Westpoll: Barnett Liberal landslide in WA

The West Australian, which has been gunning hard for the removal of Troy Buswell from the Liberal leadership for the past week, has published a “snap” Westpoll survey of 400 votes showing the Liberals would lead 57-43 on two-party preferred if Colin Barnett was leader. It also finds they would be in front even with Buswell at the helm, but only by 51-49. One normally likes to exercise caution in interpreting poll results, but I think it can be stated with confidence that the latter finding is definitely wrong. This means we can either dismiss the poll as rubbish and pay it no further mind, or take the view that the six-point difference says something enormously significant about the Liberal leadership even if it does come from a dud sample. Excitingly, the paper reports that the election “could be called as early as tomorrow”.

UPDATE: Click here for a timely trip down memory lane, back to a month before the 2005 election.

UPDATE 2: The following questions are not meant to indicate a conspiratorial mindset: they are merely questions that have sprung to my mind, as questions sometimes do.

• What do the dashes following “don’t know” indicate? That all but a statistically insignificant number of respondents did know, or that those who didn’t have been excluded from the calculation?

• Why would you lump “informal” together with “other”, rather than with “don’t know”?

• Given that this has been done, we can ascertain that the “others” vote is less than 4 per cent under Buswell, or less than 2 per cent under Barnett. This compares with 11.2 per cent at the 2005 election and between 8 per cent and 12 per cent in the past six Newspoll surveys. The Greens vote at least is in the ballpark of the 2005 election, down only from 7.6 per cent to 7 per cent (The West Australian rarely provides figures for the Greens, but on the four occasions it has done so in the previous year they have been between 8 per cent and 11 per cent). In the current political environment, would we really expect the combined major party vote to have shot from 81.2 per cent at the election to either 88 per cent (under Buswell) or 89 per cent (under Barnett)? The two Newspoll surveys this year have had it at 80 per cent and 76 per cent.

• Shouldn’t we expect the 7 per cent of respondents who would vote Coalition under Barnett but not Buswell to be largely parking their votes with minor parties or independents, rather than going straight for Labor?

UPDATE 3 (28/7/08): Robert Taylor in The West Australian:

Troy Buswell will not step side and Colin Barnett will not challenge for the Liberal leadership despite overwhelming evidence that the Cottesloe MP is the party’s best chance of defeating Alan Carpenter’s Labor Government at the coming election. Mr Barnett again made it clear yesteday that he was availbale to lead the Liberals despite having already announced his retirement at the next election. But Mr Buswell was adamant that no one had asked him to step down in favour of the former Opposition leader and he intended continuing in the role. And Mr Buswell received strong support from Liberal Party president Barry Court, who clutched a Bible as he said the chair-sniffing, bra-snapping Opposition Leader had shown strength to push through his problems and was beginning to have an impact on the Government in the polls.

UPDATE 4 (29/7/08): Peter Kennedy reports on ABC TV news that “Labor strategists have put a plan to the Premier” for an election on September 13 or September 20, thereby preventing the resumption of parliament in two weeks.

UPDATE 5 (4/8/08): Buswell quits.

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 “Westpoll: Barnett Liberal landslide in WA”

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  1. [ think I am going to have to go with: “What a load of toss!”]

    Agreed, unless Pattersons polled the entire Barnett Clan and his electoral staff and their families 🙂

  2. THE-PARIS-SITE, aha, you’ve hit the nail on the head i think, where else could you find 400 peple who think in one mind lol?

  3. 51-49 with buswell seems impossible to credit. Was this the same outfit that predicted the Libs would win 58-42 a month out from 2005??

    I don’t doubt that Barnett is a far better prospect- perhaps the best they’ve got. It’s worth remembering that despite being burderned with the canal fiasco, Barnett kept the swing to Labor down in 2005, in good economic times, and when every other state labor government was winning mega-landslides.

  4. If ever you needed evidence to dismiss Westpoll this is it. They are going to end up with egg all over their faces. What a joke.

