Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Turnbull’s honeymoon propels Coalition into narrow poll lead

The table below shows the results of the five polls that have been conducted since Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Australia’s PM. Three of these polls have Coalition leads and the other two are tied. For ReachTEL, the tie may be a result of sampling the day after the spill, while Essential simply does not react as much as it should. Note that Morgan and Essential used only last week’s data, rather than their normal practice of sampling over two weeks.

post Turnbull polls.

The standout result in the table is Morgan, which had a 10% swing to the Coalition on previous election preferences, and a larger Coalition lead than other polls. Morgan generally leans to Labor by about a point, but his polls often show a bigger reaction to the latest news stories than other polls. When Kevin Rudd became PM for a second time, Morgan showed a larger swing to Labor than other polls.

Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were 55-45 to the Coalition, a massive 12% swing to the Coalition on this measure, and 1.5% better for the Coalition than the previous election method. Since Turnbull seems more centrist than Abbott, it is likely that the Coalition is benefiting on respondent allocated preferences from a higher flow of Greens preferences, and from those on the hard right who currently say they won’t vote for the Coalition, but are unlikely to vote Labor either.

Much of the media commentary has focused on Turnbull’s crushing leads over Shorten as better PM; Turnbull leads by 62-38 in ReachTEL, 51-20 in Galaxy, 55-21 in Newspoll and 53-17 in Essential. Shorten has become very unpopular as an opposition leader, and was only competitive with Abbott on this measure because of Abbott’s own unpopularity, so it is no surprise that a popular Coalition leader would dominate Shorten.

However, despite Turnbull’s dominance, the Coalition is only narrowly ahead in voting intentions, and these are what actually count at elections. Neither the better PM statistic nor the opposition leader’s ratings influence voting intentions. The only regularly measured statistic that influences voting intentions is the PM’s approval rating.

In my opinion, the good early polling under Turnbull for the Coalition reflects people’s relief that Abbott has gone, and has been replaced by a far more popular alternative. Over the next few months we will see if Turnbull can consolidate these gains, or whether his honeymoon will end, and Labor regain the lead. If Turnbull were to call an early election, I think his honeymoon would deflate very quickly, and Labor would tie him to Abbott’s government.

Newspoll gave Turnbull a debut rating of 42% satisfied and 24% dissatisfied for a net approval of +18; this compares very well with Abbott’s 30-63 satisfied rating in the final Newspoll before his demise. Shorten’s net approval was -25, up from -28.

The last PM to have a Newspoll satisfied rating above 50% was Kevin Rudd in March 2010. This Newspoll was taken too early for Turnbull to have 50% satisfied, but he could achieve this in the next Newspoll. If Turnbull can achieve, and then sustain, a Newspoll satisfied rating above 50%, the Coalition will be hard to beat.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 51.3% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to the Coalition, a 4.9% gain for the Coalition in a week. This is the first time the Coalition has led in Bonham’s aggregate since late 2013. In comparing previous midterm PM changes, Turnbull’s 5-point bounce is slightly worse than Rudd’s 6-point bounce, but much better than either Julia Gillard or Paul Keating achieved immediately after becoming PM.

The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is now at 51.5% 2PP to the Coalition, a 5.4% gain for the Coalition in a week. Primary votes are 44.2% for the Coalition (up 6.5%), 34.3% for Labor (down 2.0%) and 11.2% for the Greens (down 3.3%). The Coalition would easily win an election with these votes; BludgerTrack shows them winning 84 of the 150 House seats.

Notes on these polls

Galaxy now conducts Newspoll, but still does occasional surveys for the News Ltd tabloids. The last Galaxy was conducted after the May budget, when the Coalition had better poll ratings than recently under Abbott. The current Galaxy asked who would make the better Treasurer from Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison, and Morrison led by 41-16. 48% said Abbott should have sacked Hockey as Treasurer, with only 23% disagreeing.

I covered ReachTEL in an update to last Tuesday’s article. An additional question has been released showing that 52% supported Turnbull’s coup, with 32% opposed. Among Coalition voters, this was 47-37 support. There was strong opposition from Other voters (56-25 opposed), probably reflecting opposition from the Christian Right and some former Coalition voters.

Essential found that Turnbull’s attributes had improved since the question was last asked of him in February, while Shorten’s had declined since June. Other than a tie on “out of touch”, a 6-point Turnbull lead on “arrogant” and a 2-point Turnbull lead on “aggressive”, Turnbull beats Shorten on positive attributes and trails him on negative ones. Turnbull has over 20-point leads on being “a capable leader”, “good in a crisis”, “visionary” and “intelligent”.

On best Liberal leader, Turnbull has 37%, Julie Bishop 14% and Abbott 9%. Coalition voters were Abbott’s former base, but have quickly jumped to Turnbull; he has 47% to Abbott’s 14% now. 58% approved of Turnbull replacing Abbott as PM, with only 24% disapproving.

46% thought the government would run full term, while 26% thought there would be an early election. 40% thought the Coalition would win the next election, while 27% favoured Labor; in July this was 37-32 to the Coalition. Renewable energy incentives (45%) were easily the most supported action on climate change. 67% thought there should be a national vote on same sex marriage, while only 21% supported a parliamentary vote. 39% were in favour of Australia becoming a republic, with 29% against; in February there was a 34-34 tie.

Canning by-election update

I covered the Canning by-election result in last Sunday’s article, and updated that article on Monday to include commentary on the postals; these have swung to Labor by less than the election day votes, implying that the Liberals would have held Canning easily under Abbott.

There has been little counting since last Sunday, and there are probably little more than 1000 votes remaining to be counted. The Liberals have won Canning by 55.3-44.7 over Labor, representing a swing of 6.5% to Labor.

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