Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor in NSW

Newspoll has released a survey of New South Wales state voting intention, showing Labor pulling ahead to a narrow two-party lead in March-April after the parties were locked together on 50-50 in January-March. However, the headline figure is Morris Iemma’s satisfaction rating of 28 per cent, which is the lowest recorded for a Premier of New South Wales since Newspoll began in 1985 (compare it with Brendan Nelson’s current rating of 38 per cent). This has transferred directly to his dissatisfaction rating, up from 52 per cent to 56 per cent. However, Iemma still retains a narrow lead over Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell as preferred premier, of 36 per cent to 33 per cent. The Coalition has maintained a lead on the primary vote, of 38 per cent of 35 per cent. The Greens account for most of the balance, being on 14 per cent compared with 9.0 per cent at the March 2007 election. This is the first poll conducted entirely after the Wollongong City Council scandal became known to the public.

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.

67 comments on “Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor in NSW”

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  1. Thomarse@1
    No – it’ll be if Rudd doesn’t turn up this weekend at the State ALP Conference. But I reckon there’s a deal brewing and it wont be for Nat Exec intervention (that’d lose them the next state election for sure and potentially cripple the party in the lead up to the next federal election as well). Watch for Costa announcing his impending retirement, and then a renewed rally round Iemma, perhaps some pre-election goodies (although gawd only knows where the money will come from), another cabinet reshuffle…or then maybe they’ll just try and shove it through without anybody’s help (and lose on the floor of parliament), or get Nat Exec help and then watch the state ALP fall apart as people desert the branches.


    but then the really interesting thing about the Newpoll is – where’s O’Farrell in all of this???? It really does start to look like the dumb and dumber…

  2. How does Newspoll factor in Optional Pref Voting? DO they just take the results from last time? It’s likely, given the dire state of the government, that even more Green preferences will exhaust in 2011, meaning a 38-35 primary lead might be enough to get the Coalition above 50-50 2PP. This still probably wouldn’t be enough for them to win- since their entire vote seems locked up in safe seats, although if the Greens adopted a formal no-preferences strategy in 2011 it could be interesting.

  3. MDM – yes, they do just take the results from last time (which is the least bad of the available methods), and yes, it could very well be that the general odium surrounding the government will transfer into a higher exhaustion rate among Greens voters.

  4. How many years to go now? Just long enough for the Libs to work out another way of losing. Let’s face it, if this is the best the Libs can do given the recent trials and tribulations they are in trouble. It doesn’t get any better than this for an opposition.

  5. Interesting.
    The Greens have gone from being the 4th party at the 2007 election, 9% cf Nationals 10.1%, to the 3rd party, 14% cf Nationals 3%.
    That’s a big change for both, one up one down.
    Can locals comment on this?

  6. Stewart J #2

    I suppose Barry O’Farrell might draw some comfort from the Newspoll primary vote for the Liberal party being 35 (at the 2007 election, the Liberal primary vote was 26.9). He may also be pleased that the ALP primary vote is down to 35 (compared to 39 at the last election). Since the so called Wollongong City Council scandal, the Liberal ‘brand’ has also been tarnished by factional ugliness in the NSW branch associated with matters like Jeff Egan and the Lindsay leaflet scandal, and the refusal of one branch in the Cook electorate to accept Scott Morrison’s application for membership. It is also a time when the ALP ‘brand’ is, generally speaking, looking very good and very relevant with its ‘coast to coast’ governments and an ALP Prime Minister who has a 71% approval rating.

    Perhaps some of the increase in the Liberal primary vote for this NSW Newspoll comes out of the Nationals’ likely primary vote, on the basis that interviewees for the Newspoll sample but particularly those who live in National-held electorates or marginal ALP electorates in regional NSW, think of the Liberals and the Nationals interchangeably (Newspoll: 3 for the Nationals, compared to an actual vote of 10.1 in last year’s election). I guess ALP insiders would be hoping that to be the case because if, in fact, the likely National vote is under-represented in the sample of 1,260 interviewees, then that must affect Newspoll’s 2PP estimate . Such a factor is, of course, in addition to the other peculiar factors of an OPV voting system (like the exhausting of Greens’ preferences, as discussed above), which seem to skew in the ALP’s favour, estimates of the 2PP vote.