  5. Something does not add up for the Premier is the perferred Premier regardless of who the Liberal leader is.

    While on paper the WA Government would appear the most at risk of falling I don’t see the Liberals winning, remembering the WA economy is still in great shape and is there any real reason to throw the Government out of office.

  6. good lord – anyone seen the headline of today’s West Australian…?

    “Barnett could lead Liberals to Landslide” or something similar. Just how removed from reality is this ‘newspaper’ going to get?

  7. Dunno whether it’s a joke. Afterall, Rudd’s miserable government (and his former opposition) had such bloated margins before.

  8. I wonder if things would change much if Stokes gets on the WAN board? He won’t give up and he has increased his stake. Without WAN in their corner would the WA division of the careerists have a sniff of anything at all?

  9. THe funny thing is it was the West who were touting for Buswell in the first place after Omodei imploded and that now that their “saviour”, is nothing like a potty mouthed school kid, they want blood.

    Oh and it was funny that the “West Magazine” was still running a feature article on Barnett’s “Successor” Deidre Willmont and is touting her as a future leader of the Libs.

    Suppose it was a bit too late to pulp the insert 🙂

  10. I think if our dear leader carps can possibly call an election tomorrow he would – the libs would start the campaign unsure who would lead them to the end, and assuming they stuck with sniffer they’d look like they only did so because they had no choice, ie they wanted to swap to Barnett but ran out of time….

    An election call tomorrow would be the definitive disaster for them, unless Barnett comes out tonight and shuts the door….

  11. 15 John – well put John. Fair dinkum, if I thought this result was possible I’d be saying so but anyone with any sense of what is going on would have to come to your conclusion.

  12. And here is Robert Taylor’s “Story”.

    [The WA Liberal Party would be better supported and have a better chance of winning the next State election if Colin Barnett was the leader, a snap Westpoll finds.

    The poll found the Cottesloe MP and former minister, who has announced he will retire at this election is a more popular choice than current State Liberal leader Troy Buswell against current Premier Alan Carpenter.

    Coupled with internal Liberal Party polling expected this weekend, the Westpoll will increase pressure on Mr Buswell to step aside for Mr Barnett on the eve of the election, which is expected to be held later this year but could be called as early as today.

    Under Mr Barnett, the Liberal Party registered a two-party preferred vote of 57 per cent compared with Labor’s 43 per cent, more than enough to deliver the conservatives a comfortable election victory.

    But Mr Buswell could take some comfort from the fact that with him as leader the Liberals still recorded a narrow 51-49 per cent win over Labor on a two-party preferred vote.

    Another big winner in the poll is the Nationals, who appear to have benefited from dissatisfaction with both major parties by jumping to a high of 7 per cent if the Liberals were led by Mr Buswell and 5 per cent if they swapped to Mr Barnett]

    But what they don’t tell you thast the Nats aren’t in a Coalition and will be running 3 cornered contests in most, if not all rural seats.


  13. And Graham Jacobs responds to Bill Hassell.

    [Doctor Jacobs declined to comment on whether the party would be better off with Mr Barnett as leader, but accused Mr Hassell of acting irresponsibly and inflaming the situation.

    He labelled Mr Hassell’s comments as total drivel, rot and rubbish.

    “I think the man has too much time on his hands and he needs to get a hobby, I mean I’ve got little time to respond to disgruntled, irrelevant old Liberals with no authority,” he said.]


  14. 19 Jasmine

    “the libs would start the campaign unsure who would lead them to the end”

    Well this would make a lot of sense. Remembering in Queensland the last minute dumping of Tim Quinn for [I actually can’t remember his name] actually won Beattie a few extra seats at a time when he was deeply unpopular.

    I expect Captain Bligh will get the same advantage from the emerging feud between Lawrence “We’ll merge even if the Liberals don’t want to” Springborg and Mal-contented Brough.

  15. [Jacobs really is a people person isn’t he.]

