Galaxy Senate poll

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.

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.

134 comments on “Galaxy Senate poll”

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  1. I expect 5% of others to be right-wing splinter groups like Family First, Christian Dems, etc. Adding Greens + Labor gives centre-left 51%; adding 5% to Coalition gives centre-right 39%. That’s a HUGE lead to the centre-left.

  2. The fact that this is left-wing commission polled and that Labor’s vote has only improved a measly 3 percent on last time round shows that there is much cause for concern in Krudd’s camp. And “others” include Family First, One Nation, DLP, CDP and other conservative groups, which must make up the majority of the 14% described. Therefore, the centre-left and the right and pretty-much neck and neck on this poll.

    Anyone who thinks that Labor can take any comfort out of this poll is out of their mind.

  3. It doesn’t matter. The coalition only needs to harvest preferences to 43% to win 3 seats in every state.

    Using your calculations, the centre-left needs 57% ie an extra 6% to gain 4 seats while the centre-right needs 43% ie an extra 4% to get 3, and maintain control of the senate.

    If the remaining 8% ‘Others’ splits half left/right, then the right wins.

    And most of Shooters, Fishing, ONP, Pauline etc will head to the right so I think your 5% is rather small.

    For ALP/Greens senate control, they need to win 4 seats from six, in three of the six states. A hurculean task and the Greens have never shown any sign of winning a seat from the right.

  4. And anyone who thinks that a “Senate poll” means anything at all is in need of a politics lesson. We’re not about to have a half-Senate election. We’re about to have an election at which people will be choosing a government. 90% of them will follow their party’s how-to-vote for both houses. The Greens will get nothing like 13%.

  5. I would not be surprised if the Greens got close to or over 10% in the senate in all states except for Queensland. The Federal Greens are more popular than state Greens and even they (State Greens) did well in the recent NSW and VIC elections. People are connecting with their policies and, especially with the Coalition majority, people will be looking to kick out an absolute majority in the Senate, which could well lead to a high minor party vote.

  6. At the 2004 election, Family First got 1.76%, One Nation 1.73%, Christian Dems 1.18%, Citizens Electoral Council 0.21% and Against further immigration 0.1%. That’s just under 5% for these 5 right-wing parties. If you add DLP and Fishing Party, you get another 0.9%. Adding Libs for Forests gives yet another 0.9%. Therefore, right-wing conservative minor party vote was about 6% in the Senate in 2004. Here are the National Senate results for 2004:

  7. Margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 6% due to the small sample sizes, around 250 people per state.
    I agree that the Greens would not get 13%, I thought they would do a lot better than they did in the NSW election where both labor and liberal were on the nose and this should have seen their vote increase.
    The Getup commissioned poll was more to bring the senate into prominence and publicise Getups campaign for an independent or balanced senate regardless of who wins the next election.

    Having said that I feel Humphries is vulnerable in the ACT due to his religous right views. Howards and Debnams ties with the religous right ie Exclusive Brethren, Hillsong AOG etc worked against them in the NSW election. Hockey and Howard talk of the unions representing 15-20% of the workforce and thus them being unrepresentitive, yet regular church goers represent less than 4% of the population and have an enormous influence on government policy.

  8. The latest possible date for a half-Senate election is the last Saturday of May next year, which is the 24th. However, there’s no question of it not being held in conjunction with the House of Reps election, which can happen no later than January 19.

  9. Greens ceiling–I think–is around 10%. I’d say FF’s would be around 7%.

    “regular church goers” would not vote FF en masse. There are plenty of churchgoers who are not socially conservative. And FF doesn’t get its vote simply from “regular church goers”,

  10. I can’t imagine the Greens significantly improving from 2004. They’re getting far less publicity this time around, probably because now that the government doesn’t need them in the Senate they and the other minor parties have no real political role. I don’t think I’ve seen Kerry Nettle or Bob Brown in the press more than once or twice all year.

  11. Just wait for the probable double dissolution next year and watch the Greens get more seats and probably more votes and attention.

  12. There won’t need to be a double dissolution next year because Howard will still be PM and the Coalition will still have a majority in the Senate.

  13. The polls have been showing that support for the minor parties has been declining over the last year as voters are polarising in the election heat. As alleged by Getup, this trend may well be countered in the Senate as people may respond to the need for balance in the house of review. This reaction would surely have largest impact on the Coalition, and the minor party most likely to benefit from that leakage would be Family First, ahead of the Democrats or Greens.

    I am certain that, despite the protestations of the Labor left, deals will be done with Family First, as this represents the only way that sufficient conservative votes can be enticed away from the Coalition.

    Labor supporters who think otherwise, need to logically analyse the numbers with their head, rather than idealise with their heart.

    The only other option is to face a hostile Senate. This can be resolved through the pain of a Double Disolution, but that would guarantee at least another 2-3 FFP members in the Senate.

  14. What is the point of polling 16+ i.e 16 – 18 year olds when they can’t vote anyway? It would be interesting to see the questions when the polling has been commissioned by a group with a vested interest in a particular outcome. Would GetUp have released the poll if 50%+ favoured the coalition?

