Idle speculation: late February edition

The previous thread was getting on the long side, so here’s a new one. Conversation starter: a Roy Morgan poll commissioned by Crikey shows the Prime Minister trailing Labor in his seat of Bennelong by 41 per cent to 40 per cent on the primary vote, and 55-45 on two-party preferred. The sample was 394, which is pretty good for an electorate-level poll. The fortnightly Newspoll will be published in The Australian tomorrow.

UPDATE: 54-46 to Labor in Newspoll; down from 56-44 last time, but Kevin Rudd has a headline-grabbing lead as preferred PM. Elsewhere, England’s finest blogger, Harry Hutton, has made his debut entry on Australian psephological matters.

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.

232 comments on “Idle speculation: late February edition”

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  1. I’m not sure whether this is historical fact however someone told me that if any two of the following three are higher than they were at the last election the government gets turfed:-

    1) Interest Rates
    2) Unemployment
    3) Inflation

    And at this point both Interest Rates (which will remain above 2004 levels) and Inflation (it might drop below 2.3% but who knows) are above the levels recorded in October 2004.

  2. I have not heard of the 2 out of 3 rule but in the 1976 Presidential election Carter talked about the “misery factor” i.e. an Inflation rate + employment rate > 10%. This was very effective against Ford. Unfortunately it came back to bite him in 1980 when Reagan argued that the misery factor not only still existed but was worse. Of course “Stagflation” is a term that has not had much currency in the last 25 years.

  3. This upcoming Federal election coming up seems like no other in Australian history.

    You’ve got a conservative incumbent whom has been Prime Minister for 11 years, ran (or inherited from Keating, depending on your views), been tough on a lot of things and held up by an electroate which is tied to their mortages, is not conservative in behavior but has shown conservative tendancies (racism etc.)

    Then you have a new leader, who has come up after a decade of admittedly average leaders in Beazley (too old school), Crean (why, oh why, was he elected opposition leader) and Latham (the best of the lot, but too unpredictable and over buffed.) This new guy comes up more looking and sounding like the incumbent, but comes across as more of a Hawke.

    The economy and unemployment is in high numbers, which normally is a case for incumbent victory, a landslide possibly. However, this time interest rates have gone up after the focus on the incumbent’s last winning election campaign promise to keep them low, the leader looks indecisive on a war which is looking like the new Vietnam, and the ministries generally look tired.

    Don’t get me wrong, the opposition leader could be having a really long and high in numbers honeymoon and could crash like Latham. However, this could be the sign of something else (which I feel this is.)

    This election will be the most important in years. It will either show if Australia wants to step into the future, or stay behind and risk being a worldwide joke.

    It should be exciting.

  4. The “2 out of 3 rule” is a pet theory of Rod Sawford, the ALP Member for Port Adelaide, who claims it has held true for more than 30 years. I don’t know if that’s correct.

  5. It is good to see so many people interested in politics. Where i work only the other union delegate is. There everyone wingers about the government but have little interest in how to change it. The only thing that will motivate them is the hip pocket. watch for Howard’s money giving in the next few months. PS i love reading all the comments stats ect.

  6. The reason for Green bashing is that members of the 2 major parties are scared. What if there was 3 parties capable of winning the election if not 4? History dictates that when a minor party grows its up to the major parties to engulf them and make them insignificant. Re- One nation, DLP, LM, Democrats and even Family First. Here in Kingston it is, all of a sudden the in thing for State and Fed MPs to be seen at AOG churches ( Howard spoke at The Edge Curch in 2005). Now the ALP wants to gain Green votes by wheeling out Garrett every chance they get not understanding that people who are environmental inclined see the hypocrisies of his views compared to his past. In Kingston i am meeting more and more ALP members who have wives who vote Green or they take me aside and say that the Greens are where the ALP should be. A few lower house wins or having the Senates balance of power by the Greens will bring so much support and that frightens the major parties. Unlike One nation the Greens can gain support in big numbers in both ALP and Lib areas.

  7. The Howard Government is certainly not conservative when it comes to federal-state relations. Howard has ditched the federal compact on industrial relations, is taking over states rights on our major river systems and will leave this country with government centralized in Canberra as never envisaged by the founding fathers.

