Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor

The debut reading for Clive Palmer’s party in a national Newspoll result is 5%. Two-party preferred status: it’s complicated.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll records both parties down on the primary vote, the Coalition by one to 38% and Labor by two to 37%, making room for the debut appearance of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party on 5%. The Greens and One Nation are both unchanged, at 9% and 4% respectively. The two-party preferred headline moves a point in favour of the Coalition, from 52-48 to 51-49 – a lot more on that shortly.

Movements on personal ratings are slightly to Bill Shorten’s favour – he is up two on approval to 39% and steady on disapproval at 51%, and his 45-37 deficit on preferred prime minister is an improvement on his 46-35 in the last poll. Scott Morrison is steady on approval at 45% and up two on disapproval to 46%. Respondents were also asked which leader they most trusted to keep their campaign promises, with Morrison very slightly favoured over Shorten by 41% to 38%. The poll was conducted from Friday to Sunday, with Thursday dropped from the usual field work period because of the public holiday, from a larger than usual sample of 2136, the norm being around 1700.

Beyond that, there is a good deal to unpack. This is the first time a result for the United Australia Party has been published, but the tables in The Australian today reveal the party was on 3% in the poll a fortnight ago, and 2% in the poll the week before that. As Peter Brent discusses in Inside Story, pollsters have an important decision to make in deciding whether to include a minor party in the primary question, or saving it for those who choose “other” out of an initial list – a decision that will have a bearing on their result. I assume the publication of the UAP result in the latest poll marks its elevation from the second tier to the first, but the publication of the earlier results may suggest otherwise.

Then there’s the two-party preferred, which raised eyebrows as the primary votes are of a kind that would normally be associated with 52-48. The answer, it turns out, is that a preference split of 60-40 in favour of the Coalition is being applied to the UAP vote. The rationale is explained in an accompanying piece by David Briggs, managing director of YouGov Galaxy, which conducts Newspoll. First, Briggs confirms this is also what it has been doing with One Nation preferences since the start of last year, earlier statements having been less exact. Of the decision to extend this to Palmer:

With the UAP there is no historical trend data we can refer to in order to estimate the likely preference flow to the major parties. We do know, however, that in the 2013 election 53.67 per cent of the Palmer United Party vote was ­directed to Coalition candidates. That was without a preference deal, but in the forthcoming federal election the Liberal Party will swap preferences with the UAP and this can only result in an even higher proportion of UAP votes being directed to the Coalition.

In point of fact though, the Palmer United Party’s approach to preferences in 2013 was to put Labor last in every seat (as best as I can tell — its how-to-vote cards are preserved here). I don’t believe this arose from a deal as such, and it didn’t seem to attract any publicity at that time. However, the fact remains that every Palmer United voter who followed the card ended up in the Coalition’s two-party preferred tally, which is no different from the situation at the election to come.

Briggs also points to the party breakdowns from the aforementioned question on leader most trusted to deliver on campaign promises, which found Morrison to be favoured 53-13 among UAP voters – a significant lead, even accounting for the fact that there would only have been around 100 UAP voters out of the poll sample.

The Newspoll preference split may well be vindicated in time, but for now it’s merely a hypothesis. The dynamics of Palmer’s preferences could actually prove rather complex, if the Western Australian election of 2017 is any guide. The Liberals cut a deal with One Nation in that campaign, and they indeed got a bigger cut of their preferences, from the roughly 50-50 split of the 2016 election (out of the 15 lower house seats the party contested) to 60.6%.

However, this may have had less to do with how-to-vote cards than the backlash One Nation suffered as a result of the deal, which the polls of the time indicated had cost them as much as a third of their existing support – presumably among the kind of voter most likely to preference Labor. Since the Liberals were tainted by the deal as well, nobody doubts that it backfired on them, despite its “success” in delivering a higher share of preferences from a diminished One Nation.

As Labor prepares a rhetorical onslaught against Scott Morrison over the Clive Palmer deal, we may well be about to see a similar dynamic play out federally. However, this too is merely a hypothesis. The bottom line is that extrapolating two-party preferred from primary votes right now unavoidably involves an uncomfortable amount of guess work. For better or worse though, the BludgerTrack poll aggregate will continue to be guided by previous election results in allocating preferences – and, notably, the addition of the Newspoll numbers has made almost no difference to it.

The table below compares the results from Newspoll model with two alternative approaches that might have been taken. The results are imprecise in that they rely on the rounded primary votes published by Newspoll, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that the Newspoll method gives Labor 51.4%, suggesting the headline figure was likely rounded in their favour. The next two columns along, under “Past election: A”, apply UAP preferences using Palmer United’s 53.7-46.3 split from 2013, and One Nation’s using the almost 50-50 split from 2016. The last two columns, “Past election: B”, are how it would go if the UAP was treated as just another component of “others”, and thus given the almost 50-50 split such votes followed in 2016.