    As to preferred premier, O’Farrell is at 36/33 with Iemma (a lead to Iemma but within the 3% margin of error), and (most importantly) much more competitive than Iemma/Debnam in the 22/23 March 2007 Newspoll, which was a (very sad) 58/24. The present Liberal leader is relatively unknown in the electorate and at this time in the electoral cycle (remember the next election is not until 26 March 2011), none of the low involvement voters are paying too much attention to the Opposition. I think these figures tell us more about the extent Morrie’s rating has fallen (but particularly with low involvement voters) since last year’s election.

  7. The statewide 2-party vote at the 2007 election was absolutely crap, as is any attempt to calculate a state 2PP from this opinion poll.

    In 72 of the 93 electorates at the 2007 election, the final contest was between Independents or Greens and one of the major parties. So a quarter of electorates were not 2PP contests. Which means a statewide 2PP is just a bit of bookkeeping, it is utterly irrelevant as a measure of statwide vote. Just like Queensland in 1998 when One Nation won 11 seats.

    The poll has the major parties on 73% primary vote and everyone else on 27%. The same figures in 2007 were 76% and 24%. On that level of minor party vote, you can bank on a third of seats not being non-2PP contests. Measures of 2PP are just mathematically irrelevant in that sort of situation.

    2PP voting models only make sense when most seats are 2PP contests. When the vote for the major parties decays, then preferential voting systems become wildly unstable in terms of who wins, because it will depend on the order that the candidates will finish 2nd and 3rd. It’s just as well its optional preferential voting or we’d be looking up Arrow’s imposibility theorem, which is the nonsense you get with compulsory preferential voting in multi-party systems.

  8. I really think this poll indicates “a pox on both your houses”. The opposition should be a mile in front at the moment whether people are engaged or not. Think of Rudd last year, from the time he became opposition leader the PPM and Labor’s vote climbed significantly and stayed there. We are a long way from that in this poll.

  9. The high Liberal vote and low National vote is irrelevant. Look at the combined Coalition primary vote. 38%. Only up 1% from 2007.

    Most of the shift in vote went to the Greens and Independents/Others. The Greens polling 14% two Newspolls in a row is remarkable. We’ve never done as well in Newspoll than in other polls, although I’d put more of the blame for the discrepancy with other polls than with Newspoll. Prior to the two 2008 polls, the Greens hadn’t cracked 8% since late 2005, after hovering around 8% for most of 04/05. I couldn’t find a single double-digit Newpoll result for the Greens.

    Considering Newspoll gave us 6% for all of March 2007 and we polled around 8-9% on election day, 14% is astounding.

    I can think of plenty of reasons, but still.

  10. Just to clarify a few things, in 2007 there were 72 Labor/Coalition contests, 11 Coalition/Independent contests, 6 Labor/Independent contests, 2 Labor/Green contests and 2 Liberal/Green contests.

    A rise in the Liberal vote in its own seats at the expense of Independents, and a loss of Labor primary vote to Greens and Independents in Labor seats might shift the election in favour of the Coalition with no change in the Coalition 2PP. Labor got less than 10% in five electorate that were Coalition/Ind contests, and the Libs got less than 10% primary in one ALP/Ind and one ALP/Grn contest. 2PP estimates in these sorts of seats just become irrelevant.

    The NSW Coalition has sufferred for years at the hands of Independents in its own seats. In 2007, the Libs won back two urban seats from Independents. The current crop of rural Independents might find it best not to associate too closely with Labor by 2011, which would work in the Coalition’s interest, even if it doesn’t deliver extra seats.

