Contemporary readers have no doubt heard already, but for the benefit of future generations, let it be recorded here that polls released yesterday by Newspoll and ACNielsen produced similar results indicating a continuing drift away from Labor. The focus of the newspaper reporting is the failure of Kim Beazley’s return to the front bench to produce a Labor bounce, which seems fair enough for once. The stumble in Mark Latham’s approval rating suggests that any Beazley effect was cancelled out by disquiet over Latham’s emotional performance during the short-lived rumour frenzy two weekends ago, comparing unfavourably in the public mind with the Prime Minister’s steady hand and stiff upper lip (compare with the tone of earlier reports declaring "Emotional Latham plea wins support", as discussed in the post below). Both polls had Labor at 40 per cent (down 1 per cent in Newspoll, 2 per cent in ACNielsen) with the Coalition on 43 per cent by Newspoll’s reckoning and 45 per cent by ACNielsen’s. However ACNielsen somehow managed to conclude that Labor was on 52 per cent two-party preferred, the same result they produced with primary vote figures of 43 and 42 per cent in their last poll and 1 per cent higher than that recorded in Newspoll. Since ACNielsen’s result is at the extreme high end of the range recorded for the Coalition across all polls this year, Newspoll feels more accurate in any case.
This suggests a theoretically winnable position for the Coalition, who won comfortably with 43 per cent of the primary vote in 2001, but with One Nation no longer forming a substantial part of the minor party preference pool the Government has no reason to feel relaxed or comfortable about a primary vote in the low forties. The trend however is clearly moving in their direction, suggesting the Prime Minister did well to hold off from an August 7 election, and that those who rubbished him for doing so would do well to take care when querying his political judgement.
UPDATE (22/7/04): Thanks to reader David J. Lees for alerting me to ACNielsen’s belated realisation that the percentages for its poll added up to 101. The Coalition were in fact on 44 per cent (43.7 to be precise, as the Fairfax reporting unusually saw fit to reveal) rather than the published 45 per cent, which fits very nicely with a number of the above assertions.