Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Newspoll: Labor gains to lead 53-47

Tuesday’s Newspoll, conducted 3-6 November from a sample of 1850, had Labor leading 53-47, a one point gain for Labor. Primary votes were 39% for the Coalition (steady), 38% for Labor (up 1) and 10% for the Greens (steady).

30% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 1), and 58% were dissatisfied (also up 1), for a net approval of -28. It is the first time since the election that Turnbull’s net approval has not declined in Newspoll. Shorten’s net approval was an unchanged -15.

To the extent that Donald Trump’s shock victory has an effect on Australian politics, it will probably help One Nation, the most Trump-like party in Australia. Most supporters of the three established parties will not change their votes, but One Nation could consolidate some of the Others vote.

Last week’s Essential, conducted over two weeks from a sample of 1800, also had Labor leading 53-47 from primary votes of Coalition 38%, Labor 37%, Greens 10%, One Nation 6% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%. Turnbull’s net approval was -8, down from -3 in October. Shorten’s net approval was -9, down from -3.

23% thought the Coalition government was too tough on asylum seekers, 24% too soft and 37% about right; in August, these percentages were respectively 21%, 29% and 31%. 56% approved of the government’s proposed legislation to ban asylum seekers from ever coming to Australia, and 29% disapproved.

59% would have supported Clinton if they could vote, with 19% supporting Trump. In June, respondents favoured Clinton 71-15; the 12 point drop for Clinton was driven mainly by Coalition and Other voters. Australian voters far preferred Clinton to handle important issues. 52% thought that US influence in the world is becoming weaker, with 19% for stronger.

An Ipsos online panel poll of 921 respondents, conducted Thursday and Friday, found that 66% of Australians opposed Trump’s election as US President. Similar percentages (58-63%) thought he would be bad for the US, the world economy, the Australian economy, world security and relations between the US and Australia. 45% thought the Coalition would be most capable of managing Australia’s relationship with the US under Trump, with 22% selecting Labor and 14% One Nation.

NSW by-elections: huge swing against Nats in Orange

Yesterday, by-elections were held in the NSW lower house seats of Orange (National-held), Wollongong (Labor-held) and Canterbury (Labor-held). In Orange and Canterbury, the sitting members successfully contested Federal seats at the recent election, while Noreen Hay resigned as Wollongong member after many scandals.

In Orange, the Nationals won 31.1%, down a massive 34.5 points from the 2015 election. Perhaps reflecting a Trump surge, the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers were second with 24.3%, followed by Labor at 18.6% (down 4.7). The rest of the vote mainly went to Independents with the Greens at 5.8%.

There is no preference count yet for the Nationals vs Shooters contest. NSW uses optional preferential voting, which will make it harder for the Shooters. However, unless the Nationals can greatly extend their lead on the remaining votes, the Shooters are likely to win their first ever single member electorate.

The Orange result has been blamed on the proposed greyhound racing ban that has now been withdrawn, and on forced council amalgamations.

The other two by-elections were less dramatic. In Wollongong, Labor defeated Independent Gordon Bradbery 58-42, a one point swing to the Independent who had contested the 2015 election. In Canterbury, Labor was opposed by only the Greens and Christian Democrats, and romped home with 66% of the primary vote.

WA Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

The Western Australian election will be held in four months on 11 March 2017. A WA Newspoll, conducted from August to October with a sample of 860, has Labor leading by 52-48, a 2 point gain for the Liberal/Nationals since the March to May WA Newspoll.

Primary votes are 41% for Labor (down 1), 40% for the combined Liberals and Nationals (steady) and 9% for the Greens (down 2). These primary vote changes imply that the 2 point two party change is partly a result of rounding.

Despite the improvement on voting intentions, Premier Colin Barnett’s ratings slumped. His satisfied rating was down 3 to 28% and his dissatisfied rating up 3 to 61%, for a net approval of -33. Opposition leader Mark McGowan’s net approval fell 10 points, but he is still at a +13 net rating.

This poll is in agreement with a recent ReachTEL poll that also had Labor ahead 52-48. The ReachTEL poll was conducted on 27 October, so it is much more recent and useful than this Newspoll, conducted over three months.

Queensland Galaxy: 51-49 to Labor

A Queensland Galaxy poll has Labor leading by 51-49, a one point gain for Labor since August. Primary votes are 37% for the Liberal Nationals (down 1), 35% for Labor (up 2), 16% for One Nation (steady) and 8% for the Greens (steady). Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s approval was down two to 44% and her disapproval was up eight to 39%, for a net approval of +5. I expect this poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday from a sample of about 900.

US Presidential election: Clinton won popular vote

Donald Trump will be the next US President after winning the decisive Electoral College by a likely 306-232 margin. However, according to Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman, Hillary Clinton is currently leading in the national popular vote by 47.7% to 47.1%, and that lead is certain to increase as most of the remaining votes are from strong Democratic territory. Clinton is likely to win the popular vote by about 2%.

The popular vote/Electoral College discrepancy occurred because Clinton performed much worse in the swing states than overall. The swing states had a higher proportion of non-university educated whites than nationally, and this group was easily Trump’s best demographic. This will be the fifth time in US history that the popular vote winner has not won the Presidency; 2000 was the most recent occurrence.

My last two articles on the US election for Election Watch may help to understand why this result happened. This tweet below from New York Times analyst Nate Cohn shows how rural America swung big to Trump (red is the Republicans’ colour).

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