Biased poll respondents on biased journalists

There was more evidence in a Morgan poll earlier this week that ABC bias is perhaps the most lost of the lost conservative causes. In Morgan’s survey of media bias, just 2.5% of respondents could specify the ABC or one of its presenters as being biased to the left.

Overall, the survey suggests that perceptions of media bias are more the result of respondent bias than of specific grievances. While 24% of respondents thought that newspaper journalists were too left-leaning, only 3.5% could name a specific journalist or newspaper as being too left-wing. Similarly, of the 19% of respondents who thought that newspaper journalists were too right-leaning, only 3.5% could name a specific journalist or newspaper. Further, most of the journalists nominated as ‘biased’ to the left or right are columnists, and to say that a columnist is biased isn’t necessarily a criticism.

There is a similar phenomenon at work in attitudes towards politicians, in which politicians in general receive lower ratings for trust than the most well-known politicians (including the Prime Minister, even after years of people accusing him of being ‘tricky’ or a liar). Stereotypes are poor predictors of attitudes to specific members of the class of person being stereotyped.

23 thoughts on “Biased poll respondents on biased journalists

  1. “Most lost of the lost conservative causes” – What, in your view, are the other lost conservative causes? As a person who thinks of themselves as on left or progressive side of the politcal spectrum (but perhaps not always fitting in with the traditional definition of “left”), I know the progressive lost causes (opposition to free trade/globalisation probably being the major lost cause, but there are others). I would be interested to see what your view on the other conservative lost causes is, given your background on the right side of the political spectrum.

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  2. Christian – Some are so lost that they hardly talk about them anymore, such as the ‘traditional’ role of women, or exist only as last stands, such as against gay marriage. The monarchy survives as an institution but the idea is lost. Hansonite ideas on migration. Other commenters can probably think of more.

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  3. Yes those do seem to be very much lost causes Andrew! Interesting how you think that ABC bias is a more lost cause than some of those others – The “traditional” role of women is a very lost cause and was lost in the 70s. Whilst I myself don’t agree with the ABC bias argument (anybody who thinks they are biased should’ve watched Rudd get interviewed on Lateline tonight, he was grilled just like any Liberal would’ve been), I wouldn’t think that this cause would be the most lost one, but granted it would come close. Do you think the ABC should be privatised?

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  4. Christian – Perhaps I exaggerated! But if we restrict the list to causes at least some conservatives still point time into it must be one of the least promising in terms of persuading people there is an issue; there are still substantial minorities against gay marriage and the idea of a republic even though the long-term trend in opinion is not favourable for conservatives. And in the 2005 nearly a third agreed that “A preschool child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works”.

    Russell – There are still laws restricting abortion, prostitution and cannabis, all of which would (in the context of Christian’s comment) have more support than ‘ABC bias’.

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  5. Perhaps the trio haven’t been decriminalised everywhere yet, but where they largely have, conservatives still occasionaly mount campaigns for ‘stiffer penalties’ – I suspect this is more to reinforce their identity rather than with the real hope that they can turn the clock back.
    Re media bias: maybe the younger generation is confused about where the differences between ‘left’ and ‘right’ lie. If they were reading further out along the spectrum (John Pilger vs Theodore Dalrymple) the differences would be easier to identify. Though surely everyone can tell Phillip Adams from Gerard Henderson.

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  6. Christian – Tony Jones doesn’t count. One person I reckon is “biased” is Jeff McMullen. He just isn’t good at framing his questions from a Conservative perspective.

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  7. Russell – I think some states let you off with small quantities of cannabis, but generally as I understand it the drug remains prohibited, though fairly widely used. As the links between cannabis use and mental illness become clearer, I would think the conservative case against decriminalisation would become stronger. Street prostitution is illegal in most if not all places. Abortion is still in the crimes act, but with loopholes so large that it may as well not be.

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  8. OK – so they’re not lost causes for conservatives.
    BTW why do you say the conservative case against decriminalising cannabis would be stronger if the link with mental illness becomes clearer? If the use of cannabis doesn’t increase with decriminalisation (and apparently it hasn’t) what’s the point of re-criminalising it?

