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Making sense of the polls

Labor Leaps Further Ahead in Post-Budget Polls

We had five polls released this week following the May 13 Budget. Below is the table of poll results, which shows Labor gaining strongly in Newspoll, Nielsen and Morgan. The Coalition’s two strongest polls were Galaxy and Essential. Essential is well known for its excessive stability, and the Coalition may have benefited slightly in Galaxy due to the earlier fieldwork dates. Note that this week’s Morgan used only one weekend for fieldwork; previous Morgans taken this year have aggregated two weekends.

post budget polls.

Only in Essential does the Coalition primary vote still begin with a “4”. All polls have Labor’s primary in at least the high 30’s, with the Greens at about 11%. The Coalition’s primary has dropped into the mid 30’s in Newspoll, Nielsen and Morgan. Palmer United Party (PUP) appears to have about 7% support. The total Labor/Green vote in four of the five polls is between 48% and 50.5%, with Nielsen having an outlier looking Labor/Green vote of 54%. Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 54.0 Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor, up from 52.6 last week.

Update Thursday morning 22 May: BludgerTrack is at 54.2% 2PP to Labor, up from 52.5% last week. Before the budget leaks, the polls were at about 51-49 to Labor, so there has been a 3% move to Labor over the budget process. BludgerTrack primary votes were 39.3% for Labor, 37.2% for the Coalition, 10.6% for the Greens and 7.0% for PUP. There are graphs, including leadership ratings graphs, on the right sidebar of the Poll Bludger. The leaders’ ratings show how far Abbott’s ratings have declined.

The figures in the table are based on previous election preferences. However, Morgan and Nielsen always ask for respondent-allocated preferences, and this year Labor has generally performed about 1% better in Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences than using the previous election. This week, Nielsen’s respondent-allocated preferences were 58-42 to Labor, and Morgan’s 57.5-42.5. The Coalition would be in even deeper trouble if these preferences were used.

It is clear from these polls that Labor would easily win an election held now, but governments have recovered from worse polling to win, and the next election is still well over two years away unless Abbott calls a double dissolution election, which he is most unlikely to do given these polls. However, it is clear from the below section that this budget is the worst perceived budget since 1993. Due to the personal pain that will be inflicted, the government needed to win the “good for economy” argument. Their failure to win this argument is likely to lead to a sustained slump as the spending cuts and tax increases bite. With non-Left aligned forces such as PUP and the Liberal State Premiers strongly opposed to some aspects of the budget, selling it becomes even more difficult.

Perceptions of this Budget Compared with Past Budgets

Newspoll has been asking three standard questions on every budget since 1986. These questions are: the effect of the budget on the overall economy, its personal effect, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. Peter Brent has graphs of the responses to these questions. In public perceptions, by far the worst budget was the 1993 “L-A-W” tax cuts budget, when the tax cuts promised at the ‘93 election failed to materialise. The Coalition would have hoped that this budget would be perceived like the Howard government’s first budget in 1996, which rated very well on the overall economy question despite leaving people worse off.

On the personal income question, this budget was almost as bad as 1993, with just 5% saying the budget made them better off, while 69% said it made them worse off. On the economy question, this budget performed much better than the '93 Budget, but had a net rating of -9, with 39% saying the budget was good for the economy and 48% bad. On this question, the budget is worse than any of Wayne Swan’s six budgets. Other than 1993, a couple of Labor budgets delivered during the 1990’s recession were also perceived as worse than this one on the economy. Labor trailed by 46-39 on the question of whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget, but this is much better than Labor did during any of the Howard government’s budgets. The Coalition is generally perceived as being the better economic manager, so this is a poor result for them.

If the Coalition’s political aim was to deliver a 1996 style budget, they failed dismally on all three measures. This budget is the worst since 1993 on both personal and overall economy measures, and the worst delivered by a Coalition government on whether the opposition would have done a better job.

Kevin Bonham and William Bowe have more analysis and graphs of the budget’s political impact.

Notes on this Week’s Polls

  • Galaxy had 75% saying that the budget was personally bad for them, while only 11% said it was good for them. On the economy overall, opinions were more mixed, with 41% saying the budget was good for the economy, and 46% bad for the economy. Edit 22 May: Galaxy is now supplementing its phone polls with an online panel, increasing its sample sizes from about 1000 to 1400.

  • Nielsen had Abbott’s approval rating crashing 9% to 34% and his disapproval up 12% to 62% for a net approval of -28; there were only two occasions when Julia Gillard had a worse net approval in Nielsen. Shorten’s approval rate improved to a positive 47-39 split. Nielsen repeated two budget questions that were previously asked in 1996. In '96, voters were satisfied with the budget by a 47-29 margin; this year they are dissatisfied by 65-33. In '96, voters rated the Budget fair by 54-32; this year’s budget is rated unfair by 63-33. The deficit levy on those making over $180,000 is supported by a 50-37 margin, but increasing the petrol excise is opposed by 72-25. Increasing the GST is opposed by a 66-30 margin. Repealing the carbon tax is supported by a narrow 49-46 margin, but repealing the mining tax is opposed by 56-37.

  • Morgan’s weekly consumer confidence rating, based on a separate survey from his polls, has fallen 14% in the four weeks since the budget leaks began, and is now at 100.4, well below its long term average of 113.1.

  • Newspoll had Abbott’s satisfied rating down 5% to 30%, and his dissatisfied rating up 4% to 60% for a net approval of -30. Bill Shorten’s net approval rating was +3, with 42% satisfied and 39% dissatisfied. Abbott’s Newspoll rating is not yet into Gillard territory; she often had less than 30% satisfied, but it is certainly not good.

  • Essential had 52% disapproving of the budget, and 30% approving. In this poll, budget opinions have improved since last week; a surprise result was that 40% rate the budget good for the economy overall, and 32% bad, a result out of alignment with other polls. Deregulation of university fees was opposed by 58-17, and the $7 Medicare co-payment was opposed 50-29. The 6-month waiting period before those under 30 can access the dole was only narrowly opposed 41-39. 41% say the budget cut spending too much, 26% say it cut about the right amount, and 15% say the budget did not cut spending enough. A total of 56% say there is a budget emergency, but only 32% say the government’s changes will help bring the budget back into line.

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