    If in 2011 it is Labor’s primary vote that suffers in its own seats at the hands of Independents and Greens, Labor has a problem. That was one of the reasons the Unsworth government was smashed in 1988, the collapse of Labor vote in the Hunter and Illwarra, and in a bunch of western Sydney seats, where the beneficiary was Independents, and sometimes on preferences, the Coalition.

    It ends up like trying to analyse a UK election. The UK has a 3 party system, 4-party in Wales and Scotland, but most seats are 2-party contests. Labor-Conservative in the urban south, Labor-Liberal in the urban north, Conservative-Liberal in the Shires, and generally Labor-Nationalist in Scotland and Wales. You have this multiplicity of party contests, each of which has a dynamic which does not match the nationwide 2-party contest.

    On polls like todays, that’s how i’ll be trying to analyse the 2011 NSW election. Break down the seats to contest type, not by trying to force them into some imaginary 2-party structure.

  11. If people think back to the days after the last state election, I think that none of the “too-close-to-call” seats were in Sydney, and only one (Port Stephens) was a straight Labor-Liberal contest. I can’t remember if Tweed or Murray-Darling was in that group, but all the rest involved independents. Says a lot about NSW politics now.

  12. GP@16: You have to admit GP it is pretty bizarre behaviour from a leader of an opposition..
    Personally, I couldn’t give a rats whether he did or didn’t, I wouldn’t vote for the conservatives anyway, but there are many female electors that will find this obscene or a little bizarre. As women make a large portion of the vote it’s their votes they should be worried about.
    I wonder how many females would want to be in room with this guy.?

  13. Generic Person

    It was an occupational health and safety issue. He lifted the chair above waist height and didn’t keep his back straight. This makes the man totally unelectable.

  14. Antony @ 12 – More power to the genuine independents at the next NSW election I say – whatever we might think of the individuals themselves, the hung parliament in the early 90’s when Moore, Hatton and McDonald had the balance was the most honest and transparent period of government I remember in NSW. There was no legislative steamrolling, there were inquiries on issues, there was attention focussed on proposals. We can only dream wistfully about that now.

    I take the point about how close some of the ‘independents’ might appear to be to Labor in some seats. Being thoroughly on the nose (unless there’s a miracle in the next 3 years), I guess Labor will attempt to put up tame independents preferencing Labor, but with optional preferential voting a lot of voters won’t go down the ticket and the coalition will benefit.

  15. I wonder if the TV stations will give the Liberals their money back for the barage of Troy Buswell ads they’ve been running lately. In politics timing is everything. Well almost. Despite or perhaps because of the scandal driven clean out of the WA parliamentary party, the Carpenter government has quite an effective ministry at present. The Libs seem to have no one to match the likes of McGinty, McTirenan or Logan.

  16. I agree sniffing is such a trivial issue but in this case he has a history and this as result solidifies him as having a problem with women. Is it possible for a snap poll?

  17. Snap poll yes, i would announce it in as soon as possible. Carpenter would win in a landslide, and he would deserve it. He is leading a visionary government unlike many of his other State counterparts who seem to be asleep.

  18. This is the wrong topic, but the details of WA election dates is at:

    Constitutionally, you cannot have a WA Legislative Council election until 21 June, so there won’t be a Legislative Assembly election before then either. They’ll still have to wait a bit longer, as if they hold an election, they can’t have the Parliament sit until after 31 August or they will only get a 3 year term and put the Assembly and Council out of step. The Olympics is mid-August, football finals in September, though WA teams don’t look likely to feature. September-October looks a more likely earliest date.

  19. This is all so fantastic. Buswell was a clown, but a good media performer that appealed the WAs stupidity and ignorance of reality. Now that hes lot any last shred of credibility has put a smile on my face. How on earth Lab can still be in front in NSW is mind boggling.

  20. Paul Lennon (30% in last EMRS) is not Australia’s least approved premier anymore! I predict many suicides in despair if this becomes known to the good folk at tasmaniantimes.

