Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Labor should head left to win 25 November Qld election

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today called the state election for 25 November, about two months before the three-year anniversary of Labor’s shock win in January 2015. There will be 93 single-member electorates at this election for the lower house; Queensland has no upper house.

There have been two recent polls by reputable pollsters. A mid-October Newspoll gave Labor a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 37% Labor, 34% LNP, 16% One Nation and 8% Greens. However, a late September ReachTEL gave the LNP a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 34.8% Labor, 33.2% LNP, 19.6% One Nation and 8.1% Greens.

The major difference between Newspoll and ReachTEL is that Newspoll assumes that Labor will win 80% of Greens preferences, 40% of One Nation preferences and 50% of all Others. ReachTEL uses respondent-allocated preferences, and is clearly finding a strong flow of One Nation preferences to the LNP.

On current polling, four outcomes are plausible. There could be a Labor or LNP majority government, a Labor minority government with Independent or Katter Party support, or a LNP minority government with One Nation or Katter support.

In recent overseas elections, UK and NZ Labour greatly increased their vote share from the previous election by offering a clear left-wing agenda, emphasising their differences from the conservatives. However, at the German and Austrian elections, far-right parties performed well partly because the major centre-left party was perceived as too close to the conservatives.

It appears that many voters want a major change from the prevailing orthodoxy. If the major centre-left party does not offer such a change, these votes are likely to go to right-wing populist parties.

In my opinion, Queensland Labor’s strong support for the Adani coal mine is a major negative. Not only does this anger environmental activists, it also means Labor is perceived as close to the LNP on this issue. It would have been better for Labor if they had rejected Adani at the start of the current term.

I think Labor can win over some of the One Nation voters if they advocate populist left-wing economic policies. If Labor’s primary vote rises into the 40’s, they would be assured of winning. If Labor does not advocate left-wing policies, One Nation is likely to win a high teens primary vote, and their preferences will probably assist the LNP on cultural grounds.

Earlier in the current term, before One Nation’s rise began, Labor changed the Queensland electoral system from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting, in an attempt to ensure strong Greens preference flows. With One Nation winning at least double the Greens in the polls, this change looks like a mistake.

In its attacks on One Nation, Labor should target their right-wing economic policies, not their perceived racism. As at August, One Nation had voted with the Coalition in 79% of Senate divisions where Labor was opposed. This record is more likely to dissuade working class voters from One Nation than calling Hanson and co racists.

Labor has never been far ahead in the Queensland polls during the current term, and this can be attributed to the hung Parliament, particularly having to rely on Labor defectors such as Billy Gordon.

The unpopular Federal Coalition government will be a drag on the state LNP. If state Labor wins, they are likely to be a drag for Federal Labor at the next Federal election. From the viewpoint of maximising its chances at the next Federal election, Federal Labor would prefer an LNP/One Nation Queensland government.

In 2016, a referendum for fixed four-year terms was passed, with the election on the last Saturday in October; this did not apply to the current term. If this election had been held after 1 January 2018, the next election would have been in October 2021. As it is, the next election will be in October 2020, just under three years after this election.