Advertiser poll: 53-47 to Liberal in South Australia

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.

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.

17 comments on “Advertiser poll: 53-47 to Liberal in South Australia”

  1. Have to say this is all pretty dopey.

    The Libs are in perpetual disarray. And I say this not from prejudice.

    A poll which asked valid questions about Olympic Dam fallout would be of some indicative use.

    I quite like the idea of Alexander Downer. Would provide a rather more festive atmosphere.

    With due respect to Mary Jo’s dancing effort.

    And what of Amanda. Why did she not get a look in? Funny, acerbic, irritating.

    Lack of imagination really.


  2. I don’t know why anyone would vote for the Liberals in SA, their leader could be a sunflower and no-one would notice. There is nothing here anyone particularly hates or resents unless it is electricity prices. Did they take the poll the week the Crows lost or something?

  3. [Daniel Wills ‏@DanWillsAdNow
    Early Lib feedback shows this poll is a Rorschach test. People are seeing different things depending on how they look at it. #saparli
    11:06 PM – 30 Aug 12]

    Check out his other tweets on this new poll too…

    Daniel is a Political Reporter for Adelaide Advertiser newspaper and AdelaideNow online.


    [ South Australian Liberals gain ground despite leadership turmoil
    State Editor Greg Kelton
    August 30, 2012 9:30PM

    See the full results of the poll in Friday’s Advertiser
    Mr Downer’s interest in taking the job has been previously dismissed
    Ms Redmond’s leadership has been the subject of intense speculation for a month]

    more in the article

  5. I don’t know what to think on this poll. On one hand, 53-47 is a decent lead and nobody would be complaining about that.

    On the other hand, I was expecting a huge lashout because of the Olympic Dam announcement. This is but a blip. Also, it’s clear that there is no hatred for the Weatherill govt. Thus, Labor could still turn the polls around and win an election from here (SA Labor are brilliant campaigners).

    It also backs up my belief that, despite the dissatisfaction that some may have with her performance, Redmond is the Liberals’ best chance for winning. However, whether they will be smart enough or not to stay with her is another thing and we all know what they’re like.

    As for any mention of Downer, the guy is old and is not exactly the most charismatic figure. Any traction he gets in a “preferred leader” poll is mostly name recognition.

  6. [I don’t know why anyone would vote for the Liberals in SA, their leader could be a sunflower and no-one would notice. There is nothing here anyone particularly hates or resents unless it is electricity prices. Did they take the poll the week the Crows lost or something?]

    Well you did mention a big issue – electricity prices. They are becoming extremely absurd here. While you and I know that electing the Libs won’t fix this (so far, they may develop an effective policy in the future) and it can be argued that the Libs’ tradition of infrastructure neglect and power privatisation can be attributed as a major cause of these hikes (not that Labor govts are blameless), the average voter, in an increasingly desperate financial position and getting worse news each time they open a power bill, may see any alternative as worth a shot.

    There is also the factor of the decade fatigue. Familiarity may be breeding contempt as the malaise of the Olsen years starts being forgotten.

    Either way, the biggest solace Labor can take from this poll is that this is clearly not a “baseball bat” situation.

  7. I just see this as a product of the whole media/ABC/Murdoch anti- Labor thing. While there’s no particular antipathy toward Jay there’s a general feeling that the Liberals will win next time & that’s that. Despite their internal problems. They seem to be a recipient of the general “Oh but that doesn’t matter if it’s the Libs doing it” malaise affecting the country.

  8. Personally I think Weatherall has performed well as the pols suggest. I also think Folley retiring was helpful too – his gaffes weren’t helping either.

    Still 53:47 is an election losing position, and I fear that Olympic Dam will start to hurt the economy and then Labor in six months time, when the jobs won’t be flowing through to replace the major projects starting to finish up. Cutting the rail electrification project short (of the newly constructed depot!) is crazy.

  9. Really crazy is selling the SA Lotteries Commission. A licence to make money.

    Not sure about the stae forests sale either.

    Not smart is having no railway station at the new RAH.

  10. I don’t share the despair that some on here feel. I think there’s still two whole years to go and, to me, those numbers aren’t exactly sparkling for the Libs. Yes, it’s an election winning position but it’s not a done deal. A lot can change. Yes, for better or worse, but you start thinking the government is terminal, it becomes terminal.

  11. 51% in the Metro Area is where have the issue and the Election is won and lost.
    They are not winning over the people in the seats they need to.

    They need a big swing and a reason for people to change. Many infrastructure projects will be coming on board by 2014 and Labor is MUCH better at campaigning in marginal seats.

  12. [They need a big swing and a reason for people to change. Many infrastructure projects will be coming on board by 2014 and Labor is MUCH better at campaigning in marginal seats.]
    The most critical project, rail electrification, has been cut short in a way that means it will only benefit southern suburbs. The others will make no difference economically outside the electorates they are built in. Southern expressway duplication is a waste of money. Seaford will be useful, super way less so.

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