GetUp!, a self-styled new independent political movement to build a progressive Australia, has commissioned the right-wing shills* at Galaxy Research to conduct a poll of Senate voting intentions. Conducted the weekend before last from a sample of 1100 adults 16+, the poll has Labor on 38 per cent compared with its 2004 Senate result of 35 per cent, the Coalition down from 45 per cent to 34 per cent, the Greens up from 8 per cent to 13 per cent, and other parties and candidates up from 12 per cent to 13 per cent. Individual results from New South Wales and Victoria are provided in the accompanying press release, bearing in mind that the sample sizes are below 300.
This is the first Senate poll in living memory that was not conducted by Roy Morgan, whose efforts have proved hugely unreliable. My favourite explanation for this is that those responding to Morgan’s inquiry have just been asked how they will vote in the lower house, and are thus prone to name a different party for the second question purely in order to shake things up a bit. This has led Morgan to grotesquely overstate the vote for the Australian Democrats, who are evidently regarded as a party one might support if one was feeling adventurous, which tends not to be the case come polling day. The Galaxy poll does not appear to have this problem: it looks like Senate intention was the only question asked, and Democrats support is roughly where you would expect it to be (1 per cent). That makes the high vote for the Greens particularly interesting.
Even so, I suggest that asking a respondent about Senate voting intention places them in a slightly unnatural position. A very large proportion of the population probably a majority views the voting process purely in terms of deciding which party to favour. That decision having been made, they then proceed to follow the party’s how-to-vote card for the lower house and number its above-the-line box for the upper. By contrast, respondents to a survey such as this are specifically directed to consider the distinction between the house of government and house of review, producing a bias towards the minor parties. Greens supporters encouraged by the thought of a 13 per cent Senate vote would accordingly do well to restrain their enthusiasm. The precipitous plunge in the Coalition vote is perhaps of greater interest.
* Irony alert.