Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Carbon Tax Repeal Unlikely to Be a Winner for Coalition

Note: Many updates have been added in the sections below the carbon tax repeal section on Thursday 24 July.

Last Thursday 17 July, the Coalition finally succeeded in repealing the carbon tax, established by Labor in July 2012. The graph below shows the BludgerTrack Two Party Preferred (2PP) vote during the 2010-13 Labor government. It is from the sidebar of the Poll Bludger website, and I thank William Bowe for emailing me a larger copy. This article also draws on Peter Brent’s carbon tax related articles, such as this one.

2010-13 Two Party Preferred.

Labor’s 2PP vote dived after the carbon tax was announced in February 2011, and remained at or below 45% most of the time until late 2012. The carbon tax was not actually introduced until July 2012, and the Coalition was able to run a very effective scare campaign between its announcement and introduction. However, by late 2012, most people had adjusted to the carbon tax, and realised that some fears were unfounded. As a result, Labor’s position became more competitive in late 2012, and for a few months Labor trailed by only about 52-48.

I believe that the drop back to a Coalition blowout in early 2013 was caused mainly by Labor’s loss of economic credibility. Prior to December 2012, Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan had promised that there would be a surplus in the 2012-13 financial year. When they finally announced that a surplus would not be delivered, trust in Labor’s economic management was shattered, and Labor’s vote dropped again.

The carbon tax was most probably not a vote changing issue at the 2013 election. Perceptions of Labor’s economic management and the party’s Gillard vs Rudd leadership dysfunction were far more likely to have cost government.

Bill Shorten is currently proposing to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) if Labor wins the next election. This may be a negative for Labor at the next election campaign, but not as much of a negative as the original carbon tax because people have already experienced the carbon tax, so it is unlikely that scare campaigns about it will have such an impact.

Proposing not to do anything on climate change at the next election was not a feasible option for Labor. It would have angered their environmental voters, while other voters would simply not have believed Labor. The Coalition would have been able to exploit such a situation by asking what secret plans Labor were hiding.

Polling prior to the repeal indicated that a narrow plurality of voters wanted the tax repealed. However, a ReachTEL poll said that 65% wanted some form of a price on carbon for companies with high emissions. Last week’s Newspoll that showed 53% favouring repeal used a different question in asking if Palmer United Party (PUP) should vote for repeal, while other polls have asked if the respondent favours repeal.

Since a large majority clearly favour some price on carbon, I believe that Labor and the Greens can win on this issue by portraying the Coalition as a do-nothing government on climate change. In addition, the promised $550 per person savings from repealing the carbon tax are likely to be forgotten by the next election, especially if electricity bills keep rising despite there being no carbon tax.

This Week’s Polls

Nielsen had Labor leading 54-46, a 1% swing to Labor, from primary votes of 40% for Labor, 39% for the Coalition, 12% for the Greens and 5% for PUP. Respondent allocated preferences favoured Labor by a larger 56-44 margin. Despite the voting intention figures, Abbott’s net approval rose 7% to -18, with 38% approving and 56% disapproving. Joe Hockey now only leads Chris Bowen as preferred Treasurer 43-42, down from a 51-34 Hockey lead in March. Clive Palmer had 37% approving and 51% disapproving of his performance. This poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1400, so the fieldwork was done after the carbon tax repeal, and included two days of reaction to the shooting down of MH17.

Essential was 52-48 to Labor, a 1% gain for the Coalition. Essential polls over two weeks, and the latest week’s fieldwork would have been conducted from Friday to Monday, thus including the reaction to MH17. However, Essential’s poor performance at the 2013 election means it is not regarded favourably. In this poll, 36% thought that PUP and other micro party Senators having the balance of power in the Senate was good for democracy, and 28% bad. 27% were more confident in the Greens holding the balance of power, and 22% were more confident in PUP.

After Labor’s lead blew out after the budget, the Coalition had clawed back a little ground. However, the polls taken last week and this week show a trend back to Labor, and Labor now leads by about 54-46. A question is whether the MH17 tragedy will boost the government; here, Essential appears to give the Coalition some hope, but we will need to wait until next week’s polls to see if there is an MH17 effect.

Update: A ReachTEL poll taken Monday night from 3,400 respondents has Labor leading 52-48, a 1% move to the Coalition. As a result, it is now clear that Labor’s lead has narrowed following MH17. Abbott received positive marks for his handling of the MH17 crisis, with 51% saying his handling was good and only 23% poor.

Update Thursday 24 July: ReachTEL also asked a series of “best party to handle” issues questions. The Coalition leads Labor by only one point on economic management, 43-42, with the Greens on 5% and PUP on 10%. On climate change, the Coalition leads Labor 35-32, but only because the Greens have 25% support. On national security, the Coalition leads Labor 50-38. The Coalition’s economic reading is very poor for an incumbent Coalition government, on an issue that has been their strength. ReachTEL also found that 66% support the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes, with only 14% opposed.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 53.1% 2PP to Labor, and the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is at 53.3% 2PP to Labor, from primary votes of 38.4% for Labor, 38.3% for the Coalition, 10.7% for the Greens and 6.8% for PUP.

Stafford (Qld) By-Election Result

On Saturday night, Labor easily won the Stafford by-election in Queensland, by a 61.4-38.6 margin, a swing to Labor of 18.5%. The by-election had been caused by the resignation of the local member after a falling out with the Premier, Campbell Newman. Much of the massive swing to Labor can be seen as a correction after Labor’s smashing in the 2012 state election. Because by-elections do not generally change the government, people feel free to protest against the government, and so by-election swings can be much bigger than general election swings.

However, the Queensland polls do indicate that Labor has some chance of winning the next Queensland election, and Newman would have reason to be worried, as his seat of Ashgrove, which shares a border with Stafford, is only held by 5.7%.

Update Thursday 24 July: A ReachTEL poll in Newman’s seat of Ashgrove taken Tuesday night from 800 respondents has Newman trailing a generic Labor candidate 53-47. However, if Labor nominates its previous member Kate Jones, she would lead Newman 56-44. A ReachTEL poll for a union organisation conducted Monday night has the LNP leading Labor 37.4-34.6 on the primary vote. No two party result was given, but I think these primaries would give a 2PP of 51-49 to the LNP.

Nielsen gives Victorian Coalition some Hope

A Nielsen poll conducted last Thursday to Monday from a sample of 1000 has Labor only leading 51-49 in Victoria on previous election preferences, though Labor holds a larger 54-46 lead on respondent allocated preferences. Since the June Nielsen there has been a 5% swing to the Coalition. It is possible that the waning of the Geoff Shaw issue has had a positive impact for the Coalition. It is hard to credit a 5% one month swing, and we will need to wait for other polls.

In early June, Fairfax announced that Nielsen would stop its political polling in July. Thus the state and Federal Nielsens are probably the last Nielsens we will have.