Essential Research and JWS Research post-election survey (open thread)

Anthony Albanese’s ratings remain high, albeit slightly less high, while JWS Research offers results from a poll conducted in the days after the election.

Essential Research’s fortnightly report continues to not feature voting intention, and its monthly leadership ratings are continuing to not feature Peter Dutton. Anthony Albanese is down one on approval to 55% in this month’s result, while his disapproval is up four to 28%. Some steam has also gone out of a post-election surge on a monthly national direction question, on which 43% find Australia headed in the right direction, down four, with wrong direction up three to 31%.

In a series of “performance of the Albanese government” questions, there was a 56-44 majority in favour of it having its priorities right, 54-46 majorities for getting things done and being in touch and 52-48 for addressing long-term problems, although a 51-49 majority felt it too idealistic. A series on “support for federal government measures is less good: 60% want the fuel excise cut extended, with only 12% supporting the government’s intention to not do so, 44% support higher JobSeeker payments, with 27% opposed, and 42% want a delay in “stage three income tax cuts, which predominantly benefits higher income earners”, with 25% opposed.

“Awareness of proposed Voice to Parliament” would appear to be fairly low, with 33% saying they had heard nothing of it in the past month and 32% saying hardly anything, compared with 5% for a lot and 29% for a fair amount. With the notion explained, 65% said they were in favour and 35% opposed. Seventy-five per cent supported a parliamentary pledge to “Australia and the Australian people”, with only 15% opting for the Queen. The survey was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1075.

Also out this week is a post-election survey report from JWS Research, conducted from a sample of 1000 in the two days after the May 21 election. Asked what was most important in deciding their vote, more chose for “the party as a whole” than for “specific policies or issues”, and fewer still for the leaders and candidates, but Coalition voters were most inclined to rate the first of these and Greens voters uniquely favoured the second.

On issue salience, there was a 53-10 majority for economic over environmental issues among Coalition voters, but a 36-29 majority the other way among Labor voters, both sets of numbers being hardly changed from a similar survey after the 2019 election. An exercise in which respondents were asked whether or not the election campaign possessed various qualities also produced results very similar to 2019: 56-16 for important over not important, 39-30 for not interesting over interesting, 38-27 for negative over positive, 42-24 for deceitful over honest, 51-22 for same old stuff over new and different. For whatever reason, impressions were more negative across the board in 2016.

Thirty-six per cent rated the Labor campaign positive and 35% negative, compared with 28% and 44% for the Coalition. From 44% who said they favoured a Labor government, 25% favoured a majority and 19% a minority government; from 33% who favoured a Coalition government, 24% favoured a majority and 9% a majority.

Victorian election minus sixteen weeks

Labor prospects, Liberal prospects, independent prospects and preselection news from a Victorian election now less than four months away.

With low-level leadership rumblings being heard after the resignation of Liberal leader Matthew Guy’s chief-of-staff, taking with him much of the edge off opposition attacks on the government over corruption issues, Kos Samaras of Redbridge Group “believes the prospect of a minority government is growing increasingly possible”. Polling by Redbridge reported in The Age on Saturday had hypothetical teal independents beating Liberals by 51-49 in Brighton, 54-46 in Sandringham, 56-44 in Caulfield, 55-45 in Hawthorn and 55-45 in Kew, albeit that the wording perhaps helpfully specified that the candidates would be “like Zoe Daniel” or “like Monique Ryan”. While no teal independent candidates are in place, John Ferguson of The Australian reports Brent Hodgson, former marketing and data strategist to Monique Ryan, has set up an office in Hawthorn, and a “Kew Independents” group is being run by Ryan’s former social media manager, Hayden O’Connor.

Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported that 20 seats identified by Labor as key contests are dominated by outer suburban and regional seats where it fears blue-collar alienation with the government’s COVID-19 management. Annika Smethurst of The Age offers that the Liberals are “unlikely to win the election”, but that “the Liberal Party is increasingly confident it can snare the seats of Bayswater, Bass, Box Hill, Cranbourne and Nepean from Labor.”

