Newspoll: SA Best 32, Liberal 29, Labor 27 in South Australia

Premier Nick Xenophon? Quite possibly, if the latest South Australian state voting intention poll is anything to go by.

Well, here’s something. The Australian has published a South Australian state Newspoll result aggregated from polling conducted from October through December, and it credits Nick Xenophon’s SA Best party with 32% of the primary vote – ahead of both the Liberals on 29%, and Labor on 27%. What’s more, Xenophon is streets ahead on a three-way preferred premier question at 46%, with Premier Jay Weatherill on 22% and long-suffering Liberal leader Steven Marshall on 19%. Weatherill’s personal ratings are 34% approval and 53% disapproval, while Marshall’s approval rating is a dangerous 27%, with disapproval of 50%. The poll has a sample of 800; with good reason, no two-party preferred figure is provided.

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.

89 comments on “Newspoll: SA Best 32, Liberal 29, Labor 27 in South Australia”

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  1. Hallelujah! I just wonder how much he gets in “donations” compared to the ALP in SA.

    How did Cory Bernardi poll? Given that the Australian Conservatives had a candidate in Bennelong.

  2. This is a telling capsule on public attitudes to politics these days. We don’t like you Mr Government and we think you an an ordinary babbling politician, Mr Opposition – but, hey, Mr Outsider you’ve done some great things on one or two big issues in other places and at other times, and we like you , and we much prefer you to these other two weary old blokes.

  3. In how many seats are SA Best running candidates?
    There has been 6 candidates announced with only another 14 to come according to a report I heard this morning. That is less than half of 47 seat House of Assembly.

  4. Interesting poll, and you’d have to be insane to calculate a 2PP here; indeed which 2PP would you actually calculate?

    This is bad news for both of the major parties, but its disastrous for the state Liberals. The trend continues of roughly every 3 votes gained by SA Best, 2 come from Liberal, and 1 from Labor. Labor would clearly have quite a strong lead over the Liberals in metro Adelaide based on these numbers.

    The most damning stat of all for the Liberals: At the 2014 state election their primary vote was 45% to Labor’s 36% (+9%) … in this poll its 29% to 27% (+2%).

    Considering Xenophon is not going to be standing candidates in every seat, and he is mainly targeting Liberal held seats, it would be a brave person to predict Stephen Marshall will be premier after the election. The most likely outcome is a Labor-Xenophon coalition of some kind.

  5. He has so far announced just six candidates in addition to himself, all running in Liberal held seats.

    One candidate, Rhys Adams, was sacked the day after the announcement after the ABC revealed his Facebook history included an image that appeared to make light of domestic violence.

    Mr Xenophon has suggested another raft of candidate announcements would be made this week.

    He said he intended to contest about 20 seats in the 47-seat House of Assembly.

  6. From the same article:

    The former senator has declared his intention to hold the balance of power in SA Parliament, but has ruled out accepting ministries or forming coalitions with a ruling Liberal or Labor government.”

    The poll result will also give the major parties pause for thought as they strategise whether to preference each other in a bid to block the new rival, or SA Best in an effort to win the third party’s support for a minority government in the event that neither major party can govern alone.


    Interesting times.

  7. A state-wide 2pp would be pretty worthless, you get more info from just looking at the primary votes, and if you want to do an election outcome prediction you have to do a seat-by-seat; best guess in the seats with a SAB candidate, more straightforward in the others.

  8. I think we can safely predict the major parties (that is, the established major parties) will decide to preference each other in an attempt to shut the interlopers out. Let’s face it, the only other option would be to stop taking their voters for granted and start listening to them, which would just be crazy.

  9. My Labor mates reckon Nick’s a Lib in sheep’s clothing and will rapidly go into decline any time now.

    My last remaining fanatical Liberal mate thinks Nick is a big-talking do-nothing shyster who is nearly as contemptible, if that is possible, as the ghastly Greens.

    Between these extremes sits the great mass of South Australian voters who are poised to make an interesting decision.

  10. @Sykesie – make no mistake, this is disastrous for Labor.

    On these numbers (and with some rough guesses), the percent of SAians voting for right wing policies is 64%, vs about 36% for left wing.

  11. Well I wonder if SA Best will be calling for candidates for additional seats after this poll. It could be a real shambles trying to sort out candidates with such a short time before elections.

    Nick Xenophon, John Darley MLC, and Ms Connie Bonaros (chief of staff to Stirling Griff) comprise the Management Committee of the incorporated association and seem to have the power.

