A poll result I find hard to believe (two updates)

Nearly a week ago, I argued, in relation to the equal marriage survey that “most people will either respond straight away or not at all.” That was supported by an Essential poll, taken from Wednesday to Friday of the first week in which 9 per cent of those polled said they’d already responded. Since the first surveys were mailed out to rural areas on Monday, that looked like a rapid response. But the most recent Newspoll, conducted from last Friday to Monday reported only a 15 per cent response rate, even though nearly all those polled would have received the ballot. This didn’t reflect apathy or a boycott – the vast majority said they would definitely respond.

I don’t have any good reason to think Newspoll is drastically wrong on such a straightforward question, but I also can’t understand the result. Perhaps this is another example of the (apparently spurious) Pauline Kael fallacy, but everyone I know has already voted (mostly, though not exclusively, Yes). I’d appreciate any insights on this.

Update Essential has a poll out with 36 per cent saying they have already responded, 72 per cent of those saying Yes. No details yet on when the sample was taken, but it must overlap pretty closely with Newspoll. That’s a bigger difference between polls than I can recall seeing on any topic.

Further update Peter Brent in Inside Story quotes* leaked internal polling from the Yes side, reporting that 65 per cent of those polled had already returned their surveys. He describes this as “flabbergasting”, but it’s in line with my expectations. Still, the puzzle of how polls asking a simple factual question could yield such radically different answers remains unresolved. He makes the point that there’s always a reason for a leak, but this obviously isn’t what the Yes campaign would want to leak, since it implies that Yes has already won, or nearly so.

* Brent doesn’t give a link, but I dound the story here.

34 thoughts on “A poll result I find hard to believe (two updates)

  1. we certainly are having an overdue conversation/debate/rant /whinge to the fact that what the religiously intense call (with relevant it-is-written texts (chapter & verse)) abominations, are actually human beings and quite often family members.

    the collapse of the unregulated market in blackmail and extortion must be giving the beneficiaries of this market a severe case of the peeves.

  2. I just got a call in my home landline.

    Ring, ring


    “Hi, this is Senator Corey Bernardi from”


    I should have known it would be him. I never get calls on my landline any more. Even the marketers and surveys call on the mobile.

    If the premise of this thread is correct, Bernardi is too late with his robo calls.

  3. I finally got around to posting my yes vote. Maybe a lot of people are just lazy procrastinators with muted good intentions and general wish to live and let live. That’s the category I would put myself in. I don’t see that there’s any mystery in the response progress. After incompetence, laziness must explain a lot.

  4. “The theories that I (and others) helped develop explained why unfettered markets often not only do not lead to social justice, but do not even produce efficient outcomes.” – Joseph Stiglitz.

    I think Stiglitz would support J.Q.’s general position. We know who Stiglitz is. Who is Stephen D. Williamson?

    Williamson writes – “The tools of modern finance and macroeconomics are not the instruments of conservative elements in society, serving only to bludgeon the working class. These in fact are the tools of science, and as such they can be used effectively by liberals and conservatives alike to make the world a better place. Misrepresenting the tools of science as the products of some vast conspiracy is as anti-intellectual an activity as the promotion of ‘intelligent design’ as science, or the dismissal of informed scientific views on climate change.”

    The claim that the tools of modern finance and (market fundamentalist) macroeconomics are scientific tools, rather than ideological tools, is risible. Williamson’s denials indicate exactly what IS happening. The tools of modern finance and market fundamentalist style macroeconomics ARE used to bludgeon the working class. This is precisely their purpose: to reduce the wage share of the economy, to increase the profit share of the economy, to increase the wealth and power of a tiny elite and to reduce the rest of the population to poverty and helplessness.

  5. @Mr MIT

    The link to Stephen D Williamson’s review of Prof Quiggin’s book “Zombie Economomics” does not fit the topic of this thread. Given Williamson’s (unpublished, I take it) review is now published on JQ’s blog, I take the liberty of saying a few words.

    There is only 1 point I agree with Williamson. It is his critique of using ‘irrationality’ as a plug in assumption for phenomenon that is not understood (‘we cannot make sense of it’ as he aptly put it).

    Williamson seems to have totally misunderstood JQ’s book.