The Liberals have been determining preselections for their Legislative Council tickets, opening a few cans of worms in the process:

• The Liberals’ choice of Melton City Councillor Moira Deeming to head the ticket in Western Metropolitan has prompted suggestions both within the party and without that the party has failed to make a sufficient break from her predecessor Bernie Finn, who was expelled from the party in May after extensive promotion of hard right views, the last straw being a call for a no-exceptions ban on abortion. Deeming has herself expressed opposition to abortion along with drag queen storytimes and the Safe Schools program, and her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates caused the party’s administrative committee to block her preselection for the western Melbourne seat of Gorton at the May federal election. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports that Deeming won more than twice as many votes as her nearest rival in the preselection, and that Finn has said it would be “fair” to describe her as his protege. The result caused Andrew Elsbury, who held a Western Metropolitan seat from 2010 to 2014, to resign from the party, saying Deeming was “basically going to spout the same stuff as Bernie Finn used to”.

• In Northern Metropolitan region, where the party holds only one seat, Craig Ondarchie was as long foreseen dumped in favour of Evan Mulholland, director of communications at the Institute of Public Affairs and a vociferous critics of federal Labor’s carbon emissions targets. Second position goes to Owen Guest, the state party’s treasurer. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports the first round results were 26 for Mulholland, 14 for Catriona Rafael, former staffer to former party leader Michael O’Brien, 11 for Owen Guest and ten for last-placed Ondarchie. With the latter eliminated, Josh Gordon of The Age reports the second round result was Mulholland 32, Guest 15 and Rafael 14.

• Gippsland chiropractor Renee Heath has deposed incumbent Cathrine Burnett-Wake, who filled the casual vacancy created by Edward O’Donohue’s retirement in December, to take top position in Eastern Victoria by what Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported as a margin of 55 to 53. The Age further reports that “several Liberal officials raised concerns about Heath’s family connection to the City Builders Church, which has been accused of encouraging members to take part in the Living Waters Program, an externally run gay conversion therapy that has since closed”, albeit that the connection involves her father rather than herself. The second position on the ticket is reserved for Nationals incumbent Melina Bath.

• Nick McGowan, a former staffer to Ted Baillieu and reported close friend of Liberal leader Matthew Guy, has secured the second position in North Eastern Metropolitan, with Kirsten Langford in the unpromising third position. Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm, was unsuccessful, as was Ranjana Srivasta, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who had previously sought preselection for the Senate and the federal seat of Casey.

Further:

Rachel Eddie of The Age reports the anti-lockdown Freedom Party has organised a bloc of like-minded parties who will exchange all-important preferences for the Legislative Council, also to include Family First and the Federation Party. Among the party’s number is Aidan McLindon, who in his term in Queensland parliament as the member for Beaudesert from 2009 to 2012 successively represented the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Queensland Party, and will now run against Daniel Andrews in Mulgrave. McLindon says he and his bloc are uninterested in doing deals with Glenn Druery, noted arranger of preference networks that take advantage of the group voting ticket system, which now survives only in Victoria. The Age report also says the United Australia Party, whose sole success at the federal election was a Senate seat in Victoria, plans to “team up with like-minded parties”.

• Following Steph Ryan’s resignation as deputy Nationals leader and announcement she would not contest the election last month, the Shepparton News reports Strathbogie Shire councillor and local caravan park owner Kristy Hourigan will run for Nationals preselection in her seat of Euroa.

• Russell Northe, who held Morwell for the Nationals from 2006 to 2017 and as an independent thereafter, including after his re-election in 2018, has announced he will retire at the election.

Preference flows and by-elections (open thread)

A look at preference flow data from the 2019 and 2022 elections, and the latest on looming by-elections in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and (sort of) Western Australia.

Something I really should have noted in last week’s post is that the Australian Electoral Commission has now published two-candidate preferred preference flow data from the election, showing how minor party and independent preferences flowed between Labor and the Coalition. The table below shows how Labor’s share increased for the four biggest minor parties and independents collectively (and also its fraction decrease for “others”) from the last election to this and, in the final column, how much difference each made to Labor’s total share of two-party preferred, which was 52.13%.

