Resolve Strategic: Coalition 38, Labor 33, Greens 12

An extensive look at the debut entry for what promises to be a monthly federal polling series from the Age/Herald.

The Age/Herald have published their first poll of federal voting intention since the 2019 election, dispensing with the services of Ipsos (who happened to be the least wrong pollster at the election) and enlisting Resolve Strategic, which is run by Jim Reed, who once worked for Coalition pollsters Crosby Textor. As national political editor Tory Maguire explains, the polling failure of the last election has inspired the pollster and its publisher to cast around for a fresh approach, the salient feature of which is not telling us straight what the two-party preferred is.

We do get primary votes though, and they are quite a bit different from Newspoll’s, with the Coalition on 38% rather than 40% and Labor on 33% rather than 38%. This means higher scores for minor parties, which happens to replicate a peculiarity of Ipsos. The Greens are on 12% compared with Newspoll’s 11%, but most striking is a 6% reading for One Nation compared with 2% from Newspoll. The latter result is, hopefully, a teething problem: it approximates the party’s 5.4% Senate vote in 2019, but most assuredly would not be matched in the House of Representatives since the party contests few seats there. It also seems highly unlikely that One Nation would be bearing up so well given its recent performance at state elections, with its share of the upper house vote in Western Australia having crashed from 8.2% to 1.5%.

Applying preference flows from 2019, this lands pretty much bang on 50-50 nationally, with the Coalition leading 53.4-46.6 in New South Wales (a 1.6% swing to the Coalition) and 54.3-45.7 in Queensland (a 4.1% swing to Labor), but trailing 53.8-46.2 in Victoria (a 0.7% swing to Labor) and 52.4-47.6 in Western Australia (an 8.0% swing to Labor). The New South Wales result is more favourable for the Coalition than the recent quarterly breakdown in Newspoll, which had it at 50-50, but the results for the other three states are about the same. Distinctions by gender are slight in the case of voting intention, except that the Greens are three points higher among women and One Nation are two points lower, and confounding in the case of personal ratings: Scott Morrison’s net approval is four points stronger among women than men, while Anthony Albanese’s is five points weaker.

Personal ratings are measured on a four-point scale of very good, good, poor and very poor, which is similar to Essential Research but different from Newspoll’s straightforward satisfied and unsatisfied responses. Morrison registers a combined good rating of 50% and a poor rating of 38%, a net rating of plus 12% that compares with plus 17% from a recent Essential poll and plus 15% from a not-so-recent Newspoll. Anthony Albanese scores 35% good and 41% poor, for a minus 6% rating that compares with plus 5% from Essential and plus 2% from Newspoll. Morrison is credited with a 47-25 lead as preferred prime minister, compared with 47-28 in Essential and 52-32 in Newspoll.

The poll wins points for transparency, at least by Australian standards, in providing breakdowns by state (or at least, the four biggest states), gender and age cohort. If I’m reading the small print correctly, the New South Wales and Victoria breakdowns will be published as a two-month rolling average, combining the current and previous poll. The idea seems to be that these states will have results with sample sizes robust enough to allow the Age/Herald to analyse them with a straight face: readers who choose to probe deeper into the breakdowns will be advised to exercise their own caution. (UPDATE: It seems I’ve read this wrong, and that there will actually be state voting intention results published every two months, based on the combination of two monthly polling samples). However, the results as published still leave a fair bit missing, as the poll is also weighted for education and income (and the survey includes a question on religion), for which breakdowns are not provided. There is also the rather glaring absence of any detail on field work dates: we are told only that the survey was conducted “in April”.

