Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Labor’s 1943 Landslide: Political Market Research, Evatt, and the Public Opinion Polls

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2014), 107, (1), 149–166.

Abstract

This paper examines market research commissioned by or on behalf of candidates in the early 1940s, a period that long pre-dates the introduction of market research identified in earlier accounts; its particular focus is on a 1943 opinion survey conducted by Sylvia Ashby in H. V. Evatt’s electorate of Barton, the earliest piece of political market research for which there remains a full report. In the light of the Barton survey it offers a critical re-analysis of the national and state-based opinion polls conducted ahead of the 1943 federal election, the first for which Australian newspapers commissioned polls. And it argues that since Labor’s sweeping victory was anticipated long before the election not only by the Barton survey but also by a proper reading of the newspaper polls, it is unlikely the election campaign itself was decisive in securing Labor its record result — the unexpected nature of its historic victory notwithstanding.

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Footnotes

*The author would like to thankLabour History’stwo anonymous referees as well as Bridget Griffen-Foley, Stuart Macintyre, and Ian Watson for their comments on an earlier draft; Nathalie Apouchtine, Josh Holloway, John Nethercote, Tom Roberts, and Kathleen Weekley for research assistance; and Gillian Dooley and Sue Hammond at the Flinders University Library. Both the writing and research were funded by the ARC under Discovery Grant DP0987839. Google Scholar

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27.“There’s No Swing Yet to Either Labor or U.A.P.,” Daily Telegraph, 28 May1943, 6. Google Scholar

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31.Roy Morgan, “Gallup Poll Shows Trend of Opinion,” Herald, 20 August1943, 5. For the results for each of the “anti-Labor” parties, see Hughes andGraham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics, 369. Google Scholar

32.“Australia Speaks,” Australian Gallup Polls, no. 141–52 (August–September1943). The combined UAP-CP vote was 23 per cent;Hughes andGraham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics, 369.Ian Hancock, National and Permanent? The Federal Organisation of the Liberal Party of Australia 1944–1965(:Melbourne University Press, 2000), 17, 69, lifts the “UAP” vote to 20 or 21 per cent by including the Liberal Country League, the main non-Labor Party in South Australia, and the Liberal Democrats in New South Wales. See alsoDon Aitkin andMichael Kahan, “Australia: Class Politics in the New World,”inElectoral Behaviour: A Comparative Handbook, ed.Richard Rose(:The Free Press, 1974), 444. Google Scholar

33.R. L. Curthoys, cited inMartin, Robert Menzies, 416. Google Scholar

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35.Colin A. Hughes andB. D. Graham, Voting for the House of Representatives 1901–1964, reprinted with corrigenda (:Australian National University Press, 1975), 203, 226. Google Scholar

36.Michael Roe, review ofEvatt: A Life, byPeter Crockett, Labour History, no. 66 (May1994):180. Google Scholar

37.Buckley, et al., Doc Evatt, 193. Google Scholar

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39.Paul Hasluck, Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs 1941–1947(:Melbourne University Press, 1980), 93. On the “benediction” of theSydney Morning Herald, seeGavin Souter, Company of Heralds: A Century and a Half of Australian Publishing(:Melbourne University Press, 1981), 235. Google Scholar

40.Neal Blewett andDean Jaensch Playford to Dunstan: Politics of Transition(:F. W. Cheshire Publishing, 1971), 65;Laurie Oakes andDavid Solomon, The Making of an Australian Prime Minister(:Cheshire Publishing, 1973), ch. 7. See alsoStephen Mills, The New Machine Men(:Penguin Books, 1986), 95, 110–11; andStephen Mills, The Professionals(:Black Inc., 2014), 131–32.Mick Young, “The Build-Up to 1972,”inThe Whitlam Phenomenon: Fabian Papers(:McPhee Gribble/Penguin, 1986), 99, refers to Dunstan being “almost a decade ahead of anyone in this area,” a longer lead than assumed by Mills. Curiously, the best known critique of Dunstan and Whitlam, and the rise of “technocratic labourists,” fails to link Labor’s new “social model” to its use of survey research;Robert Catley andBruce McFarlane, From Tweedledum to Tweedledee: The New Labor Government in Australia: A Critique of its Social Model(:Australia and New Zealand Book Company, 1974), 9–11. Google Scholar

45.Eric White, Public Relations Officer Liberal Party Federal Secretariat to F. R. Burton, Chief Executive Officer Liberal Party, 18 August 1947, Subject Files: Nationalization of Banks 1947, ML MSS 2385, Box Y4629, Item 14. Google Scholar

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49.“Women Will Talk to Women,” Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November1938, 22. Google Scholar

