Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but Turnbull’s better PM lead blows out

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 31 August to 3 September from a sample of 1610, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor (steady), 37% Coalition (up 2), 9% Greens (steady) and 8% One Nation (down 1). This is the Coalition’s 19th successive Newspoll loss under Turnbull.

There was little change in the leaders’ ratings. 34% approved of Turnbull’s performance (down 1) and 54% disapproved (down 1), for a net approval of -20. Shorten’s net approval was also steady at -20.

On the better PM measure, there was a solid shift in Turnbull’s favour, from a 43-33 lead last fortnight to 46-29 this week. While the Coalition has trailed consistently on voting intentions in Newspoll, Turnbull has led Shorten comfortably as better PM in all these polls.

The better PM measure virtually always skews towards incumbents relative to voting intentions, but Turnbull’s leads have been stronger than expected given voting intentions, and indicate that the public prefer Turnbull to run the country, even as voting intentions favour Labor. An argument can be made that Shorten is holding back Labor, but also that the Coalition is a drag on Turnbull.

According to Kevin Bonham, there have been seven previous cases of a greater better PM lead for the incumbent when the government was behind 53-47 or worse; all occurred with John Howard as PM and Kim Beazley as Opposition Leader from 2005-06.

In the last fortnight, there has been much debate about cultural issues, such as changing the date of Australia Day and amending statues from our colonial past. Turnbull has argued against such changes, and this appears to have boosted his better PM rating.

In this week’s Essential, voters opposed changing Australia Day by 54-26. In Newspoll, voters opposed making changes to the statues by a 58-32 margin, though in Essential opposition was milder at 42-29, perhaps because voters were asked about changing “inscriptions” on public statues, not the statues themselves.

In Newspoll, 45% thought Labor’s 50% renewable energy target would increase electricity prices, 22% decrease and 24% thought there would be no effect, so this is 46-45 for no effect or a decrease. 49% are not willing to pay anything for renewable energy (up 4 since February), 25% will pay $100 a year (down 1) and 13% $300 or more (down 4).

Essential 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1780, gave Labor an unchanged 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 10% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Last week, the Coalition was ahead 37-36 on primary votes, so rounding explains the lack of a headline move to Labor. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Among those who say they will definitely vote in the same sex marriage plebiscite (62% of the sample), 69% will vote Yes and 28% will vote No (67-30 last fortnight). The overall sample supported Yes 59-31 (57-32 last fortnight).

49% blamed private power companies most for rising energy prices, 22% blamed the Turnbull government, 9% environmentalists and 5% renewable energy companies.

In last week’s Essential, voters were asked to rank the last four governments - the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments, and the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments. On first preferences, Rudd had 32%, Turnbull 26%, Gillard 22% and Abbott 20%. Labor and Greens voters preferred Rudd to Gillard, while Coalition voters preferred Turnbull to Abbott. Other voters, which included many One Nation supporters, had Abbott at 34% and Rudd at 30%. The Abbott government was the most disliked, with 37% ranking it last.

By 51-40, voters thought the tax system was not fair (55-36 in April 2016). Majorities were bothered a lot by some corporations and wealthy people not paying their fair share of tax.

By 41-40, voters thought dual citizens should be allowed to be MPs. By 41-40, they thought ministers who may hold dual citizenship should stand down while their cases are being decided by the High Court. By 59-25, voters supported a review into all MPs to ascertain who may be a dual citizen. In an additional Newspoll question last fortnight, voters thought politicians entitled to a dual citizenship should be disqualified by 44-43.

By 39-38, voters approved of Pauline Hanson’s burka stunt in Parliament. Kevin Bonham has said that Essential’s online panel appears to have attitudes that are closer to One Nation than a truly representative sample would produce. In effect, Essential may be biased towards non-politically correct responses. This bias may also apply to YouGov.

YouGov 50-50

This week’s Australian YouGov poll, conducted 31 August to 4 September from a sample of 1030, had a 50-50 tie, a one point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Coalition (steady), 32% Labor (down 1), 12% Greens (up 2) 9% One Nation (down 1), 4% Nick Xenophon Team (down 1) and 3% Christian parties (down 1).

The major party primary votes are much lower than in other polls. Votes for Christian parties would probably be Coalition votes in other polls, and this explains why YouGov is skewed towards the Coalition.

Pauline Hanson had a 50-42 unfavourable rating (52-39 in late July). Nick Xenophon had a 52-28 favourable rating (50-25 in July). 66% were worried about North Korea, and views were split 43-43 on military action. Voters would oppose a ban on the hijab 61-29, but support a burka ban 67-24 and niqab ban 64-26.

By 62-24, voters thought Tony Abbott should be reprimanded after he admitted he had missed a vote in 2009 when he got drunk the night before.

State representation changes in the lower house

I wrote on 30 June, following the release of 2016 Census data, that Victoria and the ACT will each gain a House seat, while SA will lose a seat, so there will be one additional House seat after the next election. On 31 August, the Electoral Commission confirmed this outcome, and will begin redistributions in the affected states. Labor will benefit from the new ACT seat.