Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Federal polling volatility continues

This week we have had three polls from Newspoll, Morgan and Essential with different results. Newspoll gave Labor only a 51-49 lead, a 4% move to the Coalition. Morgan’s headline figure was 56-44 to Labor, but this uses respondent allocated preferences. If you look carefully at the article, you will see a mention that Labor’s lead was only 54-46 by previous election preferences. Finally, Essential has earned a reputation for excessive stability, but it shifted two points to Labor this week, giving Labor a 54-46 lead. As Essential does a rolling average of two weeks’ sampling, that suggests that this week’s sample must have been 55-45 to Labor. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls late Mar.

A major concern for Labor in recent Newspoll and Ipsos polls is that Abbott’s ratings have become dissociated from the Coalition’s Two Party Preferred (2PP). This Newspoll had Abbott’s satisfied rating up 1% to 29% and his dissatisfied rating down 2% to 61%, for a net approval of -32. Such a poor rating for the PM would normally give the opposition about a 54-46 lead, but not this time. While last fortnight’s Newspoll had the PM’s ratings and voting intentions in agreement, the late February Newspoll and Ipsos have not. Before Abbott, only Keating was this unpopular while his party was competitive.

It is possible that this dissociation is explained by two transitory events. In late February and early March, there was much speculation that Malcolm Turnbull could replace Abbott. Currently, there is a NSW state election this Saturday, which the Coalition is expected to win easily. NSW is the most populous state, so if the Coalition is doing much better there federally than usual, this would drive up support for the Federal Coalition, even as Abbott’s ratings remain poor.

In two of the last three Newspolls, the Coalition has had a four point gain. Over the last six weeks, the Labor 2PP has been 57%, 53%, 55% and now 51%. This sequence is the first time a government has had two four point gains in three Newspolls since September 2012. Shorten’s ratings have also been bouncy, with a net approval sequence of +2, -14, -3 and now -11. As Morgan and Essential have moved in the other direction, this Newspoll is probably a rogue.

In Morgan, the primary vote changes were Labor up 2, Coalition down 1, Greens down 0.5. Such changes would normally produce a Labor 2PP gain of slightly under 1.5%. The explanation is that last fortnight’s Morgan was rounded up for Labor, while this one has been rounded down. Morgan leans to Labor by about 1.5% relative to other polls, so if this lean is applied there is only a 1.5% difference between Morgan and Newspoll. After an unusual poll last fortnight, in which both preference measures gave the same 2PP, respondent allocated preferences this week put Labor 2% ahead of the previous election method.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 52.5% 2PP to Labor, down 0.4% on last week. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is at 52.7% 2PP to Labor, down 0.3% since last week. Primary votes are 40.3% for the Coalition, 39.1% for Labor and 10.6% for the Greens. Since last week, there has been a 0.5% increase in both major parties’ votes, at the expense of the Greens and Others. The NSW component is showing a 50.0-50.0 tie, 2.7% below the overall result for Labor, suggesting some state election effect.

More on Essential

Possibly because Summer was thought to the cooler than expected, Essential recorded a 3% drop in the proportion believing in human-caused climate change, down from 57% to 54% since December, with support for the alternative “normal fluctuation in the climate” rising from 29% to 31%. 52% are more concerned about global warming than they were two years ago, with 8% less concerned. Asked what actions on climate change they most support, 45% nominated incentives for renewable energy, 14% an emissions trading scheme, 10% the government’s direct action policy, and 11% thought no action was required. Only 8% thought the 20% renewable energy target (RET) by 2020 was too high, 33% said it was too low and 32% said it was about right. Those saying the RET is too high have declined from 13% last July.

27% thought the Australian economy was currently good, and 33% poor, a shift from a 37-26 margin in favour of good last August. 51% disapproved of Joe Hockey’s performance as Treasurer, and 27% approved, for a net approval of -24, down from -9 last August. Hockey was preferred as Treasurer to Chris Bowen by a slender 26-25 margin, down from a 34-23 Hockey margin; there are too many “don’t know” respondents on this question. Finally, 58% said a warrant should be required to access all Australians’ data under data retention laws.

More dire NSW polling for Labor

A new Morgan SMS NSW poll, taken last Friday to Monday with a sample of 1210, has the Coalition with a headline 56-44 lead from primary votes of 45.5% for the Coalition (down 1), 32.5% for Labor (down 1) and 12% for the Greens (up 0.5). I think the 56-44 headline is actually 56.5-43.5 by last election preferences, unchanged on last week. Actual preference flows will probably be much better for Labor than in 2011, but no flow is going to make up a 13-point primary vote deficit.

An Essential poll, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 660, has the Coalition leading Labor 44-36 on primary votes with 9% for the Greens. This would give the Coalition 54% 2PP by 2011 preferences. This Essential is Labor’s best poll since a Galaxy two weeks ago, but eight points is still too large to make up on preferences.

A Lonergan robopoll, conducted from Friday to Sunday with a sample of over 3200, gives the Coalition a crushing 47-31 lead on primary votes with 11% for the Greens. Since last week, changes are Coalition up 1%, Labor down 3% and Greens up 1%. Labor will be hoping that Lonergan has a big lean to the Coalition.

Kevin Bonham gives the Coalition 55.3% 2PP by 2011 preferences and 53.9% by estimated respondent preferences, with the Coalition winning 53 of the 93 seats. The Poll Bludger gives the Coalition 56.0% 2PP by last election preferences, 54.4% by respondent allocated, and 52 seats. NSW BludgerTrack graphs now show a clear late campaign trend to the Coalition. With only two days remaining, this contest appears over to me.

Galaxy has polled the seats of Campbelltown, Coogee and The Entrance, and the Coalition is narrowly ahead in all three. These leads are slender, so it is certainly possible for Labor to win one or two of these seats. This polling was conducted last Thursday night with samples of about 550 per electorate.

Israeli election final results

At the Israeli election held on 17 March, the right wing bloc won 57 of the 120 Knesset seats, to 42 for the left and 21 for centrist parties; this compares with 61 seats for the right and 38 for the left at the 2013 election. The right wing is composed of Likud (30 seats), Jewish Home (8), Shas (7), the UTJ (6) and Yisrael Beiteinu (6). On the left, the Zionist Union won 24 seats, with 13 for the Joint Arab List and 5 for Meretz. Centrist parties are Yesh Atid (11 seats) and Kulanu (10). Turnout was 72.3%, 4.6% higher than in 2013 and the highest since the 1999 election.

All right wing parties and Kulanu have suggested to the Israeli President that incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be given the task of forming a government. It is thus very likely that Netanyahu will form a government with the support of 67 of the 120 Knesset members.

The pre-election polls were wrong on Likud’s support mainly because Netanyahu’s right wing rhetoric in the closing days won over people who were going to vote for other right wing parties. There was a smaller error with the exit polls, which is probably explained by the “shy Tory” effect.

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