Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Latest Polls Show Confusing Picture

Last week a Nielsen poll gave the Coalition its first poll lead from a reputable pollster since November last year. This week’s Newspoll has given Labor its biggest lead since prior to the 2010 election. The table of pollster results is below. Note that both Morgan and Essential did their fieldwork over two weekends; thus their data would have included both the weekend when Nielsen showed the Coalition ahead, and last weekend when Newspoll gave Labor a large lead.

polls late Feb.

It is not credible to think that there was a 6% swing to Labor in one week. It is far more likely that Nielsen underestimated Labor’s position, and that Newspoll is now overestimating it. While Newspoll has earned its reputation with accurate final pre-election polls, it does exhibit more poll to poll volatility than other polls.

The contradictory Nielsen and Newspoll have affected the poll aggregate measures. Kevin Bonham’s aggregate went fron a Labor Two Party Preferred (2PP) of 50.7% the week before Nielsen to 49.7% the week after Nielsen, and is now at 51.0%. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack had a Labor 2PP of 51.8% before Nielsen, 50.0% after Nielsen, and is now at 50.7%.

In my opinion, for Labor to be considered a favourite for the next Federal election, the party will need to consistently maintain its support at the current Newspoll’s level or better.

Notes on these Polls

  • Nielsen had Abbott’s net approval rating at -2, down from +1 in November. A royal commission into union corruption was supported by a 67-23 margin, but reducing worker entitlements to make companies more competitive was opposed by a 58-37 margin. 59% say the ABC is politically unbiased, while 31% disagree; Coalition voters are more likely to say that the ABC is biased. Nielsen’s respondent-allocated preferences showed Labor doing 1% better than using the previous election method.

  • Morgan’s respondent-allocated preferences gave Labor a 50.5-49.5 lead this week, in agreement with the previous election preferences.

  • In Essential, the Coalition was given neutral marks for the handling of its core issues such as economic management and asylum seekers. For Labor/Green issues such as industrial relations and climate change, the Coalition was -10 or worse on net scores (good minus poor). On supporting Australian jobs, the Coalition scored -19. Only 13% think the 20% Renewable Energy Target is too high. 42% oppose restricting filesharing, while 38% support it, with young people particularly opposed. In last week’s Essential, voters were opposed to the Abbot Point expansion by a 66-17 margin, including 41% strongly opposed.

  • Newspoll had Abbott’s approval rating down 4% to 36% and his disapproval up 7% to 52% for a net approval of -16, down from -5 last fortnight. If Abbott’s approval really has dived like this, the Newspoll voting intentions are no surprise. Shorten’s net approval was -5, down from 0 last fortnight.

WA Senate Re-Run Election

Last week the High Court ordered a new election for the WA Senate, after the September election had almost 1400 missing votes and a very close count at a critical exclusion. At this new election, all six seats will be contested, even though four were clearly elected on the first count, and only two seats were disputed. This is because Senate voting is proportional, and it would be worse had the Court ordered that only two seats be filled. That outcome would have certainly elected a Liberal and Labor candidate, and WA would then have had four Liberals and two Labor in the Senate.

Under both iterations of the original count, there could be only two Labor/Greens, three Liberals and one from either the Palmer United Party or the Sports Party, who would be more likely to support the Liberals on key legislation. The new election thus gives Labor and the Greens an opportunity to win three combined seats, and make life more difficult for the Coalition in the new Senate when it starts sitting in July. Given the deterioration in the Coalition’s national poll position, a 3-3 Left-Right split from WA is the probable outcome.

No election date has been set for this re-run election. The earliest possible date is the 5 April, and the election should be held by late May to give the electoral commission time to declare the winners before July. Update 28 Feb: The new WA Senate election has been set for the 5 April.

Redcliffe By-Election (Qld) Result

Last Saturday 22 February, Labor won the Queensland state seat of Redcliffe by a 57.1-42.9 margin, a 17.2% swing to Labor. The March 2012 Queensland state election was a catastrophe for Labor, and Redcliffe gives them only their eighth seat in state Parliament, out of 89 total. The latest Queensland Galaxy state poll had the Liberal National Party (LNP) ahead by 53-47, a 10% swing to Labor from 2012. By-election swings are not good predictors of general election swings, and the LNP should still be favoured to win the next state election.

Next week I will discuss the upcoming state elections in Tasmania and South Australia, which will both be held on 15 March.