Reuters has just issued its semi-regular Poll Trend, a weighted composite of results from Morgan, Newspoll and ACNielsen (but not Galaxy, which has been kinder to the Coalition in recent months). Their current figure has Labor ahead 57.3-42.7; the long-term trend looks a little something like this:

Despite Monday’s ACNielsen, that much-touted trend towards the Prime Minister as preferred leader is evident in other polls:

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.

364 comments on “Flatliners”

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  1. Rudd is a failed leader if he can’t even reach 50% preferred leader, at any time on the way up, and is now falling.

    Who is next? Julia Gillard? Wrong faction.

  2. Er…Green Football

    Rudd is the most popular oppostion leader in the history of opinion polling. I don’t understand what you mean.

    Have you been using your forehead to light matches again?

  3. Based on those figures, the 53-47 2PP result I talked about yesterday dosent look too far of the mark. Preferred PM is curiously inconsistent – seems it has its own drum beat and is alot more unstable.

  4. JWHs preferred PM status isnt the one that hurting the Coalition so much as the 2PP.

    Costello’ss comments all over the papers today about JWHs alleged inadequacy as a Treasurer under Fraser wont help JWHs Preferred PMs improvement- might even stall it where it sits now.

    If Costello had shown the political courage he needed early last year and challenged the PM to stand down instead of waiting for some academic to interview him much later in the year he might be a well established PM by now.

    The underlying message of this latest ‘poison’ is simple : ‘Well John, Im going down and Im taking you with me mate’. See ya fellas !!

  5. 2PP estimates are overrated. Nobody knows how preferences are going to flow on the day.

    Asking people how they would allocate makes no sense, as most people don’t know how to use the preferential system works anyway.

    The other method they use to determine 2PP is to direct them based on the way they flowed last election. This presumes that preference deals are going to be the same this election. I can see a huge margin for error there.

    Primary voting intention is the figure to follow.

  6. If you assume the drift back to the Coalition continues at the current rate you still have 54-46 in November.

    And it would be wrong to assume that it will continue. They’ve pulled everything except the rabbit out of the hat since Feb and this shows how little effect they’ve had.

    Today’s Costello quotes are devastating. Haneef is not playing they way they hoped. The Cook preselection is blowing up. And so on. The lock nuts fell off the Howard cart a while ago and now the wheels are following.

  7. The Howard/Costello revelations in today’s Fairfax press are devestating – I can’t imagine any of that will help the Coalition.
    The Cook preselection has been a fiasco – I bet this Michael Towke(or whatever his current surname is) will be disendorsed in a week.
    On the other hand, I suspect too Labor will soon be finding a new candidate for Franklin.

  8. Have just been listening to the radio. One prominent conservative commentator has declared the election lost for the conservatives. Laurie Oakes and the head of Sportingbet say the same thing. This book is poison.

  9. I find it fascinating that all of a sudden, out of the blue, the commentariat are carrying on about what most of us here have known for a long time – the Coalition is in deep doo doo up to their eyeballs.

    Honestly, these guys break news like my bicycle breaks the sound barrier.

    I’ve fixed up my 2 Pollycide posts to be far more coherent and reflective of the point I was trying to get across, and its tied into the composition of this poll trend.

    The question remains for me, looking at the Newspoll data compared to those 2PP trends up the top in the Reuters graph, which safe government seats are the massive swings happening in?

    For a 14.6% average swing against the government safe seats to occur, and acknowledging that some of the cowpoke seats will hardly swing at all (maybe too big an assumption on my part) – that means some other safe gov seats would have to be swinging by 20% or more for the quarterly Newspoll figures to balance out.

    Where the hell are they? Anyone got an idea?

  10. well well well

    ’tis a tangled web we weave when we set out to decieve’

    J-HO take note
    1 the traditional Libs have deserted you and your cronies
    2 the feeding frenzy is only going to ratchet up another level
    3 the dream has ended- now for your worst nightmare-THE TRUTH

  11. Each week brings increased intensity. I just want it to be over already, I have a life to live. :\

    Do we have a Morgan tomorrow? The way things have been going for the government and if the last ACNeilsen was close to the truth Im betting the Morgan might show 60/40 and if they polled this weekend it would be even worse. The Haneef show simply highlights the way this govt does business.

    I dont think Costello is the answer now, it is too late.

    If you bring in Costello who is his running mate? People are used to Howard and Costello. Costello and Turnbull/Abbott/Downer/Brough just seems too shallow or distasteful. And Costello has some personality issues that he doesnt seem to be able to control no matter how hard he tries.

    I dont ever recall Costello talking on anything except financial matters – how would go on the broader issues he would have to cover?

