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Making sense of the polls

Labor maintains 52-48 lead in Newspoll

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1620, gives Labor an unchanged 52-48 lead. Primary votes are 39% for the Coalition (up 1), 36% for Labor (down 1) and 10% for the Greens (steady). Normally the primary vote shifts would produce a 1 point two party gain for the Coalition, but last fortnight’s Newspoll was rounded towards the Coalition.

Turnbull’s satisfied rating was down one to 31%, and his dissatisfied rating up one to 56%, for a net approval of -25, a new record low. Shorten’s net approval was down one point to -16.

There was some good news for the Coalition in the additional Newspoll questions, but given Essential’s findings below, I am very sceptical of the question wording. 39% agreed with Malcolm Turnbull that state governments are putting their electricity supply at risk by setting “unrealistic” renewable energy targets of 50%, and 36% disagreed. Note that “unrealistic” is part of the question phrasing; voters were told that high targets were unrealistic.

44% said they were unwilling to pay anything more to have more energy generated by renewable sources. 28% said they were willing to pay $100 extra per year, 11% said $300 extra per year, and 6% said they were willing to pay over $500.

Essential at 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential was at 52-48 to Labor, from primary votes of Coalition 38%, Labor 36%, Greens 10%, One Nation 6% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%. Turnbull’s net approval was -3, up 5 points in a month, and Shorten’s net approval was -3, up 2 points.

60% thought the SA power blackout would have occurred regardless of how the energy was produced, and only 17% said it occurred as a result of too much reliance on renewable energy. 60% thought renewable energy was the solution to our future energy needs, and only 16% thought it a threat to our future energy supply.

61% thought multiculturalism had made a positive contribution to Australian society, and 23% a negative one. 56% thought immigrants should not be rejected only on the basis of religion, and 24% disagreed. 53% were concerned about the number of Muslims in Australia, and 42% were not concerned. When told that only 2.2% of the Australian population is Muslim, concerned dropped to 47%, and not concerned rose to 47%.

In last week’s Essential, 53% thought the Coalition should agree to hold a parliamentary vote to resolve the same sex marriage issue, and only 24% thought plebiscite opponents should allow a plebiscite. If a plebiscite were held, same sex marriage would pass by 58-28 (60-30 in August). 49% thought a plebiscite should be binding on Parliament, and 26% disagreed.

88% thought the Internet was becoming an essential service. 47% thought the national broadband network (NBN) would not adequately meet Australia’s future Internet requirements, and 22% disagreed. 42% supported the Labor NBN plan, with 27% selecting the Coalition’s plan.

50% thought Australia’s immigration levels over the last ten years were too high, with only 12% opting for too low. By 44-39, respondents opposed Turnbull’s decision to permanently increase Australia’s annual refugee intake by 5,000. These two questions show the strength of Hanson’s appeal.

NSW Newspoll: Baird and Coalition crash

A NSW Newspoll, conducted during August and September from a sample of 1490, has the Coalition leading by 51-49, a 5 point gain for Labor since the November-December 2015 Newspoll. Primary votes are 42% for the Coalition (down 6), 36% for Labor (up 3) and 11% for the Greens (up 1).

Premier Mike Baird’s ratings have crashed since late 2015; his satisfied rating is 39% (down 22) and his dissatisfied rating is 46% (up 24). His net approval is thus -7, down a massive 46 points. Opposition leader Luke Foley’s net approval is up one point to -7.

A table shows that Baird has had the biggest poll to poll drop in net approval by a Premier in Newspoll history. NSW would usually be polled every two months, but there have been virtually no state Newspolls since late 2015, owing to the Federal election. While Baird’s collapse is huge, it is unlikely he lost all his popularity in two months. Kevin Bonham says that Baird’s drop over 9 months is close to the record drop of 48 points by a Premier in such a period.

Newspoll asked about the greyhound racing ban, finding that 51% thought the industry should have been given a chance to reform, and 41% thought the ban was fair. In a late August ReachTEL, 51% supported the greyhound racing ban, and 31% were opposed. The difference between Newspoll and ReachTEL is due to question wording; the “given a chance” phrase means people are less likely to support a ban.

The August ReachTEL was 50-50, and this poll is 51-49 to the Coalition, so this poll corroborates ReachTEL in showing a close contest.

The Australian‘s poll write-up blames Baird’s fall on the greyhound racing ban, but it is unlikely this issue alone caused such a large drop. Most likely other issues over the course of the year have all contributed to Baird’s ratings slump.

Today, Mike Baird announced a backflip on the greyhound racing ban. The ReachTEL poll indicated that a majority of voters supported the ban. By buckling to a vocal minority, Baird has probably lost much credibility with the general electorate.

ACT election this Saturday

An election will be held in Canberra this Saturday 15 October. Polls close at 6pm Melbourne time. The electoral system is proportional representation using the Hare Clark method. At the last election, there were 17 total members, from two 5-member and one 7-member electorates. Labor and the Liberals each won 8 seats, with the sole Green supporting Labor.

At this election, 25 members will be returned in five 5-member electorates. As far as I know, there have been no polls. Labor will be attempting to win a fifth consecutive four year term.

The third seat in each 5-member electorate is pivotal. If the Liberals and/or conservative Others win the third seat in three electorates, the Liberals are likely to form the next government. If Labor, the Greens and/or left wing Others win the third seat in three electorates, Labor is likely to retain government.

State Morgan and Essential polls

Morgan has conducted SMS state polls from 30 September to 2 October. In NSW, Labor has taken its first lead in a poll for a long, long time, leading 51.5-48.5, a 2 point gain since August. In Victoria, Labor leads by an emphatic 56.5-43.5, a 1 point gain for Labor. In Queensland, Labor leads by 52-48, a 2 point gain for Labor. In WA, Labor leads by 52.5-47.5, a 1.5 point gain for Labor. In SA, the Liberals lead by 54-46, a 1 point gain for Labor. Samples ranged from 560 in WA to 1300 in Victoria.

Essential has released aggregate state polling for July to September. In NSW, the Coalition leads by 52-48, but September was a 50-50 tie. In Victoria, Labor leads 53-47. In Queensland, Labor leads 53-47. In WA, Labor leads 53-47. In SA, Labor leads 54-46.

Labor’s robust state polling is probably a result of the unpopularity of the Federal Coalition government, which is a millstone for state conservative parties.

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