Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Coalition gains in Newspoll, but Turnbull’s rating negative for first time

On Monday, Turnbull announced that Parliament would be recalled on the 18 April so that the Senate could debate and vote on the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bill. If the Senate refuses to debate this bill, that would qualify as a “failure to pass”, and the government could use the ABCC bill as a double dissolution trigger.

As I have explained previously, a double dissolution must be called by the 11 May. Bringing down the budget on the 3 May will allow time for supply bills to pass the Senate; this needs to happen before an election can be called. Supply is currently only guaranteed until the 30 June.

This week’s Newspoll had the Coalition gaining one point for a 51-49 lead. However, Turnbull’s rating slumped yet again, his satisfied rating falling five points to 39% and his dissatisfied rating up three points to 44%, for a net approval of -5. This is Turnbull’s first negative net rating since he became PM. Since late January, Turnbull has lost a total of 27 points on net approval. Shorten’s net rating was -24, up one point.

Here is this week’s poll table. The ReachTEL poll was conducted on Monday night, after Turnbull’s announcement; the last ReachTEL was conducted in mid February.

polls late March.

ReachTEL has been leaning to the Coalition by about one point relative to other polls since Turnbull became PM. Morgan had a sizeable swing to Labor, giving Labor their first poll lead under Turnbull. Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were the same as the previous election preferences, at 50.5-49.5 to Labor.

There is a big difference in better PM when ReachTEL’s forced choice question is asked, compared to Newspoll. In ReachTEL, Turnbull leads Shorten 60-40, down from 75-25 in mid February. In Newspoll, Turnbull still leads by 52-21, down only slightly from 55-21 four weeks ago.

While Turnbull’s ratings are still falling, the Coalition’s vote appears to have stabilised at about 51% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to the Coalition. Labor needs to gain at least another 2% to win the next election, as they probably need at least 51% 2PP to win. The Coalition is currently still favoured, but if Turnbull’s ratings fall deep into the negative, that could change.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 51.3% 2PP to the Coalition, a gain of 0.2% for Labor since last week. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is also at 51.3% 2PP to the Coalition, steady on last week. Primary votes are 43.2% for the Coalition, 33.6% for Labor and 11.5% for the Greens. Greens support dropped 0.8% since last week, perhaps owing to their support for the Senate reforms.

Notes on these polls

In Newspoll, 55% thought that the Coalition was more likely to win the next election, with 25% favouring Labor. Turnbull was favoured over Shorten 54-20 as better economic manager, compared with 58-22 in February. He was also favoured by 45-25 on tax reform (48-26 in February).

In ReachTEL, 39% supported Turnbull’s ultimatum for the Senate to either pass the ABCC bill or face an election, and 33% were opposed.

In this week’s Essential, 35% supported the ABCC and 17% were opposed, indicating that opposition can potentially grow. 34% would approve of a double dissolution over the ABCC, with 22% opposed. A question on plebiscites for issues other than same sex marriage found strong support for plebiscites on abortion and euthanasia, but opposition on major tax changes and privatisation, and strong opposition on the size of the defence force. 47% thought Abbott should resign from Parliament now or at the next election, 15% thought he should stay on the back bench, and 18% thought he should be given a ministry.

In last week’s Essential, 64% thought people of the same sex should be allowed to marry, while 26% thought otherwise; in October, this margin was 59-30. 66% thought a national vote should be used to decide this issue, while 23% wanted only a Parliamentary vote. Attributes of both leaders show that Turnbull has slumped since September, but still leads Shorten on most positive attributes and trails on most negative ones.

63% thought that climate change is happening and is being caused by human activity, while 27% thought it was due to normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. In November, this was 56-32 in favour of human caused climate change; those saying climate change is caused by humans is now at a record. 57% thought that Australia is not doing enough to address climate change, 21% thought we are doing enough, and 8% said we are doing too much.

Senate electoral reform passes Parliament

After sitting for a marathon 29 straight hours last Thursday and Friday, the Senate passed the Senate electoral reforms with the support of the Coalition, the Greens and Nick Xenophon.

