Poll wrap: Labor widens lead in Ipsos; US Democrats gained 40 House seats at midterms

As the year come to an end, all the polls are giving a significant two-party preferred lead to the federal Labor Party. AAP/Lukas Coch

Poll wrap: Labor widens lead in Ipsos; US Democrats gained 40 House seats at midterms

This week’s Fairfax Ipsos poll, conducted December 12-15 from a sample of 1,200, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a two-point gain for Labor since November. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up three), 36% Coalition (down one), 13% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (up one). As usual in Ipsos, the Greens are too high.

Respondent-allocated preferences were also 54-46 to Labor. While Malcolm Turnbull was PM, respondent preferences skewed to the Coalition relative to preferences derived from using 2016 election preference flows. However, Ipsos’ four polls since Scott Morrison became PM have shown no difference on average between respondent and previous election methods.

47% approved of Morrison (down one), and 39% disapproved (up three), for a net approval of +8. Bill Shorten’s net approval was down two points to -9. Morrison led by 46-37 as better PM (47-35 in November). Ipsos gives incumbent PMs higher ratings than Newspoll.

By 44-43, voters opposed Labor’s proposed changes that would restrict negative gearing tax deductions. By 48-43, voters opposed Labor’s proposal to halve the concession on capital gains tax. These questions highlight the potential for a Coalition scare campaign based on Labor’s proposed changes.

Four weeks ago, Ipsos and Essential both gave Labor just a 52-48 lead. The next week, Newspoll gave Labor a 55-45 lead, and now Ipsos is more in line with Newspoll.


Read more: Poll wrap: Labor's worst polls since Turnbull; chaos likely in Victorian upper house


Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted December 13-16 from a sample of 1,026, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (down one), 36% Labor (down three), 11% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (up one).

Since Morrison became PM, Essential has been consistently better for the Coalition than Newspoll. Last week’s Newspoll gave Labor a 41-35 primary vote lead, while Essential gives the Coalition a 37-36 primary lead.

A net +6 thought 2018 had been good for the Australian economy, but a net zero thought it had been good for their personal financial situation. Australian politics scored a net -50 and the Australian government a net -41. In voters’ predictions about next year, their personal financial situation was at a net +13 and the Australian economy at a net +2.

Since September, Morrison’s attribute scores have declined in positive attributes and gone up in negative attributes, with the largest change a seven-point increase in “erratic”. Morrison leads Shorten on most positive attributes and trails him on most negative ones, but differences are under eight points. An exception is that Morrison leads Shorten by four on being “out of touch”.

ReachTEL seat polls: huge swing to Labor in Kooyong, little swing in Boothby

ReachTEL has recently conducted federal seat polls of Kooyong in Victoria and Boothby in South Australia. In Kooyong, held by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Labor led by 52-48, a 15-point swing to Labor since the 2016 election. In Boothby, the Liberals led by 51-49, a two-point swing to Labor.

Seat polls are unreliable, but the Victorian state election had large swings to Labor in blue-ribbon Liberal seats in inner Melbourne. Kooyong and Higgins are located in the same territory. As I wrote last week, ReachTEL also had a massive swing to Labor in Higgins.

Victorian election statewide two party vote: 57.6-42.4 to Labor

At the November 24 Victorian state election, the Liberals did not contest Richmond. The electoral commission has conducted a two party Labor vs Coalition count in all seats except Richmond. According to analyst Kevin Bonham, Labor’s share of the two party vote ranges from 57.4% to 57.9% depending on how Richmond is treated.

The measure I prefer is to assign Richmond the same swing as the rest of the state, giving a two party result of 57.6-42.4 to Labor, a 5.6% swing to Labor since the 2014 election. That is only 0.2% less for Labor than at their 2002 landslide under Steve Bracks.

Labor won 55 of the 88 lower house seats, seven fewer than in 2002. This was mainly because the Greens won three seats where Labor won the two party vote, and so did independent Russell Northe in Morwell.


Read more: Historical fall of Liberal seats in Victoria; micros likely to win ten seats in upper house; Labor leads in NSW


In the upper house, the Greens won just one of 40 seats despite winning 9.3% of the vote. Bonham says the Greens were disadvantaged by being too big for micro parties to benefit from swapping preferences with them. However, they were also too small to win seats on raw quotas, as the major parties do.


Read more: Victorian upper house greatly distorted by group voting tickets; federal Labor still dominant in Newspoll


While the Greens were the biggest victims of the group voting ticket system, they almost cost Fiona Patten her seat. In North Metro, Green Samantha Ratnam made quota before Socialist preferences were distributed, allowing Patten to win.

According to Bonham, had Ratnam been under quota before Socialist preferences, she would have gone well over quota on their preferences, but her surplus would have gone mainly to Derryn Hinch Justice, and that party would have won the final North Metro seat instead of Patten.

Democrats gained 40 House seats at US midterms

All 435 US House seats are up for election every two years. At the November 6 US midterm elections, Democrats won the House by a 235-199 seat margin, with one seat undecided due to a dispute over alleged fraud by Republican campaigners in North Carolina’s ninth district. Since the pre-election Congress, this is a 40-seat gain for Democrats. Since the 2016 House results, it is a 41-seat gain.

According to Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman, Democrats won the overall House popular vote by 8.6%. In 2016, Republicans won the House popular vote by 1.1%, and Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing to Hillary Clinton by 2.1% in the national popular vote.

Democrats’ gains mainly occurred in suburbs, where there was a high level of educational attainment. Republicans held up much better in rural America. While Democrats will have 54% of the new House, their seats will represent just 20% of US land area.

CNN analyst Harry Enten says this was Democrats’ largest seat gain in a House election since 1974, and the best performance in popular votes by a pre-election minority House party since records began in 1942. Although turnout was low by Australian standards at 50.3%, this was the highest turnout at a US midterm election in the last 100 years.

Republicans held the Senate by a 53-47 margin, a two-seat gain for Republicans since the last Congress. However, the 33 regular Senate races were last contested in 2012, when Democrats had a great year. Democrats lost North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri and Florida, but gained Nevada and Arizona. They won the 33 regular elections by 23-10. Including byelections in Minnesota and Mississippi, Democrats won the 35 Senate races by 24-11.


Read more: Poll wrap: Coalition, Morrison slip further in Newspoll; US Democrats gain in late counting


The new US Congress will be sworn in on January 3. Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi is very likely to be elected Speaker of the new House.

In November 2020, the US presidency and all of the House are up. Of the 34 Senate seats that will be up for election, 22 are Republican-held and just 12 Democrat-held. This will be a big opportunity for Democrats to take back the Senate.

Theresa May wins Conservative confidence vote, 200-117

To trigger a Conservative motion of confidence in the leader, 15% (48 members in this case) of Conservative MPs must submit letters expressing no-confidence in the leader. This threshold was reached on December 12, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote of all Conservative MPs by a 200-117 margin. May now cannot be challenged for a year.

If anywhere near 117 Conservatives reject May’s Brexit deal, it is very difficult to see it passing the House of Commons. The confidence vote in May does not make a “no deal” Brexit less likely. As I wrote on my personal website, unless the Commons acts in some way, Britain will crash out of the European Union on March 29, 2019.