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Making sense of the polls

Labor Takes Clear Poll Lead

This week and last week we have had polls from Newspoll, Morgan and ReachTEL, all giving Labor clear two party leads. While the Nielsen that gave Labor a surprise lead three weeks ago was off-trend at the time, the polling now clearly has Labor ahead. According to Kevin Bonham, this polling is the worst for a new Federal government at this point in its term; the Coalition only gained power about 100 days ago.

The table below has the “Change” column that had been replaced in my last post. However, changes are from what I estimate the two party result would have been had 2013 preference flows been known when the previous issue of the same poll was taken.

polls Dec.

Only online pollster Essential continues to show a Coalition lead, and Essential performed poorly in the lead-up to the last election. This poll has a tendency to be too stable, not showing any change even when all other polls show major changes. At different times, Essential’s tendency to ignore the trend has favoured both Labor and the Coalition.

The speed of the Coalition’s decline has been remarkable. Four weeks ago, Kevin Bonham’s aggregate put the Coalition at 52.5% Two Party Preferred (2PP); now Labor has 51.0% 2PP. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack shows an even greater decline, the Coalition vote falling from 52.7% 2PP four weeks ago to 48.0% now.

Polling at this stage is not predictive of what will happen at the next election, due in 2016, but a new government would normally expect a honeymoon bounce. The clear leads for Labor so early in the government’s term certainly increase the probability that this government will only have one term. However, Labor should not be considered the favourite for the next election unless they can maintain a decisive lead for a long time.

Notes on These Polls

  • Newspoll had 40% approving of Abbott’s performance and 45% disapproving for a net approval of -5, a drop from a net zero rating in the previous Newspoll. Abbott had much worse net approvals as opposition leader, but the PM’s net approval is far more important in determining voting intention than the opposition leader’s net approval. If Abbott becomes as unpopular as PM as he was as opposition leader, the Coalition’s vote will also fall.

  • Robopollster ReachTEL had 50% saying the Coalition had done a poor or very poor job since they gained power, while 30% said they had done a good or very good job. On Abbott, the ratings were 52% poor and 32% good. Since the last ReachTEL poll about four weeks ago, Abbott’s poor rating has increased 6%, and his good rating has decreased 5%.

  • Morgan gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead by both respondent-allocated and previous election preferences. Morgan has dropped the online component of its polling, and now uses only SMS and face-to-face polling; this means that Morgan leans to Labor by about 1% relative to other pollsters.

  • In Essential’s poll, 60% said car manufacturing was important and 33% not important. 45% agreed that the government should have increased subsidies to keep Holden in Australia, and 42% disagreed.

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