  12. Possum, Rudd’s itinerary (see Hartcher’s blog on the SMH site) might give a clue as to the unsafe safe seats. have thought for a while that the Gold Coast/Sunshine Coast seats in Qld were vulnerable and anywhere else where there are large concentrations of upstairs/downstairs voters (eg Cook) ie those who vote Labor at state level and Lib federally. Suspect many of these have now decided to put all their eggs in one basket.

    If anyone has the time and technology it’d be interesting to map state Labor seats and their margins against the Federal maps. Thah should go a long way to answering Possum’s question.

  13. Peter Beattie still holds quite a few seats on the Gold/Sunshine Coasts at the state level, so perhaps it’s not out of the question Rudd could make some inroads there too?
    If Kev is suddenly campaigning on Sydney’s North Shore(blue ribbon Liberal territory), then I’ll know Howard is completely stuffed.

  14. That Guy Says:
    July 19th, 2007 at 7:41 am

    “2PP estimates are overrated. Nobody knows how preferences are going to flow on the day……….. I can see a huge margin for error there.

    Primary voting intention is the figure to follow.”

    Yes, you are correct in suggesting that primary voting intentions is the figure to follow, and also correct to be cautious when looking at two party projections, but not quite correct when you suggest there is a huge margin for error in projecting a two party figure, as the flow of preferences hasn’t varied all that much over the last 25 years. So we can be fairly confident of what is most likely to happen, to project a two party vote.

    Preference flows to the ALP:

    1983 53.7%, 1984 57.3%, 1987 61.7%, 1990 61%, 1993 60.2%, 1996 53.8%, 1998 53.4%, 2001 58.9%, 2004 61.7%.

    On that basis if we take the results of the last poll results from each of the four pollsters, it gives the primary votes as ALP 48.4 Coalition 38.8, so the lowest flow to the ALP (53.4%) delivers a TPP of 55.2% and the highest flow (61.7%) delivers a TPP of 56.3%, and mid point of 55.75%.

    I do agree, however, that some of the allocations in some of the polls, which can be as high as 75%, are overstated.

  15. The primary vote and TPP figures are predicting a big ALP win. And not before time either. What worries me is the continuing strong support for Howard as preferred PM. As many have said, come election day, as many as 20% will make up their minds on the spot, and that strong preferred PM support may still get him across the line.

    Worries about Rudd’s inexperience and the experience of his front bench will work against Rudd on the day. The libs will work on this perception.

    What will work against Howard? I think
    WorkChoices (the Minchin H R Nicholls gaff)
    Nuclear energy (they should play a version of that Greenpeace anti-nuclear ad – it’s truly terrifying)
    and a big one, he’s been in for eleven years, he’s 68, it’s not that he’s a bad man, but it’s time for a change.

    The biography thing with Costello is *not* going to help Howard’s image. A lot of people are now challenging the standard narrative that the Libs = good economic management. I just don’t know where Costello is going at the moment.

  16. Rudd campaigning in Goldstein is interesting – I wouldn’t have thought that seat would be as big a chance as others of similar margins, even with the big swings that are happening.That said, I’m not a Mexican so what would I know.

    McPherson makes sense with the schizo Gold Coast vote.

    I think Hartcher is fooling himself if he thinks Swan and Cowan will change hands – there is still a 5.3% swing in WA, which if it were a national swing would be enough for Rudd to take government.

    Parramatta might have been redistributed, but nowhere near the extent it needed to have been to hold back that big anti-gov NSW swing that is happening.

    Boothby and Wentworth are classified as marginals by newspoll, so those seats arent in the calculation of the big 14.6% swing safe seat swing.

    Sturt is though, so that makes sense.

    There must be some in NSW, particularly regional NSW for these swings to start making sense, but I can figure out where.

    Maybe places like Cowper as there’s been solid population growth there and Real Estate prices have exploded over the last 6 years.

    Maybe Lyne with that massive urban growth corridor quickly filling up between Port Macquarie and Wauchope, but even there I cant imagine for the life of me places like Wingham, Harrington, Old Bar, Taree changing from a Nat vote – let alone all the sleepy little rural hollows that dot the seat.

    Page was classified as a marginal, but you would think that if a swings on in NSW its going to be a bit nasty there.

    In Qld there is no shortage of seats to make up the swing balance which I think I mentioned a month or so back – Hinkler, Petrie, Dickson, Forde etc.

    But NSW has got be flummoxed

  17. I think that Costello would outperform most people expectations as leader. Being the treasurer is never going to make you popular (can anyone name a popular one?)

    Once he steps away from the Job I think people would find he is the closest thing to a human being in Senior Liberal ranks.

    If John stays now I think it will be a rout. I can almost hear Costello comments being quoted in the ALP ads during the election.

    The key question is has Peter left it run too late to take over the helm? Is it now too much of a poisoned chalice?

