Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Federal Poll Analysis - 2.5 weeks to go

This Week’s Polls

As before, the table below shows the poll, two party result, change from last issue of that poll, fieldwork dates and sample size. Note the increased sample sizes in Newspoll and Morgan.

poll table.

This week’s polls give a wide range of results. Online panel pollsters Essential and AMR are the most favourable for Labor, while Newspoll was the most pro-Coalition pollster this week. The real situation is probably about where it was last week, at 52-48 to the Coalition. The media’s focus on Newspoll has meant that most poll commentary this week has been dire for Labor, but Newspoll is not the only poll, and Tasmanian statistician Dr. Kevin Bonham says it is a rather bouncy poll.

We had many marginal seat polls taken last Wednesday and Thursday from robopollsters ReachTEL, JWS Research and Lonergan. Virtually all of these robopolls gave dismal results for Labor. Of particular note, two polls found Peter Beattie getting crushed 60-40 in Forde, and that the Liberals would win the Labor held seat of Lindsay with around 60% of the primary vote. While other seats polled were not as bad for Labor, the overall picture from these robopolls was of a Labor wipe-out.

However, other than Newspoll, the national polls have not moved to the Coalition very much. I would trust the national polls much more than the marginal seat polls because the national polls have a good track record at predicting elections, while the robopolls are fairly new. In Australia’s compulsory voting system, robopolls may be biased towards the party whose supporters are most motivated, because those supporters will be more likely to respond to a robot. At this election, there is no doubt that the most motivated voters are those who hate the Labor government.

Notes on these Polls

  • Galaxy had 44% supporting the Coalition’s more generous parental leave scheme, while 36% supported Labor’s. However, Coalition plans to abolish the school kids’ bonus were opposed by 47-38; these results show that people like their entitlements. On economic management, the Coalition leads 45-33, with both parties down 3% from last week. Galaxy has been the most pro-Labor phone pollster so far in this election campaign after being the most pro-Coalition in 2007; perhaps this is because Galaxy polls mobiles.

  • Newspoll had Rudd’s approval slumping 4% to 35% while his disapproval climbed 6% to 54% for a net approval rating of -19. Abbott’s approval ratings and his preferred PM rating also improved. With every measure moving in the Coalition’s direction, either there was real change on all these measures, or Newspoll oversampled Coalition voters.

  • Morgan’s respondent-allocated preferences were 51-49 to the Coalition, compared with 52-48 using the previous election’s preferences.

  • Essential’s 50-50 tie is Labor’s best result in an Essential poll since before Gillard announced the carbon tax in early 2011. In other results, Essential has the percentage of respondents who could “quite possibly” change their minds on who to vote for down from 21% two weeks ago to 17% now. Voting intentions are firmer among major party supporters. Questions about attributes of the various parties unsurprisingly find that Labor is viewed as more divided than the Coalition, but that the Coalition is viewed as being “too close to the big corporate and financial interests”. A question on trust in the media finds that the ABC is the most trusted, followed by the Fairfax papers, then the News Ltd papers and commercial TV.

  • Lonergan is a robopollster that has been conducting surveys for The Guardian Australia. The only previous Lonergan national poll was taken in early July during Rudd’s honeymoon phase and showed a 50-50 tie. Given that robopolls seem to lean to the Coalition, the 52-48 recorded in this poll was fairly positive for Labor.

  • Like Essential, AMR uses an online panel methodology. As with Lonergan, its previous poll was conducted during Rudd’s honeymoon. According to Nate Silver, Internet-based polls actually did well at the US 2012 Presidential election, so they should not be entirely dismissed.

It’s Still too Early to Call

There are 2.5 weeks remaining, and the polls are currently about 52-48 to the Coalition. If Newspoll is correct, then it would be very hard to see Labor coming back from 54-46 down. But the other polls taken last week show a picture different from Newspoll, and it is still plausible that Labor could come back from 52-48 down.

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