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Making sense of the polls

Victorian and Other State Polling

The Victorian State election will be held in four weeks on 29 November 2014. The table below gives the results of Victorian polls that have been published in the last week. The columns are the polling company, the two party preferred (2PP) result, any swing from the last such poll by that company (if applicable), the dates that the poll was actually in the field, and the poll’s sample size.

Vic polls.

The table uses the pollster’s 2010 election preference flow 2PP as the table figure. Ipsos actually reported a headline figure of 56-44 to Labor, but this was based on respondent allocation of preferences. ReachTEL and Ipsos are recorded as NA in the “Change” column because this is the first Fairfax Ipsos poll, while ReachTEL has not conducted a Victorian poll since 2013.

I am uncertain about Morgan’s figures. His last poll had Labor leading 54-46 from almost the same primary vote figures as this one. Morgan was criticised after his last SMS polls because his NSW and Queensland polls did not account for optional preferential voting in those two states. He may now be using the previous election’s preference flows for all his state polls; in this case, Labor’s decrease is explained by the change of methodology from respondent allocation to previous election.

On primary votes, all five polls have the total Labor/Green vote at 50% or more, and the Coalition vote is 40% or less in all five polls. The Greens had primary votes of 18.5% in Morgan and 17% in Ipsos, but in the other three polls the Greens’ primary vote was 12-13%. At past elections, pollsters have overestimated the Greens’ vote, and it is unlikely that the Greens are really at 17-18%. Labor’s primary vote was in the high 30’s in all polls except Morgan, where it was 34%.

With the total Labor/Green primary above 50% and the Coalition primary below 40% in all polls, it is clear that Labor would win an election held now. In fact, it is probable that the 2PP figures in the table are underestimating Labor’s actual 2PP given current primary votes. As I argued in a Victorian Election Watch article, Greens preferences are likely to be stronger for Labor than in 2010 due to anti-Abbott sentiment. The preference flows to Labor in Victoria at the 2013 Federal election were also better than at the 2010 State election. In summary, Labor remains the clear favourite to win the State election in four weeks.

Update Monday morning 3 November: Newspoll has Labor leading by 54-46, a 1% swing to the Coalition since the July-August Newspoll. Primary votes for both major parties are up 4%, Labor to 41% and the Coalition to 39%. The Greens are on 13%, down 3%. This poll was conducted October 27-30 with a sample of 1100, so it is a later poll than those released last week.

Other State Polls

Newspoll, Morgan and Essential have all recently published figures for New South Wales, and all three pollsters find the Coalition with between 54% and 56% of the 2PP vote. Newspoll gives NSW Premier Mike Baird a satisfied rating of 56% and a dissatisfied rating of just 20% for a net approval of +36. Labor will gain a big swing in NSW after 2011’s 64-36 wipeout, but does not appear to be a threat to the Coalition’s majority at the March 2015 NSW election.

In Queensland, Morgan’s SMS October poll had Labor in front of the Liberal National Party (LNP) by a 50.5-49.5 margin after trailing 51-49 in September. The primary vote change was even greater, with the LNP’s lead over Labor down to just 0.5% (38.5-38) after a 6.5% lead in September (42-35.5). The Greens had 10% in this poll and Palmer United Party (PUP) had 6%. This poll was conducted by SMS on the 24-27 October with a sample of 1300. An Essential poll in October has it at 50-50, but Essential has not recorded the clear leads for the LNP in September that other pollsters did. This Morgan SMS poll is only one poll, but it is the first poll to find the LNP behind since the April-June Newspoll. The next Queensland ReachTEL poll could be interesting. The Queensland election is due by early 2015.

In WA, Morgan SMS has the Coalition ahead by 53-47 from a sample of 550, up 0.5% from September. In SA, Labor leads by 52.5-47.5 from a sample of 420, up 3% on September. In Tasmania, the Liberals are on 41% from a sample of 300, up 2% on September, but down a hard to credit 10% on the March State election result. It is more probable that Morgan’s SMS polls lean to the left in Tasmania.

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