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ABC Bias ?

December 22nd, 2002

Here’s one for Uncle at ABCwatch. An ABC news report with the headline ” Polls show Labor support still sliding”. The report starts

Two polls out today say the Labor Party is continuing to lose support.

but the actual news is that

The Morgan poll said if an election was held this month, it would have been too close to call as the two-party preferred count is close.

before going on with a brief summary of a Newspoll, reported in more detail in the Oz under the headline Labor’s faithful desert Crean The key finding

According to a quarterly Newspoll analysis of polling in marginal and safe seats, done exclusively for The Weekend Australian, the Coalition’s support has risen in key marginal electorates from 41 to 44 per cent, while Labor’s is unchanged on 39 per cent.

At the November election, where marginal seats determined the Coalition victory, Labor support was 40 per cent and the Coalition’s 42.8 per cent. Were an election held now, the figures say the Coalition would have a clear victory.

So we have two polls, one showing a dead heat and the other showing a tiny swing to the Coalition on first preferences (the rise of the Greens, whose preferences strongly favour Labor, would probably offset this). Of course, Howard is romping in on the “preferred Prime Minister” poll, but the incumbent nearly always leads on this measure

In my view, the reporting of these polls is indicative of bias, but not of party-political bias. Rather it is the bias of the conventional wisdom (this marvellous phrase, like many others is due, I believe to JK Galbraith). The CW has it that Howard is sitting pretty and so evidence is reported as reinforcing it, even when it is, at best neutral.

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