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Making sense of the polls

Poll Trend to Labor Continues

Two months ago, Newspoll only had Labor ahead by 51-49 from primary votes which suggested a 50-50 tie. That poll was taken after dramatic arrests in Sydney to stop an alleged terrorist incident. The last three Newspolls have each shown movement in Labor’s direction, and Labor is now ahead by an emphatic 55-45 margin. To a lesser extent, the same movement is apparent in Morgan’s polls, which have moved from 51.5% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor six weeks ago to 54% now using the previous election preferences. Here is the table of this week’s polls.

polls mid Nov.

Newspoll’s last three results have shown stronger Labor support than Morgan, which is known to lean to Labor by about 1.5% relative to other pollsters. It is possible that some of this effect is explained by Morgan using two weekends to conduct his polls; if Labor support had been higher in the Newspoll weekend than in the previous weekend, then only half of Morgan’s sample would reflect the Newspoll weekend results. Even so, this behaviour by Newspoll is strange.

Primary votes in this Newspoll were 39% for Labor (up 3), 36% for the Coalition (down 2) and 11% for the Greens (down 2). The Labor primary vote lead of 3% is the largest since the brief Gillard honeymoon in July 2010. Unlike the last three polls, a calculation based on these primaries gives about the same 2PP as the published figure.

Both Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate and the Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack are now at 53.1% 2PP to Labor, moving about 1% to Labor in the last week. Primary votes in BludgerTrack are 38.8% for the Coalition, 38.4% for Labor, 10.8% for the Greens and 3.0% for Palmer United Party (PUP). Labor’s primary has increased 1.9% in the last week, with the Greens losing 0.9%, the Coalition 0.7% and PUP 0.5%. PUP has been on a long term decline since the budget, and the recent internal divisions appear to have accelerated that decline.

I think the most important reason for the continuing trend to Labor is that terrorism has faded into the background after concerns over ISIS peaked two months ago. This has returned the focus to domestic issues, where the government has not performed well. Repealing the carbon tax and stopping the boats have not made people’s lives easier, and the government’s budget proposals continue to be unpopular.

Most international forums are politically good for governments, as these forums generally give governments positive media coverage. Judging by Newspoll, the G20 forum was poor for the government. There are two main reasons in my opinion for this. First, the focus on climate change made the Abbott government look increasingly out of step with the rest of the world in dealing with this issue. Second, Abbott’s opening address to world leaders mentioned his difficulties in passing unpopular measures such as the GP co-payment and higher education reforms; many would have perceived this address as whinging.

Notes on These Polls

  • Newspoll had Abbott’s satisfied rating down 1% to 36% and his dissatisfied rating up 3% to 55% for a net approval of -19, down from -15 last fortnight. While Abbott’s approval is poor, it is not as poor as it was immediately after the budget. Shorten had a net approval of -2, up 6 points on last fortnight.

  • Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences showed Labor leading by 55.5-44.5, a 1% gain for Labor on this measure since last fortnight, and 1.5% above the previous election preferences.

  • In Essential, 44% approved of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, with 18% disapproving. 35% thought China would benefit most, with 12% selecting Australia. 52% thought the Australian government would benefit from the FTA, and 48% thought mining companies would benefit, but only 25% said working people would benefit. Components of the FTA that helped China, such as fewer restrictions on Chinese workers, were heavily opposed, while those that helped Australia were heavily supported. 62% thought the G20 was an expensive talk fest, with only 16% thinking it would deliver real outcomes.

Victorian Election - 9 Days to Go

The Victorian election will be held on 29 November. Unfortunately, the last statewide public polls were conducted on the weekend of 8-9 November. Both polls conducted then showed Labor with a clear lead (53.5-46.5 in Morgan and 56-44 in Ipsos). Both these polls had high Greens votes (18.5% in Morgan and 16% in Ipsos) that have not been replicated by other pollsters. The Ipsos 2PP figure was respondent allocated, and a calculation based on State 2010 election preference flows gives Labor a still clear 54-46 lead.

Since these polls were taken, the Coalition has launched a negative ad blitz, and internal polling appears to indicate that the gap is now closer, but Labor is still confident of victory. Until there are more public polls, this information cannot be verified.

Update Friday morning 21 November: A Galaxy poll has Labor leading 52-48, unchanged from late October. Primary votes were 40% for the Coalition, 39% for Labor and 13% for the Greens, the only change being a 1% gain for Labor. If a 2PP is calculated from these primary votes using last election preferences, we would have a Labor 2PP of 52.7%, suggesting that this poll was rounded towards the Coalition. This poll suggests a slight narrowing since the polls on the 8-9 November, but Labor would still comfortably win an election. With only 8 days to go, time is running out for the Coalition. This Galaxy poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from a sample of 920.

Victoria elects its upper house through Senate style proportional representation, using eight regions with each region electing five members. Group voting tickets for the upper house were lodged on Sunday, and the biggest surprise is probably the Greens’ decision to put PUP ahead of Labor in four regions. For their part, Labor has non-Left parties ahead of the Greens in four regions.

The cynicism of these deals shows that the group voting ticket system currently used for the Senate and Victorian, SA and WA upper houses should be abolished. Fortunately, Victoria only requires voters to number 5 boxes below the line to cast a formal vote. I recommend that Victorians control their own preferences by voting below the line, rather than let parties control their preferences.

Queensland Galaxy Confirms Morgan

Three weeks ago, a Morgan SMS poll had Labor leading the Liberal National Party (LNP) 50.5-49.5, and Labor was only 0.5% behind the LNP on primary votes. This Friday, a Queensland Galaxy poll has a 50-50 tie, a 2% gain for Labor since August. Primary votes are 38% for Labor (up 2), 37% for the LNP (down 2), 9% for the Greens (up 2) and 7% for PUP (down 5). Given Labor’s 1% primary vote lead, and the high Green vote, this poll is very probably underestimating Labor’s 2PP, and they are probably ahead given these primaries by at least 51-49. Despite the voting intentions, Newman’s ratings recovered from the August poll, which may have been too weak for him. This Galaxy was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday with a sample of 800.

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