Nielsen: 52-48 to Labor

Nielsen’s first poll since the election delivers a rude shock for the Abbott government, showing Labor with an election-winning lead and Bill Shorten travelling 20 points better on net approval than Tony Abbott.

The Abbott government’s mediocre post-election polling record takes a considerable turn for the worse today with the publication of the first Fairfax/Nielsen poll since the election, which is the Coalition’s worst result from Nielsen since the 2010 election campaign, or from any poll at all since the months immediately following. The poll has Labor with a two-party lead of 52-48, from primary votes of 41% for the Coalition, 37% for Labor, 11% for the Greens, 5% for “independents” (an unorthodox inclusion) and 6% for others. Bill Shorten scores remarkably strongly on his debut personal ratings, with approval at 51% and disapproval at 30%, while Tony Abbott manages a tepid 47% approval and 46% disapproval. However, Abbott holds a 49-41 lead as preferred prime minister.

Full tables including state breakdowns are available courtesy of GhostWhoVotes, and they offer at least some ammunition for those of a mind to be skeptical about the result. With due consideration to the fact that an element of wonkiness can be expected from small state-level samples, there are approximate two-party preferred swings to Labor of 2% in New South Wales, 4% in Victoria and 1.5% in South Australia, all of which are easy enough to believe. However, in both Queensland and Western Australia the swings are 11%, the former result coming less than two weeks after an 800-sample poll by Galaxy showed no swing at all. It’s tempting to infer that Nielsen struck Labor-heavy samples in these states, and that had it been otherwise the result would have been more like 50-50.

A more technical observation to be made about the result is that the two-party preferred figures are based on respondent-allocated preferences, whereas Nielsen’s topline numbers are usually based on preference flows from the previous election. This no doubt is because the Australian Electoral Commission still hasn’t published Coalition-versus-Labor two-party results from the 11 seats where other candidates made the final count (I’m told they are likely to do so later this week). However, I have one model for allocating preferences based on the information available from the election, which gets Labor’s two-party vote to 51.7%, and Kevin Bonham has two, which get it to 51.2% and 51.4%.

The Nielsen poll also probed into the hot topics of asylum seekers and abolition of the carbon and mining taxes. Only 42% expressed approval for the government’s handling of asylum seekers versus 50% disapproval – though as Psephos notes in comments, this fails to disentangle those who support their objectives from those who don’t (a ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday night asked whether the policies were working, and found only 28% thought they were compared with 49% who thought they weren’t). The results on the mining tax were evenly balanced, with 46% saying Labor should support its repeal in parliament versus 47% opposed. The carbon tax at least remains a winner for the government, with 57% saying Labor should vote for its abolition and 38% saying it should oppose it.

In other news, Christian Kerr of The Australian reports on Newspoll analysis of the effect on polling of households without landlines. This was determined through online polling between March and August of nearly 10,000 respondents who were also asked about the state of their household telecommunications. In households without landlines, Coalition support was found to be 1.4% lower, Labor 0.2% lower, the Greens 1.3% higher and “others” 0.2% higher. However, Newspoll’s online polling itself seemed to be skewed to Labor, who came in 4.7% higher than in Newspoll’s landline polling over the same period. This was mostly at the expense of others, which was 4.7% lower, while the Coalition was 0.6% higher and the Greens 1.0% lower. By way of comparison, the online polling of Essential Research over the same period compared with Newspoll’s phone polling as follows: Labor 2.1% higher, the Coalition 3.2% higher, Greens 2.8% lower and others 2.5% lower.

UPDATE: Channel Seven reports that long-awaited ReachTEL result has the Coalition leading 51-49, but unfortunately no further detail is provided. Results earlier released by Seven from the poll include the aforementioned finding that only 28% believe the government’s new policies to stop boat arrivals were working versus 49% who don’t; that 56% say the government should announce boat arrivals when they happenl that 53% think the Prime Minister should deliver the explanation for spying activities demanded by Indonesia, while 34% say he shouldn’t; and that 38% support Australia’s bugging activities with 39% opposed. The poll is an automated phone poll conducted on Thursday evening, presumably from a sample of about 3000.

UPDATE 2: And now Generic Leftist relates on Twitter that Peter Lewis of Essential Research relates on The Drum that tomorrow’s Essential poll will have Labor up a point on the primary vote to 36%, but with two-party preferred steady at 53-47 to the Coalition.

