ABC Fact Check: Error-ridden and misleading The fisking edition

The RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit did a fact check on Chris Berg and my claim in our recent book Against Public Broadcasting: Why and how we should privatise the ABC and repeated in an article in The Spectator and on Sky News.

The verdict

Professor Davidson’s claim is flimsy.

I will let readers decide for themselves on this point.

In making the claim, Professor Davidson referred to a study published in 2013 which surveyed 605 journalists from a variety of organisations on their voting intentions.

True. The study was published in the peer reviewed journal Australian Journalism Review and a layperson version published at The Conversation.

Fifty-nine of these journalists were from the ABC, and only 34 of them answered the question on voting intention, with 25 either undecided or electing not to answer.


Of the 34 who did answer, 41.2 per cent, or 14, said they would vote for the Greens.


But experts told Fact Check that the ABC sub-sample was too small and the rate of undecided and non-response too high to be able to draw accurate conclusions from the survey on ABC journalist voting intention, let alone voting intention of all ABC employees.

This may well be what “experts” told the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit. But what did the author of the study say? The author of the study said: “It means that even though only a smaller number of journalists answered the voting intentions, which does increase the margin of error, it is still reasonable to conclude that there is a marked difference between the voting intentions of journalists at the three major media organisations”.

Upon releasing the findings in 2013, the author of the study himself, Folker Hanusch, inserted numerous caveats about using sub-samples of the survey, including that the margins of error would be larger than those for the total sample. Professor Davidson neglected to include any of these important caveats in making his claim.

Upon releasing the findings in 2013 at The Conversation it was reported: “Sub-samples of journalists’ responses to some questions – such as voting intentions – are likely to have a higher margin error, however, appropriate statistical methods were used in testing for differences between sub-samples to take account of the smaller sample sizes”.

Experts contacted by Fact Check, including Professor Hanusch, also took issue with comparing the results of the survey with larger, more stable studies of the voting intention of the general population, such as Newspoll.

We did not compare the results of the Hanusch study to Newspoll.

Whilst the survey found that Australian journalists in general tend to skew left, it showed no evidence that ABC journalists were five times more likely to vote for the Greens than the general public, and experts contacted by Fact Check said they did not know of any other recent studies which canvass the voting intentions of ABC journalists.

Indeed the Hanusch study did not find ABC journalists being nearly five times more likely to vote for the Greens than the general public – Chris and I calculated that statistic using the Hanuasch study and the 2013 election results. The RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit has (incorrectly) criticised us for comparing the Hanusch study to Newspoll so they know that we had augmented the data for our analysis.

University of New South Wales statistician Jake Olivier compared the survey results with those of Newspoll over the same survey period, and found ABC journalists were 2.4 times more likely to vote for the Greens.

This is the same RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit that just three paragraphs ago criticised me for not talking about margins of error and the like that has now neglected to include Jake Olivier’s full analysis. Let’s go to the tape: “Using this model, he calculated that ABC journalists have a 2.9-fold increase in the odds of preferring the Greens over Newspoll respondents, with a 95 per cent confidence interval between 1.6 and 5.2”. That range includes our estimate of nearly five time (actually 4.74 times). Note, however, we didn’t use Newspoll – we used actual election results.

But he cautioned that the sample size of ABC journalists was too small to make strong conclusions about this result.

I can’t possibly comment on whether Jake Olivier’s analysis has correctly adjusted for small sample sizes. It is not peer-reviewed research. All I can say is that Folker Hanusch’s peer reviewed research did claim to have made use of the appropriate techniques.

Fact Check could find no research on the voting intentions of all ABC employees including those outside of the news division.

False claim – Chris and I spoke specifically about ABC journalists, the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit took it upon themselves to interpret our claim to include all staff given our proposal to privatise the ABC by allocating shares to all employees.

Now I could go on and do the whole of the RMIT-ABC Fact Check article, but I think people can get the idea.

This entry was posted in Books and writing, Media, Shut it down. Fire them all., Taking out the trash. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to ABC Fact Check: Error-ridden and misleading The fisking edition

  1. stackja

    Now I could go on and do the whole of the RMIT-ABC Fact Check article, but I think people can get the idea

    Yes! ABC ‘facts’ aren’t necessary facts. Meanwhile ABC ‘facts’ on DT are ‘facts’?

