Essential Research: 51-49 to Labor in New South Wales

A small sample New South Wales poll adds to an overall picture of both major parties being so subdued on the primary vote as to make the final outcome anyone’s guess.

The Guardian reported yesterday on a poll of state voting intention in New South Wales from Essential Research, with a small sample of 544. The poll had the primary votes at 39% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor, 10% for the Greens and 8% for One Nation, with Labor recording a 51-49 lead on two-party preferred. However, the latter figure, however it was derived, would have to be regarded as highly speculative, given the wild cards of One Nation’s preference flows and the rate of exhausted votes under optional preferential voting.

I wouldn’t normally make a post out of a poll with such a small sample, but with an election five weeks away I’ll take what I can get. While I’m about it, I’ll take the opportunity to promote the Poll Bludger’s vast state election guide, to which a permanent link can be found on the sidebar. It features a poll trend measure to which the Essential result has just been added – to very little effect, since its results are very similar to what the trend was already been showing (and it was given a low weighting, reflecting the small sample).

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.

92 comments on “Essential Research: 51-49 to Labor in New South Wales”

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  1. Paul Kelly:

    “The Liberal Party is divided against itself and alienated from the political centre. This is a dual crisis and it runs deep. The truth is that recovery and reconstruction will take years. In the interim, Scott Morrison will govern as best he can, minimise the damage and hold out for a May federal election.

    …The Liberals have misread the times. They struggle to talk to their own voters because they are ­unsure of their core beliefs. They have lost the battle of ideas and are usually outplayed by Labor at tactical politics. There are two rival mythologies fashioned from within — the conservative and the progressive — and this split is worsen­ing despite Morrison’s best efforts.

    …The Liberals have been outsmarted in terms of power and ­influence. The institutional norms that helped them from big business to the Christian churches are manifestly weaker; the rise of progressive values has caught them short and divided; the feminisation of the workforce has assisted Labor and left the Liberals ­exposed; the pervasive influence of the universities and education sectors fuels prejudice against the Liberals; they are constantly trapped by the rise of climate change as a moral issue and they have remarkably little cultural influence”

    That’s kind of true but once again it misses the woods for the trees. The underlying issue for political parties remains economic. Households have been left behind in the new Australian growth story and that has made them angry:

    The Labor Party has done a better job of corralling this grievance into a “fairness” agenda while the Liberals have done nothing but make it worse while pretending otherwise.
    The Coalition will keep tossing dead cats on the table to avoid this fundamental weakness being exposed along with the feather duster they took to the banking RC findings. Labor is on the right track to win IF they cover these economic issues well.

  2. I’d still be surprised if Labor win the NSW election. The swing needs to be more than 6% before large numbers of LNP seats are at risk, with Coogee and East Hills being the only Sydney seats under that margin (although there are 4 NP seats in that less than 6% category. The Nationals should also win back a North Coast seat won by the Greens on coal seam gas issues last time, and would fancy their chances in getting Orange back from the Shooters and Fishers.

    I’m also not convinced that NSW Labor is ready to govern again yet. Federal Labor has got well-researched policies in a number of areas, but NSW Labor announcements like free TAFE and free travel for school kids seem more like marketing tools, and their transport policy of stopping planned tollroads and truncating the metro line at Sydenham, to be replaced by an “acceleration” of the western line metro which is already being built as quick as it can, is just absurd.

  3. Totally Agree Parramatta Moderate with every bit of your post!
    Labor policy on the Sydenham-Bankstown Metro metro is absolutely bonkers and ideologically driven!

    Parramatta Moderate @ #2 Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 – 6:58 am

    I’d still be surprised if Labor win the NSW election. The swing needs to be more than 6% before large numbers of LNP seats are at risk, with Coogee and East Hills being the only Sydney seats under that margin (although there are 4 NP seats in that less than 6% category. The Nationals should also win back a North Coast seat won by the Greens on coal seam gas issues last time, and would fancy their chances in getting Orange back from the Shooters and Fishers.

    I’m also not convinced that NSW Labor is ready to govern again yet. Federal Labor has got well-researched policies in a number of areas, but NSW Labor announcements like free TAFE and free travel for school kids seem more like marketing tools, and their transport policy of stopping planned tollroads and truncating the metro line at Sydenham, to be replaced by an “acceleration” of the western line metro which is already being built as quick as it can, is just absurd.

