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Making sense of the polls

Federal Labor’s Lead Surges after ‘Knightmare’

We have had two major opinion polls this week from Galaxy and Ipsos. Both polls have Labor gaining two points, to now lead by a huge 57-43 in Galaxy and 54-46 in Ipsos. Both polls were previously taken in early December. Abbott’s approval rating has also crashed in Ipsos, with 29% now approving (down 9), and 67% disapproving (up 10), for a net approval of -38, down 19 points. The decision to award the knighthood had over 70% opposed in both polls, and less than 15% in favour. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls early Feb.

Galaxy is considered the best pollster by the psephological (poll watching) community, so the huge Labor lead in this poll shows a clear adverse reaction to the “Knightmare” affair. Ipsos has been more pro-Coalition than the other polls in its first three appearances, so it could have a lean towards the Coalition.

At the Queensland election, Two Party Preferred (2PP) estimates based on the 2012 election’s preference flows were flawed; the Liberal National Party (LNP) would have won a clear majority had 2012 election flows been in effect. As a result, respondent allocated preferences should be taken more seriously than they have been. On this measure, Labor is even further ahead than using the previous election preferences, with Ipsos giving Labor a 56-44 respondent allocated lead vs 54-46 on 2013 preference flows. Last week’s Morgan had Labor doing 1% better on respondent allocated preferences.

The “Knightmare” affair, the subsequent bad polling and the Queensland election result have all led to much media speculation about Tony Abbott’s leadership. He has never been popular in the electorate, and it is hard to see an improvement for either Abbott or the Coalition while the intense leadership speculation continues, and continued poor polling will only increase the pressure.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.9% 2PP to Labor, up 1.3% since last week. Update: The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack has a Labor lead of 55.1-44.9, a 1.8% gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes are 40.9% for Labor, 37.9% for the Coalition and 11.2% for the Greens. The Coalition primary vote has dropped by 1.9%, with almost all going back to Labor. This is Labor’s best position in BludgerTrack since the election.

Notes on These Polls

  • In Ipsos, only 31% thought that Abbott would lead the Coalition to the next election, while 70% thought Shorten would lead Labor. Shorten’s net approval improved by five points to +10. 34% are confident in how the government is dealing with Medicare while 62% are not confident. However, by a 54-42 margin, voters support the proposed $5 cut in the Medicare rebate for non-concessional patients. By 55-25, electors oppose the introduction of knights and dames, a 15 point change from a 50-35 margin in April 2014.

  • In Essential, 34% supported Australia becoming a republic, and the same percentage were opposed; there was no net change from October 2014. Since December, Abbott was up on most negative attributes and down on positive attributes, but Shorten also performed worse than in December. A Shorten vs Abbott comparison has Shorten leading on most positive, and trailing on most negative attributes. Asked who would be the best Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull leads with 24%, followed by Julie Bishop on 21% and Abbott on just 11%. Among Coalition voters, it is 26% Bishop, 24% Turnbull and 23% Abbott. The current minimum wage of $16.37 an hour was thought to be too low by 61%, about right by 27% and too high by just 6%.

Queensland Election Late Counting

The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) has notional Two Candidate Preferred (2CP) figures for the key Queensland seats. However, these figures are often well behind the primary vote count in that seat. The Poll Bludger has been calculating projected 2CP estimates from votes that are not yet in the official 2CP count.

It is very likely that Labor has won 42 of the 89 seats, with 39 for the Liberal National Party (LNP), 2 Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) and 1 Independent. Five seats remain in some doubt: Ferny Grove, Lockyer, Maryborough, Mount Ommaney and Whitsunday.

In Ferny Grove, LNP favouring postals have eaten away at Labor’s election night lead of 51.5-48.5, and Labor now only leads by 337. However, no absent votes have yet been included; these tend to favour Labor, and should stretch Labor’s lead.

Mount Ommaney looked likely to go to Labor until late on election night when a big pre-poll booth swung it back to the LNP. Labor has made up some ground on absent votes, but it looks too little too late, and this seat will probably stay with the LNP.

In Whitsunday, postals have favoured the LNP by 60-40, but the first batch of absent votes favoured Labor by over 62-38. Note that over 1,000 postals are NOT included in the 2CP count, so the LNP lead should be about 309, not the current 88. If Labor maintains its performance on absents, they will win, but absent votes can vary from one batch to another. Most absents in Whitsunday are from the strong Labor seat of Mackay, which is why Labor is doing particularly well on absents so far. This seat is currently a toss-up.

In Maryborough, Labor is winning the 2CP vs the LNP by a comfortable 51.9-48.1. The issue is whether Independent Chris Foley can overtake Labor on preferences from One Nation and Palmer United, and then win the seat on Labor preferences. On primary votes, Foley is currently 3.9% behind Labor, and the high rate of exhaustion indicates that Labor should win this exclusion point, and thus win Maryborough. We will not know the outcome here until the formal distribution of preferences, which will probably be next Wednesday.

In Lockyer, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is likely to narrowly lose to the LNP, despite a much better than expected performance on preferences. On primary votes, the LNP led Hanson by 34.1-27.3, with 24.6% for Labor and 7.2% for the KAP. Although Labor’s How to Vote card in Lockyer put the LNP ahead of Hanson, many Lockyer Labor voters have followed the “put the LNP last” strategy, and so Hanson only trails by 50.5-49.5 after preferences. Absent votes are still to be counted in Lockyer, but the LNP are favourites.

In summary, two of the undecided seats are expected to go to Labor, two to the LNP and one is a toss-up. 44 seats should be enough for Labor to form government, but if they also win Whitsunday they will have a majority.

Liberals Hold Davenport in SA By-Election

As well as the Queensland election, there was a by-election in the SA seat of Davenport last Saturday. The by-election was held because the former Liberal member resigned. The Liberals have won by 53.1-46.9, a 5.0% swing to Labor from the March 2014 election. Primary votes were 46.9% for the Liberals, down 4.1%, 33.4% for Labor, up 4.8%, 12.5% for the Greens, down 2.8%, and 3.9% for Family First, down 1.2%. Davenport has historically been a safe Liberal seat, and this by-election is the closest Labor has come to winning it since at least 1985.

Note: Source for Ipsos is The Age, Monday 2 February 2015, pages 6-7.

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