One of two accompanying reports by David Crowe relates the following detail absent from the published numbers:

Support for the Coalition in primary vote terms has fallen since the last election among voters who described themselves as Christian, dropping from 56 to 49 per cent. While support for Labor among this group rose from 28 to 29 per cent, the change was within the margin of error. In a more significant shift, the same cohort increased its support for independents and minor parties from 15 to 22 per cent. The Coalition has lost ground among voters across the board since the last election, with its primary vote slipping from 41 to 38 per cent, but the shift was strongest among immigrants and people from “non-Anglo-Saxon” backgrounds. Immigrants have reduced their support for the Coalition from 48 to 40 per cent since the election, while increasing their primary vote for Labor from 30 to 35 per cent. Those from “non-Anglo” backgrounds reduced their support for the Coalition from 44 to 35 per cent, while increasing their support for Labor from 31 to 36 per cent.

The other tells us the following:

The swing against the Coalition was spread evenly across most demographic groups but was more pronounced among those on higher incomes, with support falling from 49 to 43 per cent among those earning more than $100,000 a year. Labor gained support from the same workers, with its primary vote rising from 29 to 33 per cent.

There are further attitudinal results available in a nicely laid out results display page, including the finding that 44% expect the Coalition to win the next election compared with 28% for Labor. The display includes, under “comments”, sampling of qualitative responses that aim for an impressionistic view of why the ratings for each question are what they are. The poll was conducted by phone and online from a sample of 2000, compared with the Newspoll norm of around 1500. However, the phone sample of 400 appears to be a one-off of this “baseline survey”: it seems that in future the series will be a monthly online poll from a sample of 1600.

Stable but serious

Infra-factional argybargy at both ends of the Victorian ALP, plus a poll result for NSW’s Upper Hunter state by-election.

Detailed below are some recent electoral developments, the juiciest of which relate to factional power struggles within Victorian Labor, whose federal preselection process has been taken over by the party’s national executive in the wake of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking affair. Note also the post below offering a half-time report on the Tasmanian state election campaign.

• Josh Bornstein, employment lawyer and partner at Maurice Blackburn, has pulled out of a challenge against Kim Carr for the safe position on Labor’s Victorian Senate ticket that is reserved to the Left. This followed a report in The Australian that trawled through a decade’s worth of his voluminous social media activity, turning up criticism of party and union figures including Chris Bowen and Penny Wong. The Age reports Left faction unions were divided between Carr and Bornstein, with one or more further challengers likely to emerge. One such is Ryan Batchelor, executive director of the McKell Institute and son of former state MP Peter Batchelor.

• The Age report also says that Sam Rae, a partner at PwC and former state party secretary, is “being encouraged” to run in the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe. An earlier report indicated that a stability pact being negotiated between the main factions would reserve the seat for the Right, potentially setting up a turf war between the Victorian Right forces associated with Richard Marles and Bill Shorten, who are emerging as the main rivals for influence within the faction.

• Andrew Laming’s bid to retain preselection in Bowman has predictably fallen foul of the Liberal National Party’s candidate suitability panel.

• I’ll have a dedicated post up shortly for the May 22 by-election in the New South Wales state seat of Upper Hunter, my guide for which can be found here. Results of a uComms poll for the Australia Institute are encouraging for the Nationals, who hold seat seat on a margin of 2.6%. When added together properly, the poll credits the Nationals with a primary vote of 38.5%, compared with 34.0% at the 2019 election; Labor with 23.8%, compared with 28.6%; One Nation, who did not contest in 2019, with 13.8%; the Greens with 10.1%, more than double their 4.8% vote share in 2019; and bookies favourite Shooters Fishers and Farmers with only 8.2%, compared with 22.0%. The poll was conducted on April 7 and 8 by automated phone polling and SMS from a sample of 686.

• A new site called OzPredict offers cleanly presented poll-based forecasting of the next federal election, with the promise of more features to follow.

Tasmanian election minus two weeks

Highlights of the first half of a state campaign that has proved a particularly bumpy ride for Labor.

