Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

TURC, Choppergate roughly cancel out in polls

The last two weeks have featured Bill Shorten’s appearance at the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC), the government instructing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) not to invest in wind power or small scale solar, and Federal Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s taxpayer funded $5,000 helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong (dubbed Choppergate). Here are the three polls that have been released this week and last week.

polls late July.

Newspoll and Morgan’s fortnightly reporting cycles are now out of alignment, so Morgan’s result last week that showed a clear movement to the Coalition had half of its fieldwork taken the weekend following Shorten’s appearance at the TURC. The TURC effect is likely to have been greater than Morgan showed, since his poll averages two weekends of fieldwork, and we know from other polls that the weekend of 4-5 July was relatively good for Labor.

Morgan also leans to Labor by about 1% relative to other polls, so Labor’s 51-49 lead in Morgan was weak. Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were also 51-49 to Labor, the same as the previous election preferences.

This week’s Newspoll is the second Newspoll to use robopolling and online methods, rather than landline phone polling. It was taken after the government’s instructions to the CEFC were revealed, and during the peak of Choppergate. It appears that these two events have roughly cancelled out Shorten’s TURC appearance; the net effect is that Labor retains a solid lead.

Random sample variation probably explains some of the difference between last week’s Morgan and this week’s Newspoll, but it is likely that some of the change is real, and a result of good, then bad, events for the Coalition.

Shorten’s ratings continued to drop in both Newspoll and Essential. His net approval fell from -28 to -32 in Newspoll, and from -13 to -25 in last week’s Essential, which was conducted after Shorten’s TURC appearance. Since allegations of shady practices by Shorten started appearing in the media, he has lost a net 14 points of approval in Newspoll and 12 in Essential. Abbott’s Newspoll ratings were unchanged, with 33% satisfied and 60% dissatisfied for a net approval of -27. The combined net approval for both leaders is at -59, the highest since Gillard vs Abbott.

Although Shorten is currently very unpopular, the ratings of opposition leaders do not affect voting intentions very much at all, whereas the ratings of Prime Ministers are strongly correlated with voting intentions. Abbott was never a popular opposition leader, but he was able to dominate Labor in the last term.

The story over the last few months has been a small Coalition bounce as a result of the budget, which has now washed out. Abbott’s anti-renewables and anti-ABC rhetoric has adversely affected his ratings, but Labor has been unable to take advantage owing to Shorten’s recent problems with the TURC. As a result, Labor’s Two Party Preferred (2PP) vote has been just over 52% since mid-June.

Last week’s Morgan and this week’s Newspoll created swings in poll aggregates. Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 52.4% 2PP to Labor, a 0.5% gain for Labor since last week, but a 0.1% drop on last fortnight.

The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is now at 51.5% 2PP to Labor, a 0.5% gain for Labor since last week, but a 0.7% drop on last fortnight. Because the new Newspoll is being treated as an entirely new poll in BludgerTrack, it has a low weighting, and so I think BludgerTrack is currently underestimating Labor’s 2PP. Primary votes in BludgerTrack are 40.1% for the Coalition, 35.6% for Labor and 12.2% for the Greens, compared with 40% Coalition, 39% Labor and 12% Greens in Newspoll.

More on Essential

Essential asked about the coal vs renewable energy debate. 50% thought that the government should prioritise renewable energy over coal, and only 6% thought coal should be prioritised, with 28% saying both should have equal priority. When asked about the government’s actual priorities, 49% said the government prioritised coal, 12% renewables and 13% both equally. When asked whether the government gives enough or not enough support to various energy industries, a net +48 said it gives enough support to coal, but a net +36 to +40 said it does not give enough support to any of roof top solar, wind farms or large scale solar.

48% thought the government would run full term, while 25% thought an early election would be called. Only 6% thought Australia’s current gun laws are too strong; 45% said they are not strong enough and 40% said they are about right.

By-election required in Canning, WA

Following the death on Tuesday of Federal Liberal MP Don Randall, a by-election will be needed in his WA seat of Canning. Randall has held Canning since 2001, and won it by an emphatic 61.8-38.2 at the 2013 election. While Canning is regarded as a marginal, it would only be close if the overall WA vote was close, and the Coalition won WA by 58.3-41.7 at the 2013 election.

Since the Coalition government is currently unpopular, I expect that Labor will get a strong swing when the by-election is held, but I think the Liberals will probably retain Canning. BludgerTrack is currently showing a 7% swing to Labor in WA, and the loss of Randall’s personal vote will also help Labor at the by-election.

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