If you’ve visited ABC Online in the last few months, you will have seen multiple stories born of the broadcaster’s so-called “Australia Talks National Survey.” It isn’t a national survey at all, of course. Gerard Henderson:
Which leads to the question – how representative is the Australia Talks National Survey? Well, between 20 July and 29 July 2019, a total of 54,970 people, covering every Australian State and Territory and every Federal electorate, completed the survey’s 500 or so questions. Even so, the survey was essentially directed at the ABC’s viewers/listener base. As the ABC’s Australia Talks promotion material states:
Participants in the Australia Talks National Survey were selected from the Vox Pop Labs online respondent panel, comprised of a diverse cross-section of Australians. The panel was recruited from Australians who have completed ABC Vote Compass surveys in the past and who said they were willing to participate in further research projects.
That’s pretty clear then. The Australia Talks National Survey is primarily a survey of respondents who are accustomed to interacting with the ABC through its Vote Compass initiative. In short, it’s not representative of all Australians – since, for example, ABC TV always rates behind television networks Nine and Seven and sometimes Ten. In other words, the ABC appeals to a minority of Australians.
Notwithstanding that the survey is clearly rigged, what happens when a majority of even these respondents come down on the politically ‘wrong’ side of a question? The ABC immediately hoses down the result using ‘experts’ and the old “divided nation” trope, that’s what:
If you just work harder you’ll get ahead.
It’s a seductive concept, and essentially the view of 50 per cent of Australia Talks respondents, who agreed with the statement: “In Australia, anyone who works hard enough can get out of poverty.”
Forty per cent of respondents disagreed.
For those who haven’t followed it, the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey questioned nearly 55,000 people across the community to get a nationally representative sample of what the nation thinks.
And a majority of people across the nation think “if you have a go, you’ll get a go.”
There’s logic to this view — Australia is a developed country with solid public education and health systems that should, at least in theory, offer everyone in the community a baseline of opportunity from which talent and hard work can shine through.
But those who work on the frontlines of poverty reduction almost unanimously say the notion that hard work alone can lift someone out of poverty is just plain wrong.
Then the chastisement is really dished out:
Emeritus Professor Frank Stilwell from Sydney University’s Department of Political Economy has just written a book on economic inequality in Australia and around the world, and he isn’t shocked by the Australia Talks response.
“Frankly, if you haven’t lived in a state of extreme poverty yourself, you’re unlikely to understand the vicious circle characteristics that actually prevent people escaping from that trap in practice…”
“So, the fact that 50 per cent of people effectively blame the poor for not working hard enough to get out of poverty doesn’t surprise me at all.
“But I think if the roles were reversed they might see the situation a little more sympathetically.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere on ABC Online’s main page this morning: