Polls that don’t count: numbers three and four

The Poll Bludger has been a little too busy to give Thursday’s Queensland election Newspoll its due weight and by now there’s not much left to say that hasn’t already been said. For the record it shows Labor on 50 per cent (up from 46 in the last Newspoll and 48.9 at the last election), Liberal on 19 per cent (down from 22, up from 14.3), the Nationals on 17 per cent (up from 13 and 14.2), Greens on 4 per cent (steady and up from 2.5) and One Nation on 2 per cent (down from 3 and 8.7). Compared with the last election we might read that as Labor holding firm and the Coalition absorbing 6 to 7 per cent of a disappearing One Nation vote, with not much cause for excitement for the Greens. Anyone who doubts Newspoll’s reputation for accuracy is well deserved need only look at their final poll going into the last Queensland election – a spot-on 49 per cent for Labor and 13 per cent for each of the Coalition parties, against 14 per cent each at the actual election. However, as far as the two-party preferred measure goes (it shows Labor leading 57.5 to 42.5 per cent compared with a guesstimate of 60/40 from the last election), The Poll Bludger presumes to offer Newspoll the following advice – ditch this measure and give respondents the option of answering with "none of the above", an option which will certainly be exercised by an enormous number of voters from all points of the political spectrum on polling day.

One striking change from other Newspolls of the current term that has gone unremarked has been the Nationals’ recovery at the expense of the Liberals, just as the Poll Bludger had finished harping on about the Liberals’ dramatic lead throughout the course of the current term. Until now the gap between the Coalition parties had never been less than 9 per cent – all of a sudden it’s now down to 2 per cent. The Poll Bludger doesn’t quite know what to make of this, especially when taking into account that nowhere will voters actually have competing National and Liberal candidates to choose between. Perhaps the publicity surrounding the election announcement has sharpened distinctions in the public mind between the state and federal contests and focused attention on the fact that voters face a choice between Beattie and Springborg. Unless Newspoll carefully targets voters in particular electorates and points out to them the specific choice facing them, many who respond that they plan on voting Liberal will presumably end up having to vote National. If anyone can offer the Poll Bludger any intelligence on this matter he would be most grateful, because the shift to the National Party makes perfect sense if voters who would have chosen Liberal are now being informed by their questioner that this option is not available to them. The Poll Bludger also suggests that a proportion of potential Liberal voters would sooner vote Labor (perhaps explaining their 4 per cent spike against the last Newspoll?) or cast an exhausting vote for an independent if denied the option of voting for their preferred party, hence the urgent importance for the Coalition of fielding Liberal candidates in urban areas.

For the second weekend in a row the Courier Mail is giving results from a TNS poll of 700 respondents. The Poll Bludger is wondering if TNS is monitoring the same sample of 700 throughout the campaign, which would be an interesting way of going about it. In-depth results are unfortunately not available but the poll, which records a percentage of undecided voters rather than distributing them proportionately as Newspoll would, finds that Labor have picked up 4 per cent on last weekend to reach 42 per cent, compared with the Coalition still stuck on 30 per cent. The poll confirms a general perception that neither One Nation or the Greens have much to crow about, with both losing ground (although it doesn’t say how much).

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.