Political pollster Galaxy says it will investigate why the son of a former Liberal MP was part of the audience at yesterday’s Rooty Hill RSL Club debate.
Joel Scalzi, the son of former South Australian Liberal MP Joe Scalzi, was one of the undecided voters selected by the polling company to question Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in a town hall-style meeting.
He asked Mr Abbott what the Coalition could offer him as an unmarried voter with no children.
“All I’ve got is a big DVD collection,” the 27-year-old said.
David Briggs, the principal at Galaxy Research, would not comment on whether there was a Liberal Party bias in the audience, saying: “We are looking into that.”
But he added that Mr Scalzi was only one of 200 “real people” selected by his company.
“I don’t know those people,” he said when asked about last night’s debate among Twitter users on the audience’s impartiality.
“I think the proof of the pudding last night was we certainly had 200 real people in there and they asked real questions from a range of topics.”
Mr Briggs said neither of the candidates was given an easy or difficult ride from the voters.
“The audience was responding to how the leaders treated them.
“Julia Gillard was reserved and the audience was reserved in return. Tony Abbott was more outgoing and the audience was more outgoing in return.”
Mr Briggs said the 200 voters were selected from “market research-type databases” that Galaxy had, and from the White Pages.
They were first asked about their voting intentions. Those who declared they were undecided or leaned towards one party but had not made their minds up were those Galaxy tried to recruit for the audience, he said.
The audience was split into even numbers of male and female, and reflected the population’s age brackets. Where they lived was not one of the criteria, Mr Briggs said.
Galaxy had to “spread the net quite broadly” in order to secure the 200 required for the debate.
“Anyone who classified themselves as an uncommitted voter, we were more than happy to have along, because obviously it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and we need to screen a fair number of people to get to those uncommitted voters,” Mr Briggs added.
“There are many tiers which people can disqualify themselves or not qualify for the type of people we want.”
Mr Scalzi was a 2007 Big Brother reality TV show contestant and said then he was a young Liberal.
A spokeswoman for the South Australian branch of the Liberals said Mr Scalzi was not a member of the young Liberals or the Liberal Party. The president of the NSW Division of the young Liberals, Scott Farlow, said he was not aware Mr Scalzi was a member.
Mr Scalzi wrote on his Facebook page that he had a “hilarious night at the Rooty Hill RSL with my mate Billy”.
“Doing work there for Jonesy and Amanda, i think i invited Tony Abbott over my place to watch The Notebook lol!!!”
Galaxy is the polling organisation used by News Ltd’s metropolitan newspapers, including The Daily Telegraph.
The debate was organised by the Telegraph and broadcast on Sky News. The audience members were selected this week.
Last night, observers watching the debate claimed the audience was stacked with supporters of Mr Abbott.
Tweeter Geeksrulz said: “Sky News and Galaxy just leave the TV Audience debates to the professionals like [the ABC’s panel show] QandA. They know how to sample.”
Stan04676 was equally harsh: “Rooty Hill audience reminds me of Paul Keating’s comments on the Senate: Unrepresentative swill.”
But others defended the Rooty Hill sample audience and criticised Q&A as a left-leaning forum.
“Ahaha, I love that people are already leveling accusations of Liberal bias in the audience. Same thing happens on Q and A,” one said.