Where have all the pollsters gone?

jakez 30 September 2008 12

Not working in an electorate office nor being one of the overlords of the Liberal Party (that has access to internal polling), I’ve found myself wondering what the actual state of play is in the upcoming election. Trying to decode the facial expressions and barely picked up half sentences of the ‘insiders’ isn’t nearly as rewarding as being able to pick up a newspaper every fortnight and digest some fresh polling.

Of course, the ACT can’t mathematically or financially sustain fortnightly polling. However it does seem odd to me that with less than a month to go, the Canberra Times hasn’t published a single poll. Other States are treated to somewhat semi regular polls so I can’t understand why we can’t have one.

When does the Canberra Times usually publish a poll (I know they’ve done it in the past)? What is it about Canberra that makes us so unpollable?

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12 Responses to Where have all the pollsters gone?
NickD NickD 9:41 pm 30 Sep 08

From memory, most political polls are conducted as loss-leaders by market research companies. While they don’t make money on them, they don’t cost too much (as they’re often conducted by adding questions to a consumer survey which is being run anyway) and are great advertising for their commercial services. I guess that Canberra is too small a market to justify the expense of getting a sample together.

Arty Arty 4:53 pm 30 Sep 08

Jakez, just did a quick poll of the office. everyone thinks Stanhope is a negative for Labor. One of the more extreme views was “Stanhope is a F@$%#*& tosser” another ” He’s a Knob” small sample, only 10, but might give a guide to the outcome of the election.

Widdershins Widdershins 4:52 pm 30 Sep 08

(Stuffed up my terms: confidence *level* = 95% in this example, confidence *interval* is the +/-)

Widdershins Widdershins 4:46 pm 30 Sep 08

@jimbocool – someone who knows what they’re on about! Though – the confidence interval gives you the +/- for the *survey* results, had you interviewed everyone in the population (i.e. ACT voters) rather than just 800 of them at random. Not that it predicts the *election* results to within that +/- (the stats won’t tell you how many people will be lying to pollsters or change their mind on election day). Though that’s probably what you meant.

jakez jakez 4:45 pm 30 Sep 08

Thanks jimbocool. It’s been a long time since I did statistics and the correct terms long ago departed my brain.

tabascoted tabascoted 4:21 pm 30 Sep 08

how about the riot do a poll on each elec.. each week and see how they go

jimbocool jimbocool 4:18 pm 30 Sep 08

actually 800 is plenty for statistical significance – a random sample can be as low as 16 and still be statistically significant. What you really want to know is what is called, erroneously, the “Margin of Error”. Most published polls use a 95% confidence interval (that is 95% of the time the results of the poll will reflect the actual result plus or minus the MoE) and the MoE on a sample of 800 is around +/- 3.5%.
Terry Aulich from UCan usually publishes a poll (I can’t remember the brand name they use) in the week before the election, and while he claims it’s always right, my memory is that the methodology is pretty suss.

Another part of the problem with the ACT is the Hare Clark system makes it hard to get specific results – if you spend good money on a 800 sample you need to break it down to electorate level which is 270 odd, so the error gets larger as you look at the seats themselves. This is significant as the final seats have in the past been decided by mere handfuls of votes – from memory Zed was only a couple of hundred votes ahead of Hettinger in 2004, and Dunne was less than 100 ahead of Hird in 2001.

jakez jakez 3:38 pm 30 Sep 08

caf said :

jakez: The major expense is in paying people to sit on the end of a phone, read out questions and write down the answers. You need to pay for one-on-one time with at least 800 respondents.

Yep good call (and 800 is pretty low for statistical significance as well).

caf caf 3:34 pm 30 Sep 08

jakez: The major expense is in paying people to sit on the end of a phone, read out questions and write down the answers. You need to pay for one-on-one time with at least 800 respondents.

caf caf 3:32 pm 30 Sep 08

Polls cost the same to run in the ACT (you need the same sample size to get a reasonable result) as they do in NSW or Victoria, but the newspapers in those markets have a lot more revenue to pay for them. Even WA and SA don’t have polls of great quality, and NT and Tasmania usually get nothing, like us.

jakez jakez 3:32 pm 30 Sep 08

Mmm that is a lot of money. Certainly a justifiable expense for major Parties so that they can efficiently target their campaigns. For bush league Canberra Times? Probably not so much.

However I remember them doing it in the past. Does anyone remember if they did/did not publish a poll for 2004?

Why is polling so expensive? Which aspect is the real money burner?

S4anta S4anta 3:18 pm 30 Sep 08

Cash. piling $10k to $20k into a poll that will more than likely mean very little in terms of a dramatic change of constituents voting patterns for a few columns isnt the sort of thing Fairfax gets into.

Its Canberra. Those that feel disillusioned with the majors will vote for the independants or greens. And thats even before you look at the simple fact that a large proportion of our ageing population will do what our esteemed elders have always done over the years and adopt a ‘dont re-invent eh wheel’ position, which invariably will mean the majors get the loions share and the last few musical shares will come down to preferences.

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