The first half of the four-week Tasmanian election campaign has been rather eventful, in terms mostly to the disadvantage of Labor:

• No sooner did Labor dispense with one blow-up through Dean Winter’s belated endorsement in Franklin, than a new one emerged with state party president Ben McGregor’s withdrawal under duress in Clark. McGregor’s offence related to text messages sent to a woman seven years ago which he conceded were “inappropriate”, but nonetheless within the spirit of the “dark humour” of the broader conversation, although their recipient remains rather less sanguine. McGregor claims to be the victim of an act of revenge by the Right over the effort to block Dean Winter, and is threatening to sue Rebecca White for her assertion that he was not “a fit person to stand for a candidate for election for the Tasmanian parliament”.

• Liberal candidate Adam Brooks, who has won his party’s endorsement for a comeback bid in Braddon despite having resigned his seat in parliament in February 2019 following an adverse Integrity Commission finding, has received a summons to appear in court for incorrectly storing ammunition.

• Former Premier Paul Lennon and outgoing upper house independent Ivan Dean have both raised concerns about legal complications arising from the House of Assembly election being held on the same day as the annual periodic Legislative Council elections. The Electoral Act requires that candidates in the latter run their own campaigns with no contributing expenditure by parties, which in Lennon’s view is violated by “every paid generic advertisement” for a party campaign.

• Upon the close of nominations last Wednesday, Labor’s secret fifth candidate in Braddon turned out to be Justine Keay, federal member for Braddon from 2016 to 2019 and (narrow) victor of one of the Super Saturday by-elections of July 2018.

Essential Research: leadership ratings and vaccine rollout polling

Scott Morrison’s personal ratings continue tracking downwards as vaccine rollout problems take their toll.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the regular monthly leadership ratings, their principal item of interest in between their quarterly dumps of voting intention numbers. The pollster included a bonus result for Scott Morrison’s leadership ratings in the last fortnightly poll by way of discerning any emergent gender gap in light of recent events. The results chart a steady decline for Scott Morrison, from 62% a month ago to 57% a fortnight ago to 54% now, and a corresponding rise in disapproval from 29% to 35% to 37%. While he remains well in positive territory, a distinct downturn can be observed in the BludgerTrack polling trend. The gender gap that opened a fortnight ago, which you can read about here, has neither narrowed nor widened.

Anthony Albanese records his weakest personal ratings in a while, with approval down two to 39% and disapproval up two to 34%. GhostWhoVotes, who monitors these things, points out that breakdowns by voting intention have him down five on approval among Labor voters to 55% and up six on disapproval to 22% – this is from a sub-sample of 483 and a margin of error of about 4.5%, so make of it what you will. In any case, he has taken a reasonable bite out of Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister, which narrows from 52-26 to 47-28.

The remainder of the survey is mostly about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout, including the regular question on the quality of the federal and state governments’ responses. The federal government’s good rating is down eight points to 62% and its poor rating is up five to 17%, though this isn’t a whole lot different to the situation before the government’s numbers surged in mid-November for whatever reason. The ratings for the five mainland state governments are down as well, by two in the case of New South Wales to 73%, four for Victoria to 58%, three for Queensland to 72%, seven for Western Australia to 84% and ten for South Australia to 75% (with progressively increasing caution required for small sub-sample sizes). As with the federal results though, these numbers don’t look that remarkable when compared with their form over the longer term.

Respondents were also asked how confident they would have been about COVID-19 management “if a Labor government under Anthony Albanese had been in power”, with an uninspiring 44% rating themselves confident and 37% not so. Fifty-two per cent felt the vaccine rollout was proceeding too slowly, with 19% happy with the situation and 20% signing on to the seemingly odd proposition that it was happening too fast. For those in the former category, 42% held the federal government mostly responsible, 7% state governments, 24% international supply chains and 18% “unavoidable delays in the production of vaccines”.

There are a whole bunch of further questions on the vaccine rollout, interstate travel and the end of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplements, plus one on paid parental leave, which you can read about in the full release.

Morgan COVID-19 poll, Laming latest and more

Evidence vaccine rollout issues are taking their toll on the Prime Minister’s popularity.