  15. GetUp! are a waste of space.

    A wank pressure group with a pretentious website whose real influence on Australian politics is less than zero.

  16. I have never been able to work out if the senate is a house of review or a house of revue. (Thanks to Jack Lang for this one)

  17. Isabella,

    It keeps the long-hairs off the street. Are you still at Hillsong singing “I love Jesus (As much as I love money) and I’m an Independent Woman (dependent on her man”.

  18. I have little empirical data to back this up, but I get the impression that most people don’t understand what the Senate is.

    I think on election day, the vast overwhelming rump of the electorate just follows the How-To-Votes of their chosen party, and tick above the line, not bothering to ask anyone where their preferences go.

    The number of people I know who whinge that they “accidentally” voted for Family First by ticking the box for Labor at the last election is a case in point.

    Therefore, I think a poll on voting intention in the Senate is pretty well useless, even without the “6% for error”.

    However, it is good to see public discussion about the Senate. I would like people to actually take the time to at least find out where their preferences are going, before ticking above the line. But to do that they first need to learn how preferences work.

  19. Didn’t the real Nostradamus predict that both Ian and Greg Chappell got out to Andy Roberts for a duck? Or am I getting my 1970s shows confused?

  20. I’m not sure that much can be read into this poll – it’s far too small and, as other posters have pointed out, most people don’t know what the Senate is anyway. I would imagine that the post-election Senate will reflect the voting in the House. If Labor wins big, then the Coalition’s Senate control is at risk, but anything less than that and the worst the Lib/Nats will do is retain a blocking majority (ie 38 out of 76). Assuming a Labor win, we can expect to be going back to the polls (in the first DD since 1987) in late 2008.

  21. Isabella, GetUp! has many more members in NSW than the Liberal Party, and is growing exponentially. Why is it that people of your particular political stripe are so effortlessly offensive? Pretentious, indeed.

  22. As a democrat, I would have felt better if the poll was showing 2-4% for the party, but 1% is sad (even though the “noise” for the poll is 6%).

    GetUp! is an interesting beast. It’s basically an non-political version of the entire Democrat platform! I am a paying supporter of both and can discern very little difference in the two.

    I wonder how GetUp! can remain non-political. At some point people are going to say “well, who should we vote for then?”

    It would be interesting to see GetUp! rate politicians on issues (I think this is the next step). Since the vast number of GetUp! supporters are probably Laborites, how will they react when their anointed pollies are rated poorer than their Green, Democrat and some Liberal peers?

    I think targetting the senate is a great idea for GetUp!. If it could educate people into voting differently in the senate that would really be of service to Australian democracy.

  23. GetUp cannot be regarded as a non political organisation – non partisan perhaps – but you can’t have a political campaign without taking a position on an issue. A non poltical political campaign is an oxymoron.

  24. Alan H,

    at least right wingers offensiveness is a sin of ommision,

    I’m surprised the left have to try to be nasty, i thought after spewing bile all day it’d come more naturally

  25. What’s all this about a 6% Margin of Error? There were 1100 sampled in the national sample; that’s a 3% MOE. In NSW and Vic, you do have a 6% MOE. Unfortunately for you, Dembo, when the proportion estimates are either very low or very high, the MOE is much less than midrange; the MOE is proportional to
    sqrt(p*(1-p)); so if p is near 0.5, the MOE is maximised. The Dem vote is estimated at 0.01 in proportional terms, so that’s an MOE of less than 1% for the Dems at 95% confidence.

  26. I think the whole GetUp “Put the Coalition Last in the Senate” is a waste of money.

    How do people go about putting the coalition last in the Senate ? The only way people can ensure the Coalition is put last is by voting BTL. I guess they could say ‘by voting ALP/GRN ATL’, but their tickets don’t actually put the coalition last eg ONP. A confusing message.

    How many people are going to number those 50 or so boxes no matter how hard you campaign ? Since 9x% vote ATL, even if their campaign was a stunning success it would be 9x minus one % ATL.

    Those 1% new BTL voters would all be GetUp-ish people who vote Labor/Green anyway so there’d be a nil effect since these parties put the coalition close to last anyway.

    In Summary:
    – Very few people will respond to this campaign
    – The voters attracted to the campaign vote left anyway so there’d be no effect on the net result

    If I was in Liberal HQ I would be quite pleased GetUp wasn’t targetting the HOR – phew!

  27. get-up is just a more sophisticated network (thanks to the internet) of concerned citizens.
    Because of Howards polarising influence it is only natural to have such organisations
    As a matter of Interest Canadas 1993 whitewash had a similair grassroots org that was tagged as being Socialist-alliance but was really just a citizens movement and ended up thru pamphleteering/leafletting and other skullduggerry to enable to government (Conservative) to lose 153 of its 155 seats

  28. Are it’s members those people who sign up for email updates?

    That’s not much, because they don’t do much. Certainly incomparable to those who join and are financially or otherwise involved in a mainstream political party.

