Preselections: Groom and WA Liberal Senate

Early manoeuvres for a Liberal vacancy in a looming federal by-election, and a preselection to fill Mathias Cormann’s Senate seat set for November 7.

With Newspoll and Essential Research both having said their piece this week, there is likely to be a fortnight gap between federal polls. Not counting state and territory election action, which you can be assured you will be hearing more about shortly, there are two important preselections on the boil on the conservative side of politics:

• A situation is vacant for the Liberals in the Toowoomba-based federal seat of Groom following last week’s resignation announcement from John McVeigh, the member since 2016. In a column for the Brisbane Times, former Newman government minister and current 4BC presenter Scott Emerson says the vacancy presents an opportunity to head off a stoush over the order of the next Senate ticket between James McGrath and Amanda Stoker. The winner of this fight will get top position while the loser must settle for third, second being reserved for the Nationals. Emerson reports that this amounts to a battle between moderates and the Christian Right, of which McGrath is apparently one of the former. The suggestion is that Groom might give McGrath an opening, but in this he could face opposition from locals who support the claim of Toowoomba councillor Rebecca Vonhoff. Suggestions the seat might be of interest to another Senator, Matt Canavan, are complicated by the fact that he is a National, the sensitivity of which was illustrated when the LNP organisation blocked an attempt by the seat’s previous member, Ian Macfarlane, to jump ship from Liberal to the Nationals in 2015.

Nathan Hondros of WAToday reports the Liberals will hold their preselection to fill Mathias Cormann’s Western Australian Senate vacancy on November 7, with the winner to take third position on the party’s ticket at the next election behind Michaelia Cash and Dean Smith. There would appear to be three nominees: Julian Ambrose, stepson of the late Perth construction billionaire Len Buckeridge; Sherry Sufi, an arch-conservative party activist; and Albert Jacob, former state Environment Minister and current mayor of Joondalup, who emerged as a “last-minute nomination”. Jacob held the coastal northern suburbs seat of Ocean Reef from 2008 to 2017, when he was defeated in the landslide the tipped the Barnett government from office. Cormann is reportedly lobbying for Ambrose, and his backers are pressuring Sufi to withdraw.

US election minus six weeks

While Trump could win the Electoral College owing to better numbers in Pennsylvania than nationally, Biden could equally win a blowout victory.

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.

Six weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 7.3% lead over Donald Trump (50.5% to 43.2%). This is a slight improvement for Biden since last week, when he led by 6.9%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.4% in Michigan, 6.8% in Wisconsin, 4.6% in Pennsylvania, 3.8% in Arizona and 1.6% in Florida.

On Wednesday, Trump had his best high-quality poll for a long time in Florida, where an ABC/Washington Post poll gave him a four-point lead. In the last month, Florida has shifted towards Trump relative to national polls.

Pennsylvania returns to being the clear “tipping-point” state, and the gap between Pennsylvania and national polls has increased to 2.7% from about two points last week. If the national vote narrowed to under a five point margin, Trump could plausibly eke out a win in Pennsylvania and claim the Electoral College.

What this obscures is that we are also close to a Biden blowout in the Electoral College. He leads in North Carolina by one point and is within one point in Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and Texas. If Biden won these five states, he would win over 400 of the 538 Electoral Votes.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Biden a 77% chance of winning the Electoral College, up from 76% last week. Biden has an 89% chance to win the popular vote.

Trump’s ratings are 42.8% approve, 53.2% disapprove in the FiveThirtyEight average (net -10.4%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.5% approve, 53.0% disapprove (net -9.5%). Trump’s net approval has dropped about half a point in the last week.

FiveThirtyEight now has a Senate forecast. The classic version takes polls and fundraising into account, but not experts’ ratings. That gives Democrats a 67% chance of winning the Senate, including scenarios where a 50-50 tie is broken by the winning vice president.

However, the most likely outcome is a close Democratic victory – 51 to 49. Given conservative Democrats, they need more to change Senate rules or increase the number of Supreme Court judges.

Electoral implications of Ginsburg’s death

As I wrote for The Conversation on Monday, Republicans are likely to confirm Trump’s nominee in the Senate to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That will take the Supreme Court to a 6-3 majority of conservative appointees.