I had a vague hope that last fortnight’s sooner-than-expected Newspoll portended a return to a (usually) fortnightly rather than three-weekly schedule, but apparently not. Essential Research should be along this evening though, hopefully including its monthly leadership ratings. Then there’s this:

• Roy Morgan has published results of an SMS poll conducted on Friday and Saturday from a sample of 1423, which asked if respondents were still up for the COVID-19 vaccine in light of recent developments (only 17% were not, increasing to 24% when those who would only settle for Pfizer were included) and, most interestingly, if they approved of Scott Morrison’s handling of “all COVID-19 related issues”. In the absence of a non-response option, the latter question recorded 49% approval and 51% disapproval. I’m aware of two past polls that specifically asked about leaders’ rather than governments’ handling of COVID-19, both from Newspoll – one in April and one in July – from which the weakest result was 61% approval and 36% disapproval for Daniel Andrews in the July poll.

Sarah Elks of The Australian reports that Andrew Laming has declined Scott Morrison’s invitation to sit out the preselection for his Brisbane seat of Bowman, and is “collecting evidence in an effort to disprove a series of allegations against him”. The report notes he has an incentive in a $105,600 reward available to to MPs who “retire involuntarily”, which would not be granted if he went gracefully. Laming will also need to pass muster with the Liberal National Party’s “candidate suitability panel” if his nomination is to proceed to the stage where local party members have a say.

• In a piece for The Conversation, Benjamin Reilly of the University of Western Australia evaluates the likely impact of optional preferential voting, as mooted by the Coalition members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. The conclusion is that Labor would only have won about half of the 36 seats it won on preferences at the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections after trailing on the primary vote, and that few if any members of the House of Representatives front bench would have got their foot in the door.

• I have a guide up for the Upper Hunter state by-election in New South Wales on May 22, though it’s still at a preliminary stage since most of the candidates haven’t been announced, together with a Tasmanian state election guide that has lately been supplemented with a page for the Legislative Council contests.

Tasmanian election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s guide to the May 1 state election in Tasmania.

The Poll Bludger’s guide to the Tasmanian state election is now available in all its painstaking glory. It features guides to each of the five electoral divisions, including interactive polling booth results maps, charts and tables of past electorate data, happy snaps and around 1200 words’ worth of information and analysis apiece, and a 2400-word overview of the electoral and political situation as it seems from my admittedly distant perch. What it doesn’t feature is a page for the Legislative Council, but that will be rectified over the next day or so.

Ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for nominations, which will resolve a few lingering mysteries about the state of the race, a summary of notable campaign developments so far, some of which my election guide still needs to be brought up to speed on:

• After the first week of Labor’s campaign was consumed by controversy over Dean Winter’s failure to win preselection in Franklin, the party’s national executive has intervened on his behalf at the request of Rebecca White. Winter, the mayor of Kingborough and a former economics adviser to White, had been denied by the state party’s Left-dominated administrative committee because of “anti-union views” on penalty rates and privatisation. One union that disagreed was the Right faction Australian Workers Union, of which Winter is a member, which filed a notice of appeal to have the result overturned. Labor will now have six candidates in Franklin rather than the originally mooted five.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian obliquely reports today on an “internal party debate” as to whether an unidentified Left-aligned candidate should be dumped over “allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a woman”.

• One of the Liberals’ non-incumbent candidates for Franklin, Dean Ewington, was disendorsed last Wednesday for having attended an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne and posted a video on Facebook railing against the government’s “silly restrictions” relating to COVID-19. He has been replaced by James Walker, a podiatrist and Clarence alderman who ran unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council seat of Pembroke in 2017.

The Mercury reported last Thursday that Labor had entered a “secret deal” with the hotels lobby resolving not to repeat its 2018 election policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs, which drew immediate fire from the Greens and independent Clark candidate Kristie Johnston.