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Making sense of the polls

Polls show some movement to Labor

The last two weeks have been marked by the Border Force fiasco in Melbourne, Dyson Heydon’s decision to continue as Trade Union Royal Commissioner, a weak economic growth report, and a continuing refugee crisis in Europe. It appears that Labor’s lead has increased to about 53.5-46.5 as the net effect of these events. Here is this week’s poll table.

polls early Sept.

Newspoll’s primary vote movements suggested the Coalition had improved on Two Party Preferred (2PP) by about a point, but this change was lost in the rounding. The last Newspoll was probably too good for Labor, so a correction was expected.

Newspoll is now conducted by robopolling and online methods by Galaxy Research. Possum (aka Scott Steel) has had experience using robopolling, and he was not impressed with Galaxy’s robopolling when contacted on Thursday night. The new Newspoll has been much steadier than the old live interview version, but has seemed to favour Labor slightly.

Morgan had the Greens at a record high 16.5% (up 2.5), while Newspoll had the Greens at 12% (down 1) and Essential at 11% (steady). Morgan’s respondent allocated preferences were 55-45 to Labor, 0.5% worse for Labor than the previous election method. However, a calculation from the published primaries has Labor on 54.7% 2PP, and it is very hard to see how this becomes 55.5%. Morgan leans to Labor by about 1% relative to other polls.

Abbott’s Newspoll ratings were steady, with 30% satisfied and 63% dissatisfied for a net approval of -33, while Essential has his net approval at -24, down from -15 in August. Shorten’s net approval plunged back to -28 net approval in Newspoll after spiking to -18 last fortnight, while Essential has Shorten at -21 net approval, up from -23. Shorten’s Newspoll dive may be because he has been perceived as too pro-union over the last fortnight. The combined Newspoll net approval of Abbott and Shorten is at a new low of -61.

Essential asked about Treasurer Joe Hockey’s approval, and his net approval is at -22, down from -10 after the May budget, and his worst net approval since March.

It has now been two years since the Coalition won the September 2013 election, and they have been behind in poll aggregation since November/December 2013. However, Labor probably needs to win the next election by at least 52-48 to form a majority government, while the Coalition could retain its majority despite losing the popular vote 51-49. The Coalition could make up some ground during an election campaign. So, despite the durability of the Labor poll lead, the next election is still up for grabs, and the Coalition’s odds would improve if they replaced the very unpopular Abbott with a more popular alternative such as Malcolm Turnbull.

Kevin Bonham’s poll aggregate is now at 53.4% 2PP to Labor, a 0.3% gain for Labor since last week. The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack is now at 53.6% 2PP to Labor, a 0.5% gain for Labor since last week. Primary votes are 38.0% for the Coalition, 36.1% for Labor and 14.5% for the Greens. Both major parties have lost 0.5% on primaries, with the Greens up 1.3% to a record high in BludgerTrack. Graphs show a continued slump in Abbott’s ratings since the budget.

Notes on these polls

Newspoll asked about the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, finding 43% supporting, and 35% opposed. I think this question disadvantages the Labor position because respondents are asked whether they support or oppose the whole agreement, while Labor wants to make minor changes.

Newspoll also asked about the Trade Union Royal Commission, and found that 30% thought it should continue with Dyson Heydon, 38% thought it should continue WITHOUT Heydon, and 15% wanted it closed down altogether. In other words, 53% thought Heydon should resign, or wanted the Commission closed down, though 68% thought it should continue with or without Heydon.

This week’s Essential found that 42% thought that Heydon should stand down as Commissioner, while 32% thought he should continue. A total of 36% thought the Commission was biased against the unions, Labor or both, while 29% thought it was unbiased.

Cutting income tax and raising the GST rate to 15% was opposed by 52% and supported by 27%. Regarding the 7-Eleven controversy, 71% thought that international students deserve a fair wage.

In last week’s Essential, voters were asked which party (out of Coalition, Labor and Greens) they trust most to handle particular issues. The Coalition gained ground on most issues since these questions were last asked in February, when the Coalition was at its nadir. Having three options disadvantages Labor, as most voters who choose the Greens would prefer Labor if Labor and Coalition were the only choices. The high rate of “don’t knows” (over 30% for all issues except climate change) also mars these issue questions.

46% approved of the ABC’s Q&A program, and only 11% disapproved; 40% said they didn’t watch it. 38% preferred Labor’s plan on the National Broadband Network, while 29% preferred the Coalition’s plan. 41% thought the economy was headed in the wrong direction, compared to 35% for right direction, virtually unchanged from May.

16% thought that Labor is too right wing and 20% said they are too left wing. For the Liberals, these numbers are 34% right and 7% left, and for the Greens they are 9% right and 30% left.

Canning by-election: 19 September

A by-election will be held in the Federal WA seat of Canning to replace Liberal MP Don Randall, who died in July. At the 2013 election, Canning was won by Randall by a 61.8-38.2 margin. There are 12 candidates running for the by-election, including the Liberals, Labor and the Greens.

The Poll Bludger has figures from three ReachTELs, one Essential and one Newspoll that have been taken since mid-August. All but one of these five polls had the Liberals leading by 51-49, but the ReachTEL polls used respondent allocated preferences, and all three had the Liberal primary vote on at least 46.5%. However, Newspoll had a Liberal primary of 41% and Essential 43%, but both these polls used previous election preferences for their 2PP estimates.

If the Liberal primary vote is in the high 40’s, as ReachTEL suggests, the Liberals will win comfortably. The danger for the Liberals is if their vote is in the low 40’s, and Labor benefits from changes in preference flows. If this happens, Labor could win Canning.

State Morgan polls

Morgan has conducted SMS state polling from the 28-31 August; comparisons are with similar polls conducted in early August. In NSW, the Coalition leads by 57-43, a 1% gain for the Coalition. In Victoria, Labor leads by 57-43, a 0.5% gain for Labor. In Queensland, Labor leads by 52-48, a 1% gain for Labor. In WA, it is a 50-50 tie, a 1.5% gain for the Coalition. In SA, Labor leads by 50.5-49.5, a 0.5% gain for the Liberals. Sample sizes for the mainland states ranged from 600 to 1200.

The Queensland Morgan agrees with an August Galaxy on 2PP, but from different preference assumptions. Morgan has consistently had Labor behind the Liberal Nationals on primary votes, and relying on Greens preferences, while Galaxy gave Labor a one-point primary vote lead. The Tasmanian Morgan sample supports an August EMRS poll in having the Liberals down 6%.

Support for the Greens is high in all states: they are at 17.5% in NSW (up 2), 16.5% in Victoria (up 2.5), 12% in Queensland (down 1), 15% in WA (down 2) and 14% in SA (steady).

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