  18. On preference flows, would I be wrong to think that a strong FPP vote for the ALP will most likely result in a weaker preference flow to it?

    Also, the other factor to consider may be that in all elections since 1983 and before 2004, the significant minor party’s votes tended more towards the ALP. That is, the coalition did not have a significant feeder party. That may have been thrown out the window by the rise of Family First.

    As a result, it appears to me that to get anywhere close to winning, the ALP’s FPP vote needs to remain very near 50%.

  19. Rob said,

    “As many have said, come election day, as many as 20% will make up their minds on the spot, and that strong preferred PM support may still get him across the line.”

    Yes Rob, I’ve heard that statistic many times, but I wonder what it is based on?

    There’s so much that’s presented as fact in polling but whether it’s true or not who knows? Possum showed the assertion made by Dennis Shanahn and later supported by Martin O’Shannessy, that preferred PM is a leading indicator for voting intentions, to be false. This analysis


    shows the assertions made by Sol Lebovic that,

    “….. [Howard] was further behind at an early stage of the 2001 race. Commentators who are trying to say it’s all over forget that Howard has been behind at this stage of the electoral cycle before.  I don’t see this as a repeat of 1996, the last election at which there was a change of government. Howard is in a stronger position than Paul Keating was at this stage in 1996”

    are also false.

    If you look at the book by Don Watson on Paul Keating, “Confessions of a bleeding heart”, you’ll see repeated discussion about how they believe the election could be won or lost at any time and that every piece of policy and reporting thereof is crucial to the outcome. But it’s absolutely clear that as the Newpoll figures show, the moment John Howard assumed the leadership in 1995, it was all over, and that nothing either side did made any difference.

    The best you could argue is, that both sides needed to keep up the effort to maintain an equilibrium, but that’s really about it.

    So as for this 20% figure, I’d really like to see the research that went into determining that claim, because I suspect, it’s about as valid as the other claims made above by Shanahan, O’Shannessy and Lebovic.

    I think those in the political industry talk to one another so much, that they start to believe everything they say is correct, without qualification.

  20. Aristotle says: “…those in the political industry talk to one another so much, that they start to believe everything they say is correct, without qualification”. True enough, I suppose, but does the political industry also embrace online contributors to blogs on politics? If it does, I find Aristotle (like his namesake) very persuasive.

  21. The 20% talk is just crap. 20% of swinging voters maybe, but realistically there are probably about 35% stalwart ALP supporters (even Latham got that much ffs) and about 35% stalwart Coalition voters, leaving 30% truly ‘swinging’ voters. Take 20% of those and you have about 6% of overall voters that make up their minds on the day. That’s more a figure I’d believe.

  22. I *am* a Mexican, and I don’t think for a moment Labor is going to win Goldstein, although our excellent candidate is working very hard to do so. Like Wentworth, Goldstein (previously Balaclava) is a federation seat which has never elected a Labor member in 106 years, and unlike Wentworth, it has not just had Darlinghurst added to it. It will be a cool to mild day in Hell before the good burghers of Brighton start voting Labor.

    As I said earlier, I think Rudd is campaigning in seats like this to keep the Libs off balance and to encourage them to waste time and money on second-tier seats and thus divert time and money away from front-rank seats. But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Rudd has a secret poll showing a 20% swing among Brighton Beach millionaires. Ask Shane Warne, he lives there. And now we have Costello working for us, anything is possible.

  23. I’m happy to say Costello seems to be towing the line. I want Howard to face the music. If he loses it will be well deserved.

  24. I have seen Howard twice in three weeks here in Bennelong.
    Usually I don’t see him until the election is well and truly on.

    He looks very nervous. First time I have seen this.

  25. On ya Pete! Really smart move!

    Well the Libs have just seen their chance of re-election hit the cellar. It’s almost as if these idiots have a death wish.

    Despite the fact that this has probably made Costello the most despised member of the party, the only decent move he could make now would be to contain the damage and challenge the PM for the leadership.

  26. Saw Maxine Mckew at the theatre last night and she came across really well. Will be tough for her to win, but I hope she puts in a good show either way.

  27. The reason the preferences have moved in recent elections to the ALP is because the Democrats have imploded. About 45% of Democrats were small l liberals who found refuge in the Democrats from the non-liberal Liberals. They have now moved to other parties. At this election, of course depending on the size of the Green vote and Family First will most likely be 60-66% to the ALP. Howard really cannot win with a primary vote under 45%. I suspect it will end up around 42%.
    It’s not too late for Costello to take over from Howard but after these latest headlines it is surely unlikely that Liberal ministers will reward his disloyalty with the top job just before the election.
    The only way he would get it now would be if Howard was genuinely too sick to carry on.
    Malcolm Turnbull is in second place but if the swing remains he will be fighting to keep his own seat.
    This could be a very big disaster for the Coalition and I don’t see any way out of it now the Costello option has surely be closed off.

