ReachTEL: 50-50 in Western Australia

A new poll defies conventional wisdom in finding the Barnett government to be in something like a winning position in Western Australia.

Tomorrow’s West Australian has a ReachTEL poll showing the two parties at level pegging on two-party preferred, after the pollster’s two previous results both had Labor leading 52-48. All we have to go on at this stage is the front page image, which says Labor and Liberal are up slightly on the primary vote, but the bigger mover is the Nationals, who are up 2.4%. The implication seems to be that some air has gone out from One Nation, who were on 10.8% in the previous poll. More to follow.

UPDATE: After exclusion of the 5.5% undecided, the primary votes are Liberal 35.4% (down 0.6%), Nationals 8.4% (up 2.3%), Labor 35.0% (up 0.1%), Greens 6.0% (down 0.6%), One Nation 11.7% (down 0.1%), others 3.4% (down 1.1%). So I was wrong about One Nation being down – what actually happened is that undecided fell from 8.5% to 5.5%, and The West Australian’s report was citing raw numbers. Based on these figures, the two-party result of 50-50, which is based on respondent-allocated preferences, seems generous to Labor – giving the Liberals 75% of Nationals, 60% of One Nation, 20% of Greens and 50% of others preferences, they have a lead of 51.7-48.3 (51.2-48.8 in the previous poll). A lot depends here on the One Nation preference flow – reducing it to 50% cuts the lead to 50.5-49.5. A related complication here is that One Nation is only running in 35 out of 59 seats, but the option was available to all respondents. Another peculiarity to be noted is the low Greens vote, which has been on a downward descent in ReachTEL’s polling over the past year – something that hasn’t been reflected in Newspoll, which has had the party on 9% in its last two polls.

Other findings: Mark McGowan’s lead as preferred premier is 53.1-46.9, down from 55.7-44.3 last time, and the lowest it’s been in the five ReachTEL poll conducted for The West Australian over the past year. The Liberal-One Nation preference deal has 30.8% approval and 54.2% disapproval, and 43.2% say it has made them less likely to vote Liberal, versus 22.5% for more likely. One Nation respondents were asked what made them tick: 27.1% said they disliked the major parties, 2.6% that they liked the candidates, 23.4% that they liked the party’s “overall vision for WA”, 29.2% that they liked “anti-Muslim policies”, 7.3% that they liked anti-privatisation policies, and 10.4% for “other reason”. The poll was conducted Wednesday night from a sample of 1652.

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.

30 comments on “ReachTEL: 50-50 in Western Australia”

  1. We will see who has the better polling. In my experience Reachtel polls are have been coming rather well for LNP relative to Newspoll. Because state polling is infrequent it is hard to nail any bias down but Reachtel had surprisingly well results for NSW and WA for LNP.

  2. Gorkay King

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    There is approximately a 5.5% gap in the Labor primary vote comparing the 14/1 ReachTel (35 % according to William & Kevin Bonham after removing undecideds) and the 2/2 Newspoll (38% but 40.5% when you split the 5% undecided vote).

    There is also a fair margin in those polls in the Liberal primary vote after removing undecideds- but this time ReachTel (36.1%) showing a much better result for the Liberals than the Newspoll (32.5%).

    So yes, there is a big discrepancy between ReachTel and Newspoll.

    I also note that the National’s primary vote has increased from 5.5% on 14 January to 7.9% in tonight’s ReachTel. Can anyone comment on the historic probability of the Nats getting around 8% primary on polling day?

  3. Amendement to the above post:

    The 2/2 Newspoll undecideds were 5% so if you give 2% to Labor and 2% to Liberal, it gives a primary result of 40% Labor and 32% Liberal.

  4. Gorkay King: Queensland also, where ReachTEL had 53-47 to LNP compared to 51-49 to Labor in Galaxy off only very slightly better primaries.

    Charles: Normally the figures given by Newspoll (unlike ReachTEL recently) are after the redistribution of undecideds.

  5. With WA having the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and the mining boom money gone and little royalties collected, WA state financial management has been scandalously bad. Labor should be doing better than this.

  6. Ten seats has always been a steep hill to climb for Labor. I still don’t get the vibe that people are really tuned in….With the latest indication that the West’s readership has dropped by another 18% over the last twelve months, one wonders whether any sense of a ‘change’ being on is a bit of a mystery at the moment. There seems little doubt that Colin is on the nose and he looks tired and almost as if he did not care. Talk back radio gives some sense that ON is on the minds of some, but whether this translates to votes and how much of the preference leak back to either of the major parties makes this election a very difficult one to make any sense of………..or at least work out just what the figures really mean. If the swing is on in the northern suburbs then the LNP can pack their bags but hard to determine at this stage.

  7. WA is a very conservative place.

    The starry-eyed optimists raise your hopes and then reality strikes.

    Steve Smith saw the writing on the wall months ago. He was ridiculed but he was right.

  8. Kevin Bonham

    I got these details from Newspoll’s site.