I disagree with the proposition that this fight helps Trump because it fires up his evangelical base. In a recent Quinnipiac national poll, Biden led Trump by 52-42 despite Trump winning 91% of the Republican vote. Trump had just 2% with Democrats and trailed Biden 49-41 with independents. Trump does not have a base problem; he has a problem with all other voters. By 59-41, voters in a CNN poll thought the president elected in November should make the appointment.

While much attention on a likely conservative Supreme Court will be on abortion, Biden’s campaign will focus on the potential for such a court to strike down Obamacare. I believe this is dangerous for Trump; his ratings were at their worst in 2017, when Obamacare appeared endangered.

Furthermore, culture war issues distract Trump from what should be his core re-election message: the fast recovery of the US economy from the April coronavirus depths. Last week, I talked about how unemployment had fallen from 14.7% in April to 8.4% in August. Another important economic measure is GDP.

In the June quarter, the US GDP contracted 31.7% in annualised terms (almost 8% in Australia’s quarter on quarter terms). The live GDP now estimate is for an annualised rebound of 32.0% in the September quarter. The initial September GDP report will be released at the end of October. It’s probably good for Biden that a large portion of the electorate plans to vote by mail or early in-person.

Colmar Brunton: NZ Labour leads National by 48-31

Three-and-a-half weeks before the October 17 New Zealand election, the first media poll since late July has Labour still well ahead.

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.

A New Zealand Colmar Brunton poll, conducted September 17-21 from a sample of 1,008, gave Labour 48% (down five since late July), National 31% (down one), the right-wing ACT 7% (up two), the Greens 6% (up one) and NZ First 2% (steady).  Labour PM Jacinda Ardern led Opposition Leader Judith Collins by 54-18 as better PM (54-20 in July).

Under New Zealand’s proportional representation system, parties must either win a single-member seat or clear the 5% threshold to be represented in parliament. NZ First, which is currently a Labour coalition partner, is unlikely to return to parliament.

Even though the Greens have 6% in this poll, they should be anxious about clearing the 5% threshold. In the past, NZ polls have overstated the Greens. ACT is far better placed as their leader holds the single-member seat of Epsom.

If these poll results were the outcome on October 17, Labour would win 62 of the 120 seats, just enough for a majority. National would win 41 seats, ACT nine and the Greens eight.

There have been two other relatively recent NZ polls. A privately conducted late August to early September UMR poll gave Labour 53%, National 29%, ACT 6.2%, NZ First 3.9% and the Greens 3.2%. A Morgan poll, conducted in August, gave Labour 48%, National 28.5%, the Greens 11.5%, ACT 6% and NZ First 2.5%.

A concern for Labour is that their vote could continue to fall. If Labour’s election vote is under 45%, they may need the Greens to clear the 5% threshold to form a Labour/Green government.

Newspoll and Essential Research coronavirus polling

Among many other findings relating to COVID-19, the strongest evidence yet that Victorians are unswayed by news media narratives concerning their state government.

The Australian today reports Newspoll findings on COVID-19 and leadership approval from Victoria and Queensland, which were targeted with expanded samples (608 and 603 respectively) in the poll whose main results were published yesterday:

• Daniel Andrews is up five points on approval from late July to 62% and down two on approval to 35%, whereas Scott Morrison is down six on approval to 62% and up seven on disapproval to 33%. Andrews is reckoned to be doing very well in handling COVID-19 by 31% (up four), fairly well by 31% (down three), fairly badly by 13% (down five) and very badly by 22% (up four), while Morrison is on 26% for very well (down five), 45% for fairly well (down one), 15% for fairly badly (up three) and 10% for very badly (up one).

• Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings are only modestly changed, with approval down one to 63% and disapproval up four to 33% as compared with the poll in late July, while Scott Morrison is down five to 67% and up four to 28% as compared with the poll in late June. Both leaders’ COVID-19 ratings are a little weaker than they were in late July: Palaszczuk records 32% for very well (down five), 36% for fairly well (down eight), 16% for fairly badly (up eight) and 13% for very badly (up seven), while Morrison has 34% for very well (down six), 43% for fairly well (up three), 13% for fairly badly (up two) and 7% for very badly (up one).