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.

1,048 comments on “Nielsen: 52-48 to Labor”

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  1. If we look at this government objectionably whilst it has attempted to deliver its core promises such as the repeal of the carbon tax but the number of things have happened

    -A number of large scale job loses
    -Audit of Commission expanded to include all areas of government
    -Increasing the debt ceiling has undermined the government’s claims on the budget emergency
    -Scott Morrison’s handling of the boat people issue
    -The ALP have been pretty unified
    -Voters have never really loved Tone
    -Turnbull’s haphazard handling of the NBN

  2. Are we still thinking we’ll have a DD election?

    What legislation would trigger it? In terms of the incoming Senate, the only likely bills relate to Abbott’s PPL, and I’m still not convinced that will ever see the light of day.

  3. It only took two sitting weeks of Parliament for Australian voters to realise what a shoddy bunch of carpetbaggers they just put on the government benches.

    But it’s not “buyer’s remorse”. It’s more of a gag reflex.

  4. And this is Nielsen we have here – one of the biggies.

    Now watch this poll buried in the Fairfax papers, ignored by the Murdoch press and put as item 15 by ABC.

    That a government could lose its shine so quickly must shake the conservatives to their bootstraps.

    There will be lots of the “we have lots of time to turn this around” stuff as Labor supporters used the same line.

    However, that bragging rights have move to back foot within just weeks must be very, very dismal for the Tories.

    And, no really nasty, impact-on-the-electorate decisions even made yet.

    I thought it would take until mid-2014 for the first of this kind of poll.

    I guess a DD is now really on the back burner now.

  5. @Bemused/@William/@Psephos

    Thanks 🙂

    @A1 Dente/48

    Certain someone said….

    “Economic Hansonism in my view is using simplistic slogans which sound superficially good but ultimately mean bad news for our economy, bad news for working Australians and their families”

  6. A few more polls like this and the Bolts of this world are going to really become unhinged over the “Abbott haters” and the Leftist agenda of Fairfax and the ABC.

    This will really feed their paranoia.

  7. [Can anyone tell me a DD can be called from the Opposition if they have no confidence in the Goverment?]

    No. The Senate can block supply, but that is a whole nother game.

    While relations between Abbott and SBY have been capturing all the attention, voters may also have noticed:

    Morrison has not managed to stop the boats, only to dodge any questions about them
    The labour market remains weak
    Household income growth remains notably weak
    Holden appears likely to bail out of auto-making here
    Sydney property is getting ever more unaffordable for First Home Buyers
    Hockey has given up all talk of balancing the books and is pushing to either raise the debt limit to a thwacking $500 bill or shut down the Federal Government

    In general the Government look like they have no idea what to do. Far from offering a new sense of stability, the Abbott mob appear erratic, extreme and unreliable. No wonder voters want their money back. We have a case of collective electoral buyers’ remorse.

  8. AA@50

    My comments about ST will be lost in the incredulity many have in this new poll.

    I still have my doubts that with this said ST we are seeing just some rolling attempt to throw log jams in here

    There is just too much variation in the style of the comments. Near illiterate on the one hand, to thought out and well expressed counter views.

    This poster is not just one person in my opinion and if I am wrong I am more than happy to withdraw this assertion.

  9. If i had to find one positive comment to make about this government all i can think of is it has indicated a commitment to small business and being committed to streamlining how government operates.

    At this stage they are motherland statements yet to be backed up wit real action.

  10. I’ve previously argued here that the ALP would be unwise to block things like the Carbon Tax repeal which the people pretty clearly voted for. But I do think, especially in the light of this poll, that the Opposition should be ruthless in blocking any nasties which the government tries to run up which weren’t mentioned at all during the election – especially if they try electoral “reform” stuff of the type now running in Queensland.

  11. [A few more polls like this and the Bolts of this world are going to really become unhinged over the “Abbott haters” and the Leftist agenda of Fairfax and the ABC.

    This will really feed their paranoia.]
    It’s only going to get worse because the Coalition is promising a heap of things they can’t deliver.

    Abbott is even on YouTube tonight telling people they will pay less for gas, but big gas exports means the domestic price is going to rise to the export price over time.

    Abbott and Greg Hunt keep attacking Labor for not actually reducing carbon emissions, but Abbott and Hunt have absolutely no plan to achieve the same.

