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Making sense of the polls

Coalition Claws Back Some Ground

Since the budget, we have only had the three regular polls from Essential, Newspoll and Morgan. While Essential has increased to a Labor Two Party Preferred (2PP) lead of 54-46, the other two polls have both had Labor shedding two points since the immediate post-budget polls. The large swing in Morgan’s poll in the table below is due to a clearly aberrant poll taken on the 7-8 June that had Labor leading by 59-41.

polls june.

Since the post-budget polls, the Coalition is up a little on the primary vote to about 37%, with Labor also around that level and the Greens on about 11%. After surging to over 7% support, Palmer United Party (PUP) has fallen back to 5%, with the Others vote up to 10%. In my opinion, many people are still angry with the budget, but are not convinced by the alternatives, and are parking their votes with Others.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 53.9% 2PP to Labor; it has been held up by the 59-41 Morgan result from the 7-8 June. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is at 53.5% 2PP to Labor, from primary votes of 38.0% for Labor, 37.1% for the Coalition, 10.2% for the Greens, 5.6% for PUP and 9.2% for Others. A couple of months ago, Queensland was showing the biggest swing to Labor, now it is showing the smallest swing to Labor of any state.

Notes on these Polls

  • Despite showing an increase for the Coalition, Newspoll had Abbott’s satisfaction rating falling back to where it was in the post-budget poll. His satisfied rating was 30%, down 3%, and his dissatisfied rating 61%, up 2%, for a net approval of -31. After hitting positive approval in the post-budget poll, Shorten is now at -11 net approval.

  • Essential had 35% who said they had at least some trust in the government’s handling of international affairs, with 59% disagreeing; this compares with a 53-41 split against the government in November 2013. 50% were “not at all confident” that Abbott would do a good job representing Australia internationally, while 45% had at least some confidence in Abbott. That compares poorly with the 74% who had at least some confidence in Rudd in October 2009. 53% said that climate change is caused by human activity, while 35% say it is a natural fluctuation; this is the second best reading for human-caused climate change since November 2009. 60% are now in favour of same sex marriage, and 28% opposed; support for same sex marriage has been clearly trending up since November 2010.

  • On respondent allocated preferences, Morgan gave Labor a 55.5-44.5 lead, 1% higher than using the previous election’s preferences. Morgan has also had two small-sample phone polls in the last two weeks. A climate change poll has 29% saying “concerns are exaggerated” about global warming, the lowest since August 2009. The same poll has 47% favouring repealing the carbon tax, against 46% opposed; that compares with 49-41 favouring repeal in February, and 51-38 in October 2013. A leadership poll has Turnbull favoured as Liberal leader over Abbott by 44-15, though Abbott still leads 35-29 among Coalition voters.

The Proposed Senate Reforms

In 2013, Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts’ Party was elected in Victoria with just 0.5% of the vote, and a new election was forced in WA after a very close exclusion between irrelevant candidates decided the result. In response, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) has recommended a shift to optional preferential voting (OPV) in the Senate that would do away with the group voting tickets that currently dictate how the vast majority of votes are distributed. The JSCEM reforms should be passed well before the next election, as they have the support of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.

Under the proposed reforms, a “1” in a single box above the line would apply a person’s vote only to candidates of the party they had voted for. A voter would have the option of preferencing other parties above the line, but it would only be compulsory to mark one box above the line.

I support this reform as the present system produced some ludicrous outcomes in 2013, and is undemocratic in that voters do not know where their preferences will end up. Kevin Bonham and Antony Green have both analysed the 2013 results as though OPV had been used.

In NSW, the Liberal Democrats’ high vote came because of name confusion with the Liberals. Kevin Bonham argues that this was only possible through both a lucky draw, and a very cluttered ballot paper. Under OPV, the cluttering would be reduced, as parties with no hope of winning would not contest. Thus, under OPV, the excess Liberal Democrat vote would go to the Coalition, and the Greens would be far ahead in the race for the last seat.

The first table below is the actual Senate result, and the second is the likely result if OPV had been used at both the 2010 and 2013 Senate elections.

Actual Senate Results

alt Senate.

If using OPV in South Australia, the two “Other” Senators would both have been from Nick Xenophon’s group; the actual results had Bob Day of Family First and Nick Xenophon elected. The only result that changes in 2010 is in Victoria, where the DLP’s seat would probably go to Labor, which had a large lead over the Coalition in the race for the last seat.

It appears that the beneficiaries of a shift to OPV will be Labor and the Greens more than the Coalition; the second table shows that under OPV, Labor and the Greens would be likely to have 38 combined Senate seats, enough on their own to block legislation. This is partly because the left vote is sometimes split in such a way that both Labor and the Greens have a greater chance of winning extra seats than if there was a combined Labor/Green vote, and also because most of the micro-party vote is right-wing, and these votes would be much more likely to exhaust under OPV.

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