ReachTEL poll 52-48 to Labor as party faces Perth byelection, and strong swings to US Democrats

Labor MP Tim Hammond’s resignation has triggered a byelection in Perth, which Labor looks likely to hold. AAP/Rebecca Le May

ReachTEL poll 52-48 to Labor as party faces Perth byelection, and strong swings to US Democrats

A ReachTEL poll for Sky News, presumably conducted Monday or Tuesday from a sample of over 2,000, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since a late March ReachTEL. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (up two), 35% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (down one).

The 13% who did not express a preference for the four stated parties almost certainly include undecided as well as Other voters. As usual, media sources have omitted these details.

ReachTEL uses respondent allocated preferences. According to analyst Kevin Bonham, this poll would be about 52.7% to Labor by 2016 election preferences.


Read more: Poll wrap: Labor's Newspoll lead narrows federally and in Victoria


Malcolm Turnbull led Bill Shorten by 54.5-45.5 as better PM, a two-point gain for Turnbull since late March. 48% would prefer an earlier return to surplus, while 39% would like a tax cut in the budget. By 50-30, voters supported Labor’s policy for a 90-day limit on holding asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

Last week’s Newspoll was 51-49 to Labor using Newspoll’s changed method (since the November 2017 Queensland election) of assigning about 60% of One Nation preferences to the Coalition, instead of the half that were assigned previously.

One Nation is a far-right party that attracts Tony Abbott supporters who believe Turnbull is too left-wing. Liberal leadership polls show the highest support for Abbott is with One Nation voters.


Read more: Poll wrap: Newspoll not all bad news for Turnbull as Coalition's position improves


Given the 65% preference flow from One Nation to the LNP at the Queensland election, the clear preference for Abbott over Turnbull with One Nation voters and respondent preferences being about one point better for the Coalition than 2016 preferences, Newspoll is justified in shifting its preference flow assumptions for One Nation.

Since late March, Ipsos, Newspoll and ReachTEL polls have shown a trend to the Coalition, with only Essential moving the other way. Left-wing partisans should stop complaining about Newspoll, and acknowledge that Labor’s lead is diminishing.

Labor’s Perth MP Tim Hammond resigns, causing byelection

On Wednesday, Tim Hammond resigned as the federal Labor Member for Perth. A byelection will be required to replace him.

At the 2016 election, Hammond won Perth by a 53.3-46.7 margin against the Liberals, a 1.2% swing to Labor. Primary votes were 42.3% Liberal, 37.4% Labor and 17.1% Greens. In Western Australia overall, there was a 3.6% two party swing to Labor in 2016.

The relatively small margin in Perth implies that the seat could be competitive if the Liberals field a candidate, particularly if the Liberal candidate is well-known and popular. Labor will not lose Hammond’s personal vote, as he was first elected in 2016; personal votes of sitting members usually take two elections to build.

According to The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack, there is currently an 8% two party swing to Labor in Western Australia since the 2016 election. If this is the case, Labor should easily hold Perth.

Defying her party, Liberal Sue Hickey wins Tasmanian Speakership

At the March 3 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 seats, Labor ten and the Greens two. On Tuesday (the first sitting day since the election), Rene Hidding, the endorsed Liberal candidate for Speaker of the lower house, was defeated by Sue Hickey, 13 votes to 12. Hickey’s votes came from Labor, the Greens and Hickey herself.

Hickey has said she will remain a Liberal, but will not attend party room meetings, and will vote independently, though she will “mostly” vote with the Liberals. The Liberals have not yet lost their majority, but if Hickey votes with Labor and the Greens on major legislation, they will lose it.

Hickey was the former Mayor of Hobart, and was the second of two Liberals elected from the Hobart-based seat of Denison, the most left-wing Tasmanian electorate.

According to Bonham, Hickey is the first Speaker in Tasmanian history to become Speaker immediately after being elected to Parliament.

Strong swings to US Democrats at byelections

At a byelection for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District (CD) held on March 13, the Democrat, Conor Lamb, defeated the Republican, Rick Saccone, by a 49.8-49.6 margin. Donald Trump had crushed Hillary Clinton in this district by almost 20 points at the 2016 Presidential election.

On April 24, Republicans held Arizona’s eighth CD by 52.4-47.6, but this was a 16-point difference from Trump’s 21-point margin in 2016. In December 2017, Democrats won the Alabama Senate byelection in a state Trump had won by 28 points.


Read more: Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate byelection in stunning upset; Bennelong is tied 50-50


CNN analyst Harry Enten says the Democrats have performed an average 17 points better than expected given partisan lean at federal byelections in 2017-18.

According to Daily Kos Elections, in state and federal byelections held in 2018, Democrats have overperformed the 2016 Presidential margins by an average 15 points, and the 2012 Presidential margins by an average six points.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump has a 41.2% approve, 52.9% disapprove rating. Trump’s ratings have been very steady since early March, with a slight recent uptick, probably owing to the peace talks between North and South Korea. Trump’s approval is below all his predecessors since Harry Truman at this point in their presidencies.

Democrats hold a 46.8-39.0 lead over Republicans in the race for Congress. All 435 House seats are up for election on November 6. Owing to natural clustering of Democratic voters and Republican gerrymandering, Democrats probably need to win the House popular vote by about seven points to take control. The swing to the Democrats in national House polls is far lower than the swing in byelections.

35 of the 100 Senate seats are also up for election on November 6, including two Senate byelections in Mississippi and Minnesota. 26 of these seats are currently held by Democrats and just nine by Republicans. Democrats will be defending five states that voted for Trump by at least 18 points. It will be very difficult for Democrats to win a Senate majority despite Republicans currently holding the Senate by just a 51-49 margin.

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