Upper Hunter by-election and Resolve Strategic state poll

One poll finds Gladys Berejikilian’s government with a commanding lead, while another suggests a tight race for tomorrow’s Upper Hunter by-election.

Two items to relate from New South Wales: tomorrow’s by-election in Upper Hunter and the first results from Resolve Strategic’s new state polling series, which the Sydney Morning Herald sneaked out on Wednesday without me noticing.

To start with the former, the by-election was initiated after the resignation of Nationals member Michael Johnsen, whose demise you can read all about in my by-election guide. Naturally, this site will be all over the count tomorrow night and beyond — my live results facility is ready to go and can be viewed here (if the format looks screwy at first, try a hard refresh). As you can see, this will feature neat displays of vote totals, booth results and swings, projections and, in an exciting new-ish feature, a map-based display of booth results at the bottom of the page.

The by-election event is fraught with significance for a number of reasons:

• The Nationals retained the seat at the March 2019 election by a margin of 2.6%, well within the range of a typical mid-term by-election swing. However, the clear pattern of strong electoral performances for incumbents since the onset of COVID-19 suggests the hurdle will be quite a bit harder to clear than the margin applies. This is awkward for Labor leader Jodi McKay, who is struggling with weak poll ratings and poor name recognition (more on that below).

• The parliamentary majority of the Berejiklian government is on the line — or at least it was until last Thursday, when Gareth Ward’s move to the cross bench ensured the government’s minority status come what may tomorrow, at least for the time being. The Coalition cleared the hurdle by two seats at the March 2019 election, winning 48 out of 93 seats, but one of these was lost when John Sidoti, the Liberal member for Drummoyne, moved to the cross bench in March pending an ICAC inquiry into his property dealings.

• As noted, the government is down another number owing to sexual violence allegations against Gareth Ward, who holds the seat of Kiama for the Liberals on a margin of 12.0%. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Liberals are waiting on tomorrow’s result before “counselling” Ward about his future, the upshot of which may be another by-election.

• The Hunter region and its distinctive local economic and political concerns rose to the surface of national politics this week after the Morrison government announced it would bankroll a gas-fired power plant in Kurri Kurri as part of a $600 million play for the corresponding federal seat of Hunter, where Labor member Joel Fitzgibbon’s margin was sliced from 12.5% to 3.0% at the 2019 election, with One Nation securing 21.6% of the vote.

Monday’s Daily Telegraph had a YouGov poll of 400 respondents conducted last Tuesday to Thursday which, notwithstanding its small sample and wide error margin, pointed to a highly complicated contest arising from a field of 13 candidates. The primary vote numbers were Nationals 25% (34.0% at the 2019 election), Labor 23% (28.7%), Shooters Fishers and Farmers 16% (22.0%), One Nation 11% (did not contest), the Greens 6% (4.8%) and independent Kirsty O’Connell on 6%, despite the latter having received endorsement and $3000 in campaign funding from Malcolm Turnbull, who owns a farming property in the electorate. This panned out to a 51-49 lead for the Nationals over Labor on two-party preferred, although the primary vote numbers suggest it’s far from clear which two candidates will make the final count.

On to the Resolve Strategic poll in the Sydney Morning Herald, which had the Coalition on 44% of the primary vote (41.6% at the last election), Labor on 28% (33.3%), the Greens on 12% (9.6%), Shooters on 4% (3.5%), and independents and others 12% (12.0%). As with the federal polling from this series, no two-party preferred is provided, but it can be conservatively estimated that this would amount to a 4% swing to the Coalition, which won the election with a fairly handy break of 52.0-48.0. Gladys Berejiklian was credited with a commanding 57-17 lead over Jodi McKay as preferred premier.

The Sydney Morning Herald report says the poll was conducted from “1228 voters between mid-April and May”. I believe the deal here is that it combined responses from the surveys that have produced the pollster’s first two monthly results, which have been conducted mostly online, with a small cohort of phone polling add to the April survey.

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.

110 comments on “Upper Hunter by-election and Resolve Strategic state poll”

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  1. Green Machine
    In the end stage of a Nomenklatura only the incompetent are left in positions of power.

    C@t the “$600 M of pork” is in Kurri Kurri in the seat of Cessnock and a significant distance from the population centres of Upper Hunter. Whether this is a general signal on the future of fossil fuels is another story

  2. Jodi has spent her life as a media worker, of all the ALP leadership team you would think she could get some breakthrough OR maybe the media really is biased against Labor.

  3. “ For regular users of the main thread, KayJay’s family have advised he passed earlier today.”

    Oh fuck.

    I feel like all the leaves have fallen from my breast …

  4. Jodi’s a nice person and obviously one of honour too, as she stood up to Obeid and Tripodi all those years ago, but for whatever reason, she’s not cutting through in NSW! Yes, the media in Sydney is very probably totally biased towards Gladys(especially the Daily Tele and 2GB and commercial TV), but there have to be other reasons why NSW Labor seemingly can’t lay a glove on a scandal proven Premier and Government.
    If the result tonight isn’t good for Labor, the leadership has to be looked at.
    At the least, if you’re keeping McKay as leader, that shadow cabinet needs a shakeup, too many non-performers in there currently – Walt Secord, Yasmin Catley(who apparently is the deputy leader), Adam Serle, Greg Warren. Thankfully Penny Sharpe quit last week!

  5. Andrew Earlwood: no doubt you were fully supporting Michael Daley in 2019 and talking up his chances of winning, I’m sure you were!
    Yes, we know how that one went!

  6. Changing leaders would not be helpful for labor.

    This mysterious reason why nsw labor can’t take down a scandal plagued government. One word and a two digit number. Say it out loud.

    The Libs dropped to what, two seats in wa. Only came a few seats ahead of the greens in the act, went backwards in qld.

    In tas, the government was re-elected with the bare minimum majority and polling in nsw indicates a bad, but not terrible result for labor.

    Changing opposition leader won’t change COVID.

    As opposition, just sit back, make sure your party room remains too big to fit in a minibus and wait for COVID to blow over. Anything more is delusional.

    As for the naw coalition government being bad? Not in ways that matter to voters, particularly NSW ones. Scandals, rape, assaults etc don’t have a significant impact on a party. And Gladys has required people move to the cross bench which is a lot more than some other coalition governments.

    Environment? The coalition neutered that as an issue by actually having and implementing a decent plan.

    The fact that Sydney, where most voters live, is a hellhole and the only solution the Libs can come up with is another toll road? Doesn’t seem to matter because Sydney people refuse to admit, even to themselves, that an opera house and a bridge are not enough to make up for a city that is otherwise terrible.

  7. Fair warning Evan: I’m not in a good mood. Nothing to do within this byelection, or politics specifically really. I’m in a bit of shock over KayJay’s passing if truth be told.

    Yes. I though Daley would win. Terrible last week took away all the momentum and the combination of small swings away from all the main parties combined with a high exhaust rate (still at 2015 election levels) saw Labor tank. I thought we were still in with a shot of minority government early on Election Day, but the party’s tracking polls showed a strong exhaust vote in the last few days. Something Kalia told me on the way out the door from Head Office. Thus it turned out.

    I think on balance you are right about tonight: small swing back to the Nats. Nothing to do with coal, or Jodi: a reward for Glad’s good Covid management or luck, depending on your POV.

    The pile on will kick into gear in earnest tomorrow I guess.

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