Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

NSW polls show closer contest, but Coalition still favoured

The New South Wales election will be held in four weeks on the 28 March. The last three NSW polls from Galaxy, Morgan and Newspoll show almost identical primary votes, though they disagree on their Two Party Preferred (2PP) estimates. I discussed Galaxy in Thursday’s article, so I will only discuss Newspoll and Morgan here.

Newspoll has the Coalition leading by 54-46, a 2% gain for Labor since the November-December Newspoll. Primary votes are 43% for the Coalition (down 1), 36% for Labor (up 3) and 11% for the Greens (steady). 59% are satisfied with Mike Baird (down 1), and 26% are dissatisfied (up 6), for a still very good net rating of +33, down 7 points. Luke Foley’s debut ratings are 36% satisfied and 31% dissatisfied. Voting commitment is a little stronger than at similar Newspolls at the 2003 and 2007 campaigns, but not as strong as in 2011. 53% think the Coalition will win the election, and 31% say Labor will win. This poll was taken last Monday to Thursday with a sample of 1120.

Morgan conducted a small sample phone poll (only 418 respondents) last Friday to Sunday. While Morgan compares this poll to his recent SMS poll, this is not correct, as SMS and phone are two different methodologies. In the phone poll, the Coalition leads by 52.5-47.5 from primary votes of 43% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor and 10.5% for the Greens. 48.5% approve of Baird’s performance, and 26% disapprove for a net approval of +22.5. 28% both approve and disapprove of Foley. Issue questions show that the Coalition is heavily favoured on the economy and law & order (50-25 and 50-26), but Labor is favoured on health and education (45-30 and 45-29). On corruption and open government, the Coalition is favoured (36-18 and 34-19), but the high number of uncommitted respondents on these two issues suggests that both major parties have suffered damage from ICAC investigations.

The five-point 2PP lead for the Coalition in the Morgan poll is too low under 2011 preferences as they have a seven-point primary vote advantage. There is no explanation in Morgan’s article as to how the 2PP was obtained. It is possible that this 2PP was calculated from 2007 preferences, or that it uses respondent allocated preferences.

There are four weeks left until the NSW election, and in three of those weeks the Federal Parliament will be sitting. I think that if Abbott is deposed as PM before the NSW election, Labor’s chances will disappear, and the Coalition will be easily re-elected. In other words, Abbott remaining PM is a necessary condition for any chance Labor has of making the NSW Coalition a one-term government.

A key question is whether preferences will shift as radically to Labor as they did in the recent Queensland election. Baird is far more popular than Newman was, and memories of Labor’s last term in office could also reduce the preference flow to Labor. On the other hand, the Greens make up 50% of the total minor party vote in the latest polls; in Queensland the Greens were 40% of the total minor party vote. If Abbott is still PM at the election, the Greens will be motivated to preference Labor.

Kevin Bonham now has a NSW poll aggregate of 53.7% 2PP to the Coalition by 2011 preferences from primary votes of 43.7% for the Coalition, 35.7% for Labor and 10.1% for the Greens. If 2% is subtracted from the Coalition’s 2PP to account for preference changes, the Coalition would have a 2PP of 51.7%. This would still be enough for a narrow Coalition victory, but if Abbott remains PM, the Coalition could continue to slide in the NSW polls.