I previously wrote about the proposed Senate reforms here. A major improvement is that below the line voting will be much easier than in the original proposal. Instead of having to number every square below the line, a voter will now only be instructed to number 12 squares sequentially. In fact, a savings provision means just the numbers 1 to 6 below the line will be required for a formal vote.

Family First Senator Bob Day and Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm are challenging the reforms in the High Court. Their challenge appears to be based on whether it is constitutional to allow votes to exhaust, and on whether above the line votes for parties are constitutional.

For the exhaustion case, the first electoral laws in Australia were First Past the Post, under which any vote not for the winner or runner up of a seat is effectively exhausted. If the proposed system is unconstitutional because of above the line voting, so is the current system that has been used since 1984.

These points are made by Anne Twomey, a professor of constitutional law (article probably paywalled).

ReachTEL has Labor leading by 56-44 in WA

A WA ReachTEL robopoll, taken on the 17 March from a sample of 1250, gives Labor a big 56-44 lead over the Liberal/National government. Primary votes, including 6.8% undecided, were 39.7% for the Liberals and Nationals combined, 36.7% for Labor and 12.1% for the Greens. Excluding undecided voters, the primary votes are Liberal/Nationals 42.6%, Labor 39.4% and Greens 13.0%.

On these primary votes, Labor’s 2PP should be between 53% and 54% by 2013 WA election preferences. ReachTEL is using respondent allocation, and is asking the undecided who they are leaning towards for preferences.

There had been some speculation that Federal Labor frontbencher Stephen Smith would challenge WA Labor leader Mark McGowan for the leadership. However, the poll finds McGowan leading Smith 48-28 overall, and 60-25 among Labor voters. McGowan also leads Colin Barnett 61-39 as better Premier.

The next WA election will be held in early 2017, so it will be held after the next Federal election. If the Coalition wins federally, Labor’s chances in WA would be good given an eight year old government.

Four year fixed terms referendum passes in Queensland

At a Queensland referendum held last Saturday, in conjunction with council elections, the proposal to have four year fixed terms passed by a 53.0-47.0 margin. The four year terms do not apply to the current government’s term, but after that, Queensland elections will be held in October every four years.

Trump wins Arizona easily, but gets crushed in Utah

Donald Trump yesterday won the Arizona primary with 47% of the vote, to 25% for Ted Cruz and 10% for John Kasich. Although Marco Rubio dropped out last week, Arizona used extensive early voting, and so Rubio finished with 13%. Trump won all 58 Arizonan delegates as it was winner takes all.

Utah’s population is overwhelmingly Mormon, and they strongly dislike Trump. At the Utah caucuses held yesterday, Cruz won 69%, to 17% for Kasich and just 14% for Trump. As Cruz had over 50% of Utah’s vote, he won all 40 of Utah’s delegates.

Currently, Trump leads with 754 delegates, to 468 for Cruz and 145 for Kasich. Trump has 48.0% of delegates awarded so far, and needs 59% of all further pledged delegates to reach a majority (1,237). As most states from now on are winner takes all, either for the whole state, or for the whole state and each Congressional District, Trump could win the nomination outright.

After the hectic pace of March, there will only be two Republican primaries in the next four weeks: Wisconsin on the 5 April, and Trump’s home state of New York on the 19 April. Delegates from North Dakota and Colorado will also be awarded following a complex convention process.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton had a solid win in Arizona (58-40), but was crushed by Bernie Sanders in the Utah (79-20) and Idaho (78-21) caucuses. Sanders won 18 more delegates yesterday than Clinton, but Clinton still leads by just over 300 pledged delegates.

On Saturday (Sunday Melbourne time), Democratic caucuses will be held in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington State. Caucuses have been very favourable to Sanders, so he is likely to do well in these contests, but will still be too far behind Clinton. Wisconsin should also be friendly for Sanders, but New York, where Clinton was a Senator for eight years, votes on 19 April.

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