    He’s a Doctor, who aren’t known for their tact and empathy towards their patients 🙂

  16. Oh Dear, Troy only has 8 friends.

    [HE’S the Liberal leader with only eight political mates – well that’s the number of his MPs prepared to endorse Troy Buswellthis week.

    Of 22 Liberal MPs surveyed by The Sunday Times, just eight apostles were prepared to stand 100 per cent behind Mr Buswell.

    Twelve Liberals refused to comment when asked if they wanted Mr Buswell to lead them into the forthcoming state election.

    Not surprisingly, Rob Johnson and Anthony Fels said straight out that they did not support Mr Buswell.

    The duo said they would support Colin Barnett to take over as leader.

    With Mr Buswell’s personal ratings in polls slumping to record lows, Mr Barnett — who lost the 2005 election as leader — has been eyed as an 11th- hour saviour for the bedraggled and divided party.

    Mr Barnett has done nothing to dampen speculation or help Mr Buswell, saying the door for a return to the leadership was ajar.

    All this has happened with an election supposedly weeks away.

    Internal Liberal Party polling conducted this week could seal Mr Buswell’s fate as Liberal MPs know they can’t leave it any longer to make a switch.

    “If polling comes back and there is irrepairable damage that will be a telling factor,” a source said.
    It’s understood Liberal powerbrokers Peter Collier and Mathias Corman have continued to support Mr Buswell, but MPs in marginal seats were nervous that the Vasse MLA was going to steer them over a cliff.

    Liberal state director Ben Morton yesterday pledged support for Mr Buswell.

    He said Mr Buswell’s job was not in jeopardy, despite talk during the week about Mr Barnett.

    “There is absolutely no move (to get rid or Troy),” Mr Morton said.

    “I can’t see any crisis.

    “When the West Australian newspaper confirms (in its poll) after a week of activism that Troy Buswell can win the election, it perplexes me why there would be (talk of) a crisis meeting. There have not been (discussions about Troy stepping down.)” ]


  17. Barnett would surely only consider it if he had a chance of winning. Why would he do it just to minimise liberal losses? Is it likely he’d be allowed to tilt again for a third time, even if the Libs didn’t go backwards at the next election? There’s nothing in it for him to be a loser again. There would need to be a lot more polls like the westpoll to make him consider it seriously.

  18. Good questions Worst – what is in in for Barnett? If I were him I’d wait until all hope seemed lost – then ride in on my white charger. At that point anything short of total annihilation will seem like a triumph and I can reap the credit. Expectation management is perhaps the most important function of political leadership nowadays it seems – tragic, isn’t it.
    That said, Barnett has categorically stated he will not challenge for the leadership but might step up if approached. What do people think of someone who doesn’t have the bottle to take on a deeply unpopular leader if he won’t go voluntarily? I personally can see some good and bad on both sides – just wonder if a strong challenge from Barnett might lift his image…???
    You know, I seem to recall hearing Colin say once that the reason why he wasn’t boss was because Omodei was his numbers man!

  19. Early Poll tipped for September 20

    [PREMIER Alan Carpenter is considering a September 20 election to take full advantage of new leadership tensions in the Liberal Party.

    Senior Labor sources have told The Sunday Times that Mr Carpenter might call an election next month, after parliament resumes from its winter break.

    Mounting speculation that Colin Barnett fancies another crack as Liberal leader — in what would be the fourth leadership change in three years — has caused Labor to scramble its plans, which had been geared towards an October or November election.

    Sources said Labor did not want to give Mr Barnett months to stabilise the schizophrenic Liberals if he took charge.

    Also, Labor wanted to amplify the perception that the conservatives are a disorganised rabble who change leaders every 12 months. ]


  20. Well, here we go again. A poll result that doesn’t support our personal view so it must be rubbish. A poll of 400 (admittedly not a bit light on) is dismissed because . . . why? Recent polls (e.g Qld) have suggested that incumbent Labor Governments aren’t as secure as might be commonly believed. The other interesting aspect of the WA poll is that although the Libs are performing well, Buswell is not. This suggests that Australian voters are intelligent enough to know the difference between leader and party.

