Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Rambles - opinion polls, a dispute at the opera with just a dash about writing

Yesterday's post (Will PM Gillard win the next election? And possibly why) drew a comment pointing to the latest poll showing an apparently stronger than expected result for the Newman Government in Queensland. This contrasted with my perception that it had been slipping in the polls, something that I would have expected at this stage in the life of any change government,

My interest lay in the impact that the new(ish) governments in the Eastern states were having on the Gillard Government's chances, but I hadn't seen the poll so I went investigating. In a piece on Pollytics  (Qld State Polling and Bad Analysis) Possum Comitatus points to the methodological difference between this latest poll and alternative measures. The later suggest that the the position of the Newman Government has indeed weakened.

At his place, Don Aitkin wonders about the future of the Greens - Go the Greens! (But where?). I wonder, too. Meantime, marcellous has been in disagreement with Don (As I was saying) on Opera, more precisely what it is and is not. I am not an opera lover, although I have enjoyed those performances I have been too. I browse marcellous' descriptions of the various concerts he goes to in part for the writing, in part because it is another slice of local life.

In a somewhat loose segue, over on Club Troppo, Richard Tsukamasa Green's Australian Art : In the suburbs, and below them begins:

Last week I was reading Why Nations Fail. The topic is of close interest to me, but the book was an aggravating mix of the detailed and insightful ideas, and of furious handwaving substituting for a central framework[fn1]. The day was too pleasant for aggravation, and called for greater things. So I turned from the topic of institutions to another topic in which I have a deep, but decidedly niche interest in.

Dog walking in Newcastle drains, and what I like the most in Australian art.

Attracted by this introduction, I read on. Like Richard, I am interested in the variety and detail of local life. Like Richard, I think that literature and film is somewhat unrepresentative of the variety in Australian life. Like Richard, I think that children's books are probably the best portrayal of that variety. However, I have to part company with him on his typology.

Australian art (in the form of literature and film) is afflicted, Richard suggests, with three horrible Australias that substitute for the Australias we actually live in.

The first is the fake hinterland. The small country town, the drover, the bush. Australia has always been mainly urban, but this doesn’t rid us of the idea that the rural is an authentic part of a nation’s soul, and the city a false one – so we end up with a literary bush that represents neither Australia, nor even the bush that exists. We should be thankful I guess. This distrust of the urban led to pogroms elsewhere, here it just led to shitty literature.

The second is focus group suburbia. Apparently the same demographers that control political campaigns also write dramas for television. They’re understanding of the country is as strong, and as fruitful in both contexts. The resulting product is for an average Australia in suburban Sydney or Melbourne that doesn’t exist, and is resolutely (and carefully) boring.

The third is determined to address the chronic underrepresentation of middle class white people on TV. They’re there to remind you that the self conscious Fitzroy/Newtown monoculture is fascinatingly distinct, despite all evidence to the contrary. To remind you that all one needs to know about an entire society is found in a shallow pond of wealthy lawyers.

Looking at this typology and subsequent remarks left me with the feeling that Richard might actually be guilty of some of the same sins that he accuses others' of! 


Anonymous said...

Experience teaches us that the OZ's Newspoll is the gold standard

Jim Belshaw said...

You may be write anon. But don't the two polls measure different things? The newspoll seems to be based on progressive polling over a period, the other opinion at points in time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

I followed your Pollytics link, and I see what your point is (and agree), but I have to say the best bit was:

"So let this be a lesson in the dangers of timeliness when it comes to polling. Polling aggregated over long periods of time in dynamic political environments runs the risk of telling you a story that is at best meaningless and at worst completely wrong."

Given the next QLD election is quite a few news cycles away from imminent, I would suggest the writer perfectly displays all of the ills he/she decries.


Anonymous said...

"gold standard"?

That term used to mean something before it began to be applied to such meaningless piffle as 'voter intentions' years out from any possibility of 'voter decisions'.

Jim, I thought you raised the polling in terms of the national significance - and it may have some relevance in that context.

Elsewise, not so much, if any.


Jim Belshaw said...

Cruel, kvd, cruel! I was concerned with national significance and only as one piece of evidence in a pattern that may extend if certain other things hold.

Forecasting in politics is a bit like forecasting in economics. The value of the actual forecast at a point is limited. What is far more interesting and useful is the delineation of key variables on which the forecast is base. When the forecast goes wrong as it so often will, then you have a base for looking at the variance. That actually does help in refining and changing.

Anonymous said...

Further thought on 'gold standards' in this brassy age: I wonder what a poll about polls would show in Australia?



Jim Belshaw said...

I suspect, kvd, that you might find some of the same responses. However, in this country there is so much technical scrutiny of the polls that overall acceptance is probably higher.