• The national sample was asked about the restrictions in Victoria and Queensland, which naturally required lengthy explanation (the framing of which seems reasonable enough). For Victoria, the results were 25% too strict, 61% about right and 10% too lenient; for Queensland, 37% too strict, 53% about right and 7% too lenient.

• The balance of concern is nonetheless moving away from “moving too quickly to relax restrictions”, down 20 points since mid-July to 56%, to “moving too slowly to relax restrictions and harming economy, jobs and mental wellbeing”, up 19 points to 39%.

Today also brings the fortnightly Essential Research poll, as related by The Guardian with the full report to follow later today:

• Respondents were in favour of both Scott Morrison’s handling of COVID-19 (a 61% approval rating, up two on a fortnight ago) and Queensland state border closures he wants lifted (66% support, including 70% among Queensland respondents). Forty-seven per cent of Victorian respondents approved of the state government’s COVID-19 management, unchanged from a fortnight ago, while the rating for the New South Wales government was up seven to 67%.

• Thirty-three per cent of respondents felt tax cuts for high income earners should be brought forward from 2022, as the government has signalled it will do, while 38% believe they should be scrapped and 29% believe the government should stick to the original timetable. Twenty-one per cent believe they would be an effective economic stimulus, compared with 41% for moderately effective and 38% for not effective.

• Asked which technology they preferred for future energy generation, 70% favoured renewables and 15% gas and coal.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1081.

UPDATE: Full Essential Research poll here.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

Primary vote movement from Newspoll in favour of the Coalition and against Labor, as the government sneaks back into the lead on the two-party headline.

Courtesy of The Australian, the latest Newspoll finds the Coalition sneaking back into a two-party lead of 51-49, after a 50-50 result three weeks ago. The primary votes are Coalition 43% (up two), Labor 34% (down two), Greens 12% (up one) and One Nation 3% (steady). Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are little changed, up one on approval to 65% and down one on disapproval to 31%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively down four to 39% and down one to 40%, and Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is out from 58-29 to 59-27.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a larger-than-usual sample of 2068, which suggests we will be seeing state breakdowns in the coming days showing leadership and COVID-19 performance ratings for the state governments and Premiers.

Miscellany: Groom by-election, Victoria poll, perceptions of US

A by-election looms in an uncompetitive seat; a poll shows Labor maintaining a lead in Victoria in spite of everything; and regard for the United States and its President falls still further.

First up, note the new-ish posts below on a YouGov poll for South Australia and Adrian Beaumont’s latest on the US race.

• A federal by-election looms for the seat of the Queensland Groom, centred on Toowoomba. This follows yesterday’s announcement by Liberal-aligned LNP member John McVeigh, the member since 2016 and previously state member for Toowoomba South from 2012,. that he will retire due to his wife’s illness. With Labor having polled 18.7% of the primary vote in the seat at the 2019 election, it seems a fairly safe bet that they will be sitting this one out. To the extent that the seat has been interesting it has been as a battleground between the Liberals and the Nationals, most recently when McVeigh’s predecessor, Ian Macfarlane, had his bid to defect from the former to the latter blocked by the Liberal National Party administration in 2015. John McVeigh’s father, Tom McVeigh, held the seat for the National/Country Party from 1972 to 1988 (it was known until 1984 as Darling Downs), but it passed to the Liberal control at the by-election following his retirement.

• Roy Morgan has an SMS poll of state voting intention in Victoria, and while the methodology may be dubious, it delivers a rebuke to the news media orthodoxy in crediting Daniel Andrews’ Labor government with a two-party lead of 51.5-48.5. The primary votes are Labor 37%, Coalition 38.5% and Greens 12.5%. The results at the 2018 election were Labor 42.9%, Coalition 35.2% and Greens 10.7%, with Labor winning the two-party vote 57.3-42.7. The poll was conducted Tuesday to Thursday from a sample of 1147.

• An international poll by the Pew Research Centre finds 94% of Australians believe their country has handled the pandemic well and 6% badly, whereas 85% think the United States has handled it badly and 14% well, while the respective numbers for China are 25% and 73%. Twenty-three per cent have confidence in Donald Trump to do the right think for world affairs, down from 35% last year, equaling a previous low recorded for George W. Bush in 2008. Only 33% of Australians have a favourable view of the United States, down from 50% last year, a change similar to that for all other nations surveyed.