Despite some recent criticism, Australians still have a lot of trust in the ABS, says the ABS


Like me until about an hour ago, you’re probably not aware that today is World Statistics Day.

Yes, it’s a very special day for statisticians around the globe. To mark the occasion, Australia’s Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released a survey on itself in an attempt to measure trust in the organisation and its statistics based on community and “informed user” responses.

142 informed users and 2,200 members of the general community participated in the survey, with the findings indicating that recent criticism levelled at the ABS is not widely shared by others in the community.

According to the ABS, trust in the ABS was high among the general community with 81% indicating that they either tend to trust or greatly trust the bureau as an institution. Generally trust in the ABS’ data was also high with 76% of respondents indicating that they tend to or greatly trust its figures.

The survey’s findings for informed, or sophisticated users, was even higher – 100% of respondents indicating that they had either a great deal of trust or tended to trust the bureau as an institution. In terms of the quality of the data produced, 99% indicated that they trust them a great deal or tend to trust their reliability. Only 1% of respondents said they tend to distrust the figures produced.

The ABS notes that although the sample size for informed users was small, economists and journalists appeared to record lower levels of trust for both institutional and product trust measures when compared to academics.

Last week Bill McLennan, the former head of the bureau between 1995 and 2000, gave a damning indictment of ABS’ employment figures over the past six months, telling the AFR that “they weren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”

It appears that this type of sentiment towards the unemployment survey, and the wild monthly figures it produces, has not dimmed overall trust in the bureau among the broader Australian community.

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