Phoney war dispatches: reality check edition

With the cycle upset by Newspoll’s three-week break, all three major opinion pollsters have delivered their findings in the past five days. For once, there is a remarkable degree of agreement between them.

• Sanity returned to Newspoll with today’s survey recording both the Coalition and Labor on 43 per cent and Labor ahead 52-48 on two-party preferred. All sorts of rubbish was spoken about the 10 per cent primary vote shift to Labor compared with the survey of three weeks ago, those charged with explaining What It All Means trying their luck with the Peter Garrett effect and a calamitous failure of the Government’s post-budget advertising campaign. Meanwhile, seers and oracles who had spent the last three weeks staking their reputations on an August 7 election suddenly felt the cold hand of doubt. They should all have known better, as it was clear even at the time that the last poll was a dud. Every other Newspoll of the past three months, including today’s, has had the Coalition between 40 and 43 per cent and Labor between 42 and 44 per cent, with the two-party preferred split ranging from 52-48 to 54-46 in Labor’s favour. Opinion poll buffs should mark an extra red circle around the date for the next Newspoll a fortnight hence, as it will include their quarterly geographic and demographic analysis featuring breakdowns of party support state-by-state. If the August 7 scenario plays out, the election will have been called by then.

• The monthly AC Neilsen poll published yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age was an almost perfect match of Newspoll, although it took a swing from the opposite direction to get it there. It showed the Coalition narrowing the gap from a 56-44 two-party preferred split to 52-48 and taking a slender lead on the primary vote, from 43 to 42 per cent. Although representing a sharp shift to the Coalition compared with last month’s poll, the results were almost identical in all measures to the survey before that. Reports accompanying the survey in the Herald and the Age divulged that Labor was recording 49 per cent two-party preferred in New South Wales (a 1 per cent swing to Labor compared with the 2001 election), 54 per cent in Victoria (a 2 per cent swing) and 56 per cent in Queensland (a 10.7 per cent swing, although it’s best to dismiss this on the basis of a small sample and wait for the next Newspoll).

• The Roy Morgan poll released on Thursday had Labor leading the Coalition 43.5 to 42.5 per cent on the primary vote and 53-47 on two-party preferred. This compares with a 10 per cent gap a fortnight ago, but a better idea is to look at the trend since February which suggests a gradual improvement in Coalition fortunes that does not yet seem to have run its course.

• In non-opinion poll news, the Poll Bludger was left wondering what game Nick Bolkus has been playing for the past few months when he announced on Wednesday he would not be seeking another term as a Senator for South Australia. That came one day after the other South Australian Labor Senator up for re-election, Geoff Buckland, had done the same. Buckland’s decision put to rest any controversy over Bolkus’s refusal to stand aside for the sake of the party’s affirmative action quota, a matter that had been causing convulsions within the party for the past six months. His Left faction has anointed Anne McEwen of the Australian Services Union to replace him, well and truly putting an end to any concerns over female representation.

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.