Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Final NSW polls have Coalition set for easy win

The New South Wales election will be held today. Polls close at 6pm local time. All final polls give the Coalition at least a 10-point primary vote lead. The Coalition’s primary vote estimate in the major polls has either been too low or about right at the most recent major Federal and state elections. Given this history, I see no reason to doubt that the Coalition will win the NSW election. Preference flows simply cannot make up a double digit primary vote gap; this gap was only 3.8% at the Queensland election.

The table below presents the final polls. However, since the pollsters are using a variety of methods for their Two Party Preferred (2PP) estimates, I have reverted to using primary votes. Primary votes are reported in the format: Coalition primary-Labor primary-Greens primary. The “Change” column is the average primary vote swing between the major parties since the poll was last conducted. For example, if the Coalition gained 1% and Labor lost 2%, that is an average swing of 1.5% to the Coalition.

NSW final polls.

The previous Newspoll was taken in late February, the previous ReachTEL three weeks ago, the previous Galaxy one week ago, and the previous Morgan last weekend. The Coalition has 10-12 point primary vote leads in the three established pollsters (Newspoll, Galaxy and ReachTEL), but much bigger leads in new pollsters Ipsos, Lonergan and Morgan. It is likely that the more established pollsters are correct.

ReachTEL‘s respondent allocated preferences are 54-46 to the Coalition, 2% better for Labor than what I believe would be achieved from 2011 flows. A table of how minor party voters will direct their preferences has 38% going to Labor, 16% to the Coalition and the rest exhaust. If this poll is correct, Labor will gain 22 votes per 100 minor party votes, up from 3.5 in 2011. This is only a little less than Labor’s gain rate in the recent Queensland election, which was probably in the high 20’s per 100 minor party votes.

Newspoll had a 2PP estimate of 55-45 to the Coalition by 2011 preferences, but only 52-48 by respondent allocation. More interesting was a Sydney vs rest of NSW breakdown, which shows a net 14% primary vote swing to Labor in the country, but only 4% in Sydney compared to the 2011 election. However, huge swings to Labor in the country may be wasted on very safe Coalition seats; there are more marginal seats in Sydney.

The Poll Bludger’s final NSW BludgerTrack has primary votes of 45.3% for the Coalition, 33.7% for Labor and 11.0% for the Greens. By 2011 preferences, this becomes 56.0-44.0 to the Coalition, reducing to 54.1-45.9 by respondent allocation. On the latter method, the Coalition is expected to win 53 of the 93 seats, to 37 for Labor. Kevin Bonham’s aggregates are very similar.

In late February, polls had the Coalition ahead by about seven points on primary votes, but this has now blown out. Galaxy polling over the last two weeks has given the Coalition 8, 9 and now 11 point primary vote leads, up from 7 in late February.

The main reason for this blowout is Mike Baird’s enduring popularity. Some analysts expected Baird’s ratings to drop as the election drew closer, but instead they are still strong. As people have focused on the NSW election, rather than Federal politics, Baird’s popularity has helped the Coalition open up a big lead.

I think Labor’s desperate tactics have also contributed. While the campaign against electricity privatisation itself was fine, warning of Chinese interests leasing the electricity network seems like something Clive Palmer might do, and appears xenophobic. The problem is that when you are behind, you try to come up with a “game changer”, but often these “game changers” will backfire, making the position even worse.

Notes on these polls

  • In Galaxy, Baird led Foley by 51-29 on how best to manage the state’s economy.

  • ReachTEL had Baird’s total good rating up 7% to 49%, and his total poor rating up 4% to 23%, for a very strong net approval of +26. Luke Foley’s ratings went in the other direction, with his total good rating steady at 23% and his total poor rating up 11% to 35%, for a net approval of -12. By a 72-28 margin, voters say the Coalition will win. By 49-29, they oppose the asset leasing plan. 13% now consider asset leasing the most important issue, up from 9%.

  • Newspoll had Baird’s satisfied rating down 2% to 57% and his dissatisfied rating up 3% to 29% for a net approval of +28. Foley’s satisfied rating was up 2% to 38% and his dissatisfied rating up 6% to 37% for a net approval of +1. Voting commitment is about the same as in 2003 and '07. 65% think the Coalition will win, and 20% say Labor will win.