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Friday, 15 April 2022 06:08

AFR shows it does not know difference between poll and focus group Featured

Phil Coorey: one of the government's mates in the media. Phil Coorey: one of the government's mates in the media. Courtesy ABC

The Australian Financial Review, which claims to be one of the country's top newspapers, does not appear to know the difference between data from a poll and a focus group, judging by a report written by its political editor, Phil Coorey, on Thursday.

This level of ignorance is not surprising; the Sydney Morning Herald, another newspaper owned by the same company, Nine Entertainment, showed that it was clueless about encryption, boldly proclaiming in October 2020 that technology companies could open "very small" encryption backdoors to enable government agencies to snoop on encrypted communications.

But in this case, the AFR's screw-up appears to be an error of commission.

Using what were answers to two focus groups — consisting of five people each — Coorey concluded that undecided voters were leaning towards voting for the Coalition Government.

coorey deceit

The original headline on Coorey's article can be clearly seen here.

The headline on this report was changed after it was published, but as the screenshot in this article shows, the AFR referred to it as a poll, not data from a focus group.

Coorey is well known as a backer of the incumbent government and often provides a handy question during a media scrum to haul his mates out of trouble.

The Coalition has entered the election campaign trailing the Labor opposition, and needs all the help it can get from its friends in the media to get across the line.

coorey deceit2

The article with the new headline.

Coorey's very definite conclusions from the focus groups' data was in sharp contrast to the views of the company that conducted this exercise.

In his own report, Coorey quoted Ipsos Market Research as saying: “We cannot draw definitive conclusions using the results of two (focus) group discussions."

But this was buried in the report and figured only in the seventh paragraph. Given the attention span of most readers tends to be less than that of a butterfly, it is a safe bet that few saw this.

Australian journalists are a polarised lot, with some backing the left-of-centre parties and other tilting to the right. Balance is something that is totally missing. Coorey, thus, is not in some minority; he is very much part of the majority.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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