Monday, 12 October 2009

No mixed message about who’s winning


The opinion polls this morning might have had a mixed message about who is best to lead the Liberal Party but they are still as one about who would win an election. AC Nielsen in the Fairfax papers, Newspoll in The Australian and the Morgan poll on its website have Labor comfortably in front with a two party preferred vote of 57%, 58% and 59.5% respectively.
I notice that Gary Morgan believes Malcolm Turnbull should follow the line taken by Sir Robert Menzies in the Second Dunrossil Memorial Lecture when asked by his father Roy Morgan about public opinion being different than what he believed:
We live in a world of mass-movements, in which public-opinion polls are for so many a quick and easy way of finding out what other people think, and therefore, for the sake of conformity, how they should think. Public opinion polls disturb me greatly; not because I question their accuracy or their integrity, but because of their inherent limitations. The appeal is from Philip Sober to Philip Drunk; from individual judgment and responsibility essential to civilisation, to superficial mass judgment; to finding out “what people want”.
I have an old-fashioned lawyer’s prejudice in favour of ascertaining the facts before pronouncing the judgment, and therefore pay little attention to kerbstone opinions.
A political leader inevitably reads the published polls. He will learn much from them. But he is no leader if he is persuaded by them to follow a course which he would otherwise not approve. He will do better on appropriate occasions to say  — “Here is a popular error; I must do my best to correct it!”
The danger to which I have referred, of the overwhelming of individual judgment by mass opinion, is one which tends to be increased in the new age of the computer. The quick and accurate mathematical machine threatens to become a sort of “witch-doctor”.
The human brain and the human spirit are still the creative elements without which true human progress will be arrested
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