December 10, 2003


"Public backs Latham's Bush attack," claims The Age:

Almost half the Australian public agree with Mark Latham that US President George Bush is "incompetent and dangerous", according to a poll.

An ACNielsen AgePoll of 1363 people taken last weekend found that 45 per cent of Australians agree with the blistering attack by the new Opposition Leader on the head of Australia's most important ally, while 52 per cent disagree.

So most Australians don’t back Latham’s Bush attack. Here’s a rewrite, offered free of charge to The Age’s copyfixers:

A majority of the Australian public disagree with Mark Latham that US President George Bush is "incompetent and dangerous", according to a poll.

An ACNielsen AgePoll of 1363 people taken last weekend found that 52 per cent of Australians disagree with the blistering attack by the new Opposition Leader on the head of Australia's most important ally, while 45 per cent agree.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 10, 2003 11:55 AM

And, on the bright side, it means that 52% don't believe much of what they read in The Age.

Posted by: Marko at December 10, 2003 at 12:16 PM

And here's the truth: Given the statistical confidence levels in a poll of this size and nature, and given the results are so close, all the poll can be said to indicate (and only indicate) is that opinion is probably roughly evenly split.

Which we all knew already, so thanks for nothing.

Both Age and Blair interpretations are invalid and possibly biased.

Posted by: Nemesis at December 10, 2003 at 12:24 PM

Nemesis, if everything here is useless, then why are you reading this blog? Quite frankly I don't get it. Don't you have a life?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 12:34 PM

While Nemesis' totally misses the point of Tim's comment, his statistics are shonky.

Using Nemsis' assumed confidence levels (so that 45% agree with Latham would be interpreted as a half) it would be equally true (and equally misleading) to say the poll indicates that 40% agree with Latham and 57% disagree.

Posted by: procrustes at December 10, 2003 at 12:46 PM

Sounds like something the ABC would dream up. Have just made the mistake of listening to the Absolutely Biased Corporations mid-day World Today. What a load of crap!

Posted by: Kate at December 10, 2003 at 01:57 PM

With all due respect, not even remotely a representative sample, and a lame argument at best.

And, if we didn't go in N-man, you wouldn't being saying sh** when you had your a** handed to you by those wonderful jihadists, if you get my drift.

Oh, and like Gore would have had a handle on world affairs. I don't think so.

I'm sorry, I forgot, he would have been too busy updating his invention--the Internet.

Posted by: joe at December 10, 2003 at 02:04 PM

Anybody know what Latham's current public position on Bush is? The Age report claims "he refused to back down from [the dangerous/incompetent remark] last week".

As far as I could see, he declined to re-endorse his claim, saying something like "remark of an individual in the heat of debate about the war".

Perhaps not a "back down", but not exactly standing by his words.

Posted by: JML at December 10, 2003 at 02:36 PM

Hey, if y'all sheep shaggers don't like Bush don't vote for him.

Posted by: Man Mountain Molehill at December 10, 2003 at 02:54 PM

Who you callin sheep shaggers? New Zealand's thattaway!

Posted by: slatts at December 10, 2003 at 02:59 PM

Uh, Nemesis, the "Blair interpretation" is that 52% is a majority. That's not biased, that's simple mathematics.

Posted by: Dave S. at December 10, 2003 at 03:01 PM

Latham reversed so hard he backed over Beazley. He's already had a cap-in-hand meeting with the US Ambassador to repair his image and reputation with the Yanks. He has also commented that what he said as a back-bencher would not be the types of comments he will make as Oppo-Leader. Why not? Lack of back-bone? He realised perhaps that making stupid, loud-mouthed, comments as a virtual nobody back bencher can really bite you on the arse down the road.

I have this poster on my cell wall at work, part of it reads "Help me to be careful of the toes I step on today as they might be attached to the arse I have to kiss tomorrow". I should email it along to Lats.

Posted by: Jake D at December 10, 2003 at 03:35 PM

The headline could equally have read:

"Public thinks Bush competent and safe"

Posted by: MJO at December 10, 2003 at 04:43 PM

Why are you roosters all so hung up on the past? This is all old news.

Me? I'm looking ahead, to the future. Eat my dust, plonkers!

Posted by: Mark at December 10, 2003 at 04:47 PM

Whether or not it's more than less than half, I find it a little worrying that roughly half of the population view him as "incompetent and dangerous".

Posted by: Andjam at December 10, 2003 at 06:26 PM


As that would be a deviation (for the better, for certain) from the usual manner of reporting the outcome of opinion polls, it would still be a bias indicator.

Usually, polls are pubished with figures pinned down to the last tenth of a percentage point, with a margin of error disclaimer stuck at the bottom. Thus, as Blair is only following standard procedure, his point stands. Yours however, does not.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

Posted by: Döbeln at December 10, 2003 at 07:24 PM

I think Andjam makes the point that the original author was getting at... that such a high level of support for Latham's comments was unexpected.

If the issue was an open contest - then I agree Tim's version is more appropriate. But if it is in the context where we assume people disagree with Latham's comment - then 48% agreeing is higher than expected... and THAT is what is newsworthy.

Also, nemisis's maths isn't necessarily wrong, depending on the confidence interval. If the difference between the two numbers is within the confidence interval then the null hypothesis that people have a clear opinion in one direction or another would have to be rejected. Still, all of this makes no difference to Tim's original point (of biased reporting) or the appropriate counter-point (that the reporter was reporting on the more newsworthy issue).

Posted by: 24601 at December 10, 2003 at 10:05 PM

agreed with tim, a disastrous attempt at spinning figures to suit viewpoint, but also half agree with andjam.

it ain't the headlines here, it's the content. i have no particular truck with polls as such, but if the figures are real, then we can genuinely sleep happily tonight.

where andjam worries, i feel a surge of optimism. 45% agree with him? god i love this country! i'm off to the pub,



Posted by: chico o'farrill at December 10, 2003 at 10:52 PM

MMM, I think you meant to say second-place in Rugby World Cuppers instead of Sheep Shaggers. Or is it Skippy Shaggers?

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at December 10, 2003 at 11:55 PM