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Newspoll has Labor’s biggest lead since Turnbull’s ousting as Coalition damaged by COVID

In the first Newspoll of 2022, Labor led by 56-44, a three-point gain since the previous Newspoll in early December. Primary votes were 41% Labor (up three), 34% Coalition (down two), 11% Greens (up one), 3% One Nation (steady) and 11% for all Others (down two).

This is Labor’s biggest lead in Newspoll since the aftermath of the August 2018 ousting of Malcolm Turnbull in favour of Scott Morrison as prime minister. But the Coalition recovered to win the May 2019 election, with the final polls inaccurate. So the Coalition is not out of contention for the upcoming election yet.

39% were satisfied with Morrison’s performance (down five), and 58% were dissatisfied (up six), for a net approval of -19, down 11 points. Analyst Kevin Bonham said this was Morrison’s worst net approval since the 2019-20 bushfires (-22 then).

Anthony Albanese had a net zero rating, up six points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 43-41 (45-36 in December). This poll was conducted January 25-28 from a sample of 1,526. Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

Read more: Grattan on Friday: A royal commission into COVID's handling would serve us well for the future

The Coalition’s crash in Newspoll is very likely caused by the current COVID wave in Australia. While cases have dropped from over 100,000 a day to about 50,000 in the last ten days, deaths are still trending up, with a recent peak of 134 deaths on January 28.

Other than in Victoria during the late 2020 wave, Australia had avoided high COVID death rates. If we had previously had much higher death rates, we would be more likely to forgive the government for current deaths.

The Omicron wave in the UK has pushed average daily deaths past 260, but this is far from the peak of over 1,200 average daily deaths in January 2021, before vaccines were widely available.

Victoria’s bad experience in late 2020 may explain why it was the only state to gain in Essential’s COVID response polling last week (see below), while all other mainland states suffered double digit declines in their “good” rating.

Can the Coalition recover before the election, expected in May? Daily deaths are likely to fall back eventually, and the jobs situation is good for the government, though inflation is likely to be a negative.

The Morrison government has taken a tumble in the polls, but can it recover before the federal election, due by May? AAP/Brian Cassey

Liberals may be in danger in Wentworth and North Sydney

Recent uComms polls of the federal NSW seats of Wentworth and North Sydney for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted January 24 from samples of about 850 per seat, gave the main independent challenger a 56-44 lead over the Liberal incumbent in Wentworth and a 59-41 lead in North Sydney.

Seat polls have been unreliable in the past, and a uComms poll close to the 2021 Tasmanian election was biased against the Liberals. But if education polarisation continues, voters in highly-educated traditional safe Liberal inner city seats could deliver big shocks on election night.

Read more: Non-university educated white people are deserting left-leaning parties. How can they get them back?

Essential poll: Everywhere except Victoria falls on response to COVID

In last week’s Essential poll, 38% gave the federal government a poor rating for its response to COVID (up six since December), and 35% a good rating (down six). It is the first negative rating for the federal government on COVID response in Essential’s history, with the previous worst result a net +3 rating last August.

All state governments polled except Victoria also suffered falls, with WA down 12 to 66% good, Queensland down 11 to 46% good, SA down 14 to 43% good and NSW down 17 to 37% good. Victoria was up four to 47% good.

41% thought those who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID to be ill-informed, 22% that they are being deliberately selfish, while 37% believed their personal choices should be respected.

46% approved of Morrison’s performance (steady since December) and 46% disapproved (up two), for a net zero rating; this is Morrison’s worst in Essential since the bushfires. Albanese’s net approval was down four to zero. Morrison’s lead as better PM was cut to 42-34 from 42-31 in December.

Morgan poll: 56-44 to Labor

A Morgan poll, conducted January 4-16 from a sample of almost 2,800, gave Labor a 56-44 lead, a 0.5 point gain for Labor from an unpublished poll taken in mid-December. Primary votes were 37% Labor (steady), 34.5% Coalition (steady), 12% Greens (up 0.5), 3% One Nation (down one), 0.5% UAP (steady), 8.5% independents (up one) and 4.5% others (down 0.5).

An 8.5% vote share for independents suggests climate-focused independents are doing well, and Labor would benefit from their preferences.

Jobs situation very good for government, but not inflation

In the December jobs report, which the ABS released January 20, unemployment dropped 0.5% from November to 4.2% and underemployment dropped 0.8% to 6.6%. The employment population ratio – the share of eligible people employed – was up 0.3% to 63.3% after a jump from 61.3% to 63.0% in November.

This is Australia’s lowest unemployment rate since August 2008, just before the global financial crisis began. The unemployment rate has not been below 4% since the 1970s.

The January jobs report is likely to be worse owing to COVID disruption. But given past experience here and overseas, the jobs situation will improve rapidly once COVID eases. This will be good for the government going into an election.

The ABS reported on January 25 that headline inflation rose 1.3% in the December quarter for a 3.5% annual rate. Annual core inflation increased to 2.6%, the highest since 2014. While Australian inflation is relatively high, it is only half the US annual inflation rate of 7.0%.

Labor way ahead in Victorian state Resolve poll

In a Victorian state Resolve poll for The Age, Labor had 41% of the primary vote (up three since October), the Coalition 31% (down three), the Greens 11% (up one) and independents 10% (down one). As usual, Resolve did not give a two party estimate, but Bonham’s estimate was 59-41 to Labor.

Incumbent Daniel Andrews led the Liberals’ Matthew Guy as preferred premier by 47-30, out from 45-32 in October. This poll was conducted with the federal Resolve polls in November and January from a sample of 1,039.

46% said Andrews had managed the COVID pandemic well, down from 57% in August 2021. That compares to a 35% national good rating for Morrison, 31% in NSW for Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet and 45% in Queensland for Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Four NSW byelections on February 12, and a WA poll

Four state byelections will occur in NSW on February 12 in the seats of Bega (Lib, 6.9% margin), Monaro (Nat, 11.6%), Strathfield (Labor, 5.0%) and Willoughby (Lib, 21.0%). Labor and the Coalition have declared candidates in all seats except Willoughby, which Labor won’t contest.

A Painted Dog Research poll for The West Australian had WA voters supporting Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to keep the borders closed by a 71-29 margin. The sample was 637, as reported by The Poll Bludger.

Boris Johnson’s lockdown party problems

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on January 23 about whether UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be ousted by his Conservative MPs over outrage at lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street. Also covered: US redistricting and Joe Biden’s poor ratings.

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