Tex on Public Polls

May 29th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mark Textor writes:

As my business partner Sir Lynton Crosby noted at a post-election forum after the 2015 UK ballot, there were more than 600 polls published in the two years leading up to the election.

As reported in The Australian he observed: “When you look at the proportion of the percentage of time of news coverage devoted to the process of an election versus the issues of an election, it was well approaching 70 per cent in the UK where people were talking about the process of the election.”

My analysis would put Australian “process” percentage at round the same proportion.

And the geese parallels don’t end there.

Data obtained from Emeritus Professor Murray Goot of Macquarie University, show that in the UK, from the dissolution of parliament to election day there was a remarkable 3.5 polls per day published and force fed to voters. The same analysis shows that in Australia in 2013, despite having a significantly smaller voting population, there was an equally remarkable 3.2 polls per day from the proroguing of Parliament to election day.

Over the last decade and longer there has been a real change from reporting on policies and political issues to reporting on “process” stories.

Hundreds of polls will have been published since the last election and by the end of this campaign. And will the public be any wiser because of these? No, because like the process that produced foie gras, it’s the poor geese that get covered in shit. As my business partner points out: “If you think a campaign should be about ideas and communication with voters to give them a sense of empowerment and understanding of issues, then I think we really had to question the role that they [the polls] started to play in [campaigns].”

When you have this incredible frequency and focus on published polls it is the polls and their (usually small) vote movements that become the most frequent story rather then the issues. So we are none the wiser about the nature of issues in the world outside because all we are fed is the fat off published polls – the vote movement.

One solution is for more published pollsters to follow the guidelines recommended by WAPOR (the World Association for Public Opinion Research). They say: “As good practice in conducting pre election polls, researchers should: … measure key variables such as … reasons for party choice or attitudes on issues or other aspects of the campaign. Such polls will have greater political and social value if they do not confine themselves only to measuring voting intention but also explore the reasons for party choice and opinions on important campaign issues”, or indeed, journalists feasting on a menu of topics beyond the foie gras of polls or campaign dynamics.

I agree entirely.

Textor on restating centre-right beliefs

July 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Mark Textor writes in the AFR:

Even outside of partisan party politics, enhanced by media megaphones, a shouting match is going on between a very few. Like many fights, most decent people are silently walking away to avoid it.

Most want the false and divisive constructs of politics to go away: Christian versus non-Christian, middle class versus others, country versus city, indigenous versus non-indigenous, bosses versus workers.

Promoting these suit the shock jocks on the right and outrage merchants on the left looking for micro audience-based sales. I find that this is leading many decent-minded conservative centrists to question their beliefs.

A modern alternative affirmation of conservatism is needed for those who have walked away from the shouting. Here’s a new one for them:

Textor’s statements are:

  1. We respect the continuity, strength and certainty that the rule of law and our constitution brings.
  2.  Conservatism is about resisting gratuitous change, but not resistance for its own sake.
  3. Our economy must be managed according to the principles of a fair, competitive and open market, but the end point is not the economy itself but a better life.
  4. If you are a citizen of this country, you have equal rights and, yes, equal responsibilities to other citizens and the country.
  5. We will not tolerate the intolerant.
  6. Those who obtain the privilege of leadership; be parental in nature: respectful and aware of true needs of those under your care, but be clear and consistent in your actions.
  7. Work and enterprise brings dignity and the opportunity and vibrancy.
  8. Conservatives conserve important things.

Not a bad list.

Hannifin de Joux partners with Crosby Textor

February 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Hannifin de Joux is the Public Affairs and Campaign company of Kiri Kannifin and Jo de Joux. Kiri is a former political advisor in the 5th Labour Government and Jo has been the very successful campaign manager for National for four elections and three by-elections.

They’re just announced:

Kiri Hannifin and Jo de Joux today announced the formation of Hannifin de Joux, an integrated public affairs and campaign consultancy that will form a strategic partnership with CrosbyITextor Group in New Zealand. …

CrosbyITextor is the world’s leading market research, strategic communications and campaign management agency. The company has offices in Australia, the UK, Italy and the UAE.  

