Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Newspoll shows tight race in Canning, with big swing to Labor

Following the death in late July of WA Liberal MP Don Randall, a by-election was ordered in his seat of Canning on the 19 September. A Newspoll has the Liberals just ahead by 51-49, representing an 11% swing to Labor since the 2013 election. This Newspoll was conducted last Saturday and Sunday from a sample of 508; this sample size is small for a national poll, but reasonable for an individual seat poll.

Primary votes in the Canning Newspoll were 41% for the Liberals (down 10% since the election), 36% for Labor (up 9), 11% for the Greens (up 4), 2% for Palmer United (down 5) and 10% for Others (up 2). If national 2013 preference flows were used, Labor would actually be ahead 51-49 on these primaries, but Newspoll has used the Canning specific preference flows; at the 2013 election, the 3% who voted for the Australian Christians split 86-14 to the Liberals in Canning. It is likely that preferences will be better for Labor in Canning, and in this case Labor may be ahead in this poll.

This by-election is different from most modern by-elections in that it was caused by the death of the sitting MP, rather than his midterm retirement. Midterm retirements will tend to exacerbate any swing against the MP’s party, as people resent an unnecessary vote. A death may induce a sympathy vote for the MP’s party, though this could be cancelled out by the loss of the MP’s personal vote.

I think that, given the circumstances of this by-election, Labor is doing very well to be so close to taking the seat according to this Newspoll.

Newspoll also found that 78% of Canning voters supported a “people’s vote” on same sex marriage, compared with 20% for “vote by politicians”. I think most of the public would support a popular vote to decide most issues, given the general disdain for politicians, so this question does not offer any insight into people’s attitude towards a same sex marriage plebiscite in particular.

Moreover, although people support a popular vote, same sex marriage supporters would be sceptical of the Coalition’s willingness to deliver such a vote in a timely manner.

Labor fails to make further gains in national polls, despite bad week for Coalition

Last week, there was public disunity within the Coalition about whether members should have a conscience vote on same sex marriage, and Trade Union Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon was accused of bias after it was alleged that he had planned to attend a Liberal party fundraiser. So far, these events do not appear to have increased Labor’s lead. This week we had two national polls from Ipsos and Essential.

Ipsos had Labor leading by 54-46 using the headline previous election preferences method, a 1% gain for Labor since the last Ipsos in early July. Primary votes were 38% for the Coalition (down 1), 36% for Labor (up 1) and a high 16% for the Greens (steady). As with last week’s Morgan, there was a blowout to Labor on respondent-allocated preferences, with Labor leading by 56-44 on this measure, a 3% gain for Labor, and 2% higher for Labor than the previous election method. This poll was taken from last Thursday to Saturday with a sample of 1400.

Ipsos had Abbott’s approval rating down 1% to 35% and his disapproval rating steady at 59%, for a net approval of -24. Shorten’s ratings improved markedly; his net approval is at -10, up from -20 in the previous poll. Ipsos has tended to give Shorten milder ratings than other polls.

The weekly Essential was a relatively good poll for the Coalition, with Labor’s lead down to 52-48, a 1% gain for the Coalition. Primary votes were 41% for the Coalition (up 1), 38% for Labor (down 1) and 10% for the Greens (down 1); Essential has consistently had the Greens doing worse than in other polls. The two-week Essential sample had 1750 respondents.

While same sex marriage is popular, it does not change many votes, and the good week/bad week commentary does not affect as many votes as the media industry thinks it does. Essential has a tendency to not follow trends set by other pollsters, so we will need to wait until next week to see if other polls continue to trend to Labor.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 53.4% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor, unchanged on last week. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is at 53.8% 2PP to Labor, a 0.1% gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes are 38.0% for the Coalition, 37.2% for Labor and 13.5% for the Greens; the Coalition primary is down 0.5% since last week.

Both Ipsos and Essential asked whether the government is doing enough on climate change, and the results are broadly similar. In Ipsos, 58% thought the government was doing too little, and 32% about right. In Essential, these responses are respectively 53% and 24%, with 7% for doing too much.

In Essential, 44% thought it likely that the Coalition would try to bring back laws similar to Workchoices, and 26% thought it unlikely. 41% were concerned about this prospect.

The performance of high-profile Coalition ministers was assessed; comparisons are with a July 2014 Essential. Julie Bishop performed best with a net +34 rating, up from +3. Malcolm Turnbull also performed well with a net +23 rating, up from +13. George Brandis, Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne and Greg Hunt had net ratings between -2 and -9, and Joe Hockey was last with a net rating of -17, down from -12.

Ipsos asked about same sex marriage, and found 69% in favour and 25% opposed, unchanged from June. On preferred Liberal leader, Turnbull had 41%, Julie Bishop 23%, Abbott 15%, and Hockey and Morrison each had 5%. On preferred Labor leader, Shorten had 25%, Tanya Plibersek 23%, Anthony Albanese 19%, Chris Bowen 8% and Tony Burke 5%. Both incumbent party leaders continued to lead with their own parties’ supporters.

Liberals slump in Tasmanian EMRS poll

A Tasmanian EMRS poll has the Liberals on 40% (down 6% since May), Labor on 29% (steady), the Greens on 21% (up 2) and Independents on 9% (up 3); the high vote for Independents is possibly caused by Jacqui Lambie. Kevin Bonham has adjusted this poll for a pro-Greens lean, and he thinks it is effectively Liberal 42%, Labor 33% and Greens 18%. This poll was conducted on the 8 to 14 August with a sample of 1000.

If these votes were repeated at an election, it is likely that a hung Parliament would result, with the Greens holding the balance of power. However, this EMRS disagrees with other Tasmanian polling that has the Liberals in a much better position. Bonham’s Tasmanian aggregate still has the Liberals winning a majority.

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