  4. starting point is 6 seats lost leaves a minority government…… 13 seats a alp majority
    cross benches 3 gr ind Greenwich’s ind piper ind mcgirr shooters 1. 4 of those cross benches will support labor …. 3 unknown
    I think up to 25 seats the last being Bathurst are competitive….. now the bulk here are 6% plus….. this does not mean they will all change but some will

  5. A good example is Barwon….. has not had a serious campaign for more than 10 years…. includes alp voting Broken Hill which is 25% of the seat… water issues apply in this area… there is a court case in progress at the moment re water diversion issues, sitting mp retires who was old style nat and had a personal vote which is lost to the nationals…. there is a shooters party candidate and an anyone but nationals movt….. in theory 13% is a big margin but….. I would say the seat is very much in play and I suspect the nationals will lose…. but to whom?
    I do not expect Balina to shift back to the nats.. but could be a all win from the greens

  6. Given the popularity (lack therefore) of the Federal Coalition and especially the Liberal Party. I believe the results of the NSW state election are going to shock many commentators.

  7. I’m betting the LNP wins the NSW election. from a distance, they seem reasonably competent and more moderate than their federal colleagues. Getting rid of Foley has probably helped Labor’s chances and the NSW Greens will get smashed – which should also help Labor – will Daley be seen as a safe pair of hands and will people vent frustration with federal libs at the polls? perhaps, but a 6% swing is hard to see. You can bet Morrison and Abbott will not get invited to many functions and indies will do well in some blue ribbon seats. if the libs win, watch Morrison take credit for it – even if the swing against them is 4-5% and they hang on. he’ll act as though this means they can win federally. He can afford 0% swing against him, and he’s going to get more than that

  8. This perhaps reinforces the bonkersness of the last Ispos poll: Does anyone really believe that NSW Labor are as strong on 2PP as Fed Labor?

  9. Behind the scenes, the NSW LNP has the same kind of hard right members as the Federal version, and they have just the same collusion with vested interests as their Federal mates. But they have played the politics much better than the Feds, they know they need to strike a moderate pose on climate change, environmental issues, same sex marriage, etc. Plus the NSW economy until recently has been doing well, Gladys comes across as moderate and harmless (but also as ineffectual I think), while Labor in NSW still has the stench of the Obeid years clinging to it. If Labor does do well in NSW, it will be the poisoning of the LNP brand by the Turnbull dumping, and maybe voter frustration with the endless highrise construction and ever-worsening congestion which does it.

  10. Parramatta Moderate

    I understand what you say about ready to govern. I think the Coalition won somewhat unexpectedly in Victoria in 2010 with a late swing and it didn’t really help them in the long run. They ended up doing policy on the run, the result being lots of “plans” without much to show for it. Whereas when Labor won in 2014 they already had lots of ‘shovel-ready’ plans and so four years later they did have a lot physically to show for it.

    There was an expression for these sort of TPP results like 51-49 off very low primaries for the majors – I think they were called “fool’s gold” – it’s really anyone’s guess how any preferences would flow at the election. I struggle to see how Labor could get a majority, but note that the bookmakers still have them favourite to form government, which would presumably more likely be in minority.

  11. If Labor is getting a swing of 5-6% then several seats above %6 margins will be falling. If ALP reaches 52-48 they will most likely win with a majority. OPV can boost the swings at the election.

    Seems like media is reporting NSW Coalition is facing minority government despite Labor retaining a slim lead. A lot of commenters here are also unable to believe Labor can win because of Obedeid etc from 8+ years ago. The fact is people move on and the average person doesn’t give a shit about it and %95 couldn’t tell you who Obedeid is. Both media reporters and commentators are political junkies compared to voters and tend to think they can guess what is important to people but in fact they are in their own bubble.

    That’s why Labor is campaigning on health/education/jobs with policies of Free TAFE, nurse to patient ratios, new hospitals and local job requirement for projects.

    I see that Labor is wisely following Victorian Labor with solar rebates and investment in renewable energy. Again a good cost of living measure that will play well across the Greater Sydney.

    I’m quite optimistic about Labor’s chances.

  12. The Obeid focus is a sample of what people might think.

    The interested voter may think who will take the state forward better. In considering that they may be reminded that at the helm of the ALP are those who were in government 2007-2011 such as Daley. They may think that government made lost of promises too.

  13. One to watch is Hawkesbury. Usually very safe seat where the Libs have done an heroic job of trashing their brand. Demolish a much loved historic bridge in the middle of town. Draw lines on maps for future motorways through the stables of the horsey set. Local member dumps them because its too far to travel to Macquarie Street. And the replacement candidate – a woman, go figure – has the locals reminded of her early career as a Penthouse Pet in some tacky juvenile factional payback. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

  14. The Libs will lose seats but perhaps not govt.
    There is a disconnect with voters who see $Bn’s in stadium infrastructure, badly implemented light rail and nothing on govt school refurbishment or renewal.
    In the western suburbs we have kids sitting in classes on 40+ degrees days with no air con but it’s ok to tear down a still viable football stadium and gift millions to the SCG trust but eff all for scholls or govt services……….FMD
    When the election is called I will hold my nose and preference the ALP but I still have little faith they will be any better.