“Our collaboration with CrosbyITextor enables us to share their global best practice with local clients. It means we can provide our clients with sophisticated and targeted strategies based on the solid foundation of market research and insights,” says Ms de Joux.

The creation of political strategists Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, the CrosbyITextor Group draws from an unrivalled bank of campaign experience and expertise to advise corporate clients, investors, industry associations and governments worldwide.

The partnership with Crosby Textor is significant. They are in demand around the globe. I know both Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby, and their experience, insights and effectiveness are almost unmatched. They’re so successful that their very name causes some on the left to enter fits of rage!

Tex on same sex marriage

August 20th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mark Textor is well known as Australasia’s leading political pollster and campaign advisor, for conservative parties in Australia, the UK, NZ and elsewhere.

Unlike Julia Gillard, who opposes same sex marriage, Tex is a prominent advocate of legalising same sex marriage in Australia.

On ABC last year he said:

MARK TEXTOR: I think Australians mightn’t actively support gay marriage, but I think they would accept gay marriage going through. Ronald Reagan’s pollster once said to me that there is no such thing as family values, there are only those things that are important to families – love, a sense of belonging, a sense of personal security. And if marriage consolidates the family unit, so be it. 

He also took part in a debate on the issue in June 2012. The participants were:

In this passionate and quite unpredictable debate, Professor Nick Tonti-Filippini lines up with gay academic, Professor Annamarie Jagose, in opposing the legalisation of same sex marriage while Sydney’s Lord Mayor and New South Wales Independent politician Clover Moore is aligned with conservative party pollster and political strategist Mark Textor, in arguing passionately that same sex marriage should be legalised.

One quote: You can not believe in one law for all for some issues and for some people, but not for same sex couples.

Tex’s 10 campaign tricks

June 20th, 2012 at 1:57 pm by David Farrar

Mark Textor writes in the Sydney Morning Herald on his ten tips for surviving a campaign. Worth reading the full article, but a summary is:

  1.  Look after your feet.
  2. Avoid the booze.
  3.  Keep your lips sealed.
  4. The biggest mistake you can make is to not tell someone you have made a mistake.
  5. Ignore media commentators and stick to your part of the plan.
  6. Look after your soul.
  7. As they say in the Tour de France, pace yourself and wait for the mountains.
  8. Be frank. You are not there to be popular. Only useful.
  9.  Eat well.
  10. Don’t gamble on a campaign

He concludes:

Regardless, soak up that responsibility. Unlike the spectators, your actions have consequences on those relying on you. While this responsibility must be taken seriously, it is satisfying. Don’t enjoy being on the campaign, enjoy the satisfaction of the successful execution of your responsibilities.

Good advice.



July 1st, 2008 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

God knows how the SST thinks it is front page news that the National Party uses focus groups and advisors that Nicky Hager doesn’t like.

They breathlessly report:

An April 2005 Crosby/Textor report described how the focus group questions probed for latent negative “hesitations or concerns” about her. “Regardless of your overall view of Helen Clark,” the moderator asked, “what would you acknowledge are her weaknesses at the moment, even if they are slight or begrudging weaknesses?” The report’s “strategic opportunities” section concluded that the research revealed “an emerging perception that Helen Clark is too busy with `minorities’ and `other people’ to worry about the concerns and the pressures on `working families’.”

This is of course normal fare for parties, but only front page news if done by National. I blogged back in February how Labour were testing attack lines in their polling. And I concluded:

So that poll, presumably on behalf of Labour, was entirely legitimate as a form of message testing.  They were trying to find out which attack lines on Key will have the most effect on reducing National’s support, and conversely which lines about Labour will be most effective at increasing support for them.

Yet the SST thinks that it is front page news that National does the same thing.

But wait you say, isn’t the issue that the firm is Crosby/Textor who were associated with Don Brash.

Well no, that is crap. I am going off memory but Mark Textor has been giving advice to National since the 1993 election. So 2008 would be the 6th election where he has been involved. So what is the news value in National having the same advisor as the last five elections?