50.On Ashby’s early relationship with Packer, including his concern to conceal Ashby’s identity lest it jeopardise the appearance of her independence, seeGriffen-Foley, The House of Packer, 103–4. Google Scholar

51.For Ashby’s title, seeSylvia Ashby, “Women Shouldn’t Forget They Possess a Vote,” Daily Telegraph, 4 July1942, 4. For the attribution of the polling, see“Many People Hazy about Constitution Plan,” Sunday Telegraph, 29 November1942. Google Scholar

52.“There’s No Swing Yet to Either Labor or U.A.P.,” Daily Telegraph, 28 May1943, 6. Similarly the survey of Sydney “housewives” (n = 500), conducted on behalf of the Rationing Commission, was almost certainly an Ashby survey;Tim Rowse, “The People and their Experts: A War-Inspired Civics for H. C. Coombs,” Labour History, no. 74 (May1998):73. See also a 1944 Ashby survey of “housewives” (n = 500), which may have influenced the decision not to close butchers’ shops on Saturday mornings;Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1944, 4; andSylvia Ashby, “The Forties,”inMcNair, Some Reflections on the First Fifty Years, 32. Ashby’s national poll on bank nationalisation (n = 3,000), presumably included 500 interviews in each state;Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September1947, 7; andDaily Mirror, 17 September 1947. Leslie Haylen’s reference to a “Gallup poll taken among 500 people in the Ashfield, Enfield, Burwood and Summer Hill area” of his electorate (Parkes) on the Liberal Party’s “John Henry Austral” broadcasts, assumed by Mills to have been commissioned by Haylen, was most likely an Ashby survey; House of Representatives, Hansard(23 November1948):3324ff.Mills, The New Machine Men, 113–14n8. Google Scholar

53.Ashby, “The Forties,” 28. Google Scholar

54.J. Stuart Lucy, “The Twenties and Thirties,”inMcNair, Some Reflections on the First Fifty Years, 23. See also“These Women have Unusual Occupations,” Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April1937, 4. For an illustration, seeYou, Me and this War: A Critical Account of Australia’s Organisation for Defence(:Consolidated Press, 1941), 206–11. Google Scholar

55.Carl Bridge, “Impossible Missions: H. V. Evatt in Washington and London in 1942 and 1943,”inBrave New World: H. V. Evatt and Foreign Policy, 1941–1949, ed.David Day(:University of Queensland Press, 1996), 40–44. Google Scholar

56.Buckley, et al., Doc Evatt, 145. If true, this looks like a breach of the rules, doubtless quite common. Though there were no rules governing what parties could spend, in 1943 the limit on campaign expenditure by individual candidates standing for the House of Representatives was £100;F. A. Bland, Party Politics, Part 2: Australian Political Parties and the Government(: RAAF Rehabilitation Section Discussion Series, [1942]), 5. In 1946 the limit was raised to £250;Mills, The New Machine Men, 183. In her bid to win the UAP seat of Wentworth, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Labor’s Jessie Street said she was prepared to “put in 1000 pounds to commence the campaign”; quoted inPeter Sekuless, Jessie Street: A Rewarding if Unrewarded Life(:University of Queensland Press, 1978), 88. Google Scholar

57.Ashby, “The Twenties and Thirties,” 12;Mills, The New Machine Men, 87–95;Murray Goot, “Rubensohn, Solomon (Sim) (1904–1979),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed September2014,http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rubensohn-solomon-sim-11579/text20669. Google Scholar

58.For Evatt’s relationship with Theodore, seeBridget Griffen-Foley, “‘Four More Points than Moses’: Dr. H. V. Evatt, the Press and the 1944 Referendum,” Labour History, no. 68 (November1995):66. TheSunday Telegraphwas a client of Hansen Rubensohn; F. M. Hewitt to W. H. Spooner, 24 December 1947, ML MSS 2385 Box Y4629, Item 2. Google Scholar

59.The position of theTelegraphsis outlined inBridget Griffen-Foley, “‘A Civilised Amateur’: Edgar Holt and His Life in Letters and Politics,” Australian Journal of Politics and History 49, no. 1(2003):38. For the campaign, Packer also lent Evatt some “secretarial assistance”;Patrick Buckridge, The Scandalous Penton: A Biography of Brian Penton(:University of Queensland Press, 1994), 209–10, 213. Google Scholar

61.On Lane, seeRydon, A Biographical Register of the Commonwealth Parliament, 128. Google Scholar

62.Allan Dalziel, Evatt the Enigma(:Lansdowne Press, 1967), 52. Google Scholar

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64.Ward, The History of Australia, 259. Google Scholar