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  9. Russell – I don’t know enough about either the law or usage trends to know whether your empirical assumptions are correct (and with your previous disdain of statistical evidence I am prudent to be cautious). On the other hand, conservatives are not bound to this kind of empirical thinking. Criminalisation to them could be argued to set a moral standard or to signal society’s stance on an issue. It’s like the various apologies lefties favour, which will not necessarily have any practical effect.

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  10. Andrew – re prostitution, check the classfieds section of that favourite newspaper of patriotic Australian conservatives, the Daily Telegraph sometime. Ironic that there’s a whole section devoted to it in the classified in the Terror but not in the latte left publications. Moralism about prostitution is a dead cause – street prostitution is solely an issue of aesthetics.

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  11. Jason – Nobody is saying conservatives don’t use prostitutes; even conservative campaigners get caught with their pants down. In fact it would be logical for a conservative to argue that prostitution should be illegal, to take temptation out of the way.

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  12. I disagree on (10). Unenforceable and disrespected laws corrupt attitudes to the law and hence commonly corrupt law officers. Token apologies give people a warm inner glow without that.

    I reckon the “ABC bias” one is far from lost because its political purpose has been largely achieved – they’ve been nobbled and put in their box. Mind you, the Libs will rue this when the government changes because they won’t be as critical of a Labour government either.

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  13. Just to be clear, I am not advocating conservative positions, just explaining what they could say and rating their political prospects.

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  14. “In fact it would be logical for a conservative to argue that prostitution should be illegal, to take temptation out of the way.”
    That same conservative logic that says making abortion illegal means that women won’t have abortions? I retract my guess that most conservatives regard turning the clock back on abortion laws as a lost cause – I think most conservatives probably want the laws left as they are now, ie they’ve changed positions. Creatures like Tony Abbott surely aren’t all that representative of conservatives.
    Keeping prostitution illegal involves allowing the police to decide who will be prosecuted and who won’t … and we know where that leads.
    “Criminalisation to them could be argued to set a moral standard or to signal society’s stance on an issue. It’s like the various apologies lefties favour, which will not necessarily have any practical effect.”
    That’s an odd thing to argue – criminalisation has very practical consequences, one of the most self-defeating of which is to introduce your petty drug user to a much nastier type of criminal (if they go to jail). There are more constructive and cheaper ways for society to signal its stance.

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  15. Not quite Andrew … you didn’t write “conservatives would argue…” but “In fact it would be logical for a conservative to argue that prostitution …”

    and

    “As the links between cannabis use and mental illness become clearer, I would think the conservative case against decriminalisation would become stronger”

    So even though you then say “Just to be clear, I am not advocating conservative positions, just explaining …” it seemed to me that you really were supporting the conservative positions. But maybe not, if you were just playing devil’s advocate.

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  16. Russell – I have never in my life supported the criminalisation of any sexual activity between consenting adults, and in fact strongly oppose it; and while I would not automatically sign up to the libertarian view on recreational drugs I have, so far as I can recall, avoided the issue while being aware of what others advocate. In this case, I was neither supporting conservative positions nor playing devil’s advocate. Many of my posts describe or analyse without advocacy.

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  17. That’s true. I was probably doing what you warn of in your post (stereotyping) and thinking “That AN is right wing so what he’s saying is …. “

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  18. It is my personal opinion that left and right are only wedges, which blunt truthful conversation.
    The ABC has been hijacked by Howard, the staff are only allowed to criticise the opposition, due to the removal of their right to free speech. Phillip Adams is the only one with courage to call Howard’s bluff. Fear is a very strong weapon used in today,s climate, to manipulate and control staff who do not enjoy job security anyway.
    Re: Russell’s comment relating to cannabis and mental illness, are you qualified to make any judgment?. I would be interested to know.

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  19. Hi Andrew,

    I’ve started at blog at federalelection.com.au, a new site that will be dealing with election matters. It’s a non-partisan independant site. I’ve linked to you and wonder if you might like to include me on your blog roll?

    Cheers,

    Matthew

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