Note that the third column compares how many preference Labor received with how many they would have if preference flows had been last time, which is not the same thing as how many preferences they received. Labor in fact got nearly 2% more two-party vote share in the form of Greens preferences at this election because the Greens primary vote was nearly 2% higher this time.

State and territory by-election:

• Six candidates for the August 20 by-election in the Northern Territory seat of Fannie Bay, in ballot paper order: Brent Potter, described in a report as a “government adviser, army veteran and father of four”, for Labor; independent George Mamouzellos; independent Raj Samson Rajwin, who was a Senate candidate for the United Australia Party; Jonathan Parry of the Greens; independent Leah Potter; and Ben Hosking, “small business owner and former police officer”, for the Country Liberals.

• Following the resignation of Labor member Jo Siejka, a by-election will be held for the Tasmanian Legislative Council seat of Pembroke on September 10. Siejka defeated a Liberal candidate by 8.65% to win the eastern Hobart seat at the periodic election in 2019. There will also be a recount of 2021 election ballots in Franklin to determine which of the three unelected Liberals will replace Jacquie Petrusma following her resignation announcement a fortnight ago. As Kevin Bonham explains, the order of probability runs Bec Enders, Dean Young and James Walker.

• Still no sign of a date for Western Australia’s North West Central by-election.

Newspoll: 56-44 to Labor (open thread)

Labor and Anthony Albanese ride high in the first Newspoll since the federal election.

The Australian has published the first Newspoll since the federal election, showing Labor opening up a commanding 56-44 lead, compared with a two-party result of 52.1-47.9 at the election. The primary votes are Labor 37% (compared with 32.6% at the election), Coalition 33% (35.7%), Greens 12% (12.2%), One Nation 6% (5.0%) and United Australia Party 2% (4.1%).

Anthony Albanese’s approval rating has shot from 41% before the election to 61%, while his disapproval rating has fallen from 46% to 26%. The former exceeds honeymoon approval ratings recorded by Tony Abbott (47%), Kevin Rudd (59%) and John Howard (45%) upon Newspoll’s return after the three previous changes of government. The net result of plus 35% is the strongest since the early days of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership in November 2015, and previously by Kevin Rudd in October 2009.

Dutton’s opening numbers are 37% approval and 41% disapproval, and he trails Albanese 59-25 as preferred prime minister, the widest gap in Newspoll since the early days of Rudd’s prime ministership in 2008. Debut results for past opposition leaders were 35% approval and 40% disapproval for Anthony Albanese in 2019, 32% and 24% for Bill Shorten in 2013, 40% and 35% for Tony Abbott in 2010, 50% and 25% for Malcolm Turnbull in 2008, 36% and 19% for Brendan Nelson in 2008 and 41% and 10% for Kevin Rudd in 2006. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1508.

Liberal with the truth

A look back on what internal Liberal polling appeared to be saying ahead of the May election, and the related matter of the Katherine Deves controversy.

Last week I took a big picture look at how the main public pollsters performed in their immediate pre-election polling. Today I offer a necessarily incomplete account of the only partly knowable subject of internal party polling – specifically that of the Liberal Party, and how it played out against the backdrop of bitter conflict over its strategy of the campaign of pursuing culturally conservative constituencies at a time when those under threat from the teal independents needed every socially liberal vote they could get.

Much of this story relates to the controversy surrounding Warringah candidate Katherine Deves, which Scott Morrison appeared to consider the key to unlocking enough Labor-held seats in the outer suburbs and regions to balance defeats in inner metropolitan seats, at least to the extent of allowing him to hold on to power in a minority government. The notion that this strategy might have been hitting its mark was not the exclusive preserve of Liberal Party optimists. Shortly after the controversy first emerged early in the campaign, Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review wrote that “in the suburbs, the regions and the religious communities, the government – and Labor – believes the Deves issue is going gangbusters in Scott Morrison’s favour, messy as it may be”. A week later, Chris Uhlmann cited a Labor strategist in the Age/Herald who believed the issue was playing “90/10 in Deves’ favour” in the suburbs and the regions. Cameron Milner, a former Queensland Labor state secretary now all too comfortable in a new perch on The Australian’s op-ed page, described the Liberals’ exploitation of the controversy as “brilliant foghorn politics” that would yield a bumper crop of Hanson and Palmer preferences.

