News Corp Australia’s house pollster, Newspoll, will close next month, ending decades of live fortnightly telephone polling and putting 150 researchers, statisticians and analysts out of work.Newspoll, published fortnightly in the Australian, drives much of the political coverage in the Australian media.The Newspoll brand will continue in name only, with the surveys to be conducted by Galaxy Research, an outfit which already handles polls for the News Corp tabloids.The Galaxy-run Newspoll will not conduct live telephone interviews with participants but will instead adopt the less expensive method of polling using automation – known as “robopolling” – as well as online surveys. With robopolls, computers make calls automatically and participants answer the recorded voice using a keypad on their phone.
As many people have abandoned landlines, the Newspoll landline-only surveys have been difficult to maintain, especially with younger voters who only have a mobile.
Newspoll’s decision follows that last year made by Fairfax Media which ended a 40-year relationship with Nielsen.
The Nielsen poll, published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age from January 1995 and in the AFR from February 2012, was also central to political coverage. Fairfax polls are now conducted by research company Ipsos Australia.
The union representing the 150 Newspoll workers, including 26 full time staff, the National Union of Workers said the company was not treating the workers with respect or honouring all their entitlements.
NUW organiser Jafar Kazim said staff were told they would lose their jobs only after an article announcing the closure was published in the Australian on 4 May.
At a tense meeting between staff, union and management after the announcement Newspoll’s head researcher told staff the new methodology used by Galaxy was “crap methodology, telephone research is the best way to do it,” sources who were at the meeting told Guardian Australia.
Kazim said some staff planned to protest the company’s treatment of the staff outside Newspoll House in Sydney’s Surry Hills on Friday.
A spokesman for News Corp declined to answer specific questions about how many staff were affected but issued the following statement.
“From the end of June 2015, Newspoll will be conducted by Galaxy Research, one of the country’s best market research and polling companies,” the spokesman said.
“Galaxy Research will ensure that Newspoll’s rigour, integrity and frequency will remain unaffected, and Newspoll will retain its position as Australia’s most authoritative and eagerly awaited political poll. The Australian will continue to publish Newspoll every fortnight.
“The work Galaxy Research will undertake for the Australian under the Newspoll banner will be separate to the research it does for News Corp Australia’s metro mastheads.
“News Corp Australia and WPP thank [Newspoll CEO] Martin O’Shannessy and his team for their outstanding work over the years.”
Sources said the company had refused to provide references to employees or to apologise for not informing staff before the decision was announced in the Australian.
“Some people read about the closure in the Australian before they heard about it from Newspoll,” one source said. “The company is also denying any form of redundancy pay to about 90% of its phone staff, and only meeting the bare standards of our industrial agreement.
“There are some staff members that have worked at Newspoll for upwards of six years who are being denied a redundancy in the current package.”
Newspoll is a joint venture between News Corp Australia and international advertising and public relations firm WPP.
In the report in the Australian on 4 May, the paper’s chief executive, Nicholas Gray, and its editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, said Galaxy Research had “proven its credentials as a highly accurate polling company in both federal and state elections”.
“Recently, it called a Labor win in the recent Queensland election and was again proven reliable in the NSW election,” they said.
“Newspoll’s rigour, integrity and frequency will not be affected, and Newspoll will retain its position as Australia’s most authoritative and eagerly awaited political poll.