The Advertiser today brings us a poll of South Australian state voting intention which has the Liberals leading 53-47 on two-party preferred, remembering that they were unable to win the 2010 election with 51.6% (although the redistribution would have strengthened their position slightly). The primary votes are 33% for Labor, 45% for Liberal, 7% for the Greens and 3% for Family First. The poll was conducted on Wednesday from a very modest sample of 481, with a margin of error of about 4.5%. We are also told Labor leads 51-49 in Adelaide and trails 62-38 in the country, from samples which push the error margin well into the red. Both sets of numbers suggest swings of about 2.5%, enough to win the Liberals Bright, Hartley, Ashford, Elder and Mitchell which would still leave them a seat short of a majority in a house of 47 members, assuming the re-election of the three independents.
The poll also features personal ratings, which provide good-fair-poor splits rather than the more familiar approve-disapprove. These find Isobel Redmond’s position substantially deteriorating since the last such poll nine months ago, whereas Jay Weatherill continues to perform well. Weatherill, who was new to the job when the last poll was conducted and accordingly had a high undecided rating, is up six points on good to 25%, seven on fair to 51% and eight on poor to 33%, whereas Redmond is down nine on good to 13%, up three on fair to 47%, and up 12 on poor to 33%. (Note: The puzzling 76% and 60% approval ratings I read into The Advertiser’s report in the first version of this post turned out to be combined good and fair ratings).
The poll also asked respondents to nominate their preferred Liberal leader, and mischievously threw Alexander Downer into the mix. Downer was in the lead with 29% support against 26% for Redmond, 13% for Redmond’s most likely challenger Martin Hamilton-Smith, 3% for Iain Evans (like Hamilton-Smith an ousted former leader), 3% for Steven Marshall and 2% for Vickie Chapman. On the question of best economic plan for South Australia, the parties are effectively tied with Labor on 38% and Liberal on 37%.
For those wondering why the Liberal leadership question was asked in the way that it was, some background is in order. Isobel Redmond assumed the leadership in July 2009, at which time Labor had a two-party lead in Newspoll of 56-44. As noted, she went on to win the two-party vote at the 2010 election 51.6-48.4, without winning the seats needed to secure a majority. Along the way, she recorded a net approval rating of 38% (58% approval and 20% disapproval) in the Newspoll of January-February 2010, along with a statistically identical result in the poll conducted immediately before the election of March 24. The only Opposition Leader to do better from Newspoll figures going back 26 years, federally or in any mainland state, was Carmen Lawrence in the first poll after her government lost office in Western Australia in 1993.
Redmond’s net approval rating has narrowed appreciably over each of the four Newspoll results published during the government’s current term, while still remaining positive in the January-March result at 43% approval and 34% disapproval (for some reason, state Newspoll results for the second quarter of this year never eventuated).
The 18% lead she enjoyed over Mike Rann as preferred Premier had turned into a slight deficit by the last poll before Rann’s departure, and the two polls on Jay Weatherill’s watch have had him leading by 17% and 19%.
Redmond was widely seen to have erred when she declined to dodge questions as to whether it had been suggested she should fill Mary Jo Fisher’s vacancy in the Senate, instead saying she had been approached by a friend within the party, and that the suggestion had been considered but dismissed.
Redmond’s predecessor as leader, Martin Hamilton-Smith, has been suitably evasive when asked about his ambitions. Greg Kelton in The Advertiser says that only he appears to come close to having the level of support necessary out of the current parliamentary line-up, with Steven Marshall, Dan van Holst Pellekaan or Peter Treloar possibly emerging as cleanskin candidates if the party decides to make a change nearer the election.
Hamilton-Smith being seen as a less-than-inspiring alternative, there has been discussion of a Campbell Newman option, which is where Alexander Downer comes in. Greg Kelton of The Advertiser reported earlier this month that Liberal sources had suggested Downer was interested, although his lobbying business partner Ian Smith said he was not sure state politics would tickle his fancy. Smith himself has been the subject of an approach from federal Mayo MP Jamie Briggs to run for parliament, although Briggs denies this was made with a view to him taking the leadership, and Smith declared himself uninterested in any case.