65.SeeHughes andGraham, Voting for the House of Representatives, 253(1946), 269(1949), 290 (1951), 308 (1954), 325 and 345 (1955). Dalziel called Barton a “swinging seat”;Dalziel, Evatt the Enigma, 37. Following the 1948 boundary changes, half of the Barton electorate consisted of voters who previously would have been enrolled in St George or Banks;Colin A. Hughes, “The 1948 Redistribution and the Defeat of the Chifley Government,” Labour History, no. 34 (May1978):75. Google Scholar

66.“Unusual Elements in New South Wales,” Herald, 18 August1943, 5. Google Scholar

67.Hughes andGraham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics, 453, Kogarah having been won on preferences;Dalziel, Evatt the Enigma, 35. Google Scholar

68.The phrase is from [George Gallup] The New Science of Public Opinion Management(:American Institute of Public Opinion Research, c1943). Google Scholar

69.“Australia Speaks,” Australian Gallup Polls, no. 103–8 (February1943). Google Scholar

70.Kylie Tennant, Evatt: Politics and Justice, rev. ed. (:Angus and Robertson, 1972), 155. Google Scholar

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75.Tennant, Evatt, 155. Turning his mind to the possibility of a political career, shortly before the war, Keith Murdoch was advised by one of his editors not to. “I don’t think you are well enough known to the average man in the street,” he said. “I think you are a little remote from ordinary people –you wouldn’t be very successful”; cited inDesmond Zwar, In Search of Keith Murdoch(:Macmillan, 1980), 97. Google Scholar

76.Don Whitington, Ring the Bells: A Dictionary of Australian Federal Politics(:Georgian House, 1956), 57. Similar sentiments would later show up in research on Whitlam;Young, “The Build-up to 1972,” 105. Google Scholar

77.Dalziel, Evatt the Enigma, 37. Google Scholar

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79.Ibid., 52. Google Scholar

80.Gollan, “Australian Party Politics,” 114. Google Scholar

81.Edwards, Prime Ministers and Diplomats, 143. Google Scholar

83.The Gallup Poll conducted a month earlier was in the field from Monday 1 February to Thursday 11 February 1943;“Australia Speaks,” Australian Gallup Polls, no. 103–8 (February1943). Google Scholar

84.See, for example,“The Public is Ready for a Vigorous Policy,” Daily Telegraph, 9 January1942, 4. Google Scholar

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86.As Teer and Spence note, “Within the quota controls the interviewer is free to interview whom she likes,” including “people in the street”;F. Teer andJ. D. Spence, Political Opinion Polls(:Hutchinson, 1973), 35, 37. This happened in Britain – their book features one such interview on its cover – but not, it seems, in Australia. Google Scholar

87.The Gallup Poll, which claimed to operate on a similar basis, raises the same puzzle;Murray Goot, “‘The Obvious and Logical Way to Ascertain the Public’s Attitude toward a Problem’: Roy Morgan and the Australian Gallup Poll,”inThe Early Days of Survey Research and their Importance Today, ed.Hannes Haas,Hynek Jerabek andThomas Petersen(:Braumüller, 2012), 169–74. Google Scholar

88.“Women Will Talk to Women,” Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November1938, 22. Google Scholar

89.Ibid.The contrast with Morgan, whose interviewers were mostly men, is striking;Murray Goot, “‘A Worse Importation than Chewing Gum’: American Influences on the Australian Press and their Limits: The Australian Gallup Poll, 1941–1971,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 30, no. 3(2010):277. Google Scholar

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91. “Barton Electorate Survey.” Google Scholar

92.J. Stuart Lucy, “The Forties,”inSome Reflections on the First Fifty Years of Market Research in Australia, 41. Goldberg’s had had the UAP account since 1938;Frank Goldberg, My Life in Advertising(privately published, c1958), 41. Google Scholar

93.Lane, an accountant and business manager, was not uneducated;Rydon, A Biographical Register of the Commonwealth Parliament, 128. Google Scholar

94.SeeHughes andGraham, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics, 358, 364, for the state figures;Hughes andGraham, Voting for the House of Representatives, 184, 199, for Barton. State Labor (which contested only 19 seats compared to Labor’s 28) and Lang Labor (18 seats) did much better, on average, in the seats they contested than the state-wide figures might suggest. Google Scholar

95.Lucy, “The Forties,” 41. Google Scholar

96.The tendency of women to favour the Coalition is corroborated by an analysis of the 1943 election returns;Christian Leithner, “A Gender Gap in Australia? Commonwealth Elections, 1910–96,” Australian Journal of Political Science 32, no. 1(1997):35. Google Scholar

98. Ibid: Survey 44, 5 September1946, User’s Guide, SSDA, 1982, ANU; Survey 45, 21 September 1946, User’s Guide, SSDA, 1982, ANU. Google Scholar

