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A Compass in need of boxing

vote compass headline

Recently installed as Mark Scott 2.0,  new ABC chief Michelle Guthrie has studied the playbook and, being a smart woman, understands where Team Helix must direct its focus. “We need to see digital as an opportunity to connect with many more people than we currently do with existing platforms,” she told The Australian, suggesting that her emphasis will be on propagating the national broadcaster’s multifarious content, rather than attending to its quality.

The underlings who run Vote Compass must have been chuffed to hear that statement of intent, as it signals they can continue not only to twist, manipulate and massage “the data” with impunity but expect to see their “findings” broadcast to ever-larger audiences by colleagues in the News division. If that seems a dour appraisal of the ABC’s objectivity, consider the bulletins that have featured prominently in this morning’s broadcasts (Friday, June 3) about Australians’ alleged desire to see more action soonest to combat global warming. As Ms Guthrie would wish, her outfit’s typical and self-evidently slanted nonsense is being given the chance to “connect with many more people”.

The ABC’s headline, reproduced atop this post and available with full transcript here, makes no bones about the oracular ability of Vote Compass to divine the sentiments of the voting public. The overwhelming majority of “all Australians”, it asserts, are fretting about global warming, and not only in the inner-city enclaves where so many ABC employees live with their love interests and fellow ABC employees. No, according to Vote Compass, carbonphobia is rampant in the bush as well. And, most surprising of all, a very substantial body of Australians (41%) are dead keen to see a carbon tax of one sort or other.

Listen to the audio and be amazed, not merely that the ABC would ignore other polls in which climate change is ranked as a very low priority indeed, the national broadcaster declining even to mention them. More than a year ago, according to the NAB survey of issues that most concern the nation, climate change preoccupied a mere 13% of the population — a figure that just happens to roughly replicate The Greens’ share of the vote. Twelve months later, by the reckoning of Roy Morgan’s pollsters, it was down to 10%. Yet according to Vote Compass, the number of climate-fixated Australians is not only huge but growing year-to-year:

abc BS climate

Somehow, and just coincidentally with an election in offing, the ABC purports to have tapped a hitherto unobserved mother lode of anxiety about rising temperatures which,  in fact, haven’t risen for almost 20 years. Perhaps, in addition to bedding each other, a significant number of ABC journalists are also sleeping with climate scientists. As theories go it is every bit as valid on the strength of the evidence as the Vote Compass claim that global warming has the bulk of the population in a cold sweat.

What Ms Guthrie’s ABC has done, of course, is take its entirely unrepresentative sampling of visitors to the Vote Compass site and pretend those respondents are an accurate proxy for the nation as a whole. But how could that be, you may well ask?

The answer, according to the ABC, is that you will just have to trust it, as per the explanation(s) from the Vote Compass site. There is a long one and the shorter version below (emphasis added)

…the data is a non-random sample from the population and has been weighted in order to approximate a representative sample.

So, how does the ABC “weight” its approximations? Sorry, but while the public pays one billion dollars a year for the ABC, there is Secret Aunty Business which simply cannot be revealed:

Vote Compass does not make its protocols in this regard public so as not to aid those that might attempt to exploit the system, but among standard safeguards such as IP address logging and cookie tracking, it also uses time codes and a series of other measures to prevent users from gaming the system.

Trust the ABC, in other words, as Michelle Guthrie evidently does.

Then again, as a cynic might note, it might be a tad hard to notice procedural flaws and faux facts when the view of what goes on in departments on floors beneath the managing director’s office is obscured by a cloud of zeroes on a million-dollar pay cheque. That would be the remuneration, as Ms Guthrie explained her intention to The Australian, for staying the course and upholding the abysmal and unquestioning standards of her make-no-waves predecessor.

Vote Compass can be visited by following the link below, but there’s little point in filling out the questionnaire. Whatever your responses, the ABC will “weight” them until you , too, are listed as being terrified of CO2.

– roger franklin