  21. C’mon, give Buswell a break, it’s not as though he ate his own earwax, people! Now THAT is truly disgusting! ๐Ÿ™‚

    In his television interview, Buswell looks like a dead man walking, uh standing …

  22. Maurice Iemma’s only redeeming feature is that he has resisted sniffing chairs or flicking Bra’s. Or maybe that hasn’t come out yet ?

  23. The poll is not flattering to either O’Farrell or Iemma. Basically, in a two horse race, 31% of people don’t like either choice.

  24. regarding Buswell’s behavior,
    I guess we will stand to see if WA will have a hot-chair-sniffing Premier.
    hahahhahhh That is, a hot-chair-sniffing Premier. ๐Ÿ™‚

    On the same note, John Poodle Howard must had had a hard time to resist the temptation to sniff his master Bush’s chair when Bush visit Australia last year.

  25. Buswell’s behaviour would have completely humilated the woman involved, since he did it infront of the whole office. This behaviour reduces women to sexual objects, for the titilation of men and nothing more, and is absolutely reprehensible in any situation.

    Not only does Buswell’s behaviour lose him any respect from women, it also loses him any respect from most men, too. It is ridiculous that such a person should have been elected the leader of a parliamentary party, since I’m sure we can assume his supporters knew about this behaviour, or even a local representative.


  26. I have only just caught up with the Buswell incident but WTF! I don’t think lightning strikes twice so after the bra/brain snap incident with the Labor staffer, it seems reasonable to conclude he is a misogynistic idiot. There go the votes of 51% of the electorate. Now John Day is calling on him to resign:

    On top of Andrew Robbs pathetic unregistered candidates smear and the fake anti-Islamic pamphlets in the past Federal election, the Liberals really have descended into a pathetic mob. I am starting to hope that a few of these people are reminded that they are not above the law. Because they seem to be breaking a few.

  27. Antony@9 & 12 is of course quite right. NSW is a state with a multitude of different 2pp contests, with potentially more in the pipeline. I would in fact expect more inner-Sydney seats to go to ALP-GRN 2pp contests than last time, but in the end my issue is that while O’Farrell does indeed have a wait until 2011 for an election, it will be held now in under 3 years, meaning he would want some good momentum going within the next 2. O’Farrell is still much of an unknown in the electorate, as are most of the Libs – prior to the last election they were far more visible in the lead-up years than they are now, in part because of Brogden, then his implosion, then Debnams rise, but also because some of their MP’s got out and worked the electorate (Peta Seaton comes to mind).

    Take the case of Coogee. At the last election the ALP got 39%, the Libs 35% and the Greens 21% – would seem a straightforward win, and the ALP did manage 57%:43% 2pp – but at the next election it will be much worse – especially if the Greens were to exhaust instead of directing to the ALP on their HTV’s. If the Libs wanted to pick up that seat they’d be working it hard starting from right now, especially in the lead up to the Council elections in September, but its just not happening. I know that Pearce (the ALP MP) is actually working his electorate as best he can, even though his preselection is by no means secure (the curse of being from the Left in NSW). But the Libs aren’t being seen.

    SO, while Iemma, Costa, Tripodi, Hay etc get themselves in hot water, they’re also the ones being seen on TV day-in, day-out, NOT Barry O’Farrell or the rest of the Libs. Iemma & co might be on the nose, but if they are seen as the only viable alternative they will still have a chance come March 2011.

    As for WA, I understand that the WA Libs have been spending up big on profiling Buswell that would appear to now be a complete waste of time and, more importantly, money. this would seem to imply Carpenter will have a bigger war chest (with or without Govt advertising budgets) than the Coalition.

    Now try this on for size (as suggested to me by a local) – what if the Libs and Nats decided to merge prior the election, and put up Brendon Grylls as Leader? An electable, moderate, competant person as leader of the LIB/Nats? Might cause everybody some problems!

