Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Turnbull’s popularity fails to deliver Coalition a big lead

It is now one month since Turnbull deposed Abbott as PM. Initial polls showed a big bounce for the Coalition as they regained the poll lead for the first time since late 2013. However, this week’s Essential and Newspoll both have the Coalition down 1%. The exception to this pattern is Morgan, which had the Coalition increasing its lead to 55-45 in a poll released last week. Morgan’s fortnightly reporting cycle is now a week out of alignment with Newspoll, so Morgan’s fieldwork was taken in the two weekends prior to the last weekend. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls mid Oct.

Morgan has generally been the most pro-Labor pollster, but has been far more Coalition-friendly than other pollsters since Turnbull’s ascension. Essential had a 53.5% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to the Coalition in the second week after Turnbull became PM, so some of Morgan’s result could be explained by that week being very good for the Coalition.

Morgan uses a mixture of face to face and SMS polling, and it may well be that both methods are prone to more enthusiastic responses to PM Turnbull than other polling methods. Face to face could be affected by an interviewer’s expectation that voters will support Turnbull, and SMS requires more motivated respondents than other polls.

Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were 56-44 to the Coalition, 1% better for the Coalition than the 2013 preferences. As I noted in my previous poll report, it is plausible that Turnbull has somewhat increased preference flows to the Coalition, so Newspoll for instance could be interpreted as 51-49 to the Coalition instead of a 50-50 tie.

Newspoll had Turnbull’s satisfied rating at 50% (up 8), and his dissatisfied rating at 25% (up 1), for a net approval rating of +25. Shorten’s net rating was still very poor at an unchanged -25. Newspoll also found that 62% supported the change in PM, with only 27% opposed; among Coalition voters it was 56-36 support, with Labor and Greens voters more heavily in favour.

In an article posted while Julia Gillard was still PM, Peter Brent wrote that he thinks that being unpopular is better than being popular for a given set of voting intentions. According to Brent, in the months before an election, popular leaders inflate their party’s voting intentions, while unpopular leaders have the reverse effect. But actual election outcomes remove some of the impact of popular or unpopular leaders.

In this context, a 50-50 Newspoll result with Turnbull at +25 net approval and Shorten at -25 is poor for the Coalition, and implies that voters still dislike the Coalition parties, despite the shift to Turnbull. This is also shown by a question from last week’s Essential, in which the perceptions of which party voters trust to handle particular issues barely changed since Abbott was PM on most issues, with the exception of political leadership.

It is likely that the disagreement between Turnbull’s ratings and the Coalition vote will clear up over the next few months. Either Turnbull will improve the Coalition’s image, and thus improve the Coalition’s 2PP, or his ratings will drop as he is tied to an unpopular party.

There is no evidence so far that hard right commentators such as Andrew Bolt are having any impact on Turnbull. The current polls show that people are dubious about voting for the Coalition, not for Turnbull, and much of this scepticism is because the Coalition is perceived as too right wing. The hard right is a small, but very vocal, minority of the population, and certainly not the “silent majority” that its proponents make it out to be.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 51.3% 2PP to the Coalition, a 1.0% gain for Labor since last week, but 4.9% better for the Coalition than under Abbott. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is now at 51.2% 2PP to the Coalition, a 1.4% gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes are 43.4% for the Coalition, 33.6% for Labor and 12.1% for the Greens. Since last week, there has been a direct shift of 1.5% from the Coalition to the Greens.

More on Essential

In this week’s Essential, 49% supported the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), with just 16% opposed. Of ten groups, only two were thought to get little or no benefit from the TPP - Australian workers and small businesses. However, 62% thought foreign companies should not be able to sue the Australian government for losses due to changes in policy, with only 15% giving a contrary opinion.

Respondents were asked whether eight services that are mostly run by governments should be privatised, and privatisation was not supported in any case; the highest support was for public transport (47-37 opposed privatisation). 75% thought the threat of terrorism had increased over the last few years, with just 1% saying it had decreased. 45% thought air strikes against Islamic State would make Australia less safe, with 13% opting for more safe.

In last week’s Essential, means testing the private health rebate was supported by 42% and opposed by 44%. 56% thought it was more important to expand public transport, while 33% thought roads and freeways were more important.

State Newspolls for Queensland and NSW

A Queensland Newspoll, conducted in August and September from a sample of 1470, has Labor leading by 53-47 from primary votes of 41% for Labor, 38% for the Liberal Nationals and 9% for the Greens. 53% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance, and 33% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +20. Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg had a net approval of -9. This poll is the first Queensland Newspoll since the election. If 2015 election preference flows had been used, Labor would be further ahead, but Newspoll is using a combination of previous elections for its preferences.

In NSW, the Coalition leads by 56-44, from primary votes of 47% for the Coalition, 33% for Labor and 11% for the Greens. Premier Mike Baird has 63% satisfied and 23% dissatisfied, for a net approval of +40. Opposition leader Luke Foley has a net approval of -2. This poll is the first NSW Newspoll since the election, and was conducted over August and September from a sample of 1980.

Canadian election update - five days to go

The Canadian election will be held on Monday 19 October, with results coming in Tuesday Melbourne time. The latest polls have the centre left Liberals moving into a clear lead over the Tories. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp Poll Tracker has the Liberals on 35.1%, the Tories on 31.0% and the New Democratic Party (NDP) on 23.3%. In seat terms, this is 136 of 338 seats for the Liberals, 118 for the Tories and 80 for the NDP. While they would be short of the 170 seats required for a majority, the Liberals would clearly be able to form a minority government on these figures.

I will do a final pre-election article on Canada this Sunday, and a post-election article Tuesday afternoon/evening.