Bellwether report

Two polls released yesterday have given Labor still further cause to pray that Mark Latham’s FTA manoeuvre and the public statement by former diplomats and department heads critical of the Iraq war will provide them with a circuit breaker. The Daily Telegraph published a remarkable survey conducted by OmniTalk of no fewer than 1000 respondents in the New South Wales electorate of Eden-Monaro, which has famously gone the way of the victorious party at each election since 1972. The poll had Liberal incumbent Gary Nairn leading Labor 46 per cent to 40, interestingly echoing last week’s Newspoll which had the Coalition one point lower. A strong flow of preferences from the Greens’ 8 per cent could still save Labor from this position, but it’s hardly where they would like to be heading into the campaign.

Even worse for Labor was the monthly Westpoll in The West Australian (which now demands subscription for full access, the publishers apparently having heard that there is money to be made from pictures of pretty girls on the internet), surveying 400 voters in Western Australia. The poll does not distribute the 17 per cent undecided vote, so the Poll Bludger has done it for them to produce an outcome of 55.5 per cent for the Coalition (compared with 42.4 per cent at the 2001 election), 35 per cent for Labor (compared with 37.1 per cent) and 6 per cent for the Greens. This represents a 6 per cent fall in Labor’s vote on the previous month and an even worse performance than that in the May survey, which strained credibility at the time.

A few qualifications should be added here. Newspoll’s geographic and demographic analysis survey, operating off a somewhat larger sample, had the Coalition’s lead at 44 to 38 per cent in June, narrowing the gap from the previous quarter by 4 per cent. The West Australian’s reporting inadvertently exposes some poor past form for Westpoll in noting that Labor’s worst-ever performance in the survey came one month before the November 2001 election, at which Labor managed to win seven of the 15 Western Australian seats. Taken together, and with the Westpoll findings treated with due caution, it suggests a very tight race in the Labor marginals of Stirling (1.6 per cent), Hasluck (1.8 per cent) and Swan (2.1 per cent) and an uphill battle for Labor in the Liberal marginal of Canning (0.4 per cent). For more detail on the state of play in Western Australia, see this earlier posting and this piece in The Australian from Edith Cowan University politics lecturer Peter van Onselen.

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.