  28. [Now try this on for size (as suggested to me by a local) – what if the Libs and Nats decided to merge prior the election, and put up Brendon Grylls as Leader? An electable, moderate, competant person as leader of the LIB/Nats? Might cause everybody some problems!]

    Will NEVER happen as the Nats have vowed NEVER to enter into a coalition ever again and are running candidates against the libs in rural seats, which makes Buswell’s own seat even more tenable prior to sniffgate.

  29. “Budget cuts threaten aged care bingo sessions”
    ABC at it again with more scary pensioners being done the dirty on by Rudd headines.
    Cor! when will they get over themselves and stop greiving Ratty’s loss?
    “Last month carers and pensioners were reeling for days when it was feared they would lose their annual payments, which likewise were not listed in the forward budget estimates.”

  30. Stewart J @ 40 is similarly ‘quite right’. Barry O’Farrell does need to lift his profile and show the public that he and his colleagues offer an alternative. This is fundamentally important because NSW needs competent, vital and forward thinking governance.

    Stewart J also makes an excellent point about a seat like Coogee, which fits in with the observations Antony made @ 12. As the Saturdays tick away between now and March 2011, the members of the NSW parliamentary Liberal Party and their National Party Coalition partners will need plenty of diligence, stamina and (particularly) campaign funds to wrest away seats like Coogee from the ALP. They owe it to themselves and (most importantly) to the people of NSW.

  31. I’m not sure Coogee is that important. It hasn’t been held by the Liberals since 1974, and in 1988 it was one of the seats that on the pendulum should have fallen to the Liberals but didn’t. Since then it has been merged with Waverley, which hadn’t been held by the Liberals since 1940. The election will be decided in the outer suburbs, and if the Liberals pick-up inner-city seats like Coogee and Drummoyne as well, it’s a bonus. I know there’s barely a property left in Coogee that’s under a million these days, but it has been that way for years and the Liberals have made little headway. As property prices have gone up in that seat, it seems Labor has lost votes to the Greens. In 2007, the Greens ran second to the Liberals in both Vaucluse and North Shore. Maybe Coogee is headed the same way.

    We might get a better idea on Coogee at the local government elections in September. It is in Waverley Council, where there was a three-way split in 2004, Liberal 34%, Labor 28%, Green 21%.

  32. Agreed Antony the Liberals need to pick up seats like Menai, Miranda and Camden. They can become the government without winning Coogee so, as you say, picking up that seat would be a ‘bonus’. I will look at the local council election results in September.

  33. There is still 3 years to go. A lot can happen in that time to both sides of the political fence. Too early to write either side off.

  34. I am hearing reports that Della Bosca thinks he has a chance to take over, after Iemma is rolled at conference this weekend. Heaven help us! Where does he think he can find an assembly seat that will elect him!
    I think Watkins is the only senior minister who is untarnished by the whiff of incompetence/ corruption and he of course can’t be premier unless he apostasises from the Left.

  35. Antony & David Charles

    My point is that if the Libs ever thought they could pick up the seat they would be on the ground campaigning. Just focussing on the edges (the most ‘marginal’ seats) may win them the election, but wont necessarily make Government comfortable. BTW, while Coogee hasn’t been Coalition held since 1974, it went down to 51.2% in 1988 & 51.6% in 1991. These are close, and it was Ernie Page’s personal vote that held it up. Back then the electorate was not $1m houses like it is now. The electorate has rapidly gentrified in the past 10 years, with the ALP’s vote sinking over that period. Page’s primary in 1999 was 49%, Pearce’s in 2003 was 44%, and 39% in 2007. Continual drops in primary can only threaten the ALP’s viable hold on the seat.

    But again, my point is that you would expect some Liberal campaigning in a seat that is slowly falling into their grasp – but they are not. Half the seat is now in the Randwick City Council area, and while the ALP can boast a healthy primary across Randwick, its vote in the north of the Council has been falling. I would also watch the Council results very closely in Sutherland Shire to see if the Libs pick up extra seats, but also further west to Penrith, Cambelltown, Camden.

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