  21. Winston I’m thinking you wish this was true and why, because you support the Libs.
    It’s rubbish because it goes against commonsense, nothing more, nothing less.

  22. I’m not the greatest mathematician in the world, but hows this one work out:

    ALP: 41%
    Coalition: + 47%
    One Nation: + 1%
    Democrats: + 1%
    Greens: + 7%
    Other/Informal + 4%

    = 101%?!

    Sure some of these were probably partial percentages rounded up, but why the hell would you put a TOTAL number down the bottom if they don’t actually add up to 100%?

  23. “Well, here we go again. A poll result that doesn’t support our personal view so it must be rubbish.” This is a mature comment is it?
    “Recent polls (e.g Qld) have suggested that incumbent Labor Governments aren’t as secure as might be commonly believed.”
    Look at the Newspoll and even the Galaxy Poll have Labor well in front in QLD.
    “The other interesting aspect of the WA poll is that although the Libs are performing well.” In the poll maybe but they are a joke on the ground.

  24. Yes VPL, but remember Barnett’s already been there, so for him a “triumphant” not catastrophic loss doesn’t help him either. If it was his first challenge yes, but Barnett can only be in it for a win, not a good loss. A creditable loss will be a waste of time for him.

  25. I can understand a Lib supporter getting hot and sweety over these numbers but can anyone really believe WA voters would want Buswell as their premier, which this poll suggests could happen? Hardly.

  26. [I can understand a Lib supporter getting hot and sweety over these numbers but can anyone really believe WA voters would want Buswell as their premier, which this poll suggests could happen? Hardly.]

    Don’t you mean Clin “CAnal” Barnett over Buswell ? But I think I know where you’re coming from – this poll is an attempt to replace one clown with a person who lost the unlosable 2005 election because of a ill thought out and uncosted plan to build a canal, and then 2 days prior to the election couldn’t even see there was a big hole in the lib’s election costings. – that’s the the depth of the talent in the WA Libs.

  27. Hi can anyone proviode me with a link to the rules and procedures related to the Western Australia Upperhouse count…

    I have written a discussion paper on introducing a simplified Reiterative Proportional STV Count Link See Main Submisson Document also.

    Constructive feedback welcomed.

  28. Was this a “snap” poll or a Flashpoll?

    “The Flashpoll twice-monthly polling program has run uninterrupted for the last 18 years. It remains the most cost effective and reliable survey program for clients seeking answers for up to six or eight questions. Essentially an Omnibus program is a gathering of several relatively short surveys into one.”

    Why would The West use the term “snap”?

  29. WA has new rules for the Legislative Council to be used at this election. It has switched to using what is known as a Weighted Inclusive Gregory calculation based on determining surplus to quota preferences based on votes, not ballot papers. It is the first Australian administration to move in this way.

  30. I suspect not many of your correspondents are out on the street talking to people about what they’re thinking. I’m honest enough to say that the science of polling is not my field, and 400 is a very small sample (frequent criticism of westpoll). But if anyone thinks that Labor isn’t seriously on the nose in WA on the issues of energy supply, law and order, education and health and quite a few others, you aint listening brother. Anybody who sits on these sites and criticises other correspondents for political bias is a fool. We’re all political junkies, and that nearly always goes with a party preference. Anthony excused.

  31. All I’ve got to say to this is…. BAHAHAHAHA. The West Australian is the main political opposition to the Labor govt here, but this is weird even for them. Does this report even take into consideration the boundary changes, which give Labor an extra half a dozen seats just for turning up? I want an ounce of whatever they’ve been smoking…

  32. [Does this report even take into consideration the boundary changes, which give Labor an extra half a dozen seats just for turning up?]

    Plus the fact that the libs aren’t in coalition with the Nationals and will be facing 3 cornered contests in rural seats, thereby splitting the rural conservative vote.

    The West is just pissed off that their Golden Boy Troy turned out to be nothing more than a 40 plus “Schoolie” 🙂

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