Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Labor gains in polls, but Coalition still holds clear lead

We have had four polls published in the last two weeks which imply that there is a swing to Labor, though the Coalition remains well ahead. Morgan is a week out of step with the other polls in the table; the Morgan fieldwork was taken in the two weekends prior to last weekend. The last ReachTEL poll was taken in January, and the last Ipsos was taken in November 2015. The big swing to Labor in Ipsos is because the November Ipsos was a Coalition-favouring outlier. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls mid Feb.

Morgan was the most favourable pollster for the Coalition under Turnbull until this year, but it now appears to be roughly where the other polls are. Under Abbott, Morgan was the most favourable pollster for Labor, and it appears that this leftward lean is reasserting itself as those on the left become disillusioned with Turnbull. Robopollster ReachTEL is now the most favourable for the Coalition.

Morgan had the Coalition’s one-point advantage with respondent allocated vs previous election preferences since Turnbull became PM disappearing; both measures were 52.5% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to the Coalition, the first time under Turnbull that there was no Coalition advantage on respondent allocation. However, Ipsos still had a one-point advantage for the Coalition; they lead by 53-47 respondent allocated, compared with 52-48 previous election.

Despite little change in voting intentions, Turnbull’s ReachTEL ratings slumped, with his (total good) minus (total poor) rating down from +41 to +15; these are Turnbull’s worst ratings from ReachTEL since he became PM. Shorten’s equivalent ratings climbed from -44 to -32, but are still below where they were at any point last year. In last week’s Essential, Turnbull had a net approval of +24, down slightly from +26 in January. Shorten’s net approval was -21, compared with -20.

Ipsos’ ratings have been very good for Turnbull, and despite a net 15 point drop, he maintained a net +38 approval rating, with 62% approving and 24% disapproving. Shorten had a net -25 rating, up three points from November.

Many things have happened in the last few weeks that could have caused the loss of support for the Coalition, such as the GST debate, ministerial resignations and general disillusionment with Turnbull. However, the Coalition is still comfortably ahead, and is the clear favourite to win the next election, especially as Labor probably needs at least 51% 2PP to win a majority of seats.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is at 53.0% 2PP to the Coalition, a 0.3% gain for Labor since last week; it is the lowest Coalition vote in this aggregate since early November. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack has the Coalition on 52.8% 2PP, a 0.3% gain for Labor since last week, and the third consecutive weekly shift to Labor. Primary votes are 45.3% for the Coalition, 32.0% for Labor and 12.3% for the Greens.

The Australian likes to schedule Newspoll for when Parliament is sitting. Parliament will be sitting next week, so I expect Newspoll then.

Notes on these polls

In ReachTEL, opinion was evenly spread on whether Barnaby Joyce would make a good deputy PM; 32% thought he would be good, 34% poor and 34% average. Tanya Plibersek led as preferred Labor leader with 31%, followed by Anthony Albanese at 25%, Shorten at 22%, Chris Bowen at 13% and Tony Burke at 9%. Among Labor voters, Shorten and Plibersek were tied at 30% each, with Plibersek winning most support among Greens (51%).

In Ipsos, 37% supported a GST increase with compensation for those earning less than $100,000 per year, and 57% were opposed. There has been a big change on this question since November, when 52% were supportive and 41% opposed. 74% thought the government should serve its full term, with only 22% in favour of an election as soon as possible.

In last week’s Essential, the most popular ways to increase government revenue involved increases to high income earners’ taxes (64% support) or forcing multinational companies to pay minimum taxes on Australian earnings (78% support). Removing negative gearing was supported 37-31, but removing GST exemptions (55% opposed) and increasing the GST (63% opposed) were strongly opposed. However, when respondents were asked if they would support increasing the GST if income taxes were reduced at the same time, opposition dropped to a narrow 40-38 margin.

In this week’s Essential, 28% thought the Coalition government had been better than expected under Turnbull, while 22% thought it had been worse than expected. 40% thought babies born to asylum seekers in Australia should remain in Australia, but 39% thought they should be sent to Nauru. 34% thought conditions for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island were good, and 40% thought conditions were poor. By a large 64-17 margin, voters disapproved of outsourcing Medicare payments and administration to the private sector.

Galaxy poll has LNP ahead by 52-48 in Queensland

A Galaxy poll, conducted 10-11 February from a sample of 870, has the Liberal National Party (LNP) leading by 52-48, a 1% gain for the LNP since the November Galaxy. Primary votes are 43% for the LNP (up 1), 37% for Labor (steady) and 9% for the Greens (steady). Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings slumped; her approval was down nine points to 51% and her disapproval up eight points to 32%, for a net approval of +19. Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg also slumped to a net approval of -3, down from +8.

Galaxy is using a mixture of the three previous elections to allocate minor party preferences. If only 2015 election preferences were used, this poll would be roughly a 50-50 tie.

South Carolina Primary and Nevada Caucuses

The South Carolina (SC) Republican primary will be held on Saturday 20 February. Polls close at 11am Sunday Melbourne time. SC is the first “winner takes most” delegates state on the Republican calendar. It has 50 total delegates, and the popular vote winner of each of SC’s 7 Congressional Districts (CDs) will receive all three of that district’s delegates. The winner of the statewide vote will receive all 29 statewide delegates.

Polling in SC has Donald Trump way ahead with 35% of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz at 17%, Marco Rubio at 16%, and Jeb Bush and John Kasich at 10% each. If current polling is correct, Trump will probably carry all seven CDs, thus winning all 50 SC delegates.

Democrats will hold a caucus in Nevada on Saturday, with voting beginning at 12 noon local time (7am Sunday Melbourne time). Nevada has a large Hispanic population, so if Hillary Clinton loses to Bernie Sanders in that state, it will be bad for her. There has been virtually no polling in Nevada.

The early contest month of February winds up with the Republican Nevada caucuses on the 23 February, and the Democratic SC Primary on the 27 February. March will be much busier, with about one quarter of both parties’ delegates to be decided on what is colloquially known as “Super Tuesday”, the 1 March.

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