Newspoll chief executive Martin O'Shannessy last night told a Canberra meeting of the Australian Market Research Society that he regretted writing an opinion piece for The Australian supporting the paper's interpretation of a recent controversial Newspoll.
The poll had shown a small rise in John Howard's standing as preferred prime minister. The newspaper led its July 10 edition with that news, running the banner headline ''Howard checks Rudd march'' alongside comment from political editor Dennis Shanahan. It became the subject of vigorous debate as to whether The Australian was distorting its polling to suit a political agenda.
O'Shannessy weighed into that debate on July 11 -- ''Martin O'Shannessy: Why PM rating is key to election'' -- defending his polling and the paper's interpretation of the significance of the preferred Prime Minister figure:
First, thanks to all the bloggers for taking note of the "poll wars" in The Australian yesterday. Now time to move on to something a little more serious.
I was stimulated to consider whether Dennis Shanahan was right when he interpreted the turnaround in John Howard's better prime minister rating as something more than merely encouraging. How could this be a turning point in the campaign if voter intention has not moved in spite of the Prime Minister's improved ratings?
The question is whether the data supports the view that a turnaround in Mr Howard's better PM rating presages an improvement in the Coalition's electoral stocks. The short answer to this question has been yes in the past three elections.
Last night O'Shannessy, speaking on a panel that also featured psephologist Malcolm Mackerras and journalists Jack Waterford and Karen Middleton, told the on-the-record gathering that he very much regretted writing in support of the newspaper's position, something he had done only at the urging of Dennis Shanahan, ''my mate Dennis''.
Sometimes, ''you get too close to your customers,'' O'Shannessy said. This was ''one of those times''.
''I did it and I was wrong. I'll never do it again'', he said.
Your Newspoll report is a highly selective interpretation:
Newspoll CEO Martin O'Shannessy writes: Re. "Newspoll chief regrets siding with The Australian" (yesterday, item 1). Your report is a highly selective interpretation of what was meant to be an education session for young members of the Market and Social Research Society as part of the Society's Professional Development Programme. It's true, I do regret getting my analysis wrong. Newspoll's own figures (provided by me) a fortnight after the article showed that my predicted revival in the Coalition primary - based on historical trends -has yet to materialise. I should point out that other prominent speakers also recalled bad predictions they had made in the spirit of educating young researchers. However, your contention that I wrote the article at the urging of Dennis Shanahan is just not right. I've been informed that Dennis first saw it when he picked up the paper the next morning. The article was entirely my own idea and the fact that The Australian ran it on the front page was my evidence to say they wanted it. I offered the piece to The Australian because I thought Dennis Shanahan's position was supportable.