which in itself leaves most of Canberra not getting what they voted for.

I am so sick of this bogus argument being trotted out. The Liberal Party got 41votes more than the Labor Party. The Labor Party formed a coalition government with the Greens, who got 23,773 votes. Therefore, the current ACT government received 23,732 more votes than the Liberals.

The Liberal Party got 38.9% of the vote, the Labor Party got 38.9% the Greens got 10.7% of the vote.

On those numbers, no matter which party formed government with the greens, the situation would have been the same.

So in other words, the party that got 10.7% of the vote holds all the power.

10.7% is over 1.7 seats, so if anything the greens are underrepresented in the 17 seat government, based on the voting preferences of locals.

dungfungus 8:52 am 26 Oct 15

rubaiyat said :

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

Costs for the light rail project know no boundaries apparently.
Even before the first tram starts rolling the government has created a salaried board of 8 members and a chairman to oversee the Capital Metro Agency which is now costing about $450,000 a year.

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

Costs for the light rail project know no boundaries apparently.
Even before the first tram starts rolling the government has created a salaried board of 8 members and a chairman to oversee the Capital Metro Agency which is now costing about $450,000 a year.

How do you propose a large project should be managed?

It seems you can’t make up your mind. You are not happy with back of a coaster over lunch and here you are against a typical project organisation.

How are you on the federal taxpayer funded internment camps? Seems nothing makes you happier than other people’s misery. So money well spent?

That “large project” (AKA Capital Metro Agency) is about to become much larger according to reports in today’s CT.
Perhaps the scope of the expanded project (almost a tram in every garage) justifies such a large board as I criticized in the previous post but wait! – that board has been in place for sometime now so does that mean it was the government’s plan to expand the light rail from day one or is it just pre-election babble.
From now on the light rail project should be re-named “TransACT 2, the rail-road to oblivion.”

rubaiyat 1:26 pm 24 Oct 15

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

Costs for the light rail project know no boundaries apparently.
Even before the first tram starts rolling the government has created a salaried board of 8 members and a chairman to oversee the Capital Metro Agency which is now costing about $450,000 a year.

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

Costs for the light rail project know no boundaries apparently.
Even before the first tram starts rolling the government has created a salaried board of 8 members and a chairman to oversee the Capital Metro Agency which is now costing about $450,000 a year.

How do you propose a large project should be managed?

It seems you can’t make up your mind. You are not happy with back of a coaster over lunch and here you are against a typical project organisation.

How are you on the federal taxpayer funded internment camps? Seems nothing makes you happier than other people’s misery. So money well spent?

dungfungus 10:26 am 23 Oct 15

wildturkeycanoe said :

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

Costs for the light rail project know no boundaries apparently.
Even before the first tram starts rolling the government has created a salaried board of 8 members and a chairman to oversee the Capital Metro Agency which is now costing about $450,000 a year.

wildturkeycanoe 7:24 am 23 Oct 15

Has it been disclosed anywhere how much this survey actually cost, a survey which really has no purpose whatsoever except a desperate government trying to save face? With the history of spending involved in the light rail promotion [remember the $11,000 cardboard cutout], is it any wonder the real thing is pushing over a billion dollars?

dungfungus 7:05 pm 22 Oct 15

neanderthalsis said :

Whenever a research company starts talking about how balanced their sample group is, I think of this:

A perfectly balanced sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA

That is the best epitome of how it works (or doesn’t).

HiddenDragon 5:33 pm 22 Oct 15

The ACT Government is, apparently, irrevocably committed to light rail – so why waste money on polling public support for it?

The famous election eve (2012) poll which predicted an Assembly with only 6 Liberal MLAs is a reminder of opinion polling “margin of error” problems in this town.

rubaiyat 5:28 pm 22 Oct 15

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Ghettosmurf87 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

As it is, the party in power didn’t even have the majority of the support of voters which in itself leaves most of Canberra not getting what they voted for.

I am so sick of this bogus argument being trotted out. The Liberal Party got 41votes more than the Labor Party. The Labor Party formed a coalition government with the Greens, who got 23,773 votes. Therefore, the current ACT government received 23,732 more votes than the Liberals.

The Liberal Party got 38.9% of the vote, the Labor Party got 38.9% the Greens got 10.7% of the vote.

On those numbers, no matter which party formed government with the greens, the situation would have been the same.

So in other words, the party that got 10.7% of the vote holds all the power.

How did you come to THAT conclusion?

Let me guess!

Arthur Davies 5:06 pm 22 Oct 15

To evaluate the validity of any survey you need to see the exact wording of the questions, very often they are subtly leading, if the questions are not published with the results, be very suspicious. I am reminded of the “yes Minister” episode where Sir Humphrey is showing Bernard how to get the survey result the Dept wants, very clever, very informative & very funny at the same time. Watch it again & this time take notes! Beware of spin.

Google “Leading Questions – Yes Prime Minister – YouTube.html”

switch 4:50 pm 22 Oct 15

Maya123 said :

Some people believe, that unless you vote for the Liberal or Labor Party, your vote shouldn’t count. Or why keep making statements like they do?

Because with our “You must number every square” preferential voting, you effectively DO vote for either Liberal or Labor Party after preferences. Except for those very rare cases where an Independent/Green/whatever candidate is popular enough to get up.

Maya123 4:18 pm 22 Oct 15

Ghettosmurf87 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

As it is, the party in power didn’t even have the majority of the support of voters which in itself leaves most of Canberra not getting what they voted for.

I am so sick of this bogus argument being trotted out. The Liberal Party got 41votes more than the Labor Party. The Labor Party formed a coalition government with the Greens, who got 23,773 votes. Therefore, the current ACT government received 23,732 more votes than the Liberals.

The Liberal Party got 38.9% of the vote, the Labor Party got 38.9% the Greens got 10.7% of the vote.

On those numbers, no matter which party formed government with the greens, the situation would have been the same.

+1.
Some people believe, that unless you vote for the Liberal or Labor Party, your vote shouldn’t count. Or why keep making statements like they do?

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