    The only members of SA Best noted on website are Parliamentary Members (Nick Xenophon, Rebekha Sharkie, Stirling Griff, Skye Kakoschke-Moore) presumably add X’s replacement senator. Voting Members (Nick Xenophon, Stirling Griff, Connie Bonaros, Rebekha Sharkie, Skye Kakoschke-Moore) and Supporter Members (who don’t have any voting rights).

    Sounds like a thoroughly democratic show.

  12. Nick Xenophon might Macron his way into government in SA. Like Macron, he appears new and fresh, but in substance he is largely the same as what he would replace.

    I like his position on poker machines, though.

  13. It’s not surprising X gets more votes than Labor or Lib in SA. It’s a shame he has such a poor track record of picking candidates.
    Labor deserve to be tossed but the Libs can’t be trusted to run anything.

  14. I would have thought that after a quarter of a century of the inevitable march of the Greens Party Government that the Greens Party would form the next state government.

    Strike while the iron is white hot.

    That inevitable outcome apart, South Australia may be run by an anarchy which will make everyone from reactionaries to progressives mad as cut snakes.

  15. How did Cory Bernardi poll? Given that the Australian Conservatives had a candidate in Bennelong.

    Did not trouble the scorers – somewhere in amongst the 6% “Others” flotsam and jetsam.

  16. Intersting. Morale in the SA public service is very low among people I am in contact with and the Weatherall government is very vulnerable, but I agree the SA state Libs are unelectable with no obvious new leader apparent. So a high vote for Nick is not surprising. Presumably the Greens and Australian Conservatives share the last 12%. If Labor does lose office Ministers like Snelling have a lot to answer for. I can only hope the SDA faction goes with them, because they are surely part of the rot.

    Xenephon is definitely a conservative. On these figures he will soon attract candidates for the remaining seats. But the problem is will they be like the ones Hanson attracts – the desperate and deranged? On these numbers Xenephon will decimate the Libs and almost certainly hold the balance of power if he takes even 1 or 2 seats off Labor.

    Xenephon’s other problem is now he has to articulate a government program if he takes power, which becomes a real prospect. Will taxes go up or down? Will the public service be cut? Will services be privatised? Can he negotiate a better deal for SA finances with Canberra? In short, what is his plan if he is premier? He needs to say now, and dressing up as a carrot is not a plan.

  17. Voice Endeavour: It’s a bit of a reach to say that everyone voting for SA Best is voting for right wing policies. The majority of that vote would be “personality politics” where they’re voting for Mr X, not any particular policies at all. SA Best isn’t (yet) understood as a generally right wing party.

  18. Poor old Libs, they wait 20 years for a shot at power and Xenophon comes along. Don’t think SA Labor will be terribly upset about losing this one. Let X and the Libs immolate together.

  19. Yes Greens seem to be going backwards in SA compared to everywhere else. I guess Xenophon has stunted some of their growth, but even so I wouldn’t have thought there would be that much crossover between the two.

    Perhaps locals will have more of an idea, but from an outsiders perspective it seems SA Labor do pretty well on environmental issues so therefore they mitigate the threat much better that elsewhere.

  20. I doubt SA Best will field candidates in every seat – Nick isn’t silly enough to try and actually govern. He must know that one term of chaotic government by a team of political neophytes would destroy his brand permanently.

  21. CAF – You’re right, of course. But I still don’t get it. I sense Nick wants to be Premier. But then he will have to take responsibility for a complete rabble (his own party and the Libs). I don’t think he’s thought this through at all.
    I think you can be guaranteed that Labor won’t have a bar of him. They’ll let him destroy the libs instead.

  22. Max
    Weatherill and X are fairly green so the Greens don’t get much of a look in. Labor is fairly conservative economically and socially (almost indistinguishable from Libs actually but more competent) so a few vote Green on non environmental issues.

  23. Weatherill seems pretty popular among Greens and has a good record on progressive and environmental issues – at least, that’s the impression I get all the way up here in Queensland – so it doesn’t surprise me that the Greens arn’t doing real well in SA at the moment. I certainly have a lot of time for Weatherill.

    And I agree that Labor would probably be pretty content to cede government to the shambolic mess that a Liberal/SA Best coalition would almost certainly be. They’ve had a good innings, and likely never really expected to be reelected back in 2014. Winning another term – particular if they have to govern with SA Best – would probably result in NSW 2011/QLD 2012-style wipe-out come 2022, whereas they would be pretty well-placed to regain government on 2022 if the Libs and X take over the government benches next year.