  8. Bill
    I agree with you that the major parties act in concert to destroy a minor party that looms as a threat.

    Howard is the master of manipulation when it comes to the minor parties, he destroyed One Nation by adopting their policies and making them irrelant and destroyed the democrats through his deal on the GST with them. Meg had stars in her eyes when dealing with Howard and did not look to the effects such a deal would have, of course the Dems were finished when one of Howards journalist exposed the Kernot Evans deal.

    Howard has tried similar tactics with the greens, eg misrepresenting their drugs policies and their policy on clean coal. Howver,despite Howard having the Murdoch press pushing Howards propaganda on the greens Bob Brown has managed to increase support for the greens.

    The ALP managed to put the greens offside through their deal with Family First in Victoria rather than give the greens the senate seat. They ended up giving FF a profile and importance far above their support.

    If the ALP wants to get control of the Senate they need the greens.
    I mentioned before that I think they have a chance of picking up the lib senate seat in the ACT. The lib vote has dropped as low as 33.7% before and I don’t see it as unreasonable for it to drop below 30% .

    If the ALP worked with the greens there would be a chance that the seat could go green.

  9. If the Greens grow in the Senate and start to gain lower house seats could we see in the future a coalition between us and the ALP.? Im not saying either party would even think of such things but as the right of politics seems to have such a strong hold these last few decades ( keatings policies were right wing ) it might happen that the left will need to regroup and rethink its future.

  10. If the Green senators up for re-election can win coupled with possible gains SA, Vic, ACT, that would make it 7, possibly more. This would come at the expense of the Democrats ( ACT excluded) but what is needed is the Greens to gain FF, Lib or Nat senate seats. Does anyone know what senate seats could fall to the Greens if they gain good ALP preferences?

  11. In theory of course the Greens could win a Senate seat in every state – their two incumbents in Tas and NSW plus the Democrat seats in Vic, Qld, SA and WA. They can’t (in my opinion) win the ACT seat and they can’t (IMO) take any seats from the Coalition. The Coalition would in fact be quite happy to see these seats go to the Greens rather than to Labor, since the rise of the Greens makes Labor’s job of defeating the Coalition more difficult.

    In fact however I don’t think the Greens can win a seat in Qld, their weakest state, and I’d be surprised if they won in Vic or SA either – the Qld seat will (IMO) go either to the Libs or Labor, and the Vic and SA seats to Labor. Also Nettle is at serious risk of being beaten by Labor in NSW. The only seats I’d fairly confidently give to the Greens would be Tas and WA.

    There seems to be an assumption that the Greens have simply taken over the Democrats’ niche as an all-purpose protest party that can usually win Senate seats by attracting disgruntled voters from both sides. That’s not true. The Greens are (or at least are seen as) a party of the far left, and they take their votes almost entirely from Labor. The old Democrat vote has splintered three ways, between Greens, Labor and Liberal. The return of a significant bloc of Democrat voters to the Libs is why the Libs won the last Senate seat in Qld in 2004, and it will make it harder for Labor to win Senate seats (and indeed House seats too) in 2007.

    It also follows from this that the better Rudd does, the further the Green vote will fall as ex-Labor voters return to the faith, and that if Rudd does very well the Greens might not win any Senate seats at all. That’s the price you pay for being a protest party of the left. Recall the fate of One Nation, a protest party of the right, whose vote evaporated in 2001 when disgruntled Coalition voters rallied to Howard.

  12. The Greens… downloaded their SA Newsletter yesterday.

    I loved all the references to Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky and Friedrich Engels (referred to as ‘comrade’).

    It’s like the Community Party of Australia is still going strong, just under a different name!

  13. The Greens… downloaded their SA Newsletter yesterday.

    I loved all the references to Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky and Friedrich Engels (referred to as ‘comrade’).

    It’s like the Communist Party of Australia is still going strong, just under a different name!

  14. The the Left-swing-vote (Labor/Green) is more likely to be voting Labor when Labor are in opposition or early in the life of a Labor government the longer Labor is in charge the more of the Left-swing-vote is generaly going to go to the Greens because of some of the centre-right tendancies in some of Labor`s policy.

    If Labor get in this time then in the next election or two (possibly excluding a double dissolution next year) expect the Green vote to go up a bit and some of the traditional Labor seats to be Left-marginals (Labor vs Greens).

  15. Michael I think you are being a little unfair. In the newsletter SA Greens Convenor Kevin Phelan says that Marx was an EARLY influence on his thinking, which is true of many people who are not now marxists, including me. He describes Engels as “Marx’s comrade,” which is perfectly true, not as HIS comrade. He praises Thoreau as well as Chomsky. I agree that Phelan is a good example of how many of the Old Left have found a new home in the Greens, but that doesn’t make the Greens communists. (But it does reinforce my point above that they are a party of the left, not the centre as the Democrats were.)