    Abbott keeps saying that his government will stand by all its spending commitments, but just last week the secretary of Treasury said that most likely the next budget will feature even more revenue downgrades.

    Abbott is promising too much to too many people, something has to give.

  12. MB

    [At this stage they are motherland statements yet to be backed up wit real action.]

    Attention to small business means your local IGA Super Market being taken over by Coles or Woolworths.

  13. One sleeper in the current Indonesia crisis is the interplay between the PM’s office, the Foreign Minister and her office, and DFAT. I suspect that DFAT at the moment is groaning under the burden of the ill-considered decision to merge it with AusAID. It’s pretty clear that neither DFAT nor AusAID wanted the merger, and that it’s giving rise to a mountain of complexities. I suspect it will turn out to be one of those smart ideas, like IT outsourcing, which ultimately will get mugged by reality.

  14. RE Abbott and public opinion\______
    I have noticed a curious line emerging on some talk-back programs where there is a noticable feeling of anxiety and a tone of disappointment among conservative callers…who are starting to wonder if Abbott is up to the job…and of course a fierce anger against the”leftist media” for their critigues of their new boy
    It’s also evident on such right wing blogs as “Menzies House:” where it’s now possible to have a bit of innocent amusement by writing material about Abbott there… criticism that seems now to worry it’s mainstream conservative readers greatly

    Of course some community groups are growing worried about”cuts” too…like the reports of a stop on the increased payments to child-care workers which Labor set in train…a scandal really that people in charge of tiny kids are paid so poorly for their work

  15. SO

    [Abbott is promising too much to too many people, something has to give.]

    He’s ging to do a Rudd; over-promise and under-deliver.

  16. William Bowe @ 75: Those figures strike me as surprisingly good for Mr Shorten, given that he’s not really a known quantity for most voters. How do they compare with similar figures early in the lives of previous governments?

  17. What has been the shortest period that a Government has entered negative territory in the polls after being elected (or recalling parliament)? This must be close to a record…although we might need to wait for a few more polls before calling it.

  18. [It’s only going to get worse because the Coalition is promising a heap of things they can’t deliver.]

    You’d think they’d have learned from the Rudd years that grandiose promises need to be delivered upon.

    The lower household costs angle they’re running with is intriguing. Why trap yourself like that after seeing how Labor failed on that front so dismally?

    It’s like they haven’t transitioned to govt.

  19. Pedant, Kevin Bonham relates:

    [As Canberra Times journalist Ben Westcott noted on Twitter, it took Kim Beazley a year to get a 30% PPM Newspoll score, while Turnbull and Nelson (up against a rampantly popular Rudd) never did. At the equivalent point, Nelson was struggling to register single figures while Beazley was hovering around 20%. Abbott’s current lead (of 16 points) is the sort of lead that normally indicates a very close contest, and early in a new PM’s term is when a PM is most likely to register large leads on PPM. ]

  20. Brilliant opinion piece in the UK Guardian…. Money quote….

    Maybe Britain will have to go through the catharsis of being misgoverned by the sceptic, rogue right to rid itself of the real enemy within. Maybe Mr Miliband will have the political luck and judgment to forge a long-term governing coalition, embracing progressive business, which can succeed. What is certain is that in times that are distrustful of politicians, politics has rarely been more important – or the stakes higher.

  21. Abbott is doing serious damage to Australia’s international credibility and influence. Cutting foreign aid, thumbing nose at climate summit, backing the torturous Sri Lankan regime, tweaking Indonesia’s nose…

    These Pacific and Asian nations won’t forget and won’t quickly forgive. They will look to China, to India, to Japan and elsewhere for the big-ticket strategic partnerships of this century.

    We are a middle-power. We can deal at the big table only if we have the support and friendship of many nations.

    At the rate Abbott is costing us international friends, we’ll be left with only New Zealand and Antarctica on our team.

  22. Zoidlord @3 “to turn this around” you mean alot of tax bribes? That plus lots of lies and a couple of well-funded disinformation campaigns by their business and media allies. And they’ll need something to replace boats to get out the bogans to vote against their interests.

  23. If anyone finds our Foreign Minister, could you please keep keep her warm and feed her until her owners are ready to collect her?

    Love, Australia.