When Deves recanted her initial apology for her comments a fortnight out from the election, Niki Savva in the Age/Herald cited a Liberal source saying this had been “set up deliberately to resuscitate the issue”. Complicating the notion of a divide between what Uhlmann called “the inner-city bubble” and mainstream opinion further afield, Lanai Scarr of The West Australian reported that some were “even tipping Deves could pull off her own ‘miracle’ win and insulate other conservative electorates nationally in the process”, potentially saving the Liberals in such difficult contests as the Perth seat of Swan.

Needless to say, none of this looks terribly prescient now that the election’s unknowns are known. The possibility that the Liberals were acting on faulty intelligence is intriguingly raised by a report from Peter van Onselen on Ten News four days out from the election, which related that Liberal polling had Katherine Deves trailing Zali Steggall by only 53-47 – quite a lot closer than Steggall’s eventual winning margin of 61-39. Lest it be thought that this was some kind of Liberal Party psyop, it formed part of a batch of polling that was otherwise disastrous for the Liberals, with two-party preferred scores inclusive of an uncommitted component showing them trailing 50-43 in Bennelong and 50-41 in Parramatta (worse than their actual losing margins) and 49-48 in Reid (better), with particularly large deficits among women.

This happened to be the second batch of Liberal seat polling that van Onselen had been able to report late in the campaign, the first of which emerged as a bone of contention post-election in the party’s deepening culture war over the teal independent seats and whether they should be cut loose in favour of a more populist approach that took its cues from Donald Trump. This had the Liberal primary vote at 43% in Kooyong, 37% in Goldstein and 44% in Higgins, which bore up quite well against respective final results of 42.7%, 40.4% and 40.7%. Shortly after the election, Sharri Markson of The Australian recorded the following reaction to the leak inside the Liberal camp:

Senior Liberal figures scratched their heads, wondering where it had originated. The precise numbers did not reflect what was emanating from the party’s official poster, Crosby Textor. An internal probe discovered that (Senator Andrew) Bragg had submitted expenses to the NSW Liberal division of about $35,000 to $40,000 to conduct his own alternative polling in many NSW seats. There is no suggestion that Bragg leaked the polling to van Onselen, which he denies. It was not in his interest to depress the prospects of candidates he was fighting hard to help win. It’s not even clear whether the polling Bragg commissioned was the same polling broadcast on Ten. However, Morrison’s team believed it was.

Bragg had circulated the polling he commissioned to many Liberals – an action one source described as “sloppy” – and the suggestion is a recipient subsequently leaked it to the media. Questioned about the research for this article, Bragg admits he commissioned alternate polling and is scathing about the way Liberal headquarters and Crosby Textor treat Liberal candidates, who he says are kept in the dark about how they are faring.

“The Liberal Party and Crosby Textor treat the candidates like absolute shit and don’t give them the information they need,” Bragg says. “The candidates, who are often members of parliament, all they are given is a phone briefing and if they’re lucky they might get a piece of paper. Crosby Textor omit key things like the favourability of the leader because they’re worried that will leak to the media. If you know the party leader is massively unpopular you’ll differentiate so you can hang onto the seat. But if you’re not told that how are you supposed to know? It’s conflicts galore.”

Echoes of Bragg’s criticism were to be heard outside the tent from Kos Samaras, who as one of the principals of the Redbridge Group had provided polling and strategic advice to Climate 200 (with which, as per the disclosure notice at the bottom of this site’s sidebar, I was involved myself):

Why did the teals win? Many reasons. But at the centre of the campaign was an absolute commitment to the data. There were no games with what the internal polling said. There were no favourites shown, whereby resources are sent into a seat, even though the polling painted a different picture … (The Liberals) poured resouces into one seat, Kooyong, at the expense of others, even though their data was indeed showing a grim picture. That picture of course was never told, as the constant backgrounding into the media was akin to a story-telling session, skunk drunk, at a pub. The Liberal decision-making was riddled with bias and subjectivity, fuelled by an internal factional structure that made it impossible for data to be utilised correctly.