  2. Egor

    Garden variety fabian socialist foot soldiers and higher up Alinskyists doing “fact checking” as a means of virtue signalling is priceless.
    As useless as tits on a bulls, eh.

  3. DaveR

    Major errors in basic comprehension, false comparisons with referenced studies, logic errors riddled throughout, and the underlying intention to deflect or mislead prsnent at every opportunity.

    RMIT-ABC fact check unit: Not fit for purpose?

  4. Entrop

    Goodness me, it’s starting to be cruel to poor dumb animals. I think I will have to sick the RSPCA onto you Sinc.

  5. Shy Ted

    Professional liars ain’t gonna stop lying. And Malcolm ain’t on your side. Don’t waste your breath/time on reason and argument. Just ridicule them every chance you get.

  6. IRFM

    You are on a winner!. The delicious irony is that every time a conservative commentator/presenter could be appointed to the ABC the ‘established’ personnel rise up in horror. The desire to breach the walls using a ‘neocon/con’ of the ‘collective’ is an anathema to them.
    It is over 50 years since I read ‘Animal Farm’ – the every day with goings on in the ABC and the whole of the leftist community I see the old tale being ‘trotted’ out. Orwell Esq – you have a lot to answer for.

  7. Oh come on

    ABC investigates criticism of ABC, declares ABC is above criticism. This whole thing stinks.

  8. Chris

    ABC people are taking their pay in smug knowledge that they aree breaching their charter and have hijacked their budget from the Australian people.
    They are not of good character.

  9. Tom

    Notice how desperate the ABC is to prevent research into the political bias of its journalists? Notice how ABC journalists (in fact, journalists in general) are desperate to suppress research into how out of touch they are with common people as expressed by voting intention?

    These issues go to the heart of why journalists have never had less measurable credibility and trust from the public. That is because, at the ABC and other networks that campaign relentlessly for leftwing causes in their story selection and treatment, journalists see their role as overthrowing the public interest, which they see as misguided and unenlightened, not in serving the public interest.

    Journalists should welcome the scrutiny. It is bizarre that our so-called truth-tellers are trying to suppress the truth.

  10. Herodotus

    Agree, Tom. It’s also noticeable that on any day ending in Y the ABC will cheerfully use a poll result they like, regardless of it being based on a miniscule percentage of Australians. But, as we know, if the left didn’t have hypocrisy and deception they’d have not much to say.

  11. Mother Lode

    Experts contacted by Fact Check, including Professor Hanusch, also took issue with comparing the results of the survey with larger, more stable studies of the voting intention of the general population, such as Newspoll.

    So why did Professor Hanusch speak as if you had? Did he not look at what he was asked to assess? Did the ABC factcheckers just tell him and leave him to assess what they (inaccurately) told him.

    Or did he not actually say this particular thing but he is being counted in a group where someone else said it. Like having 4 people, A and B hate pineapple on pizza, and C & D love it. But you say “Some of the people in the group, including A, love pineapple on pizza.” A is indeed in the group.

    Or is this perhaps just how you do journalism.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    What I suspect happened is that the ABC people didn’t really understand what Chris and I did and got themselves confused. They then told Professor Hanusch what they thought we did via email (he is in Vienna at the moment) and he responded to the information he was given. Depending on how far Chris and I take this we might FOI all the emails and find out exactly what happened.

    To be fair to Professor Hanusch the ABC have had to throw his study under a bus.

  13. jupes

    Depending on how far Chris and I take this we might FOI all the emails and find out exactly what happened.

    Do it Sinc!

  14. DCM

    I don’t know why they have to ask ABC journalist’s these questions. You just have to go to their Twitter feeds and it soon very obvious which way they go.

  15. Habib

    Why are commies ashamed and angry about being outed as commies? It’s not as if there’s a House Un-Australian Activities Committee in place. Let’s face it, there’s a higher ratio of marxists in parliament than there is at the ABC.

  16. Habib

    Let’s face it, journalism is what those too stupid to get into law enrol in. The sooner the entire media croaks the better. Who the hell takes any notice of these vacuous, overpaid nincompoops any more? I’ve dropped my sub to the Oz, and haven’t watched or listened to a “news” broadcast in a decade.

  17. Pingback: Australian Media – ABC Complains: We’re Just Three Times More Green | PA Pundits - International

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