  24. I disagree, Bemused. The head-to-head rating is intrinsically advantageous for the incumbent – Abbott wasn’t the incumbent in the previous poll and he is now. As Kevin Bonham notes, a 15% lead for the incumbent usually means a close contest – so the effective parity Abbott had achieved in the pre-election poll suggested Labor were stuffed, and Abbott’s single-digit lead now suggests Labor should be ahead.

    Mortlock, at federal level at least we don’t have many precedents to play with. There have only been three changes of government since Newspoll started, for instance. But I don’t imagine there’s any post-war precedent for a federal government getting poll ratings this mediocre less than three months after coming to power. At state level though, the Gallop government in WA didn’t get a honeymoon after it came to power in 2001.

  25. I am cautious about this as being a clear indicator of Abbott’s demise – the government has no doubt being bumbling, but it is early days. Remember Howard, he came into power after an election that many people considered that ALP lost (rather than the LNP winning); he had a history of poor personal approval ratings; and arguably had a much more conservative outlook than the average Australia. He went on to become our second longest serving PM. I am hoping that history does not repeat itself – but I am cautious of being overly optimistic from a few bad polls this early on in the election cycle…

  26. Also, ELECTION NOW!!!

    Congrats to Labor and Mr Shorten for turning it around.

    I tend to agree, Election Now to settle it. If Coalition can’t get leglisation through and people aren’t happy with the spying issue, it’s best to settle it all with a new election. It really is the only way.

  27. This result has come before the promised cuts and all the broken promises have sunk into the electorate and I am sure that the vision of pigs noses in the trough will be there in three years time. They just cannot help themselves it’s in their DNA.
    This light on the hill, so early in the cycle brings some joy after the disappointments of the past few months.

  28. [Can anyone tell me a DD can be called from the Opposition if they have no confidence in the Goverment?]

    Yes, of course.

    If the Opposition becomes the government in a “No Confidence” vote, then they can immediately petition the GG for a DD election, if the trigger is there… even IF the trigger is the erstwhile government’s legislation.

    The Constitution doesn’t say anything about which side of politics has racked up the DD trigger, only that the legislation has to be blocked twice with 3 months in-between (and all the rest of the conditions).

    For example, if the numbers between Labor and the Coalition were closer, say five or six votes on the floor of the house, it could happen.

    Assume the Carbon Tax repeal was blocked twice, giving Abbott a bona fide DD trigger.

    Then let’s impose a deus ex machina – say a VIP plane crash with 10 Libs on board, coming back from a wedding in Queensland.

    Labor would have a temporary majority (until by-elections could be arranged).

    The new majority Labor leader could organize a parliamentary No Confidence motion in the Coalition government, request to be appointed Prime Minister, and petition the GG for a double dissolution based, ironically, on the Coalition’s blocked Carbon Tax legislation.

    There’s no need to present the Carbon Tax repeal laws again, of course. A DD doesn’t require that the legislation be put up again, just that it be blocked twice before a DD can be brought on.

    If Labor felt they could score a win in the House and an improved position in the Senate, they might just do it.

    And don’t laugh-off the idea of a plane crash taking out critical government numbers. It’s happened before.

  29. @Mortlock/90

    The problem with that assumption is that, you didn’t see a forum power attacking goverment (aka Abbott Goverment) after the election.

    On top of the following issues:

    * Increased Debt – hockey wanted $500 billion, Labor said no, you can have $400 billion, please explain for more.
    * Secrecy
    * Trans-Pacific Partnership
    * Loss and Delay of the NBN Policy
    * Bikie Laws in QLD.


    Plenty of reasons there 🙂

  30. Given that Abbott was nearly always behind his various Labor opponents over the last little while in relation to being preferred, yet still became PM much to the delight of his crowing supporters, suggests the lead that Abbott has over Shorten is meaningless in the extreme at the moment- especially as Shorten is being worked against the base left by Rudd.

    Whether such a poll means anything at all in the short to medium term I wonder.

    Closer to the election when people really do have to make a choice, then the love/hate the leader becomes more significant.

    It does mean that it does not matter how low Abbott sinks/flies high and the same for Shorten at the moment.

    However, it is interesting that previous new PMs tend to have a 12 month “I-voted-for-you-love-you” phase that Abbott is barely able to hang on to at the moment.

    Not sure what Abbott can do as nobody really loves him or respects him as has been his lot for some time.

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