If early indications are anything to go by, the tension between the Liberal Party’s determination to tack to the right on cultural issues and electoral imperatives to win the favour of more liberally minded voters could be set to play out again at the Victorian state election in November. Stay tuned.

Weekend miscellany (open thread)

In the absence of anything else to report:

• Former Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner formally retired from parliament on Wednesday, having relinquished the leadership in May in the wake of a heart attack. In contrast to its counterparts in Western Australia, who have still not fired the starter’s gun on a by-election for North West Central, the government has already announced August 20 as the date for the by-election in his Darwin seat in Fannie Bay, which he retained by 9.6% at the 2020 election.

• Labor’s five members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters are Jagajaga MP Kate Thwaites, Hawke MP Sam Rae, Blair MP Shayne Neumann and South Australian Senators Karen Grogan and Marielle Smith, one of whom will be the committee’s chair. There were four opposition members and one from the Greens in the previous parliament, but I’m unclear as to how that will play out this time.

• The report of Operation Watts, the joint inquiry by Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission and Ombudsman into certain Labor state parliamentarians’ branch-stacking activities, offers a wealth of invaluable detail on the hard realities of the operation of modern political parties.

Essential Research: cost of living (open thread)

The latest fortnightly Essential poll suggests voters won’t be giving the new government much breathing space before holding it responsible for rising inflation.

Still no sign of Newspoll, despite today’s resumption of parliament, nor of voting intention from the latest fortnightly Essential Research poll. As reported by The Guardian, the latter turns out to be the most discouraging set of numbers for the Albanese government so far, in that 40% were already prepared to rate the government as doing a poor job on relieving cost of living pressures, compared with 23% for good and 37% for neither. Apart from that, all the unusually spare report from The Guardian has to tell us is that “a majority of respondents believe the Albanese government can influence the direction of inflation and interest rates”, which seems unlikely to bode well. The poll was conducted from a sample of 1082, presumably from Thursday to Monday – the full report should be on the pollster’s website later today.

UPDATE: While “neither good nor poor” responses are high in each case, the poll also finds the government rated good on the pandemic by 36% and poor by 25%; good on education by 35% and poor by 18%; and good on climate change by 33% and poor by 21%. Forty-four per cent supported the government’s carbon emissions target while 40% said it did not go far enough, but no option was provided for those who felt it went too far. Fifty per cent said the Greens should support the government, with a question that emphasised Labor had been elected on that basis, while 25% said they should only do so if Labor agreed to changes consistent with its own policies.

Also of note:

Latika Bourke of the Age/Herald reports that Liberals Andrew Hastie and Simon Birmingham are looking at the example followed by David Cameron after the Conservatives’ 2005 election defeat to improve diversity in the party’s parliamentary ranks, which involved producing a leadership-backed “A-list” of diverse candidates and encouraging local party associations (which lack a clear equivalent in Australian party structures) to choose candidates through primaries open to non-members.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has deregistered the Liberal Democrats, belatedly giving effect to legislation passed last year that effectively prohibited minor parties from having the words Liberal or Labor in their names. The party was cleverly able to keep the existing name at the May election after withdrawing its application to change its name to the Liberty Democrats (officially the Liberty and Democracy Party) in late March, which compelled the AEC to initiate a lengthy deregistration process that has only now come to fruition.

• Two days after a Daily Telegraph report suggesting he has designs on Marise Payne’s Senate seat should she soon vacate it, the Milton Ulladulla Times reports Andrew Constance plans to run again in Gilmore at the next federal election, after falling 373 votes short of taking the seat from Labor’s Fiona Phillips in May.

The polls and the sum of the parts

An overdue appraisal of the pollsters’ performance at the May federal election.

The 2022 federal election was a much happier experience for the polling industry than 2019, with each of five pollster producing election eve primary vote numbers broadly suggestive of the actual result. However, there was a collective error in favour of Labor, whose actual primary vote came in 2.3% below the pollster consensus while the Coalition landed 0.4% higher. While not at the standard Australian consumers had come to expect before 2019, such errors were fairly moderate by historic standards, particularly in the international context.