    I wonder what the reaction would be like to a conservative organisation of the sort.

  29. Andrew, surely you jest – being offensive comes much more readily to Right Wingers (witness Alan Jones, Stan Zemanek, Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, Christopher Pearson etc). We on the Left are nice people who actually care about other people and the planet, rather than just our share portfolios. ‘Self-interest’ is an inherently selfish position, ‘sharing the wealth’ is the view of generous-minded people.

  30. Hugo, you seem unaware that in traditional conservatism (not this mangled new-age version of it) there is a commitment to the maintenance of a ‘social order’ and the ‘common good’.

    You should not be so quick to insult ‘Right Wingers’ (the capitalisation to make it further pejorative, yes?) when you (the left) really look towards the same end but by different means.

    These children masquerading as adults are much more populist than they are on the ‘right’; do not forget this.

  31. GetUp should be able to draw people’s attention to how the Govt has abused its Senate majority; this may well result in a slump in the Coalition Senate vote. Whether that vote ends up with Labor, Greens or other conservative fringe parties, it could well cost the Coalition Senate seats.

  32. I agree that the Greens vote is likely to be overstated, but even still I would say that a 13% vote would be no lower than 10% in reality, and a 10% vote could be enough to win 6 senate seats. Considering concerns in recent months about the Greens losing votes to Rudd, it’s reassuring.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Liberal supporters have become more conscious about splitting their votes and thus not voting Liberal in the Senate, with the exposure given to the Senate through the Coalition senate majority since 2004.

    And while it’s possible to get from 35% to 43% on preferences, it’s certainly not a lock, and they need to be reduced to 2 senators in only two states. That would be very likely on 35%.

  33. And someone said that the federal Greens are more popular than the state Greens, but my experience is that this isn’t the truth. We generally do better on lower tiers of government.

  34. Ben, Ben, Ben – how many times does it have to be explained to innumerate Greens that 10% will NOT be enough to win a Senate seat? There are six seats to be won in each state, so if the vote is Labor 43%, Coalition 43%, Greens 10%, others 4%, Labor and the Coalition will win three seats each – end of count.

  35. The use of Galaxy by GetUp is interesting. GetUp clearly has an agenda and to claim that it is non partisan is quite a stretch, as is its concern about Senate ‘balance’. The Senate is highly dysfunctional when it comes to actually getting on with the business of governing. Morgan has traditionally unreliable on Senate polls and I suspect Galaxy is this same. The polls in recent times have shown declining minor party votes, the demise of the Democrats has seen the minors on the political edges and therefore less attractive or middle of the road.

    Speaker pointed out that even on these figures the likelihood of the Coalition losing Senate control is unlikely; I think it more in the balance. 43% is the target for 3 seats in a state, and note that the valid comparison is the 2001 election when the retiring Senators except for the territories were elected. They are 18 LNP, 4 Dems, 2 Greens and 12 ALP. As Greens replace Democrats the overall balance of the Senate does not really change, unless say the Liberals lose a seat in Tasmania to Labor, or in another state. For the Coalition if the Galaxy figures for Victoria are correct, they are actually quite good for the Coalition (given the months of gloomy polls) and bad for Labor.

    It is unlikely the Greens will win 13% nationally, the only reason Kerry Nettle got up in NSW in 2001 was One Nation preferences which seems bizarre now. Gary Humphries in the ACT is the most unextreme person you are likely to meet and this is the umpteenth time we in the ACT have been subject to this ‘get rid of the liberal’ campaign. They have not worked to date and it would be unlikely to work this time too.

    Talk of a double dissolution election is interesting too. More Greens (the inevitable consequence) will make the Senate worse not better. The Democrats are sometimes potty, but not irrational. My tip if the Coalition win and does lose its Senate majority, or Labor wins there might be more cooperation between the major parties as the Greens fundamentalism becomes more apparent.

  36. The ALP and Coalition vote may be 43%+ each.
    Last time the Coalition won enough first preference votes for 3 seats in each state but this was a high end vote for them and the opposite happened with Labor.
    There will be some seats won on preferences and some minor party seats.

  37. “how many times does it have to be explained to innumerate Greens that 10% will NOT be enough to win a Senate seat?”

    Ok adam – you’re saying no Green senators will be elected without a primary vote greater than 10%. Care to put money on that?

  38. I’m not a betting person. I have said many times that I think Brown will poll close to a quota and be re-elected. I don’t think the Greens will get near 10% in any other state, and don’t expect them to win any other Senate seats, except possibly in WA if Labor polls well below three quotas there, as seems possible.

  39. Sorry to offend Michael – I’m afraid irony doesn’t come through so well in cold hard type. I actually quite like reading posts from Right Wingers (some of my best friends and all that), but only when they are well argued (and of course, many of my fellow Lefties fail this same test). Too many contributors to these sites feel the need to resort to petty personal attacks with no insight into anything (you reading this Isabella?).

    So keep posting your wrong-headed analyses – sorry, irony alert here again – I enjoy reading them.

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