    IMHO, JQ’s book starts with empirical observations on the history of institutional changes (‘policies’ that entered legislation primarily in the Anglo-Saxon segment of the global economy) during the period leading up to the GFC and traces these to economic beliefs (the named categories), which were indeed empirically verifiably used to promote the institutional changes.

    Williamson critique assumes that JQ’s book is a critique of the academic literature during the said period and then proceeds to ‘prove’ JQ to be wrong.

    But Williamson’s treatment of the academic literature is totally unsatisfactory.

    1. Williamson’s treatment of the ‘efficient market hypothesis’ is a whitewash. He fails to acknowledge the Fama-Fisher-Jensen original efficient market hypothesis which clearly is defined in terms of the information that is supposed to be reflected in prices. It was this hypothesis which generated theoretical research under the heading fully revealing rational expectations equilibria (eg Grossman 1981, Hellwig 1980, Laffont 1985), using mathematical economics methods familiar in general equilibrium theory. The outcome, roughly speaking: the hypothesis is nonsense.

    Williamson uses the term arbitrage pricing theory, where an ‘equilibrium’ is characterised as the absence of profits from trade. This corresponds to the empirical methods used by the originators of the efficient market hypothesis to test their hypothesis’. Volumes of publications, done by their students followed, all of them overlooking the possibility that absence of profits from trade guarantees neither that all available relevant information is reflected in the prices nor too much information is reflected – resulting in the intellectual confusion of containing an implicit definition of what is ‘relevant’ (profit is the only relevant variable). Unfortunately, this intellectual confusion gained traction in practice because practitioners, in contrast to theoreticians such as those named above, tend to get impressed by numbers in papers that purport to contain empirical tests.

    2. It is unfortunate that Williamson refers to the Black and Scholes option pricing model as the example of arbitrage pricing. It is indeed an example where arbitrage pricing is used in the derivation. However, the most obvious question arising from studying this model is: Why do we need options if they can only be priced under conditions where they are superfluous?

    3. Williamson fails to explain how the Black and Scholes option pricing model is relevant regarding the efficient market hypothesis.

    4. What happens when the Black and Scholes option pricing model is used by practitioners who use past price data on the underlying securities?

    5. Williamson’s treatment of securitisation of debt (collatoralised debt obligations) is totally unacceptable because he fails to mention the extraordinarily strong assumptions regarding continuous trading to make any sense (ie to be rational in his sense) of the idea of applying a version of Markowitz risk diversification theory (of equity securities) to debt securities. Nothing has been learned, it seems, from the rather taxing works of theoreticians.

    6. SGE has a representative agent. This micro-economic foundation is unsatisfactory for practical purposes in the world we live in because markets are incomplete and hence the trick of MRS – price for all not represented agents no longer works. (see Lindahl equlibrium).

    7. Williamson mentions general equilibrium theory. There is a belief version and an analytical version. The latter gives great support for the importance of wealth distribution being not too unequal (minimum wealth condition). The support is no more than the logical requirement to make sense of the notion of ‘freedom of choice’.

    8. Finally and of interest to me, Williamson considers the USA to consist of two economies. I agree with him on this point. It is of interest to me because of my theoretical model of a partially segmented economy with multinational producers. However, I am perplexed when Williamson then jumps to talking about ‘countries’ and making comparisons between ‘countries’.

    My critique of Williamson’s critique is of course open to a long list of further critiques. What is the point?

    It is quite clear to me that the difficult but thorough work of theoreticians since the 1950s has been ignored in the policy area. Williamson not excluded. JQ has used a different approach, an approach that is accessible to policy makers and quite understandable to those who have lived through the epoch while studying and working in the not easily accessible theoretical literature in mathematical economics. JQ did not claim his book is a literature review but rather a policy review with emphasis being given to ‘successful’ economic beliefs, ie those which were adopted. I have come to this conclusion after querying explicitly or in my head only what JQ means with ‘mainstream economics’.

  6. Thanks Ernestine. Since you’ve taken the trouble to respond to this threadjacking, I’ll leave your comment up and the one from “Mr MIT”, who, I imagine, has never been nearer to MIT than when his application to do a PhD there was rejected.

    It’s surprising that anyone on Williamson’s side would want to revisit this debate, which made the pages of the New York Times, not in a good way for him. Krugman has some amusing tangential remarks, but the link to Noah Smith is really funny. My own response, invoking Pauli is here.

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