  28. Adam – the Government Gazette is focusing on the “Costello reaffirms support for Howard” angle coming from Costello’s denials, rather than the actual comments in the biography.

    They went to town on the Government today over the Haneef issue, though. I note that the more low-brow News Ltd papers went even harder over the issue, very very very poor press for the Government I would say.

  29. Possum,
    I agree with you on Lyne . Port Macquarie votes about 30% ALP – while there is massive housing growth – the owners are retired sea changers and are more likely to prefer high interest rates rather than low. Apart from the hippy commune of Elands, Labor does best in Taree but still only 40-45. The little communities are solid National. The ALP candidate is an unknown and the sitting member is the deputy PM. It will be the last seat to fall to Labor. The only excitement will be IF Rob Oakeshott stands as an independent – in that case Vaile has every chance of losing – I think the first deputy PM to lose his seat since Frank Forde in 1946 (?).

  30. The title of Deputy PM has only existed since 1968, and no Deputy PM has lost his seat – Beazley came close in 1996. Forde was Deputy Leader of the ALP, but mainly by dint of long service rather than because he was seen as the second man in the government.

  31. I find it fascinating that all of a sudden, out of the blue, the commentariat are carrying on about what most of us here have known for a long time – the Coalition is in deep doo doo up to their eyeballs.

    Honestly, these guys break news like my bicycle breaks the sound barrier.
    Possum Comitatus (9:15 am)

    LOL. Nice one.

  32. “mainly by dint of long service rather than because he was seen as the second man in the government”

    That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? Forde only narrowly lost the ballot to Curtin in 1935 (and would have won easily if Holloway hadn’t campaigned against him so strongly) so at that time he probably was seen as the #2 in the party. By 1945 he had obviously been eclipsed by Chifley in this regard, but was still one of the very senior ministers.

  33. Forde’s 1935 defeat was due to a division in the AWU group with Queenslander Bill Rioridan backing Curtin, an echo of the 1931 split. In 1945 Forde’s 16 votes for the leadership comapred to 45 for Chifley were a fair representative of his status. was his 1957 defeat (due to Katter Snr) the only 1 vote margin? Goldstein: Labor won the Legislative Council province.

  34. Aristotle said: I do agree, however, that some of the allocations in some of the polls, which can be as high as 75%, are overstated.

    Note particularly a recent Morgan, where the Dem to ALP flow was 100%. Why? because only 5 of the 1000 people polled were Democrat voters.

  35. Forde was a decent bloke but a plodder. In 1935 he was defeated by Curtin, a backbencher with a drinking problem, which doesn’t say much for his standing. He does however have the distinction of being the only Privy Councillor ever to sit in a state parliament.

    Goldstein: Yes Labor won Higinbotham but Higinbotham had much more Labor territory in it (Bentleigh and Mordialloc) than Goldstein does, and in any case state results are a poor indicator – otherwise Beazley would now be PM by a wide margin.

    I think I am going to have to offer a reward for a photo of the mysterious John ‘Wacka’ Williams, Nationals NSW Senate candidate. Also John Fitzroy (ALP Cowper) and James Langley (ALP Lyne). Oakeshott, this is your territory…

  36. “Forde was a decent bloke but a plodder. In 1935 he was defeated by Curtin, a backbencher with a drinking problem, which doesn’t say much for his standing.”

    That’s as may be, but he was still the #2 plodder 🙂 If Curtin vs Forde was a drunk vs a no-hoper then what was everyone else?

    Anyway he was only narrowly defeated by an organized campaign against him because of his support for the Premiers’ Plan – in which I imagine you would have said that he did the right thing!

  37. The 1935 Caucus was not exactly bristling with talent. I have no firm view on the merits of the Premiers Plan.

    I notice that the CLP candidate for Lingiari, a seat which is 36% indigenous, is Adam Giles. Is this the same Adam Giles who was the Liberal candidate for Fraser in 2004, when he was a Canberra public servant and MBA student?
    If so, it will be interesting to see how the CLP present him to NT indigenous communities, since although he is indigenous he comes from the Blue Mountains, and can only have moved to the NT in the last three years.

  38. Lingiari is Warren Snowden and I can tell you he wont lose. Very well known and respected. But then again I might be bias.

    We have Kevin Rudd here tomorrow with candidate Damien Hale [against Tollner – Solomon] so I will go down to the eveing markets and have a look. Wont take much to beat Tollner – he is a bit of a dolt and once bragged that he had his fingers all over WorkChoices.

  39. If we consider unofficial Deputy Prime Ministers before the official title was established, then in addition to Frank Forde in 1946 there is the case of Ted Theodore, defeated at the 1931 election.

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