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Making sense of the polls

Labor maintains steady 53-47 Newspoll lead, but Turnbull’s ratings improve

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1850, has Labor leading by an unchanged 53-47, from primary votes of 38% Coalition (down 1), 38% Labor (steady) and 10% Greens (steady). This is the first time since Turnbull deposed Abbott in September 2015 that Labor has tied with the Coalition on primary votes.

Turnbull’s satisfied rating was up 4 points to 34%, and his dissatisfied rating down 4 points to 54%, for a net approval of -20. Shorten’s net approval was steady at -15, and his ratings have varied little from this level since June.

Turnbull’s improved ratings have not helped the Coalition, as Turnbull’s ratings were very low compared to the Coalition’s vote. I suspect that as Turnbull’s rhetoric has become more right wing, hard right voters who despised Turnbull, but were still voting for the Coalition, are happier with Turnbull now.

An additional question had Turnbull leading Shorten 48-32 on best to manage the economy, down from a 55-29 Turnbull lead in May. The economy is always a relative strength for the Coalition, so this finding is not a surprise.

Essential at 52-48 to Labor

This week’s Essential was at 52-48 to Labor from primary votes of Coalition 38%, Labor 37%, Greens 10%, One Nation 6% and Nick Xenophon Team 3%. Voting intentions are based on a two week sample of 1810, and other questions on one week’s sample.

64% would support legislation to reduce the number of 457 visas, and 17% were opposed. 36% said they were most concerned about asylum seekers arriving by boat, 21% selected 457 visas, and 20% selected the increase in Australia’s population. By 56-16, voters supported the proposal to resettle refugees in the US.

Many Trump-like statements applied to Australia had strong support. By 60-26, voters agreed that the system is rigged against ordinary people. By 52-32, they wanted an Australia more like it was in the past. By 77-13, voters thought we should do more to stop illegal immigration. Perhaps most confronting for the left, by 46-40, voters agreed that racial equality has gone too far, and there was only slight disagreement on “gender equality has gone too far” (48-40 disagree).

In last week’s Essential, 17% thought racial discrimination laws were too strict, 26% too weak and 40% about right. 44% approved of proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, and 33% disapproved; in September, this was 45-35 approve.

21% thought Turnbull was best to lead the Liberals (down 9 from July), with 20% for Julie Bishop (up 4) and 11% for Abbott (up 2). Among Coalition voters, 36% preferred Turnbull (down 14), 20% Bishop (up 3) and 19% Abbott (up 6).

For Labor, 17% preferred Shorten (down 10), 14% Tanya Plibersek (up 2) and 12% Anthony Albanese (up 1). Among Labor voters, this was 37% Shorten, 16% Plibersek and 14% Albanese. While Shorten slumped since July, this result is on par with previous Essential Labor leader questions, and suggests that July was the effect of a post-election boost.

14% supported the government’s proposal to pay compensation for victims of child sex abuse, while 63% believed institutions, like the churches, should pay the compensation.

Nats lose narrowly to Shooters in NSW Orange by-election

On 12 November, by-elections were held in the NSW seats of Orange, Wollongong and Canterbury. Labor easily retained Wollongong and Canterbury, but the Nationals won just 31.6% in Orange, down a massive 34.0 points from the 2015 election. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers benefited, winning 23.8% after not contesting the 2015 election in that seat. Labor won 18.3% (down 5.0) and the remaining votes mostly went to Independents with the Greens at 5.7% (down 1.1).

Kevin Bonham says the primary vote swing against the Nationals is near a record, not beaten since the 1950’s following the Labor split, when some sitting Labor members stood as Anti-Communist Labor.

After preferences, the Shooters won by 50 votes, or 50.1-49.9. The Shooters led by 84 votes before Thursday’s distribution of preferences. During that distribution, the Nationals gained a 66-vote lead. However, this was the result of a misplaced vote bundle, and the Shooters recovered the lead by 55 votes the next day. A recount on Monday changed the margin by just five votes.

This is the Shooters’ first ever win in a single member electorate. It is the first time since 1947 that the Nationals, or their predecessors the Country Party, will not hold Orange.

Victorian Galaxy: 52-48 to Labor

The first Galaxy poll of Victoria since the 2014 election has Labor leading by 52-48, unchanged since the election. Primary votes are 42% for the Coalition (steady), 37% for Labor (down 1) and 12% for the Greens (up 1). Law and order may be a weakness for Labor: 64% said Labor was not tough enough on youth crime, with 20% who disagreed. 44% thought Victoria was less safe since Labor came to power, and only 15% said Victoria had become more safe. This poll was conducted 15-17 November with a sample of 1024.

Tasmanian ReachTEL: Liberals 45.6%, Labor 30.9%, Greens 15.1%

Tasmania uses the Hare Clark proportional system for its elections. Kevin Bonham has details of a large-sample Tasmanian ReachTEL poll. On the published figures, Bonham thinks it is a toss-up whether the Liberals just retain a majority government or just lose it, with the decisive seat the final seat in Lyons. After adjusting this poll for pro-Greens skew, Bonham thinks the Liberals more likely to win a majority.

At the last two Federal elections, Tasmania’s ReachTEL polls have been biased against Labor, but they were biased against the Liberals at the last Tasmanian state election.

In Tasmania, a large number of voters despise the Greens, and will vote for the major party they think has the best chance of winning a majority government. This could save the Liberals at the next election, due by March 2018.

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