Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

NSW Galaxy gives Labor some hope, but Coalition gains in Federal Polls

The New South Wales election will be held in just over four weeks on the 28 March. A Galaxy poll has the Coalition leading by 53-47, a 1% gain for Labor since a late January Galaxy. Primary votes are 43% for the Coalition (down 2), 36% for Labor (steady) and 10% for the Greens (down 1). This poll based its Two Party Preferred (2PP) result on 2011 election preferences, and I expect actual preference flows to be better for Labor than at the 2011 wipeout election. If actual preferences make the 2PP 2% better for Labor than the pollsters expect, as happened in the recent Queensland election, then Labor is effectively only behind by 51-49 in this Galaxy poll. This poll was taken last Wednesday and Thursday from a sample of 920.

Morgan and Ipsos polls taken in the last three weeks have the Coalition further ahead than Galaxy, but Galaxy is regarded as the best pollster by the poll watching community, and its poll is more recent. If Galaxy is right, the election could be close.

In other findings from this Galaxy, 35% of voters preferred raising taxes to fund infrastructure, while 26% preferred leasing 49% of the electricity network. The remainder were either uncommitted, or preferred going further into debt. By a 41-35 margin, voters opposed abolishing the NSW Upper House; this could only be accomplished by a referendum.

Coalition Gains in Federal Polls

This week’s Newspoll gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a 4% gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Despite the movement on voting intentions, Abbott’s ratings were virtually unchanged; his satisfied rating was up 1% to 25%, and his dissatisfied rating was steady at 68%, for a net approval of -43. The big shift was in Shorten’s net ratings, which fell from +2 to -14 for no apparent reason.

Other polls this week concurred with Newspoll in showing a reduced Labor lead, though movements in other polls were less than in Newspoll. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls late Feb.

If the Newspoll 2PP is calculated from the published primaries, we get 53.7% to Labor, so the actual Newspoll 2PP was probably near 53.5% to Labor, and has been rounded down. The big Newspoll shift is partly because the last Newspoll was a little high for Labor, and this one is probably a little low. The slump in Shorten’s net approval owes much to this.

Morgan leans to Labor by about 1.5% relative to other polls, so this Morgan should be interpreted as 53.5% 2PP to Labor. If we do this, the three polls this week are in agreement in showing Labor at about 53.5% 2PP.

Despite the Coalition’s improvement in voting intentions, Abbott’s Newspoll ratings are still dire. A possible explanation is that, since Abbott’s weak 61-39 win on a spill motion two weeks ago, the media consensus has been that it is now only a matter of time before Abbott is deposed. Electors may be more willing to vote for the Coalition if they believe that Abbott will soon be gone.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.6% 2PP to Labor, a 1.1% move to the Coalition since last week; his aggregate does not weight the latest polls as heavily as others might. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack has Labor leading by 53.9-46.1, a 2.0% gain for the Coalition since last week. Primary votes are 40.2% for Labor, 38.6% for the Coalition and 10.3% for the Greens. The Coalition has gained 1.9% on primary votes at the expense of both Labor and the Greens.

Notes on These Polls

Newspoll asked many extra questions on the personal attributes of the party leaders, and which leader is best to handle particular issues. The personal attribute questions were last asked in the 2013 election campaign, and the best to handle issues in April 2012. Abbott is down across the board on personal attributes since 2013, when he was opposition leader, and usually trails Shorten. Abbott has a 45-37 lead over Shorten on how best to handle the economy, a 51-31 lead on national security, and a 51-32 lead on asylum seekers. Shorten leads Abbott by 56-30 on health, 53-33 on education and 55-24 on climate change.

Abbott’s 8-point lead over Shorten on the economy is actually not impressive, since Howard had much bigger leads over Labor leaders; the economy is a Coalition strength that also favours the incumbent party.

Kevin Bonham has much more on how the current leaders compare in a historic context on these personal attributes and issue questions, and he finds that Abbott is at a record low on one attribute, and only ahead of Paul Keating on several others. Julia Gillard was regarded as marginally more trustworthy than Abbott (44% vs 43%).

In Essential, 34% said the government had managed the economy well compared with other countries, and 30% said the management was poor; this compares with a 39-28 margin in favour of good in October. 29% of working people expected their job to become less secure in the next two years, 9% more secure, and 58% do not think their job security will change. For some reason, there have been declines in the importance of relations with all countries listed, particularly the UK (down 10% since October), Indonesia (down 10%) and the US (down 9%). By a 62-33 margin, voters have little or no trust in the government’s handling of international relations, up from a 53-40 split in October. By 42-24, voters think the government has handled relations with Indonesia poorly; the margin was 7 points in favour of poor in October.

Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences had Labor ahead by 56-44, a 1.5% move to the Coalition on this measure, and 1% better for Labor than using the last election’s preferences.