The Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) has announced the draft Terms of Reference for its Inquiry into the Performance of the Opinion Polls at the 2019 Australian Federal Election (AMSRO Polling Inquiry).
Members of an advisory board and the inquiry panel were also announced.
AMSRO president Craig Young said: “Significant uncertainty and disquiet has emerged about the performance of the major opinion polls in the lead up to the 2019 Federal Election.
“An impartial and comprehensive industry-wide inquiry process is required to examine the performance of the polls and restore public confidence in the credibility of polling.
“While each of the polling companies is likely undertaking internal analysis of their own polling practices and performance, we anticipate they will agree to share all relevant data and practices with the Inquiry Panel, once they see the robust process established.”
To support the inquiry panel, AMSRO has established an independent advisory board with diverse expertise in relevant areas, for the unquiry panel to draw on for broad strategic guidance and input.
The advisory board will also review and comment on the Draft Terms of Reference and the inquiry panel’s Report and will provide guidance and additional suggestions for lines of inquiry.
The advisory board includes Dennis Trewin AO, Ian McAllister, Travyn Rhall and Kerry O’Brien.
The panel will be headed by Darren Pennay, the founder and immediate past-CEO of the Social Research Centre (SRC), one of Australia’s leading social research organisations, and part of the Australian National University.
Young said: “Mr Pennay has agreed to Chair the Polling Inquiry. He is not a pollster but has a lifetime of experience in all of the methods employed in public opinion research and will be able to draw upon the wider resources of the Social Research Centre and the Australian National University in conducting the review.”
Pennay said: “The focus of the review will be to objectively assess the quality of the polling data by looking at the techniques and processes employed across the different polling organisations.
“The approach needs to be broad and comprehensive, without any a priori assumptions about what, if anything went wrong. We need to adopt a purely evidence-based approach. We also need to examine the role of the pollsters and the media in communicating polling findings to the public.
“It’s important to note that the Inquiry will not be focused on assessing the relative performance of individual polling companies, but rather on practices and processes in use across the industry. We will aim to mask or de-identify the polling companies’ data, and Panel members will sign non-disclosure agreements.
“The Inquiry aims to deliver an evidence-based approach to find ways to improve the conditions for polling and the processes and methods used, so all companies can operate with a full appreciation of contemporary best practice.”
Other members of the panel include: Professor Murray Goot, Dr Phil Hughes, Mr John Stirton, Dr Paul Lavrakas, Dr Jill Sheppard, Dr Dina Neiger, Patrick Moynihan, Professor Patrick Sturgis and Associate Professor Kristen Olson.
Pennay said: “I am grateful to all those who have volunteered their time to assist with the Inquiry. I’m especially grateful for the international assistance offered by Professor Sturgis, Associate Professor Olson and Patrick Moynihan in agreeing to contribute advice and expertise from their own international experiences with polling analytics and similar reviews overseas.
“They will have an important role in helping to advise and review our work. I expect that other technical specialists and experts may be accessed as the Inquiry gets underway.”
Young added: “It is vital that the Inquiry Panel operates in an independent and objective way. The Inquiry Panel, not AMSRO, will be responsible for what ends up in the Inquiry’s report and recommendations and great care has been taken to appoint a high calibre team of Australian and international experts to assist with the Polling Inquiry.
“We hope that all the polling companies will work with the Inquiry to achieve better outcomes for the entire polling industry. No currently active polling organisations are, or will be, represented on the Inquiry Panel – polling can be quite competitive, so it’s essential that there is complete objectivity in the approach and no scope for competitive concerns to arise. We want everyone to have confidence in the process and outcomes.”
The panel will operate at arm’s length from the market research industry body AMSRO.
AMSRO’s role will be to establish the inquiry’s Terms of Reference, support and resource the panel’s work, respond to media enquiries and publish, promote and help implement the inquiry findings, in consultation with relevant stakeholders – especially the polling companies.
Young concluded: “It’s pleasing that since announcing the Inquiry, some polling companies have already proactively come forward to volunteer to share their detailed processes, methods and data, so that the Inquiry can examine and assess the evidence and develop sound recommendations to improve, where necessary, polling practices.
“Once the Inquiry Panel gets underway, one of its first tasks will be to engage with the polling organisations directly and canvass their assistance. Their participation will be key, and they have the most to gain from a successful Inquiry.”