  24. There’s not much doubt X would be most people’s preferred Premier but his party just doesn’t have the experience or background to be in charge of running any departments.

  25. Al Pal: Xenophon is not an “outsider”. It just happens that he has never been SA Premier… We will see whether the opinion polls say that SA voters want to give him a go, as we get closer to the election. Right now the tactic could be: Let’s scare the two biggies, see how they react and what policies they come up with.

  26. Wakefield: Darley’s split from Mr X and now has his own one-man party.

    The other thing helping X is that One Nation forgot to nominate as a party before the deadline.

    So far, the Libs have been denigrating X while Labor is holding fire.

  27. caf:

    I doubt SA Best will field candidates in every seat – Nick isn’t silly enough to try and actually govern. He must know that one term of chaotic government by a team of political neophytes would destroy his brand permanently.

    Yep, if he is smart, this would be his plan. Do well enough to win a good share of seats, put the fear of god into Labor and the Libs, and likely hold the BoP, without having to lead a government almost entirely comprised of freshmen MPs. After four years, with the MPs elected in 2018 all having been blooded, he’d be better placed for a genuine run for the premiership in 2022.

    I suppose time will tell if he actually is smart.

  28. Toorak T – Yes – I was just quoting from the SA Best Constitution on their website. No doubt Darley will be replaced but not clear by whom.

    And the SA Best website makes it clear that you can only join to be a supporting member. Closed shop.

  29. This poll is similar to, but more extreme than, a Galaxy in October. Here are the changes from that Galaxy:

    SAB 32 (+2) LIB 29 (-2) ALP 26 (-1).

    Better Premier: Xenophon 46 (+5) Weatherill 22 (-) Marshall 19 (-2)

  30. On these numbers X would easily control the upper house as well. No matter what he will have a big say in the policies of the next SA govt.

  31. I was surprised when Labor won the last state election, so I’ve never expected them to hang on at the coming election. I don’t know how tangible the ‘it’s time’ factor is, but if it does exist it must surely be taking effect in SA.
    The weird thing is that there have been some big wins in the energy space, but the Murdoch press is painting energy as the SA govts biggest weakness, so I don’t know where the public falls on that issue.

  32. SA Best is an existential threat to the SA Liberal Party`s status as a major party.

    A reasonably functional SA Best government (which cannot be assured in the even of an SA Best Government) would reduce the time spent in Government by the ALP in SA because it would have far reduced drag on its vote from Coalition Governments at Commonwealth level. It may also make a Commonwealth ALP government slightly harder by potentially slightly reducing the number of ALP seats from SA and also potentially costing the ALP Senate spots in SA (particularly if a Premier Xenophon decides to decide on half-Senate election dates that are advantageous to SA Best, i.e. not when House of Reps elections are).

  33. @Caf – it’s not a stretch at all.

    64% of SAians are indicating they will give their first preference to MPs who will pass right wing policies.

    Does it matter whether they’re voting for those MPs on policy grounds, for the personality of the politicians, or because of their own ignorance?

    It is still a bad result for Labor because these results would elect right wing MPs.

  34. VE
    Xenophon is rational populist first and centre right second.

    I like to have things shaken up. There are certainly malfunctioning sections in both the public and private sphere that neither major party are willing or able to confront. I just doubt Xenophon, as either premier or with the balance of power, is up to large scale reform. I doubt he has the resources or the nous to understand the problems (let alone fix them) and I am pretty certain he will not use his political capital on such things.

    He will use his power for his smaller pet policy areas. He will (at least appear to) challenge the Federal Gov on a range of local issues from water to electricity.

  35. There was a major redistribution in 2016 so many sitting members have to convince new groups to vote for them.

    Based on the latest polls we could see SA Best 20, ALP 15, Libs 12.

  36. Will this change the odds? Ladbrokes in the sidebar currently says:

    SA Best

  37. Richardson: Go home, SA politics – you’re drunk. Again.

    The major parties are refusing to rule out a preference deal to shut out Nick Xenophon in key seats as his polling numbers surge. A day of devastating revelations and awkward photo ops has set the stage for what looms as the most bizarre election in South Australian history. And, as Tom Richardson writes, it’s had some stiff competition.

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