Essential Research: coronavirus and attitudes to China

A major souring in Australians’ attitudes to China but little change on coronavirus (at least since last week), according to the latest Essential poll.

Another week, another Essential Research coronavirus poll — this one focusing on attitudes to China, which have notably soured. As related by The Guardian, respondents were asked if they had a favourable or unfavourable view of China’s influences on Australian life, which produced a net rating of minus 30% on trade, compared with plus 1% last August, and a net rating of minus 40% for Chinese business operating in Australia, down from minus 21%. There were also scores of minus 26% for defence, minus 36% for politics and minus 9% for culture. Conversely, the United States scored net positive scores, albeit that these were quite a lot bigger for defence (plus 29%), business (plus 15%) and trade (plus 14%) than politics (plus 2%) and culture (plus 7%).

Asked which relationship would be more beneficial to strengthen, 42% favoured the US and 18% China, compared with 38% and 28% last August. Respondents had two bob each way on trade in that 53% thought Australia “needs to do all it can to avoid a trade war with China”, with 17% opposed, but 48% felt Australia should impose retaliatory tariffs, with 22% opposed. The poll found “more than half” believe China’s trade sanctions against Australia were motivated by the government’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

The poll continued its weekly suite of questions on coronavirus, recording no change on the government’s handling of the crisis, which was rated positively by 73% and negatively by 11%. Levels of concern little changed on last week (79% either very or quite concerned, down one, and 21% either not at all or not that concerned, up one). A divide appears to be opening on restrictions, with higher responses for both lifting them as soon as possible (up five to 14%) and holding off (up two to 27%). The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1087; a full report should be published later today.

Note that below this post is a dedicated thread for the Eden-Monaro by-election, which you are encouraged to use if you have something specific to say on that subject.

Eden-Monaro by-election: July 4

A date set for the Eden-Monaro by-election, as the Liberals confirm their candidate and a GetUp! poll suggests local concern about climate changes remains at a high in the wake of the summer bushfires.

Eden-Monaro will be celebrating American independence this year with a July 4 by-election, as announced yesterday by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith. The timeline for the by-election is as follows:

Issue of writ: Thursday, May 28
Close of rolls: Thursday, June 4
Close of nominations: Tuesday, June 9
Declaration of nominations: Wednesday, June 10
Date of polling: Saturday, July 4

Clearly there will be nothing radically different about the way the polling is conducted on account of coronavirus, as Smith noted that the Australian Electoral Commission unusually favoured a date at the start of school holidays, as it would allow ample time for sanitising to be conducted at schools used as polling booths.

The Liberals conducted their preselection on Saturday, and as expected chose Fiona Kotvojs, a beef farmer who narrowly failed to win the seat when she ran at last year’s federal election. Kotvojs reportedly won a 106-27 victory in the party ballot over Mark Schweikert, a Department of Defence official and deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang. According to Niki Savva in The Australian ($), “there is speculation, not denied, that the Liberals, with their formidable state and federal apparatuses, are prepared to spend up to $1m to win the seat, money Labor says it doesn’t have”.

The Guardian reports GetUp! commissioned uComms to conduct a poll of 879 respondents in the seat last Wednesday, but it seems they are being reticent with voting intention figures. However, we are told the poll found 59% holding that the government was not doing enough to address climate change, including 48% who strongly agreed, with only 27% disagreeing, 12% strongly. However, the government apparently scored better on its bushfire response, on which respondents were reportedly “evenly divided”.

On failure

A look at efforts to get to the bottom of last year’s federal election pollster failure and the Electoral Commission of Queensland’s recent election night meltdown.

The Association of Market and Social Research Organisations has published a discussion paper for its review into last year’s federal election polling failure. It notes that existing standards set by the Australian Press Council are too lax and readily ignored in any case, and suggests a familiar retinue of suggested new standards including full disclosure of weightings used and detail of how preference flows were determined. While the inquiry’s committee and advisory group are impressively credentialled, it should be noted that most actual pollsters aren’t members of the AMSRO. The recent announcement that YouGov, Essential Research and uComms would establish an Australian Polling Council occurred independently of its process, and is likely to be the more consequential development.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary inquiry has been putting the blowtorch to the Electoral Commission of Queensland over the failure of its results reporting facilities at the local government elections and state by-elections on March 28. Excuses include disruption arising from COVID-19, which extended to “coding resources” being locked down in Wuhan, and the complication of combining elections for two state parliament seats with the statewide council elections. It also appears an American firm contracted to provide a new election management system, Konnech, has found itself bamboozled by what the electoral commissioner described as “the complexity of Queensland electoral law”, which “far exceeded that of any other Konnech customer” (a conclusion it would no doubt have reached in any Australian jurisdiction).

The new results website went belly-up on testing a week out from election day, prompting the ECQ to hurriedly concoct the unfamiliar-looking results website that appeared on the night. Polling booth officials were required to submit results through a shareable spreadsheet application, which threw up formating inconsistencies upon transfer to the ECQ system. The ECQ’s technical staff spent the night dealing with the results website issues, leaving corresponding issues with a horrifyingly complex XML results feed to one side. Consequently, the ABC’s results displays remained stuck on a tiny share of the count all night, and updates remained infrequent beyond election night. It is to be hoped that this will all be sorted out before a state election that will be held on October 31.