  15. “Cormann’s family holiday” I wonder how many times this agency was used for travel bookings by Cormann?
    One day people will wake to fact the Liberals use the Machiavellian dirty tricks handbook!.
    Win at all costs and in any way!.

  16. One way of comparing the relative position of Federal and State Governments is to look at by-election results.

    There have seven NSW state by-elections since Gladys became premier. There have been three federal by-elections in NSW in the same period.
    The 2PP (coalition vs Labor) swing in the federal by-elections were:
    New England +7.21 to Nats
    Bennelong +4.84% to ALP
    Wentworth +7.00% to ALP

    Four of the NSW by-elections were contested by Labor and Coalition.
    The 2PP (coalition vs Labor) swing in these by-elections were:
    Gosford +12.3 to ALP
    Cootamundra +10.0 to ALP
    Murray +15.3 to ALP
    Wagga Wagga +13.0 to ALP

    The primary vote swing for the seven state by-elections were:
    Gosford (Lib -11.9%, ALP +10.9%)
    Cootamundra (Nat -19.6%, ALP -2.0%)
    Murray (Nat -14.8%, ALP +4.3%)
    Wagga Wagga (Lib -28.3%, ALP -4.4%)
    Blacktown (ALP +17.7%)
    North Shore (Lib -15.3%)
    Manly (Lib -24.2%)

    The Liberal primary vote swing in Wentworth was -19.2%

  17. Gorks

    I think things two terms ago are too far away for the avergae voter. In Victoria in 1999 the Liberals were still running against Labor’s last term 1988-1992 but after two terms in office most people recognise you need to have something to show for your own time in office (hint hint Morrison!). So I think the ghosts of Labor past are likely to be brought up by the Coalition and the media to little effect.

    Watson Watch

    They are big swings even for by-elections. And coming after an electon in 2015 where Labor did OK. As Gorks and others have noted, OPV can do serious damage to parties that people don’t necessarily hate, but that they just don’t like very much. So SFF on ON voters who don’t fully preference down to the Libs/Nats in regional seats can make a big difference.

    It’s a bit like what some say about non-compulsory voting – it amplifies the “not in love with this government” effect. Whereas there are countless examples in Australia of unloved governments being returned (probably one time too many to their ultimate detriment) because of compulsory voting and compulsory preferences. (Victoria 1979 & 1988, Australia 1980, NSW 2007 – though I didn’t realise there was already OPV then)

  18. Labor winning a majority seems fanciful to me, their lack of comprehensive policies like at federal level will do them over. It’s one thing to cancel toll roads but I’m still waiting for the announcement of replacement public transport projects. The state Libs even managed to run rings around Labor on energy, heaven forbid, by reallocating the solar rebate money to batteries. If Gladys wasn’t in the middle of a war on young people then she’d be home and hosed as leader of the next minority government, barring Labor doing exceptionally well in the bush over independents and minor parties.

  19. Optional Preferential Voting was introduced to NSW prior to the 1978 election. It was made part of the State Constitution so a referendum is required to remove OPV.

  20. 2011 was a labor wipe out like 1932 once in 50 year result .. 2pp was something like
    lnp 66% alp 34 …. in 2015 it was something like lnp 55 alp 45………… what labor won back were their Newcastle seats….. most on the Central coast except Terrigal which is liberal under most circumstances and seats like Campbelltown and Granville which they should never have lost…. very few country seats Port Stephens and Maitland which were Near Newcastle any way…………. most seats which are traditional marginal … like Monaro Penrith Parramatta stayed with the libs……………. the pattern of the swing left lots of marginal seats esp round the 6 to 8% margin……….. There are very few of the alp members in the 2007 parliament still there except I think 4 to 5 in the upper house and Michael Daley so labour has renewed

  21. Gladys makes a deer in headlights look calm. Dunno where they can hide her between now and polling day. Whereas Daly looks composed and comfortable with himself. ALP will definitely be there when the whips are cracking.

  22. Labor still bookies favourite to have a Premier – 1.90 to 1.95 (slightly down compared to last week)

    I am glad this election is on – it is agonising waiting for the Federal one. I am very hopeful that Labour forms government in NSW just as Morrison is trying out his new role as “sugar daddy” handing out goodies in his April budget. It will be particularly amusing if they are handing out things which were especially aimed at shoring up the NSW State Coalition government (with a few well-timed leaks during the NSW campaign).

