By Denis Bright
In the absence of a high-profile opinion polling in the forthcoming Queensland election, I took the initiative of contacting YouGov in Sydney about the expected date of their next comprehensive opinion poll. It is a long time since the last opinion poll from Newspoll through YouGov in late July 2020.
This poll indicated a close result after preferences. The anticipated outcomes were closer than the margin of error in state-wide polling in a state with a very diverse demography. This adds to the potential margin of error in the polling results.
That Pox on Both Your Houses?
Research from the Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) in 2017, showed up other variables.
There was a high level of informal voting particularly in disadvantaged electorates on the outskirts of urban areas in South East Queensland. Informal voting was in excess of 6 per cent in eight electorates. Long before the COVID-19 problems in 2017, the apparent failure to vote was running in excess of 15 per cent in sixteen electorates. Still an unknown percentage of potential voters had not bothered with electoral enrolment obligations.
Electoral rolls are managed by the federal government through the AEC which is also responsible for publicity campaigns to encourage enrolments.
Many potential voters are turned off by formal politics and the shrill nature of political debate which is conducted through the media.
Then, there is the obscure role played by political public opinion polling. This is accepted as a social reality. Scoop public opinion polls assist with promotional efforts by print, online and electronic media outlets.
Australia suffers from a lack of diversity in its opinion polling networks compared with Britain and European countries. The Politico web site offers a consensus of polling results. Readers who are interested in public opinion in Britain and Europe will enjoy looking at the results on the Politico site which cover thirty countries plus elections of the EU itself.
Australia is increasingly locked into Newspolls administered by YouGov.
Newspoll was once an arm of News Corp Australia. However, News Corp allowed its political polling to be administered by Galaxy Research. This was taken over by YouGov:
YouGov set up its own Australian business two years ago, using data collected from its proprietary panel of members to provide syndicated data products and services. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
David Briggs, the founder and managing director of Galaxy, will lead the combined business and team of 11 employees in Australia, which will initially operate under the brand YouGov Galaxy.
Stephan Shakespeare, CEO of YouGov, said: “With its reputation for accuracy and an excellent roster of corporate market research clients, Galaxy was an obvious fit for the YouGov Group. This acquisition increases our presence in Australia which is a significant market and one which is strategically important to our international clients.”
Briggs, added: “Becoming part of YouGov gives Galaxy access to an enviable global profile, a high-quality proprietary panel and operating platform.”
By global corporate standards, YouGov is quite a small company but with massive strategic influence over world politics from its network of nine million panellists worldwide in UK, USA, Europe, the Nordics, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Limited details are available of this network from the YouGov site. It has a network of one million panellists in the UK alone. This vast network of panellists can be randomly sampled on both political and marketing questions in a manner which could not be done by Newspoll itself within the global News Corp stable.
Welcome to the YouGov Network
YouGov incorporates political opinion polling into its wider marketing outreach:
YouGov is an international research data and analytics group headquartered in London.
Our data-led offering supports and improves a wide spectrum of marketing activities of a customer-base including media owners, brands and media agencies. We work with some of the world’s most recognised brands.
Our suite of data solutions includes YouGov BrandIndex, YouGov Profiles, YouGov Omnibus and YouGov Custom Research.
With a proprietary panel of over 9+ million people globally and operations in the UK, North America, Mainland Europe, the Nordics, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, YouGov has one of the world’s largest research networks.
YouGov data is regularly referenced by the press worldwide and we are the most quoted market research source in the UK.
In Australia, YouGov has an association with the Murdoch Press and with other News Corporation television and print outlets worldwide. The precise nature of this association was the subject of my request for YouGov to assist in the preparation of this story line. Our readers might be able to better define this association. I offered YouGov a chance to offer block quotes for inclusion in my story line to ensure that the complex associations were precisely covered.
There can be no doubt of the power of marketing network in both politics and corporate life. Such links are not widely discussed in mainstream media networks. YouGov reveals something of its marketing approach to politics and even their assessment of elites in Britain.
Self-promotion works wonders as shown by the latest scoop from YouGov’s B&T Magazine. Images of Sydney’s 2GB King of Radio Breakfasts Ben Fordham are so larger than life that they are confusing the autopilots on Telsa cars:
“Sydney’s new king of breakfast radio Ben Fordham is stopping Sydney traffic and it has nothing to do with his ratings-hit 2GB show.
With his face plastered on the back of Sydney buses, Tesla cars have been thrown into disarray with its autopilot system confusing the radio host’s mug for a real person and automatically hitting the breaks.
