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Making sense of the polls

Latest Polling in Vic, Qld and NSW

Elections will be held by early 2015 in the eastern seaboard states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. All three states currently have first-term Coalition governments. On current polling, there is a strong chance of a Labor win in Victoria, some chance in Queensland, and virtually no chance in NSW.

In Victoria, a Nielsen poll in late June gave Labor a 56-44 lead on previous election preferences, which expanded to 59-41 on respondent-allocated preferences. The May-June Newspoll had Labor ahead 54-46. The Coalition primary vote was 37% in both polls, with the combined Labor/Green vote on 54% in Newspoll and 56% in Nielsen.

At the 2010 election, the Coalition was elected with 45 seats to Labor’s 43. A redistribution has notionally increased the Coalition’s majority to 48-40, but five of the Coalition’s notional seats currently have Labor sitting members, and a sixth Coalition marginal (Frankston) is held by controversial Liberal turned Independent Geoff Shaw. As a result, the “sophomore surge” effect, where first term members tend to do better than the party overall in swing terms, will not apply to Victorian Coalition-held marginals.

The Federal Coalition government is very unpopular in Victoria, with Federal Labor leading in Victoria by about 58-42; the Federal effect can be expected to handicap the State Coalition.

There are still nearly five months to go before the Victorian state election in late November 2014, but Labor is now the clear favourite to win the next Victorian election.

In Queensland, the April-June quarter Newspoll gave Labor a surprise 51-49 lead from primary votes of 34% for Labor, 32% for the Liberal National Party (LNP), 8% for the Greens and 26% for Others. It is unfortunate that Newspoll is still not recording Palmer United Party (PUP) support separately. A ReachTEL poll conducted 3rd July has the LNP leading 51-49 from primary votes of 39% for the LNP, 34% for Labor, 6% for the Greens and 15% for PUP. The Queensland polling in late May and early June from ReachTEL and Galaxy had the LNP recovering some lost ground, but that trend has now reversed.

At the last election in 2012, Queensland Labor was obliterated after 14 years in power, winning only 7 of 89 seats. Labor will clearly do much better at the upcoming election, due by early 2015, but the LNP will benefit from sophomore surges that will make Labor’s task harder than the current pendulum shows. Depending on how well PUP does, and on whether the PUP votes can be translated into seats, there is a chance of a hung Parliament. Kevin Bonham shows that speculation that this ReachTEL would lead to the LNP losing 40 seats is wrong.

Optional preferential voting is used in Queensland and NSW state elections, and this means that the primary votes are more important, because some preferences will exhaust.

Other polling in the April-June period suggests that Newspoll is too favourable to Labor, so the LNP is probably still narrowly ahead, and would probably win an election held now with a small majority. An election must be called by early 2015, and the situation could have changed by the time of the actual election. The Stafford by-election on 19 July will probably have a big swing to Labor, but this result will not mean much for the actual election.

In New South Wales, the May-June Newspoll has the Coalition leading Labor by a 57-43 margin from primary votes of 43% for the Coalition, 31% for Labor, 13% for the Greens and 13% for Others. If NSW used compulsory preferential voting, Labor would be more competitive given the high Greens vote. A Galaxy poll conducted in late May had the Coalition ahead 53-47. The Coalition’s improvement may be because the Independent Commission Against Corruption has not held any hearings since May.

Under Optional Preferential Voting, Labor will need to be very close to the Coalition’s primary vote before they could reasonably expect to win an election. As in Queensland, Labor was crushed in NSW at the 2011 election, so the Coalition has the sophomore surge effect in its favour. The Coalition is very likely to win next year’s March election with a reduced majority.

Federal Polling

Labor continues to lead the Coalition by about a 53-47 margin. Abbott’s ratings continue to be poor in Newspoll, with his net satisfaction at -31. Last week’s Morgan had Labor doing 3% better on respondent allocated preferences than on previous election preferences; Labor led 57.5-42.5 on respondent allocated, but only 54.5-45.5 on the previous election. Both Kevin Bonham’s aggregate and the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack have Labor ahead by 53.2-46.8, with BludgerTrack having primary votes of 38.1% for the Coalition, 37.3% for Labor, 11.8% for the Greens and 6.3% for PUP.

Last week’s ReachTEL had 42% supporting the carbon tax repeal and 36% opposed. However, 65% said there should be some price on companies with high emissions, with only 17% opposed. Opinion on whether Palmer’s influence was good or bad was split 35% each.

This week’s Essential had 46% supporting the government’s plans to restrict the disability support pension, with 37% opposed. On asylum seekers, 41% said the government had handled this issue well, while 35% said its handling had been poor. 27% said the government was too tough on asylum seekers, 18% too soft and 36% about right. When this question was asked under a Labor government in July 2012, 60% thought Labor was too soft, 12% too tough and only 11% about right. This Essential was mostly taken before Monday’s revelation that 41 asylum seekers had been returned to Sri Lanka, but the findings clearly explain why Labor has not strongly denounced the government on this issue.

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