Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Polls have Labor increasing lead to near 53-47

The highlights of the last two weeks have been the Labor national conference, and more revelations of Bronwyn Bishop’s expenditures, culminating in her resignation as Federal Speaker last Sunday. All polls taken in the last two weeks have Labor leading by 53-47 or more. Here is this week’s poll table. The last ReachTEL was in late June.

polls early Aug.

Note that Morgan leans to Labor by about a point, so his poll is effectively 52.5-47.5 to Labor. The respondent allocated preferences from this Morgan had Labor leading by 54-46. The big move to Labor in Morgan is because the last Morgan, taken just after Shorten’s Trade Union Royal Commission appearance, was poor for Labor.

A Newspoll was expected this week, and there are many conspiracy theorists on the Internet who think that The Australian suppressed Newspoll because it was poor for the Coalition. However, the much more reasonable explanation is that Newspoll has been delayed one week to coincide with the resumption of Parliament following the winter recess. While Newspoll usually reports every fortnight, three week breaks are not uncommon.

While I think Newspoll’s absence this week is reasonable, I also think that The Australian should inform the public when an anticipated Newspoll does not occur. If one of their journalists tweeted, “No Newspoll tonight” sometime on Monday, there would be less aggravation in waiting for a poll that did not come.

ReachTEL had Abbott’s (total good) minus (total poor) rating at -26, down a point from June. Shorten’s net rating was steady at -26. Shorten’s very poor ratings are partly due to antipathy from the Greens, who give him a net rating of -30. However, the Greens dislike Abbott much more, and prefer Shorten by 89-11 in ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM question.

In ReachTEL, 58% thought that Bronwyn Bishop should stand down as Federal Speaker, while 30% disagreed. 73% supported a Federal anti-corruption commission, with only 11% disagreeing. In last week’s Essential, 19% thought that Bishop should remain Speaker, 25% said she should stand aside while an investigation is held, 19% resign as Speaker and 24% resign from Parliament. These surveys were taken before Bishop resigned.

While Labor has gained ground, and now leads by nearly 53-47 after months at 52-48, it is too early to say if this trend to Labor will be sustained. Bronwyn Bishop’s resignation as Speaker may help the government regain the ground that was lost while her expenses were dominating the political news.

The Greens are registering their highest support in the current parliamentary term in this week’s polls. They are at 15% in Morgan (up 1.5), 13% in ReachTEL (steady) and 12% in Essential (up 1). This increased support probably reflects anger on the left with Labor’s adoption of the Coalition’s “turn back the boats” policy.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 52.8% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor, a 0.4% gain for Labor since last fortnight, and the highest Labor vote in his aggregate since late April.

The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is now at 52.4% 2PP to Labor, a 0.9% move to Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes are 39.7% for the Coalition, 36.0% for Labor and 13.5% for the Greens. Since last week, Labor has gained 0.5%, with the Coalition down 0.2%. Labor’s BludgerTrack primary vote is 2% below the Labor primary vote in ReachTEL and Essential.

More on Essential

In this week’s Essential, 65% supported Labor’s 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030, with only 16% opposed. While 51% thought that such a target would mean higher electricity costs, only 24% thought costs would be MUCH higher. 18% thought that costs would be lower and 11% said there would be no difference.

37% thought that the Coalition had the best asylum seeker policy for boat arrivals. Only 12% selected Labor and 8% the Greens; these figures are little changed from June 2013. Global economic instability (55%), terrorism (47%) and climate change (38%) were thought to be the biggest threats to Australia.

Who should be the leader of both major parties was asked in this week’s Essential and a small sample Morgan phone poll taken 20-22 July (before the Labor conference). For Liberal leader, Morgan had Malcolm Turnbull at 44%, Julie Bishop at 15% and Abbott at 13%. J. Bishop’s 12% plunge since April is probably due to name confusion with B. Bishop. Essential had Turnbull on 24%, Abbott 18% and J. Bishop 17%.

For Labor leader, Morgan had Tanya Plibersek leading with 26%, followed by Anthony Albanese on 19%, Shorten on 12% and Wayne Swan on 10%. Essential had Shorten leading with 16%, Plibersek 13% and Albanese 12%; 54% opted for either “don’t know” or someone else. Kevin Bonham has more on these leadership questions.

Essential last week asked whether respondents thought the carbon tax had an impact on electricity prices. 21% thought it had a big impact, 41% a small impact and 20% no impact. Penalty rates were supported by 81-13, and 61% thought the most likely result of cutting penalty rates would be business making bigger profits, while 20% thought business would employ more people.

Revenue raising measures were supported if they applied to multinational companies or high income earners, but broadening the GST was opposed by 55-33 and increasing the GST rate by 65-24. However, increasing the GST was opposed by only 42-38 if income taxes were reduced at the same time. Respondents narrowly favoured increasing the GST over increasing the Medicare levy, 35-33.

Why is SA getting so much attention?

This week Abbott announced that $40 billion of surface warships would be built in South Australia. Since SA only has 11 out of 150 Federal seats, and most of those seats are safe, this promise seems disproportionate to the influence of SA at Federal elections.

The major parties are worried about SA because of Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. At the 2013 election, Xenophon won 24.9% of the SA Senate vote, finishing between the Liberals and Labor. Xenophon has announced plans to field lower house candidates at the next election. It is unlikely that these candidates will come close to Xenophon’s Senate vote, but the majors are concerned that if a Xenophon candidate can beat one of the major party candidates into second, that candidate could win the seat on the excluded party’s preferences.

Even if Xenophon does not win seats, his preferences could be very important. This chart from the Poll Bludger shows that the Liberals are losing votes to Others in SA, which presumably means Xenophon. If Xenophon voters prefer Labor, Labor could win more seats in SA than current projections give it.

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