Newspoll method Past election: A Past election: B
Primary 38 37 38 37 38 37
Greens 1.6 7.4 1.6 7.4 1.6 7.4
UAP 3.0 2.0 2.7 2.3 2.5 2.5
One Nation 2.4 1.6 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0
Others 3.6 3.4 3.6 3.4 3.6 3.4
TOTAL 48.6 51.4 47.9 52.1 47.7 52.3

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.

1,496 comments on “Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor”

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  1. Is Greg Sheridan unwell? He looks physically wasted.

    Labor is killing them – this is the first Q&A I have seen in ages where the numbers are in their favour (and even sheridan is saying some of labor’s policies are good) and Mitch F is deadwood.

  2. sustainable future
    Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:34 pm
    Is Greg Sheridan unwell? He looks physically wasted.
    I’m not watching it but I’d guess that Sheridan has mentioned the U.S alliance a few times.

  3. Spence says:
    Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    JohnR – I thought those words were some PB satire?

    Thank you, yes. 🙂

  4. With the ABC “poll” 24% undecided – a lot of these are not undecided in the big frame. Some are undecided between Labor and Greens. Some are undecided between ON and Anning etc. Even “swinging” voters have often a pretty good idea who they will vote for months out. The media want to create interest in their product be creating or postulating uncertainty. They even seem to get into trying to even up the contest on occasions.

    Not to say the campaign isn’t important but it needs a bit of finesse to locate where people are thinking and shifting.

    Nath perhaps if you concentrate on paper drops and ties that will help the flow of debate.

  5. I reckon I hate Fifield just about the most of this mob. An IPA alumni. Of course. A handmaid to Costello World. Obviously. A cats paw for Rupert’s vison of wrecking the vision of NBN 1.0. Naturally.

    Now the IPA/Trope that Labor’s only plan is to tax its way to prosperity. Newsflash mate: Reversing tax rorts isn’t a new tax or a bigger tax. Moreover it’s popular with everybody other than the graspers who have been gorging themselves on the body public for two decades.

  6. These people put their mitts out for a tax refund having paid no tax

    Good description

    And the termination of such a rort will benefit who it will benefit and as described across Labor policy

    And great to see Julia honoured – from Unley High (so that School in the far corner paddock of the real school) to the incomparable The University of Adelaide (and the Student’s Bar with their “Green beer” – it was the second biggest beer pulling location in SA back in the day, so the generation before Julia’s I hasten to add!)

  7. Wow the Australian Story about the woman on the international fun-run against water
    shortages has to be THE MOST “Australian”story i have seen so far…

  8. Andrew_Earlwood says:
    Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Where the frack is Essential?

    They don’t normally come out until the wee hours.

  9. I seem to recall that Sheridan has been seriously ill recently? Not sure from where and don’t recall the details unfortunately

  10. I never watch these ‘debates” – like ?Socrates I watch the shadows on the cave wall to see how they went.

    The problems for Morrison are – 1. has no policy achievements as PM, partly because he shut down Parliament, and 2. he has no real policy vision. The more he talks the more obvious these two things become.

    A few days ago when he was whingeing about Shorten not wanting to debate, I was hoping Shorten would say “OK, I will agree but only if you agree to debate me every night on TV from now until election day”. Morrison would so quickly run out of material it would be farcical.

  11. Rocket Rocket
    Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:57 pm
    Amazing. I thought they had cloned Brian May!
    I know! It really was special, seeing how the songs developed. I would have loved for a longer treatment on ‘Who wants to live forever’, my favourite. But it was brilliant, and a great tribute to an amazing singer and band. Salut.

  12. One of the mysteries of election betting is the odds on Greens, ON, UAP etc forming govt or winning in most seats. You would think the companies would have 1000 or 2000 or more to 1 odds given there is no chance of a payout and more chance of suckers coming in. Failure to look after their interests well?

    One of the other mysteries of PB is that despite sometimes days of constant wishing and hoping for new polls from some Bludgers, it usually only takes a few minutes for the usual arguments to be resurrected. News sometimes seems to have a very short half life.

    On the other hand the frenetic commentary on political debates and sometimes Q&A and the likes is quite an adrenalin rush. With a little bit of adjustment of the compass for known bias the commentary is rather exciting – thanks for those who put in the effort.

  13. Re debates – whatever happened to the Worm?

    I did watch the 1993 one(s?) between Keating and Hewson, but I became so distracted with the Worm (audience members’ pooled responses on dials) that occasionally when the Worm ‘turned’ (up or down suddenly) I had to try and recall what had just been said and by whom. It was sort of reverse engineering policy on the run.