    “Latest poll: Aug-Oct, 2016 | Sample size: 855 | Uncommitted: 5% | Refused: 1% | Error rate: 3.4%”

    I am a little confused though – the article in The Oz about this poll dated 2/2 links to the Newspoll article stating the poll was taken from Aug-Oct, 2016. That is a pretty old poll.

  9. From The West:

    Colin Barnett and the Liberals are back.

    An exclusive ReachTEL poll for The Weekend West has Labor and the Government back level pegging at 50-50 on a two-party preferred basis with three weeks to go to the State election.

    The result represents a 7.3 per cent swing to Labor compared with the 2013 election result, which would leave it two seats short of the 10 it needs to pinch from the Liberals to gain power.

    While Labor leader Mark McGowan leads Mr Barnett as preferred premier 53-47, this too has tightened from 56-44 a month ago and is well in from a 61-39 blowout in the popularity stakes a year ago.

    Both major parties’ primary votes improved slightly since last month but Labor’s 2PP result suffered from a 0.4 percentage point drop in Greens support while the Liberals benefited from a 2.4 point rise in the Nationals’ vote.

    The dwindling number of days to the election has brought a reduction in undecided voters, from 8.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent, and twice as many who are still on the fence are leaning towards the Liberals (42 per cent) than Labor (20.4 per cent).

    The drift to the Liberals could have been stronger but for a distaste among many voters for its preference deal with One Nation, which dominated the election campaign this week.

    Support for Pauline Hanson’s party nudged up from 10.8 per cent to 11.1 per cent, according to the Statewide poll of 1652 voters on Wednesday night. The dead heat 2PP result, in from 48-52 to Labor a month ago, will come as a significant morale boost to Mr Barnett’s troops, who were staring into the abyss a year ago when the Opposition opened up a a 12-point lead.

    This week, details of internal Liberal party polling reportedly showing a landslide victory to Mr McGowan was leaked to News Corp, interpreted by some as an attempt to shock latent supporters of the Government into action.

    Mr Barnett told a business audience this week the temptation to give Labor a go after 81/2 years of the Liberal-National alliance was the greatest single factor he had to overcome.

    The same day, Mr McGowan insisted Labor’s required number of seats represented “a mountain to climb”.

    Mr Barnett yesterday campaigned with former prime minister John Howard in Perth, before announcing $47 million for cycling infrastructure, including a path from Joondalup to the Perth CBD and $9.3 million for mountain bike trails.

    Mr McGowan announced a natural-birth centre and medi-hotel for Fiona Stanley Hospital.

  10. Is it correct to assume that the 2.4% swing to the Nationals in this ReachTel poll may not hurt Labor in terms of seats as that swing is in seats that Labor will never win anyway?

    Overall, I can’t see many positives in this poll.

    Here is a second article from The West on the ReachTel poll. I can’t find anywhere in either article where the Liberal primary vote is mentioned.

    “Labor’s primary vote, as recorded by ReachTEL on Wednesday, is 33.1 per cent — precisely what it was on March 9, 2013, when McGowan presided over its heaviest defeat in the postwar period.”

  11. Josh Jerga ‏@josh_jerga 10h10 hours ago

    Josh Jerga Retweeted GhostWhoVotes
    Both sides internals don’t reflect this.

    GhostWhoVotes @GhostWhoVotes
    #ReachTEL Poll WA State 2 Party Preferred: LIB 50 (+2) ALP 50 (-2) #wapol #auspol

  12. Josh Jerga ‏@josh_jerga 10h10 hours ago

    If ReachTEL has assumed strong flow of One Nation preferences to Libs; then that’s problematic

    Kevin Bonham

    @josh_jerga They are most likely using respondent-allocated preferences, which can be volatile from poll to poll. #ReachTEL

  13. Regarding ReachTel, this is bemusing:

    “The dwindling number of days to the election has brought a reduction in undecided voters, from 8.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent, and twice as many who are still on the fence are leaning towards the Liberals (42 per cent) than Labor (20.4 per cent).”

  14. A bit disappointing for Labor at this stage, but hardly definitive. Still very winnable.

    Having said that, I struggle to see how they get Labor to 50% 2pp. Giving Labor 80% of Greens preferences and 50% of all others only gets them to about 48%.

  15. Nationals promise to hurt Miners;
    Nationals +2.4 on previous election
    Greens -2.4 on previous election
    I doubt 75% of that 2.4% is going to Liberals on preferences.

  16. There is a bizarre amount of hand wringing here over Labor’s lost lead. People seem to forget you need aggregate the polls; not simply digest the latest and discard all others. I’d want to see more polls like this before I’m convinced the ALP is no longer favourite.

  17. David


    There is anecdotal evidence here and in other places that the Liberals are already trying to save the furniture, with little campaigning in some seats and intensive efforts in others.
    Collie, held by Labor but notionally liberal after a redistribution if I have it right, is one place that is flavour of the month and Albany, held by Labor against the tide at the last two elections, is getting a lot of attention.

    I agree with those who fear that 10 seats might be one or two too far for Labor. Will be happy to be proved wrong.

  18. I’m actively door knocking on the ground for Labor in Swan Hills (Ellenbrook and semi rural surrounds). The voters in this seat are waiting for Frank Alban (Lib incumbent) with cricket bats at the ready. The Liberals are going to loose this seat, and loose it badly.

