Academic questions validity of union survey on 457 workers

LABOR'S favourite pollsters have been accused by one of Australia's top experts in the field of compiling and releasing a skewed survey.

Research giant UMR provided research to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union showing 62% of Central Queenslanders were against 457 temporary work visas and 90% rejected the idea that opposing the visas made them racist.

The polling formed part of a larger data-gathering campaign by the union in the lead-up to the Federal Election in September.

CQUniversity Associate Professor Matthew Rockloff, the Deputy Director of the Institute for Health and Social Science Research, said the survey showed a "particular lack of sophistication".

One question asked responders what they thought of those critical of 457 visas - were they racist or genuinely concerned about protecting the conditions of Australian workers and opportunities for young Australians to get jobs or didn't know.

"It doesn't allow people to express an opposing opinion," Dr Rockloff said.

"It doesn't create anything other than adding to the noise, confusion and misrepresentation of what public opinions really are."

Another question asked, "In respect to 457 and similar temporary visas, should the Federal Government scrap them and train Australians, keep them as is, modify them so they're only used where there are significant proven skills shortages or don't know".

No other answer could be given.

"There are proper ways to do surveys; you ask questions in both directions," Dr Rockloff said.

>> Click here to view the survey

UMR's phone survey relied on 600 calls divided between federal seats of Flynn and Capricornia, covering Gladstone, Rockhampton and parts of Mackay.

The firm describes itself as being the "primary private pollster to the Labor Party both federally and in every state and territory" for the past decade.

It has a suite of high-profile clients including eBay, Westpac, Australian Coal Association and Telstra.

UMR managing director John Utting dismissed Dr Rockloff's misgivings.

He said the academic's comment on how to conduct a survey was "an ambiguous namby-pamby kind of response".

"Those are fair questions," Mr Utting said.

"We've carried out this survey to the highest professional standard."

As a client, CFMEU National Assistant Secretary Dave Noonan said he also backed UMR's results.

"They're a proven pollster," he said.

"There's no point hiring a pollster that tells you what you want to hear. That's futile."

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