Claims emerge of opinion poll rigging


By Barry Tucker                    31 August, 2013

Evidence has emerged that at least some opinion polls are rigged. In one case, a journalist is alleged to have skewed his story to suit the agenda of his boss.

Earlier this week mining millionaire Clive Palmer said he gave large amounts of money to polling companies when he was a director of Queensland’s Liberal National Party (LNP*).

The Murdoch owned The Australian’s online edition quoted Mr Palmer as saying: “When I was a former party director there were polling companies that I used to give large donations to and they’d write the results for them [polls],” he said. This quote is not accurate. A transcript shows Mr Palmer was interrupted and The Australian’s journalist completed his remark for him.

The paper was reporting on Mr Palmer’s appearance on ABC TV’s Lateline on Tuesday night, 27 August. The link above takes you to a video replay and a transcript.

This is the exchange from the transcript of the Lateline interview:

“EMMA ALBERICI: In 11 days time you expect to win as many as 15 seats at the election, what gives you that confidence given the latest Channel seven ReachTEL poll has you winning no seats at all?

CLIVE PALMER: ReachTEL never have you winning anything. When I was former party director there were polling companies I used to give large donations to and they would write …

EMMA ALBERICI: Are you saying the polling’s rigged?

CLIVE PALMER: Of course the polling’s rigged. Rupert Murdoch owns Galaxy** poll and Newspoll and the media tries to set the agenda and determines the result of an election before it’s been held. That’s not a democracy, it’s up to the people.”

In today’s online magazine Crikey, senior journalist Andrew Crook wrote that Murdoch’s The Daily Telegraph has been caught out “spinning” the result of a Galaxy poll “designed to sledge Labor’s National Broadband Network” (NBN). Mr Crook did not say who had caught out Galaxy. Presumably it is himself.***

Mr Crook also points out that the poll was financed by listed virtual office company Servcorp, but this is not declared in the Telegraph story on the poll’s findings. Mr Crook also mentions that Servcorp has donated more than $1 million to the federal Liberal Coalition (the Opposition parties), although he states these donations do not appear in the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website. Cash donations to political parties have to be declared to the AEC and stories are emerging that donations totalling many millions have not been reported.

Labor watcher and biographer Bob Ellis has been running a series of articles on his blog and in online magazine Independent Australia (IA), claiming polls are being rigged. Mr Ellis and supporters also conduct small flash polling in limited areas. In an IA article published yesterday, Mr Ellis reported on a conversation he had with an unnamed Newspoll employee.

The story begins with a segment from the Lateline interview referred to above. Scroll down for the Newspoll conversation.

See also: Can news media influence election outcome?

* The Liberal National Party (LNP) is the Queensland version of National Party of Australia (the Nationals), the coalition partner of the Liberal/National federal Opposition.

 ** I am not sure that Murdoch owns Galaxy Research. Wikipedia says its poll results are published in Murdoch newspapers:  Herald-Sun, Courier-Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Newspoll data are published in The Australian.

*** On 4 October, 2007, Crikey’s Peter Brent reported on polling, under the headline: Forget the election contest, look at the pollsters

Update, 21 March, 2014

I have read a few academic articles that have wrestled with the question of what, if anything, drives the opinion polls. It’s a struggle that usually ends in an unsatisfying draw, the learned “judges” being unable to decide the matter.

On Monday, 17 March, 2014, I tweeted the following:

My tweet

Blogger and former Liberal party insider Paula Matthewson took up the issue with an article in The Hoopla the following day. In a brief piece, Ms Matthewson did what the academics and researchers have not been able to do. It’s simple psychology stupid. And a fair bit of logic.


A measure of trust

Comment and compilation by Barry Tucker          January 25, 2013

Public trust in all news media continues to decline, according to the latest Essential Research biannual Trust in Media survey.

The survey shows ABC News and Current Affairs has a greater level of trust than any other form of news media. I would like to see a detailed breakdown of the trust level of 73% because certain ABC News and Current Affairs programs have attracted a lot of criticism for a perception of Right-wing bias over the past two years at least.

Essential Research trust in news media survey results.

Essential Research trust in news media survey results.

Internet blogs rated a low 23% in the category “A lot of trust”. This may be due to the variety of blogs, which contain a mixture of news commentary, cynicism, sarcasm and humour. I would like to see comments of the people surveyed.


I am encouraged by a generally lower level of trust in Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited newspapers. Because I watch the news media closely, I worry about what the voting population makes of News Limited’s bias against the federal Labor government, which may not be obvious to newspaper readers.

The low level of trust in talkback radio is also encouraging, because this is another refuge for ratbags, Right-wing nut jobs, climate change deniers and everything else that’s wrong with modern society.

Liberal voters are more inclined to trust commercially owned and managed news outlets, rather than the ABC. Among newspapers, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian is the most vocal critic of perceived Left-wing bias in the ABC generally. Mr Mudoch has his own commercial reasons for maintaining political pressure on the ABC.


For a more detailed analysis of the survey, and a comparison with the results of the previous survey, see Bernard Keane, writing in

Visit Essential Research website:

A related matter

Kim Powell is a former journalist who is now studying for a doctorate and comments on the news media from the News With Nipples blog.

In a recent blog, Kim gives a thorough bucketing to the unbalanced and inadequately researched reporting of two senior political journalists writing for The Sydney Morning Herald on the Prime Minister’s selection of Ms Nova Peris to represent Labor in the Senate.

The everyday shit they call journalism

See Old media caught with pants down, again! for a more complete follow-up.

Trust in Australia’s major newspapers

The results of Essential Research Poll, published in

Comment and analysis by Bernard Keane   June 26, 2012

Includes some figures on commercial and Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) radio and TV news and current affairs.