    I think the Worm’s ups and downs did help Labor sharpen their message in that election.

  14. Rocket Rocket – you got your first wish on left gains and no doubt govt in Spain – lets hope your second string of a related similar result in Australia follows.

  15. There was another initiative in some USA debates (can’t remember when). After the moderator asked a question, the typed question remained on the screen like subtitles while the candidate ‘answered’ it. It was amusing because those candidates who just love to ignore the question and go to the same old talking points were made to look (more) foolish with the unanswered question sitting under their face on TV.

  16. R R – suspect the worm was good till (some) audience members learned how to game it and be constantly on the strong + or – responses to maximise their input. The Q on the screen is certainly a winner.

  17. Spence

    I was very worried at the start of this year about Spain, and Vox in particular. That prophetic article from the Observer which was in The Guardian summed it up – the immigration and ‘nationalism’ bogeymen don’t sway too many voters.

    Here is a fascinating results map from El País, one of the main Madrid papers. It shows the leading party in each municiaplity, some of them tiny. The green Basque and yellow Catalan areas are obvious, but when you focus in even in the ‘blue’ conservative areas you find the cities are very different from the rural areas, even in conservative Galicia (above Portugal, where Franco came from – interesting to see that Ferrol where he was born has PSOE leading on 32%)

  18. Rocket – I think the applause from the watchers is more indicative than the worm.

    I’m very sceptical about audiences who ‘say’ they’re undecided.

  19. I watched the debate but wanted to think on it a while before commenting.

    While I admit pro Labor bias, I do think Shorten was more informative in terms of policy.

    And my big “beef” with the libs that came out in Morrison’s answer is that he seems to believe (like most conservatives) that our country is solely an economy.

    The social contract, which is half of the job of governing, is basically ignored by them. When there is no attention paid to the social contract, you lose sight of the reason for governing at all – the welfare of the society (and I don’t mean welfare in the cash handout sense).

    The welfare of the society is not just financial and the conservatives continually ignore their responsibility in this area in order to ‘save money’. This is why we currently have heartless policies that reward the rich and penalise the poor.

  20. One thing I would have liked Shorten to have pulled Morrison up on was his surplus claim.

    The Budget is not in surplus, it is forecast to be so in ’20/21, which is the same as Labor is projecting.

    No one is pulling him up on this lie, so if you asked the average punter they would probably think it was the case now.

    In reality it’s the same as Labor’s stupid continual projections under Gillard and Swan.

  21. Jen – the LNP and their “neo-liberal” friends in the English speaking world have been winning the battle of ideas for deregulation, small government and trickledown benefits of economic growth for most of the last 45 years. With better understanding of the inequalities and social impacts which follow, finally there is more fightback happening but there is a long way to go.

    It is really only the strength of democratic and socialist philosophies that build the spirit of ordinary people to create a better society. And avoid the dead ends of racism, nationalism, Trumpism etc that win by dividing people.

  22. The ‘debate’ reporting focuses on Shorten ‘winning’ the audience vote.

    Instead of any real analysis of the competing ideas and programs.

    It is the same in the media generally. After every election we hear the media say “Next time we will concentrate on the issues, and not get sucked into the vortices created by the parties around their leaders”. Then the next election comes around, and the media dutifully board the leaders’ buses, and follow them to all their pre-arranged photo-opportunities, and then breathlessly report back the lastest ‘soundbites’ as if they were The Gettysburg Address.

    I was daydreaming today that it would be nice if one of the papers just dedicated one or two pages per day to a series of issues, where the policies of the two parties competing for government were laid out, with some basic explantion for the readers, and also an opinion piece or two on the merits of each.

    And then I woke up.

  23. Well, as they say in West Side Story…

    “Put in your pipe and smoke that in”, ScoMo.

    Your game. Your rules. Your court. Your umpire. Your ball.

    You’re stuffed.

  24. How many people actually watched the debate? I suspect not many.

    All that most see is (very) edited “highlights”, and what is reported about it in the media.

    In other words, the media can strongly influence how the debate was perceived – and create or kill momentum for a party.

    So the question will not be whether Shorten “won” the debate, but how honestly it is portrayed.

  25. Confirmation of a tight race. Still hopeful for a Labor win but it’s obvious this isn’t a backlash line the 2013 election.

  26. It’s good to know people would prefer to go to the football with Scott though. Although I think I’d rather go with someone who will lend me $100.

  27. “hungry jack says:
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 4:46 am
    essential 51-49

    should be 54-46 really
    should be also alright”

    Well, either their is a conspiracy amongst pollsters, or it has tightened. I suspect the latter.

    However, perhaps to be expected.
    I think it will stretch out again a little as the campaign continues.

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