The pollsters in the national voting intention game before the election: Newspoll, conducted by YouGov for The Australian; Ipsos, for the Financial Review; Resolve Strategic, for the Nine Newspapers; Essential Research, for The Guardian; and Roy Morgan, which tacks voting intention on to its market research survey for its own amusement and, in the pre-election period at least, regularly published its results. The charts below show their final pre-election poll results for the Coalition, Labor and the Greens as black dots that lie at the centre of the span of their margins of error, with the relevant party’s actual result shown as a thick vertical line.

In the case of the three who are members of the Australian Polling Council (Newspoll, Ipsos and Essential Research), what is shown are the pollsters’ effective margins of error, which account for the fact that their results are weighted to emphasise or de-emphasise demographic cohorts who are over-represented or under-represented in their samples. Since Resolve Strategic and Roy Morgan don’t provide this detail, the margins of error have been calculated from their raw sample sizes, making them somewhat smaller than they would be otherwise.

Some caveats must be applied here: the final survey periods ranged from over a week before the election in the case of Roy Morgan (from May 9 to 15) to the course of the final week (Saturday to Wednesday from Ipsos, Thursday to Thursday from Newspoll), and pollsters may always plead they were caught out by late shifts in voting intention that it was beyond their power to foresee. There’s also a certain injustice in evaluating a pollster’s performance entirely by its pre-election poll, as the unavoidable randomness of the exercise means an element of luck is involved in who gets the honours. The best we can do is keep that in mind in the analysis that follows.

Essential Research did not have a great result, having systematically understated the non-major party vote (results here exclude a 7% undecided component). Other than that, three results are clearly outside the margins of error: Newspoll’s 36% and Ipsos’s 35.8% (after exclusion of 5% uncommitted) for Labor, whose actual result was 32.6%, and Resolve Strategic’s 14% for the Greens, whose result was 12.3%. None of these final poll results look like outliers for the pollster concerned. Newspoll’s four previous polls, which were published weekly during the campaign period, had Labor one to three points higher than the final result; Ipsos’s polling consistently had Labor clear of their actual result even without excluding their uncommitted component; and Essential Research’s numbers bounced a few points at a time within a consistent range throughout 2022.

Resolve Strategic’s evident inflation of Greens support was peculiar to its last two polls, which had it at 15% and 14% compared with 10% to 12% in its earlier polling. It should be noted here that margins of error are tighter for parties with lower vote shares, and that it’s conceivable that bad luck with rounding put the final poll outside the error margin at 14% rather than within it at 13%. State breakdowns show the inflation of the Greens vote arose from New South Wales and Queensland, which was respectively balanced by unduly low results for Labor and the Coalition. The latter was a peculiarity of the final poll, which had the Coalition at 31%, down from 41% at the previous poll a fortnight earlier and comparing with an actual result of 39.6%.

Essential Research’s issues were consistent across the board, landing too high for the Coalition and Labor and too low for the Greens in each state. The Victorian numbers were particularly far off the mark, perhaps reflecting their unusually high reading of 11% undecided in this state. It should be noted that the results for Western Australia and South Australia are three-week rolling averages, which means they ought not be regarded as strictly election eve results.

By process of elimination, it might be thought that the honours belong to Roy Morgan, whose reputation never really recovered from a series of poor federal election performances two decades ago. However, state breakdowns suggest a certain amount of luck was involved here, in that every one of its results during 2022 put Labor much higher in Victoria than they managed at the election. The element of luck was that the least askew of these results came in the pre-election poll, which had Labor’s lead in Victoria at a relatively narrow 57-43 compared with an actual result of 54.6-45.4. UPDATE: Adrian Beaumont also points out that they always had the United Australia Party implausibly low, the final result coming in at 1% compared with an election result of 4.1%, and this was matched by an excessive reading for independents/others.

Unfortunately there are state breakdowns available for Newspoll, for which we disappointingly did not see any of the usual aggregated breakdowns during the campaign period, and Ipsos, which did not maintain the finely detailed breakdowns it offered for its first few polls a the business end of the election. I’ll have more to say though about pollster performance at the election during quiet moments over the weeks or months to come, so stay tuned.