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100.Ibid., no. 337–44 (April–May1946); no. 345–54 (May–June1946); no. 355–64 (July1946). Google Scholar

101.Ibid., no. 365–76 (August1946). Google Scholar

102. Australian Gallup Poll Findings, no. 511–28 (May and June1948).Australian Public Opinion Polls, no. 569–78 (February–March1949); no. 855–64 (May–June1952); no. 1862–71 (September–December1965). Google Scholar

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104.Hughes andGraham, Voting for the House of Representatives, 223. Google Scholar

105.Contrast Crisp’s account of the vote in Macquarie where Ben Chifley polled 65 per cent compared with nearly 45 per cent in 1940. For Chifley, he writes, “the national triumph of the Party was paralleled by a personal triumph”;L. F. Crisp, Ben Chifley: A Biography(:Longmans, Green, and Co., [1961]), 159n6. In attempting to evaluate John Dedman’s campaign in Corio, Spaull sets up a similar problem: “Corio would be both a test of Labor’s management of the war and war effort, and of the popularity of the ‘Minister for Austerity.’”D. A. Kemp, Society and Electoral Behaviour in Australia: A Study of Three Decades(:University of Queensland Press, 1978), 253, notes the “high level of the within-state variance.” However, Dedman’s vote, like Chifley’s, “was consistent with the statewide trend in voting”;Andrew Spaull, John Dedman: A Most Unexpected Labor Man(:Hyland House, 1998), 70, 75. Google Scholar

107.Recalculated fromHughes andGraham, Voting for the House of Representatives, 223–29. Google Scholar

108.“Australia Speaks,” Australian Gallup Polls, no. 132–40 (July1943). The May poll, which asked respondents which party they would “like to win,” not how they intended to vote (pacethe subsequent references), apparently led to Murdoch and Menzies discussing the results withMorgan.“Australia Speaks,” Australian Gallup Polls, no. 124–31 (May–June1943);Christine Wallace, “A Matter of Opinion,” Australian Financial Review Magazine, August1995, 14–23;Stephen Mills, “Polling, Politics and the Press 1941–1996,”inJournalism: Print, Politics and Popular Culture, ed.Ann Curthoys andJulianne Schultz(:University of Queensland Press, 1999), 207;Bridget Griffen-Foley, Party Games: Australian Politicians and the Media from War to Dismissal(:Text Publishing, 2003), 24–25. Google Scholar

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110.Brian McKinlay, A Century of Struggle: The A.L.P.: A Centenary History(:Collins Dove, 1988), 111. See alsoMcKernan, The Strength of a Nation, 361. Google Scholar

111.Day, John Curtin, 513;McKernan, The Strength of a Nation, 361;Goot, “A Worse Importation than Chewing Gum,” 288–89. Google Scholar

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114.Martin, Robert Menzies, 414–15. Google Scholar

115.Whitington, The House Will Divide, 117. Curtin announced the election date only after being told that “unless he consented to a dissolution of parliament and an election the opposition would block supply”;Lloyd Ross, John Curtin: A Biography(:Macmillan, 1977), 318. Google Scholar

116.Graham Freudenberg, “Victory to Defeat: 1941–49,”inTrue Believers: The Story of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, ed.John Faulkner andStuart Macintyre(:Allen & Unwin, 2001), 49. See alsoNeville Kirk, Labour and the Politics of Empire: Britain and Australia 1900 to the Present(:Manchester University Press, 2011), 172. Google Scholar

117.Day, Chifley, 396. Google Scholar

118.Elwyn Spratt, Eddie Ward: Firebrand of East Sydney(:Rigby, 1965), 131. Google Scholar

119.Quoted inCrisp, Ben Chifley, 227. Google Scholar

120.See alsoMurray Goot andSean Scalmer, “Party Leaders, the Media, and Political Persuasion: The Campaigns of Evatt and Menzies on the Referendum to Protect Australia from Communism,” Australian Historical Studies 44, no. 1(2013):87. Google Scholar

121.“Dr. Evatt Predicts Pacific Security Guarantee,” Canberra Times, 5 August1943, 2. Google Scholar

122. Argus, 5 August1943, 3. Google Scholar

123. Advertiser, 5 August1943, 5. Google Scholar

125.Ibid. Google Scholar

126.In the lead up to the 1972 election, Labor’s federal secretary found himself having to explain “this new fangled science called market research” to Labor Party members he clearly regarded as backward;Young, “The Build-up to 1972,” 98. Google Scholar

127.For Morgan, seeGoot, “A Worse Importation than Chewing Gum,” 276, 295n52–53. Google Scholar

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Goot, Murray