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Nation's most influential pollster can't explain election disaster

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You've probably never heard of David Briggs. But you've very likely heard of Newspoll. That's the opinion poll that Malcolm Turnbull formalised as the benchmark of prime ministerial performance.

Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:

Remember? Tony Abbott had to go when he "lost" 30 in a row. Then, eventually, Turnbull himself had to go after he "lost" 38 of them.


Briggs is the man behind the poll. So that made him, in effect, the arbiter of whether Australia's leaders were seen to be succeeding or failing. He was the spokesman for the jury, as well as the judge, in the courtroom of Australian politics. All it took to finish the process was the executioners in the party caucuses to deliver the punishment.

But Briggs is much more than Newspoll, published by Rupert Murdoch's The Australian. He's also the man behind the YouGov Galaxy polls published by Murdoch's tabloid papers. And he's the man behind the exit poll conducted for Nine at the federal election.

Beyond his polling for media outlets, Briggs this year was also the pollster for the Labor Party. Taken together, this made him by far the most influential and important pollster in the land, the narrator of the Australian political story.

Illustration: Dionne GainCredit:

He also got the election result wrong. And because he got it wrong, all his clients got it wrong. That included the Labor Party which, to the end, thought it was cruising to victory two weekends ago.

So when I phoned Briggs last week and asked him how he was doing, I wasn't surprised when he replied "shithouse". He made no attempt to gild the lily. "It's very sad," he said.

He was also as bewildered as everyone else as to........

© The Sydney Morning Herald