‘Too many polls muddy the political water’
The masterminds behind a stunning victory for David Cameron in this year’s British election and four wins for John Howard say Australia’s political commentators rely too much on opinion polls.
Strategists Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor have bemoaned the frequency of published opinion polls, also questioning their accuracy, saying they made it increasingly difficult to communicate with voters.
Mr Textor, the electoral strategist for three serving prime ministers – the UK’s David Cameron, New Zealand’s John Key and Tony Abbott – says opinion polls “predict the wrong choice” and that “the fame of Newspoll and Ipsos and other published polls may well be working against them”.
In the British election in May, Mr Cameron was re-elected despite a 12-point deficit in opinion polls before the vote.
“I do think that one of the problems is that people, particularly commentators but many of us who are interested in politics and current affairs, have abdicated too much to polls,” Mr Crosby said.
The two men were speaking on Thursday at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Sydney.
“Everything is seen through the prism of what the poll apparently says rather than us drawing our own conclusions about what’s going on, talking to voters and understanding what really matters to them,” Mr Crosby added.
He said movements in polls, rather than issues, had become the story.
“When you look at the proportion of the percentage of time of news coverage devoted to the process of an election versus the issues of an election, it was well approaching 70 per cent in the UK where people were talking about the process of the election.”
There were more than 600 polls published in the two years leading up to the 2015 UK ballot.
“It really made it increasingly difficult to communicate with voters and they started to distort the process,” Mr Crosby said.
“They overwhelmed the campaign. And if you think a campaign should be about ideas and communication with voters to give them a sense of empowerment and understanding of issues, then I think we really had to question the roll that they started to play in the campaign.”
Mr Textor, citing former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s indigenous people in 2008, said that what had been forgotten by a lot in the political commentariat, “and indeed therefore in the community is the fact that sometimes you just need to make the case”.
“So I think there’s a benefit in good policy for politics but good policy cannot happen without good politics,” he said.
But it was now much harder, “because there’s so many false signals out of Twitter, out of online and out of the explosion of commentary”.
“There’s not less good commentators, there’s just more crazy ones,” Mr Textor said.