The Development and Reception of Public Opinion POlling in Australia 1920-1945

Author: Simon james King

King, Simon james, 2015 The Development and Reception of Public Opinion POlling in Australia 1920-1945, Flinders University, School of International Studies

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This thesis attempts three main tasks: first to chronicle the development of opinion polling in Australia between 1920-1945; second to argue that the structure of opinion polling in Australia has largely been the result of a combination of developments in statistical method, marketing and social enquiry in Britain and the United States and their application to local conditions; third, to analyse historical attitudes towards polling and the debates that surrounded its introduction in Australia and to show that the initial reserve shown by politicians was directly linked to the idea of an engaged and competent citizenry and what they believed was an attack against the traditional practice of politics and their relationship with their constituents, and the involvement of those within the newspaper industry who had vested interests. Although it is not a comparative study, a focus of this research considers why it was that Australian politicians were so much slower to accept public opinion research than their British and American colleagues. The thesis will document the contributions of the market research industry, the newspaper industry, primarily Keith Murdoch's Herald and Weekly Times Group, and the work of those in the universities who championed social surveys, to the growth of public opinion polling. The thesis will show that the eventual manifestation of political opinion polling during the Second World War, and one that would come to dominate Australian polling until 1972, when Rod Cameron created Australian National Opinion Polls as a competitor, was a direct result of the combination of international developments that took on a distinctly Australian flavour during the period 1920-1945. A number of restrictions have been placed on this thesis, namely the difficulty of accessing the records of Morgan Poll and some copyright conditions attached to the records of the Ashby research service. This has necessitated an approach that views the events largely through some specialised secondary sources combined with an analysis of newspaper editorials, letters to the editor, political statements and the results of the polls themselves. Australian historians have shown little interest in the development of opinion polling, apart from a number of studies that have investigated the media and the evolution of marketing thought.

Keywords: public opinion,opinion polling,Postwar Reconstruction,housing,Murdoch,Morgan,Gallup Poll.

Subject: International Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of International Studies
Supervisor: Professor Eric Richards