Wikileaks - the quants

It seems that Wikileaks is widely and wildly popular in Australia. Taking a sample of respondents adjusted for voting intention 65 percent approved of the organisation and only 18 percent disapproved, with a net positive in every major voting bloc. However, there were wrinkles, with less than 50 percent of Liberal and National voters approving. Approval was also around 5 points less strong for the release of the US diplomatic cables and disapproval 7 percentage points higher.

This graph gives the picture.


It's so strong that you wonder how it is that Julia Gillard came out and suggested that Julian Assange should be prosecuted. But she did, and on this issue respondents were even more emphatic than on the general existence of the Wikileaks organisation: 73% disapproved of her comments while only 10% agreed. The only support she received was from people who would never vote for her.



None of this means that respondents think that governments shouldn't have secrets. Greens and independents don't, but supporters of the Liberal, Labor and National Parties do.


Although opinions differ in terms of what ought to be secret and what shouldn't.


I was surprised that commercial-in-confidence documents were regarded as being more worthy of being kept secret than cabinet documents, and that military and security scored as high as they did, given that most respondents approved of the Wilkileaks leak of classified US diplomatic documents. Perhaps the answer to this lies in the qual where respondents seemed to be saying that Wikileaks hadn't released anything that was particularly confidential.

Respondents took a quite different view of their own private material.


I received complaints from some that I was slanting the questionnaire. The main reason for asking the question was to have a benchmark in terms of what individuals thought about their own material. Of course there is a cross-over with many of us using work emails for private chats. And a large number of the cables released by Wikileaks, while internal, were obviously made in the expectation that their contents would not be revealed.

The US and Australia officials blamed Wikileaks for the information going public while Kevin Rudd blamed the US government, so I wondered who respondents would blame if something similar happened to them. We asked who they would blame if a whole lot of their private correspondence was stolen and then released. It turned-out that most blamed the publisher, which would be Wikileaks in the analogy.

Which is exactly what the Americans did. The last person respondents blamed was the thief, which I found quite interesting, putting the publisher higher up the chain of responsibility.



For the technically curious, the total number of responses was 1,632 and the adjusted sample was 950. It's not statistically representative of the population at large, but we're actually doing qualitative research here, even when I do quants on it. It's generally indicative of what the general population is thinking, and the best guide you are going to get without spending tens of thousands of dollars.


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0 #1 Reactions to display of personal informaDion Giles 2010-12-23 18:58
Reactions to display of personal information can't properly be conflated with reaction to display of government secrets. The government is supposed to belong to the people. The likes of Gillard and McClelland and the US bombast meisters want us to believe the people should instead belong to the government.
You may be wrong in thinking that if the leaks become more than gossip and do real harm to the interests of the US administration and its more craven non-US satellites the public will turn against Wikileaks. What gave Daniel Ellsberg iconic status was the harm the Pentagon Papers did the colonialists in the USA. Ellsberg was embraced by millions because his revelations showed that the colonialists were lying their heads off, and implied the Resistance was winning the war. Until Ellsberg blew the whistle, few knew any of that.
0 #2 Thanks Graham. This is really interestinJohn Passant 2010-12-25 22:16
Thanks Graham. This is really interesting material. I was one of the respondents. Like Dion (whose views about exposing the lies of empire I agree with) I don't think you can correlate answers about government information in this release and private information.
0 #3 On commercial in confidence, I find it vPhilip Machanick 2010-12-26 22:24
On commercial in confidence, I find it very suss when this becomes an excuse to make decisions on expenditure of public funds secret by wrapping projects in the "public private partnership" label.
0 #4 Do you know that this is the best time tJEANNINEBARRERA34 2011-03-06 09:27
Do you know that this is the best time to receive the home loans, which will make your dreams come true.
0 #5 The big surprise of Wikileaks was to seeUgetsu 2011-03-07 07:05
The big surprise of Wikileaks was to see just how much unimportant and mundane material is rendered secret by governments. And how much of it we have a right to know.

There is a strong belief among political elites that they should have privileged access to information that the hoi polloi should not see.

This is bunkum.

And it appears that that is the opinion of most respondents. It explains the contradictions is some of the responses. People also show they understand that there is a clear line of distinction between private and public information and that they can see that the political class treats public information as if it is (their own) private information.
0 #6 RE: Wikileaks - the quantssandra 2014-03-30 09:27
Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody who actually is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know learn how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More folks must learn this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant believe youre not more common because you definitely have the gift.
0 #7 milanastro 2015-02-18 19:10
I don't think you can correlate answers about government information in this release and private information.