In defence of Bruce Flegg (sort of)

It’s a shame yesterday’s Newspoll results are so difficult to take seriously, because the agency has gone a few extra yards with its survey results. Included is a question regarding respondents’ strength of commitment to their chosen party, which is run alongside comparable results from the previous two elections. If hopeful Coalition supporters go looking to these results for indications that Labor has won soft support from a volatile electorate, they are in for a disappointment. Overall commitment is at least as strong as at similar stages in the earlier campaigns, and Labor voters rate themselves less likely to change their minds than Coalition voters.

It appears that this was not all Newspoll had to offer, as Sean Parnell of The Australian today provides detailed results of voter attitudes towards the party leaders. These measures are normally of only incidental interest, but Parnell makes some interesting observations by comparing the results with those from previous election campaigns. However, Bruce Flegg may have cause to feel aggreived that Parnell didn’t extend a similar courtesy to him yesterday, when the Coalition’s disastrous poll ratings were explained in these terms: "Liberal leader Bruce Flegg’s early errors have cost the conservatives dearly". As has been argued earlier, the trend is little different from the last two elections, when the onset of the election campaign led to a rapid decline in Liberal poll ratings both in absolute terms, and relative to their coalition partners.

The following tables indicate the Liberal Party primary vote and share of the total Coalition vote in the second last Newspoll of the 2001, 2004 and 2006 campaigns and the two previous polls, extending on to the election result for 2001 and 2004.

Not that too much should be made of this: there is little doubt that the leadership change has been a disaster, and that Bob Quinn would have had the Liberals in a less bad position. Elsewhere, Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo asks "why state oppositions are hopeless". Instructive newspaper report: "A Victorian Liberal candidate has been caught distancing himself from his party in an apparent bid to boost his chances in the November state election".

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.

2 comments on “In defence of Bruce Flegg (sort of)”

  1. On the Victorian Liberal campaign I remember Di Rule (wife of The Age’s Andrew Rule) plastered Burwood with posters and leaflets for months before the 2001 state election that didn’t mention the Liberal party once with absolutely no success.

  2. I think Newton-Brown is mad to be distancing himself from the Liberal Party. As a Liberal, I would have expected him to romp in considering Tony Lupton’s margin, but he’s not anywhere near as well known as he thinks he is, and trying to win it without the Liberal linkage is madness. If he keeps along this line, he’ll just give another term to Lupton.

    I really wonder why they didn’t do more to make sure Leonie Burke recontested her former seat, instead of bringing in Newton-Brown. Not only was she a very popular member (had it not been such an almighty landslide she’d have held her seat easily), but she was one of the brightest lights in their shadow cabinet, and would provide some talent they could badly do with.

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