Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Coalition gains a little ground in polls

The last fortnight has featured The Killing Season and Q&A on the ABC, allegations against Shorten from his union boss days, and a national security focus from the government. Media expectations were that these events would produce a large shift to the Coalition, but these expectations have not been borne out, with the Coalition only gaining a small amount. Here are this week’s three polls.

polls early July.

The last ReachTEL was taken the day after the 2015 budget, and the last Morgan was probably a little too pro-Labor; hence the correction in this Morgan poll. Morgan has a lean of about 1% to Labor, so this Morgan poll should be read as 52-48 to Labor.

We would usually also receive a Newspoll this week, but Newspoll has now closed. Next week, a robopoll run by Galaxy will replace Newspoll. The robopoll will have a larger sample size than Newspoll, and Galaxy has a strong reputation. However, this development means that two Australian polling brands with a long history (Nielson and Newspoll) have now departed. The only pollster that currently conducts all its interviews by live telephone methods is the relatively new Ipsos; this increases the possibility of a massive poll failure in Australia, as happened at the May UK election.

Both leaders went backwards in ReachTEL’s (total good) minus (total poor) ratings. Abbott’s fall from -22 to -25 broke a run of four successive rises since his February nadir. While Shorten’s ratings have been flat between March and May according to ReachTEL, he slumped to a -26 rating in this poll, down from -16 in May. Despite Shorten’s woes, he still led Abbott by 56-44 in ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM question; Shorten clearly does better on this question with respondents who say they are undecided in other polls.

I think that ghosts from Labor’s past are the main reason why the Coalition gained in this week’s polls. The ABC’s The Killing Season has reminded voters of the disunity and dysfunction that occurred under the previous Labor government, and the allegations about Shorten aired at the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC) have also not been good for Labor.

Now that The Killing Season has finished, it will fade from people’s memories fairly quickly. A good performance from Shorten at the TURC on 9 July would help to put those allegations behind him. However, the Labor party conference at the end of July will probably expose some divisions in the Labor party.

I do not think that the focus on national security and the ABC’s Q&A program has been good for the government. According to ReachTEL, the Coalition only leads Labor by 52.6-47.4 on national security - a weak result for the Coalition given all the attention they have devoted to this issue. The electorate may think that the Coalition has gone over the top on national security, or Labor’s bipartisanship could have convinced many that Labor would do a reasonable job. ReachTEL used a forced choice wording on national security; polls with an undecided option would probably have the Coalition further ahead.

On the ABC, last week’s Essential, taken before Zaky Mallah’s Q&A appearance, found that 63% had at least some trust in ABC TV, and 58% in ABC radio. While these trust numbers are down 4-6 points on November 2014, the ABC still has more trust than the News Ltd publications as reported in this week’s Essential.

A question on political commentators in the media found that 71% had at least some trust in Laurie Oakes, 51% in Tony Jones, 38% in Andrew Bolt and 29% in Alan Jones. Alan Jones and Bolt had high name recognition, with 80% recognising Jones and 65% Bolt, but low trust ratings.

In summary, it is likely that the Coalition would have benefited more from Labor’s problems over the last fortnight, but the Coalition’s anti-ABC rhetoric does not appeal to the general public.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 52.3% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor, a 0.2% gain for the Coalition since last week. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack has Labor leading by 52.0-48.0, a 0.5% gain for the Coalition since last week. Primary votes are 40.5% for the Coalition, 36.1% for Labor and 13.4% for the Greens - a new record high for the Greens. Primary vote changes are a 0.7% drop for Labor, with 0.5% gained by the Coalition and 0.4% by the Greens.

Notes on these polls

  • ReachTEL found that 26% had high confidence in the Australian political system, 32% had low confidence and the rest had average confidence. Coalition supporters were more likely to be confident than Labor and Greens supporters.

  • Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences had Labor ahead by 53.5-46.5, 0.5% better for Labor than the previous election method.

  • Essential asked about school funding following the release of a government paper. The proposal most supported was making the Federal government the main funder of all schools (51-23 support). The most opposed proposal was that the Federal government would only fund private schools (56-20 oppose). Other proposals had lukewarm ratings. 41% supported the proposition that Australian troops in Iraq be used to fight Islamic State, and 43% were opposed. By 49-39, those currently working thought they would probably not have enough superannuation and other investments to live comfortably when they retire.

State polls

Other than Morgan’s monthly state polls, there has not been a Victorian state poll since Labor’s victory at the November election. Newspoll finally broke the drought last week with a poll taken over May and June from a sample of 1150. The poll had Labor leading by an emphatic 58-42 margin, a 6% swing to Labor since the election. Primary votes were 41% for Labor, 35% for the Coalition and 14% for the Greens. Premier Daniel Andrews had a satisfied rating of 51%, and a dissatisfied rating of 32%, for a net approval of +19. Opposition leader Matthew Guy had 35% satisfied and 29% dissatisfied for a net approval of +6.

Morgan conducted state polls by SMS on the 19-21 June. His Victorian poll confirmed a big lead for Labor; Labor led by 56.5-43.5, unchanged on May. In Queensland, Labor led by 51.5-48.5, reversing a 52-48 deficit in May. In WA, the Coalition had a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 3.5% gain for the Coalition. In NSW, the Coalition continued to dominate with a 57-43 lead, a 1.5% gain for Labor. In SA, the Liberals led by 51-49, a 0.5% gain for the Liberals. Sample sizes for these polls ranged from 600 to 1270.

Greek referendum this Sunday

A referendum will be held in Greece this Sunday 5 July to decide whether Greece should accept the bailout terms of its creditors. A NO vote at the referendum could lead to Greece exiting the Euro, while a YES vote will mean increased austerity for Greece. The left-wing Greek government is advocating a NO vote.

The consensus of the polls gives NO a small lead, though the poll results vary greatly. Two polls taken Tuesday gave contradictory results, with one having YES ahead by 4%, while the other had NO ahead by 14.5%. Results of this referendum will come through early Monday morning Australian time.