    As with all things, the uniformity of the swing is going to be important. Jess Shaw needs 3.7% to win Swan Hills, and will get it easily if the swing in this seat is uniform.


    Most Liberal voters unchanged after deal with One Nation in WA, poll shows
    Survey indicates backlash against Liberal party following preference deal is highest among undecided voters
    Elle Hunt @mlle_elle
    Saturday 18 February 2017 13.50 AEDT

    A new poll suggests a small proportion of Liberal voters would be less likely to vote for the party because of its preference deal with One Nation in the coming Western Australia state election.

    The survey showed 18.6% of Liberal voters in Chisholm and 15.9% in Reid said they would be less likely to vote for the party because of its deal with One Nation, while the percentage of those who remained unchanged in the two electoral divisions respectively stood at 66.1% and 65.5%.

    Just over 51% of the total number of voters surveyed in both seats said their vote would be unchanged.

    The survey’s findings showed the backlash against the Liberal party was highest among undecided voters.

    The survey, conducted by ReachTEL for GetUp in two marginal federal Liberal seats, showed that about a third of all voters would reconsider voting for the Liberal party following last weekend’s deal.

    It showed 60.6% of those surveyed in Chisholm in Victoria and 55.8% in Reid in New South Wales were concerned by the Liberal party’s decision to preference One Nation in the WA election. And 33.8% and 30.5% respectively – the majority undecided voters – said it would make them less likely to vote for the Liberal party.

    ReachTEL surveyed 676 residents of Reid and 761 residents of Chisholm on Wednesday. Both seats have high proportions of people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

  20. Grimace, I, along with others hope you are right. A lot depends on whether any kind of “it’s time” message starts to bite and there is a swing on. The northern suburbs, by and large, are where it must work for Labor – or at least, there must be some kind of move against Barnett up that corridor for Labor to get them 10 pesky seats….In my electorate, the name of the Liberal candidate is well known – The Speaker – but the Labor candidate is currently not that visible…I hope this is not a re-run of the Carpenter election when Labor boys and girl working in the Labor machine thought it was just a walk in the park back then to just pop into a LA seat. It has been a long 8 years or so for Labor. Barnett does not deserve another term. His government looks as tired as he looks………

  21. @ Tricot

    Labor has to throw its resources at seats which are realistically winnable. Chasing seats where they have no hope is a waste of resources and detrimental to the overall effort to win the election.

  22. Grimace, hope your day goes/went well.
    Door knocking can be both the most dispiriting and uplifting task at the one time. I have no argument in putting resources into winnable seats or protecting vulnerable ones, but if you are unlucky enough to be a voter for Labor in a safe Liberal/National seat (or vice versa it must be said) one’s vote has little impact on the eventual outcome. As 80-90% of seats fall into this category it is easy to see why much of the electorate considers voting as not really catering for their needs. While various forms of proportional representation have something going for them, there seems little mood, at the moment, for any kind of sane process getting any air time at all. a colleague of mine, knowing they were going to be working in a country town, did not transfer their address (for election purposes) and voted in her “home” electorate – which was much more winnable for Labor, rather than ‘waste’ the vote as she put it, in being only one of three Labor voters in the town! In another instance, another colleague stood for Labor in a country town knowing full well that he had absolutely no chance, but on principle, he felt that he should at least offer an option to those who did not want to vote for the likely winner, a National.
    If one takes the ‘most resources to winnable seats’ scenario to its ultimate conclusion, nothing would be spent on any safe seat for the other side. While I know this goes on, I don’t think this is in the best interests of democracy in its broadest context………………..however, as the Labor side traditionally tends to have less money to throw at elections (by and large) there is good reason to put it to work where the chances are best. At the end of the day, Barnett will, if it so happens, lose office as much as Labor winning.

  23. More info from the ReachTEL poll headlining William’s post

    Undecided unimpressed by preference deal
    Daniel Emerson
    Saturday, February 18, 2017 4:09PM

    Colin Barnett’s deal to swap preferences with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has gone down like a lead balloon among undecided voters and the wider community, including one in five Liberal supporters.

    The first snapshot of the reasons West Australians plan to vote One Nation shows its anti-Muslim policies are top of the list.

    An exclusive ReachTEL poll of 1652 voters taken for The Weekend West on Wednesday night found 54.2 per cent disagreed with the Liberals’ decision to enter into a preference deal with One Nation, compared with 30.8 per cent who agreed and 15 per cent undecided.

    Labor and Greens voters were most strident in their disapproval, with more than 85 per cent opposed to the deal, while Liberal voters were 56.7 per cent in support and 21.7 per cent opposed.

    Asked whether the deal was more or less likely to make respondents vote for the Liberals, 43.2 per cent said less likely, 22.5 per cent were more likely and 34.3 per cent said it would not change their vote.

    Almost 9 per cent of undecided voters said they would be more likely to vote for the Liberals as a result of the deal, but 53 per cent said they would be less likely, with 37.8 per cent unchanged.

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