  23. Major parties on low primary votes
    Very small difference in TPP
    OPV with likely high rate of exhaustion

    It all points to a hung parliament (I don’t say that often).

  24. Major parties on low primary votes
    Very small difference in TPP
    OPV with likely high rate of exhaustion

    It all points to a hung parliament (I don’t say that often).

  25. Historically in NSW electoral surprises fall Labor’s way. Labor more generally have a better track record on minority government or when things get tight (Carr started with a 1 seat majority). If polling continues to put them narrowly ahead I agree with the bookies, they are a better than even chance.

    Currently Ladbrokes have it at ALP $1.70 L-NP $2.25. Seems about right to me.

  26. One thing about NSW that outsiders might not realise is that the demographics of the State mean that it’s more likely than not to give the ALP a majority. Newcastle, Wollongong, and South-West Sydney tend to vote Labor no matter what, which provides the ALP with a base of about 30 seats – compare the debacles of 2011 in NSW and 2012 in Queensland: Labor’s vote share in NSW was appreciably worse, but they won three times as many seats,

    What this means is, outside of landslide results (eg 2011, 1988, 1932), Labor enters any NSW election in a winnable position, which is one reason why, since 1941 (78 years) Labor has been in office for 52 years. What we saw in 2015 was a reversion to the mean, away from the aberration of 2011.

    So, Labor is definitely in with a bit shot of taking government, even if, by any objective measure, they probably don’t deserve it.

  27. Hugo@12.20pm……………. The liberal government is very accident prone & Gladys is a poor campaigner……… look at her recent intervention in Orange……….. you can have a $25m stadium if and only if you vote National……… this ensures Orange stays with the shooters party. Labor has learned from their mistakes post 2007……. the politicans now there for Labor are mainly not those whom were there in 2011 except for I think Michael Daley and a handful in the upper house. Never ever again will the Eddie and Joe Show play out

  28. Thanks, William.
    ReachTEL 50%L/NP-50%ALP
    ReachTEL 49%-51%
    Newspoll 48%-52%
    Newspoll 50%-50%
    Essential 49%-51%

    Overall conclusion from the latest opinion polls since September 2018: The contest is very close, but the Liberals should be far more worried than Labor…. and the Coalition Federal Government is only adding fuel to the NSW Liberals bushfire….

  29. Alpo

    Interesting – also at least there have been polls! We were starved for polls in the Victorian election, then I think we got four in the last three days of the campaign.

    Once this week of Federal Parliament is up I expect to see more ‘campaigning’ in NSW. I wonder how many Liberals will invite Morrison or Abbott to join them on the stump, or Nationals inviting McCormack or Joyce?

  30. Another seat with the first real contest in decades is Coffs Harbour, where independent Sally Townley (a well-known Coffs city councillor) may run the Nats close after Andrew Fraser’s retirement. New Nat candidate Gurmesh Singh seems ok, so they may get away with it, but Nats have made some big local policy blunders in 2018, and got a lot of people off side, including usual Nats voters.

  31. jp this is my point about the nationals if all went bad for them they may lose lots of seats and not just the marginal one’s to labour……. to shooters and various independents as well

  32. Palaly – that is back to what it was a few weeks ago. Hugoaugogo makes the point about the electoral geography suiting Labor – in Victoria for many years it was the opposite with lots of Liberal seats on ‘comfortable’ margins in the east and south-east of Melbourne whereas Labor’s seats in the west and north-west were on enormous margins, a bit like the opposite problem the Liberals have in SA.

    So although I still think Labor is heading for minority government I am starting to think that a majority is possible, with a bit of ‘reversion to the mean’ in many seats on top of a Nationals collapse in the regions.

  33. Yesterday I heard a few minutes of Latham with Jones, the latter super agreeing with everything Latham said.

    I haven’t heard much of the shock jocks raving about the NSW election. Would it be true to say they are promoting people like Latham, the SFF and similar rather than the Liberals and Nationals?

  34. shellbell

    You need to look on the bright side. I have heard that Alan Jones is thinking of retiring. If Latham is in the upper house he can’t take over Jones’ radio show. So I figure you’ll hear less of him as an MP in Parliament with occasional interviews on 2GB than the alternative, which would be Latham on Sydney radio for hours every day!

    Fortunately in Melbourne we are beyond the 2GB transmitter’s reach, and I don’t think any of the stations here have Alan Jones on syndicated relay!

  35. shellbell

    I forgot about eight year terms – there should be a market on him remaining in One Nation that long!

    But again – eight years that he almost certainly won’t have a radio or tv show!

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