Fordham talked about the strange incident earlier this week on his show.
He said: “What’s happening is that there’s a function in Tesla vehicles called autopilot. But the computer looks at what’s going on around and if it identifies what it believes to be a pedestrian, it will hit on the brakes,” Fordham said.
“[It] thinks that I’m a pedestrian as opposed to a poster!”
The Tesla autopilot issue was posted as a video to YouTube on September 27 by David Jones” (bandt.com.au).
Major shareholders in YouGov are BlackRock Inc, a major US global investment manager with assets of $US 7.4 trillion under management and the world’s largest shadow bank as well as Standard Life Aberdeen which is the largest asset manager in the UK.
In this Brand-New World, the strategic timing of irregularly placed political opinion polling can influence outcomes in close elections. Even quite ethically based polling works wonders for print and electronic network ratings. Voters like to be on a winner like the horse race punters of old who relished in accessing tips from racing insiders. The world has changed but our information bases for decision-making have become somewhat more sophisticated and more existential. The UAP is a specialist in political populism from the 2019 federal elections.
A strategically placed poll just when the Queensland Government is entering its caretaking period can have a big impact on the viability of a government with the slenderest majority of just one seat away from minority government from the 2017 state elections.
If the next opinion poll strongly supports the Palaszczuk Government, it will have little impact on election outcomes. However, it will be a different matter if the voting patterns from the July polling are repeated to slow a line-ball outcome after preferences from minor parties.
Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) is on the scene again to stir up politics particularly in disadvantaged electorates.
The UAP’s flamboyant style of politics invites a protest-vote from the legions of Queenslanders who have little interest in formal politics (Ben Snee of The Guardian 3 October 2020). UAP preferences are directed against Labor with a vengeance.
“No analyst or pollster believes Palmer’s United Australia party – which is yet to announce candidates in 50 electorates – can win more than a minor share of the vote in any Queensland seat. So what does the state’s richest man hope to achieve by pouring more personal millions into his own political outfit?
“Up here there’s a saying: don’t listen to what a man says, watch what he does,” says Jen Sackley, a former official and candidate for Palmer’s United Australia Party.
“This is a Liberal man. He was a National and Liberal man most of his life. As far as I’m concerned, we were a lobby group for the Liberal party in yellow shirts.”
Sackley was the party’s north Queensland director and its regional campaign manager at the 2019 election. Palmer spent $83.6m on his garish “Make Australia Great” election advertising. In the final weeks, the businessman changed strategy and launched a series of attacks ads designed to damage and discredit Labor, rather than attempting to win seats for the United Australia party.”
Politics in the COVID-19 Era
This time there will be a significantly larger percentage of postal and pre-polling votes if the precedents of the local government elections in Brisbane on 28 March 2020 are repeated (Anthony Green 19 April 2020):
During March the Electoral Commission reacted to the emerging health emergency by encouraging voters to make use of postal and pre-poll voting. It also broadened access to telephone voting, an option previously only available for blind and low vision voters. The new public health rules prevented the Electoral Commission from visiting retirement homes and hospitals, and also prevented the use of Electoral Visitor voting.
The effect of Coronavirus on turnout was less dramatic then the impact it had on how people voted. In the Brisbane City Council Lord Mayoral election, turnout fell from 84% in 2016 to 79.9%, a drop of only 4.1%. That is a remarkable turnout given the health concerns.
But using Brisbane ward election results, on the day voting fell from 66.0% in 2016 to only 26.5% in 2020. Pre-poll voting rose from 13.2% to 28.7%, postal voting from 12.2% to 23.9%, end telephone voting recorded 8,428 votes (1.4%) compared to only 151 votes in 2016.
Absent voting also leapt from 7.4% in 2016 to 18.3% in 2020. This figure hides some of the increase in pre-poll votes. In 2016 pre-poll votes recorded outside of a voter’s home ward were recorded as pre-poll votes. In 2020 outside of ward pre-polls were counted as absent votes.
In a community under stress from both public health and financial hardships, there is certain to be a big existential factor in this year’s Queensland elections.
Many will look to guidance from strategically timed opinion polling with claims from YouGov about is incredible track record. Delaying the major polling will enable the UAP to be registered in the two forthcoming major pre-election polls.
Stresses abound in 2020 during the worst recession since the 1930s and are certain to intensify if the LNP has chance to regain control of the policy levers at state and federal levels to impose that social and workplace discipline that the corporate sector craves in difficult times.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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