  16. Has anybody else seen the Galaxy poll in today’s Courier Mail? Of 800 voters surveyed in QLD, the primary vote for the ALP is on 47% primary vote, up 15 points from a similar poll in November, equating to a 2PP of 55%. The article says that this could see as many as 10 seats swing to the ALP.

    Rudd has a satisfaction rating of 84%, and is preferred prime minister with 50% to Howard 40%. 10% of voters were more likely to vote ALP with Rudd as opposition leader.

    Link below,23739,21277865-5007200,00.html

    If this poll can be relied on, and Galaxy was quite close to predicting the 2004 election result, the coaltion could be in trouble in QLD.

  17. Ben makes the common error of confusing the *accuracy* of a poll with its *predictive value.* I’m quite prepared to believe that poll is an accurate measure of what Qld voters are saying NOW. As a means of predicting how they will vote in October, it is virtually worthless. Did Galaxy accurately predict the outcome of the October 2004 election in February 2004, when Latham was at the peak of his popularity? No.

  18. The recent opinion poll by galaxy shows Labor doing better in Queensland than elsewhere, even if the rest of the country swung by just say 2% to Labor. Queensland will swing by 6%. Labor would pick up Bonner, Moreton and Blair and make Herbert very close. A 10% swing would net Labor an extra 10 seats there and make seats like Leichhardt, Dawson and Ryan too close to call.

  19. Bill

    There is change in the air and it is a determination to change that has Howard so flustered and worried.
    My brother was worried that the recent polls were like polls in 2001 and 2004 and that it would all evaporate when Howard sprung some sort divisive stunt or policy.
    However this time is different in that people see Rudd as a true viable leader and are set on a change.
    Blogs and letter writers around Australia are firmly in support of a change and I don’t see that evaporating so easily.

  20. Blogs and letter writers around Australia have always been anti-Howard, because they are all written by the anti-Howard intelligentsia. If you spend your whole time listening to people like yourself, you always hear your own opinions reflected back at you. Let me repeat: polls in February mean nothing. If Rudd is still this far ahead after the Budget, then you can get excited.

  21. Adam,

    I understand and agree with what you say about the predictive value of such polls at this stage.

    Whilst I don’t expect the ALP to win 10 seats from the coalition in Qld (16 in total and way above historical benchmarks as others have pointed out), it is indicative (IMHO) of a reasonable swing in Qld to the ALP, which is consistent with what I am hearing.

    I have heard several conservative (socially) people, usual coalition voters (not usual swinging voters) praisng Rudd and indicating a strong intention to vote ALP.

    Of course none of those votes are in the bag, but I think it is indicative of a swing in Qld, that will be well above the national average, whatever that may be.

    Also, there has been a fair bit of discussion earlier in this string about ‘Mortgae Belt’ seats.

    The folowing statistics represent a time series of Loan repayments as a percentage of family income – (September Quarter)

    2002/2003 26.1%
    2003/2004 28.6%
    2004/2005 32.0%
    2005/2006 32.1%
    2006/2007 33.8%

    I think that this may indicate that the mortgae belt seats are more vulnerable than has been supposed thus far.


    Also, I know they have large margins, but Leichardt has a very popular and long standing member retiring (Warren Entsch) and the redistribution in Blair has not only cut the margin, but also reduced the value of incumbancy (as the sitting Liberal is not the representative of the ‘new’ parts of the seat). I think both seats should be regarded at least as outside possibilities for the ALP rather than unwinnables, and both would, I think, be far more of a chance than say Herbert, which has the long standing and hard working Peter Lindsay as its representative.

  22. I’ve said it before. The mortage belt nationwide is a bigger risk for Howard than anyone is thinking. I live in Makin and I feel at the moment there is a huge swing towards Labor. However I do worry that Rudd is trying too hard to be really conservative.

  23. C_Woo said However I do worry that Rudd is trying too hard to be really conservative. Trying to be conservative at all is a problem. Why have 2 conservative parties?

  24. Adam is right, the ALP cannot start claiming victory now, sure Voters appear to like Rudd, but liking and voting for are two different things.