New Zealand Labour surges into high 50s in polls

Four months before the September 19 election, Labour takes a huge lead over National owing to Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response.  Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

New Zealand has relatively few polls compared to other countries. Before this week, the last polls had been conducted in January to early February, well before the coronavirus crisis began. Those polls had the governing Labour party one to five points behind the opposition National.

What a difference the handling of the coronavirus crisis has made! In two polls conducted in early to mid-May, Labour had 56.5% in a Reid Research poll and 59% in a Colmar Brunton poll, while National was respectively at 30.6% and 29%. Since the previous iterations of these polls, Labour is up 18 points in Colmar Brunton and up 14 in Reid Research, while National is down 17 and down 13.

While other countries have struggled with coronavirus, New Zealand is close to eliminating it. The strict lockdown imposed on March 26 appears to have worked, with very few cases recorded since the end of April. There are currently 1,504 total cases, 21 deaths and 1,455 recoveries in New Zealand. Subtracting deaths and recoveries from total cases gives just 28 active cases. Australia has also been successful, but has 516 active cases on just over five times New Zealand’s population.

As a result of New Zealand’s success in handling coronavirus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s net approval has rocketed to +76 from +33 in October 2019 in the Colmar Brunton poll.  86% approve and just 10% disapprove, figures comparable to Western Australian and Tasmanian Premiers Mark McGowan and Peter Gutwein in the recent premiers’ Newspoll.  Opposition Leader Simon Bridges slumped to a net -40 net approval from -22 last October.

Bridges is no longer the opposition leader. After these dire poll results, he was rolled in a party room spill on Friday, and replaced as National leader by Todd Muller. Numbers in the spill have not been released.

While Labour has a huge lead now, there are four months to go until the September 19 election. Elections are not decided by gratitude, as Winston Churchill can attest to after being thumped in the 1945 UK election. However, there are likely to be reminders from other countries regarding the dire effects of coronavirus. In addition, if the virus is indeed eliminated in New Zealand, the economy should start doing much better than the economies of coronavirus-hit countries.

Under New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, parties qualify for the proportional allocation of seats if they either win at least 5% of the overall vote, or win a single-member seat. Since 2017, Labour has governed with the support of the Greens and the populist NZ First. NZ First is below 5% in the polls and the Greens are at about 5%. It’s plausible that neither party re-enters parliament, and that almost all seats go to either Labour or National.

Essential Research: coronavirus restrictions and conspiracy theories

A poll suggests a significant proportion of the population believes coronavirus was engineered in a Chinese laboratory, but other conspiracy theories remain consigned to the fringe.

Courtesy of The Guardian, some headline results of another weekly Essential Research poll on coronavirus, the full report of which should be published later today. This includes regular questions on federal and state governments’ handling with the crisis, of which we are only told that respondents remain highly positive, and on easing restrictions, for which we are told only 25% now consider it too soon, which is down two on last time and has been consistently declining over five surveys.

Beyond that, the survey gauged response to a number of what might be described as conspiracy theories concerning the virus. By far the most popular was the notion that the virus “was engineered and released from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan”, which has received a certain amount of encouragement from the Daily Telegraph but is starkly at odds with the scientific consensus. Agreement and disagreement with this proposition was tied on 39%.

Thirteen per cent subscribed to a theory that Bill Gates was involved in the creation and spread of the virus, with 71% disagreeing; 13% agreed the virus was not dangerous and was being used to force people to get vaccines, with 79% disagreeing; 12% thought the 5G network was being used to spread the virus, with 75% disagreeing; and 20% agreed the number of deaths was being exaggerated, with “more than 70%” disagreeing. The poll also found 77% agreed that the outbreak in China was worse than the official statistics showed.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1073.

UPDATE: Full report here.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The Coalition edges back into the lead in Newspoll, with Labor, the Greens and One Nation all down on the primary vote.

The Australian reports the Coalition has opened a 51-49 lead in the latest Newspoll, after the previous poll three weeks ago recorded a dead heat. The Coalition is up two on the primary vote to 43%, with Labor down one to 35%, the Greens down two to 10% and One Nation down one to 3%. Scott Morrison’s approval rating is down two to 66%, with the disapproval not yet provided; Albanese is down one on approval to 44% and up three on disapproval to 37%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is all but unchanged at 56-29, compared with 56-28 last time. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1504. More detail to follow later.

UPDATE: Morrison’s disapproval rating turns out to be up two to 30%. These numbers have been incorporated into the BludgerTrack leadership trends which you can see on the sidebar and in greater detail here. Newspoll has put to respondents the same suite of questions concerning coronavirus in its last three polls, which record soaring confidence in “federal and state governments’ performance” in managing the economic impact (60% satisfied, up 13 points on last time, and 24% dissatisfied, down nine), preparing the health system (up 19 to 78% and down 13 to 15%) and informing Australians about how to protect themselves (up seven to 82% and down seven to 13%).