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Two Victorian polls have large Labor leads 12 days before election; US Democrats hold Senate at midterms

The Victorian state election will be held in 12 days, on November 26. A Freshwater poll for The Financial Review, conducted November 3-6 from a sample of 1,012 by online methods, gave Labor a 56-44 lead, from primary votes of 37% Labor, 34% Coalition, 14% Greens and 15% for all Others.

This is the first Freshwater poll of Victoria; a Freshwater poll of New South Wales in October gave Labor a 54-46 lead. Cost of living was regarded as one of the top three issues in Victoria by 74%, well ahead of 48% for health and social care.

Voters were asked whether they had a favourable or unfavourable view of various figures. Victorian Labor was at +10 net favourable, the Liberals at -6, Labor Premier Daniel Andrews at -9 and Liberal leader Matthew Guy at -16. Andrews led as preferred premier over Guy by 40-28.

A Victorian Morgan SMS poll, conducted November 9-10 from a sample of 1,030, gave Labor a 57-43, a 3.5-point gain for the Coalition since the last SMS poll in August. Primary votes were 40% Labor (down 0.5), 29% Coalition (up 1.5), 11.5% Greens (down 2.5), 4.5% teal independents (down 0.5) and 14.5% for all Others (up two).

The Victorian Morgan poll conducted over the month of October by phone and online methods was also released, and this gave Labor a 60.5-39.5 lead, a 0.5-point gain for Labor since September. So any swing against Labor appears to have started in early November.

Applying the SMS poll’s primary votes to the 2018 election preference flows would give Labor a bigger lead, with analyst Kevin Bonham estimating 59.5-40.5 to Labor. This poll implies Other preferences are skewing against Labor.

Andrews had a 58.5-41.5 approval rating in this SMS poll, down from 62.5-37.5 in August. But he still had a 65.5-34.5 lead over Guy as better premier, down marginally from 66-34 in August.

A Newspoll last week gave Labor a 54-46 lead. These two polls have Labor further ahead, but there was a swing to the Coalition in Morgan. Labor remains likely to win the election in 12 days.

Read more: Victorian Newspoll has Labor's lead down, but would still win with three weeks until election

Record 740 candidates to contest lower house and 454 for upper house

Candidate nominations for the state election closed on Friday, and early voting begins today. ABC election analyst Antony Green said there will be 740 total candidates for the 88 lower house seats, an average of 8.4 candidates per seat.

This is the highest average candidates per seat recorded for any Australian state or federal election, beating the average 8.0 per seat at the May federal election. The previous Victorian record was 543 lower house candidates in 2014, an average of 6.2 per seat.

As well as Labor, Coalition and Greens candidates, all seats will be contested by Animal Justice and Family First. The Freedom Party will contest 58 of the 88 seats, Labour DLP 32 and Victorian Socialists 22. There will also be 120 independent candidates.

The Victorian upper house has eight regions that each elect five members for a total of 40. There will be a record of 454 candidates at this election, up from 380 in 2018, and a record 178 groups standing candidates, up from 146 in 2018. The number of groups means all upper house ballot papers will need to be “double decked”, with two rows of party names followed by a line, then candidate lists.

The proliferation of upper house groups is explained by Victoria’s retention of the anti-democratic group voting ticket (GVT) system, under which parties with a very small vote share can win seats if they have the right preference deals. Many parties want a chance to win the upper house lottery.

Read more: How Victorian Labor's failure on upper house electoral reform undermines democracy

In the two polls cited above, Labor’s primary vote was down three to six points on the 2018 election result. If this swing were also applied to the upper house, Labor would likely lose more seats under GVT than they would had GVT been replaced by the system used in the federal Senate.

US Democrats hold Senate at midterm elections

In my article on the November 8 United States midterm elections on Wednesday night, Democrats had 48 Senate seats called for them, Republicans 48 and four contests had not been called then.

Read more: Democrats perform better than expected in US midterms, but both Senate and House remain in doubt

Democrats overturned a Republican lead on late mail counting in Nevada, and now lead by 48.8-48.1, while they lead in Arizona by 51.8-46.1; both states have been called for Democrats. Republicans won Wisconsin by 50.4-49.4, and Georgia will go to a December 6 runoff after no candidate won at least 50%.

Democrats will now hold 50 Senate seats, including two independents who caucus with them, to 49 Republicans. Democrats will control the Senate regardless of the Georgia runoff result because they will have Vice President Kamala Harris’ casting vote. Pennsylvania, a Democratic gain, is the only state where party control has flipped, pending Georgia.

CNN’s projections currently give Republicans 211 House of Representatives seats to 204 Democrats, with 218 needed for a majority. Republicans currently lead in 221 seats with Democrats ahead in 214, according to a spreadsheet by Daniel Nichanian.

To win the House, Democrats need to overturn four Republican leads. Despite the tenuous seat lead, Republicans are currently leading the overall House popular vote by 4.9% according to the Cook Political Report.

California is the most populous state with 52 House seats, and has ten of the 20 uncalled races. It will take until December for California to finalise its vote count.

See also my US midterms late counting thread for The Poll Bludger, and my live blog of the results as they came out from Wednesday AEDT.

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