Matthew Hooton aptly summarises the situation on National Radio yesterday describing Nicky Hager as the Patricia Bartlett of NZ politics – wanting to be the moral guardian of NZ, yet he himself is a political activist himself.

Even Russell Brown has a reasonable balance:

A sense of perspective is worthwhile here. Political strategy is a cynical business by its nature. Labour’s people were not appealing to higher ideals when they ran the “slippery” campaign against Key this year. Even the Greens once (in 2002) hired themselves an electoral shitkicker from Australia.

Adam Smith also weighs in:

Predictably the Hager árticle’ in the SST had all the usual left voices acting as if John Key had been found indulging in an act of bestiality, rather than doing what politicians do, that is acting rationally and legally in taking advice from a variety of sources on how to win.

That is what party leaders are supposed to do – win elections.

Textor and Crosby are centre right campaign and research advisors. In some countries they actually run the campaign (such as in the UK), while in NZ (as far as I know – I am not privy to exact details) their role is far less. National has its own Campaign Manager and campaign staff.

The only documented wrong doing was an alleged push poll in 1995 – 13 years ago. Now I think push polls have no role in politics or market research (but make sure you do not confuse push polls with testing attack lines) but their real sin seems to be that they are often sucessful, rather than one mistake in 15 years.

The Hive also highlights an apology to Crosby and Textor from Crikey in 2007.

David Cohen notes that Crosby Textor offered some blunt advice last year to Australian Liberal Party:

Still, last year’s Australian federal election campaign does offer a useful test of the article’s overall judgment.

This was the same federal election, of course, in which at least one political pr outfit famously advised the ruling Coalition that it had left voters disillusioned over broken promises and dishonesty, even while Labor leader Kevin Rudd was acquiring a deserved reputation as compassionate, human, genuine and likeable. .

Excellent advice, that; honest, open and straightforward, too. Unfortunately for Hager, it also came from Crosby/Textor

Colin Espiner also looks at the fuss:

So far National’s leader John Key has not denied he is using Crosby Textor, and indeed his staff are confirming it, off the record. National is playing down Hager’s story, and indeed there is a “so what?” component to it. More than 70% of respondents to a Stuff poll this morning agree with them.

Let’s be honest – all political parties use polling companies and image consultants if they can afford to. Labour uses UMR. The companies road-test ideas, probe communities for hot-button issues, test the weak spots of opponents, and help political parties form an attack plan for election campaigns.

Colin then looks at Crosby Textor specifically:

However I think his decision to continue using Crosby Textor was a mistake, for a number of reasons. If he was trying to rid the party of the remnants of the Brash years, why use the same image makers? Why use a company that has a controversial reputation in Australia and Britain? A company that has been involved in scandals such as push-polling over a candidate’s mythical support for abortion to the ninth month of pregnancy? Who wants to be involved with a company tied up with stories about baby killers and the children overboard fiasco in Australia?

On top of all this, for all its fearsome reputation, Crosby Textor’s results are mixed at best. It has advised National in its last four campaigns. National has lost three in a row. It advised John Howard last year. Howard lost. It advised Michael Howard in Britain. Howard lost. Its sole recent success was Boris Johnson in the London mayorlty, and Red Ken was history after introducing the congestion charge.

I think Colin is off the mark here somewhat. First of all it is simplistic to judge campaign advisors simply by the result. Minor little things such as leaders, policies, political and economic environment all affect the result – not just the campaign. In the US people like Bob Shrum are well respected as campaign managers despite not having advised a winning presidential campaign.

But even if one does want to look at results, then Colin should not just quote the 2007 election loss for Australia but also the four previous wins. Likewise in NZ, Mark Textor had a role (going off memory) in the 1993 and 1996 election campaigns, so their record is a positive one, and the fact they are in demand is because they are very good at what they do.

The real irony is that I have heard from a friend of a friend who has taken part in a recent focus group for what was obviously the Labour Party. The entire thing consisted of testing attack lines against John Key. They were left in no doubt that Labour will be using their research to try and undermine John Key on all fronts. Watch this space.