As the election campaign in Queensland gets under way, a lot is being made of Saturday’s opinion poll in the Courier-Mail showing the Coalition leading 51-49 on two-party preferred. This is partly because it is the nearest poll to hand, and partly because its finding that the government is in danger makes good copy. However, there are a number of reasons to be cautious. The poll seems to be the first Queensland state survey ever conducted by Galaxy Research, whose emergence during the 2004 election campaign was noted here. Given Queensland’s complicated electoral terrain, it seems reasonable to suggest that a new agency would face a steep learning curve. Secondly, unless there’s something in the print version that I’ve missed, the Courier-Mail provides no indication of the sample size (UPDATE: Gary Bruce in comments notes that the sample was 800, as reported here). Presumably it would be in the ballpark of the surveys conducted for the paper until recently by TNS, which polled about 500 people well below half the samples used by Newspoll and Roy Morgan. Last but not least, the result is at odds with every poll published in the current term, except for the TNS/Courier-Mail poll published on February 3.
|August 12 (Galaxy)||42||43||49||51|
|June 3 (TNS)||40||38||52||48|
|February 3 (TNS)||42||43||49||51|
Newspoll and Roy Morgan tell different stories, both from the Courier-Mail and each other. Newspoll’s has the greater ring of truth. Despite the fairly constant pace of upheaval during the Beattie government’s past term, it tells of a game of two halves of a government maintaining its supremacy in the first half and facing a stiff challenge in the second. The obvious dividing line is the politically calamitous Dr Death scandal, which erupted early in April 2005.
The numbers indicate the timing of 1. the "Winegate" episode involving Indigenous Affairs Minister Liddy Clark, 2. Clark’s resignation as minister, 3. the emergence of the Dr Death scandal, 4. Labor’s defeat in the Chatsworth and Redcliffe by-elections, 5. Gordon Nuttall’s resignation as Health Minister, 6. Labor’s defeat in the Gaven by-election, 7. the Mary River dam announcement, and 8. the failure of the proposed merger of the Coalition parties.
Roy Morgan, whose most recent poll came out yesterday, paints a rosy picture for Labor even by its own world-famous standards. Indeed, every single poll it has conducted since the 2004 election and they have come at regular bi-monthly intervals, with samples of around 1200 has shown Labor set to increase its primary vote, and the Coalition parties struggling to break even.
At best, a very mild Dr Death effect can be determined through a narrowing of the two-marty margin from October 2005, but even Labor’s worst result had them in a better position than at the 2004 election. However, care should be taken even with plausible-sounding two-party figures for Queensland, which has optional preferential voting and a tradition of strongly performing independents and minor parties.
Roy Morgan at least has the advantage of being up-to-date. Events since Newspoll’s last survey include the state budget, the Toowoomba recycled water referendum, Beattie assuming the role of Water Minister and Bruce Flegg’s rise to the Liberal leadership not to mention the first day of campaigning which, as a quick look at The Australian makes clear, has not gone well for the Coalition. Among the articles featured is an assessment from Malcolm Mackerras that Beattie will survive with a five-seat majority.