    I’ll also add all politics is local so before the ALP gets excited I suggest you put your energy into campaigning and only when the booths close and Kerry turns to Anthony and ask what results are in, can anyone start thinking of knocking Howard off.

    Howard still had a Budget and the various State ALP Governments continue to be waste of space giving people reason to question what could a Federal ALP Government do that the State ones can’t.

  25. What benefits will a ALP government bring? What is their stance on IR this week? Will they rid us of the hideous work for the dole scheme? How strong are they on the environment? Are they going to join the USA on a possible strike on Iran? Why are we replacing a conservative religious PM with a ……… …….conservative religious PM. For the ALP to win there needs to be a true alternative and strong policies, as the months go by the electorate will slowly go back to Howard as better the devil you know. The longer Howard waits to call the election the better his chances. He has time on his side to rip apart Labors wishy washy policies and build his case.

  26. Labor will undoubtedly be heavily outspent in Makin. Labor’s candidate for the second time in a row is Salisbury mayor Tony Zappia, who runs a successful health and fitness business. His Liberal opponent (replacing Trish Draper) is 54-year-old Bob Day, the owner of Homestead Homes which built a lot of the houses in Makin. Day is seriously rich. Channel 7 political writer Mike Smithson reports in the Sunday Mail that Day’s “expensive election campaign is under way with all the bells and whistles including a goody pack for constituents and a high profile office, complete with neon sign.
    “Day is bankrolling it through local campaign fundraisers and via his own pocket.
    “With the state Liberal campaign coffers squeezed tight, the power-brokers in Canberra must be wishing there were plenty more Bob Days on their books.”

  27. In the seat of Kingston Richardson gives away a goody pack every year at the local community fair. Even though its full of items with his head on it ( Pads, balloons calenders etc) it actually works especially in the “poorer” areas of Kingston. Its sad when swinging voters can be bought by a bag of junk while their rights, environment and little monetary status is eroded away. What makes it more hideous is the choice of ALP candidate. Of all the members you would think the ALP has here why choose an outsider from a union that is so pro bosses that employers claim they own it. This is utter contempt by the ALP to throw Kingston candidates that don’t seem to fit the electorate

  28. Adam said- You people just don’t listen, do you? What i am saying is the change is from Howard voters i work with and meet. people who where pro war, anti hicks and anti Muslim are now saying “Howard’s made us more of a target” I wont vote for him again. IR has yet to scare anyone i work with because we haven’t been pushed by it yet

  29. Adam, it’s not that polls don’t have predictive power this far out, it’s that polls never have a quantifiable predictive capacity. Determinations about what polls mean are always qualitative judgement calls, whether its six months out or the day before an election. There is an excellent article from the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (you’ll need to go to a university library to get it) where he argues that the tendency for the media to take polls at face value is science without a scientist.

    Bill, Rishworth is from the same poltical training ground as Kate Ellis and you’re criticisms are the same as were made against Ellis before 2004. But Rishworth win the same way that Ellis did, by running a local campaign with a ferocity that would make Genghis Khan blush

  30. “He (Rudd) either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the Government is already doing or probably doesn’t want to know and so he has gone out and copied our policies and tried to announce them on the (Nine Network) Sunday program this morning,” Mr Macfarlane said. Is this the best Macfarlane can do? Heaven help us.

  31. Re “goodies packs.” Isn’t there a law against “treating,” or bribing voters? There certainly is in the UK, introduced to stop candidates taking voters to the pub and then to the polling place.

  32. I don’t think that’s a given. For a start, whilst all the media attention is on the Government it’s actually a bipartisan scandal – a shadow minister was sacked a couple of days ago as well. Coupled with the result of the Peel by-election, I just don’t think the hype about a Carpenter backlash is warranted.

  33. I have to agree with Adam. The scandal that is rocking WA Labor is far more serious now than it was back in November. McRae is just the start. Another two will probably be named this week and, in all likelihood, go. The public will be rightfully furious and given there won’t be a State Election till 2009, the Federal poll later this year is the first opportunity they will have to whack Labor. Cowan was already going to be tough to hold onto, now it will be even tougher. Right now, I think whatever gains Labor makes in the east, they will have to take into account the losses they must offset in the West.

  34. Only in WA, bill, and there’s not much Rudd can do about it. YOUR gripe with Rudd is that he’s not left-wing enough, and that is frankly crap. If Labor moves to the left to suck up to left–greeny voters, it vacates the middle ground to Howard. Australian elections can only be won from the centre.

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