Roy Morgan, Morning Consult and JSCEM (open thread)

A couple of polling scraps and the composition of the parliamentary committee that will shortly dive into the conduct of the May election.

Not a whole lot to report from within what this site regards as its wheelhouse, but past time for a new post nonetheless. Here’s what I’ve got:

• Roy Morgan continues to eke out polling information in an unpredictable fashion on its weekly update videos, the latest of which features a full set of voting intention numbers from polling conducted August 1 to 7. This has Labor’s two-party lead narrowing, apparently from a week previously, from 54-46 to 52.5-47.5, from primary votes of Labor 37% (up one), Coalition 38.5% (up two-and-a-half), Greens 11.5% (down one) and One Nation 3.5% (steady). They also had a second SMS poll of Victorian voting intention which I’ll cover in a state-specific poll later this week.

• US pollster Morning Consult’s tracking poll of global leaders’ domestic approval records little change in Anthony Albanese’s numbers – his approval rating of 58% is unchanged on a month ago and his disapproval is up three to 29%.

• The membership of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is now settled, with Labor’s Kate Thwaites as chair joined by party colleagues Karen Grogan, Shayne Neumann, Sam Rae and Marielle Smith; former chair James McGrath now deputy chair, joined by Coalition colleagues Darren Chester, Marise Payne and James Stevens; and Larissa Waters continuing to represent the Greens.

Italian election minus six weeks, US midterms and Britain’s next PM

The far-right is likely to win in Italy. Also: positive news for US Democrats three months before midterm elections, and Liz Truss set to be Britain’s next PM.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The Italian election is on September 25.  At the March 2018 election, the right coalition won about 42% of seats in both chambers of the Italian parliament, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) 36% and the left coalition 19%.

With no majority for a single alliance, there were three governments during the 2018-22 term.  The first government, from June 2018 to August 2019, was a coalition between the M5S and the far-right League.  The second government, from September 2019 to January 2021, was a coalition between the M5S and the centre-left Democrats.  The third government, from February 2021 to July 2022, was a grand coalition led by technocrat Mario Draghi that all important parties joined except the far-right Brothers of Italy.

In July, this third government collapsed, and elections were called eight months early.  Since the 2018 election, there has been a crash in support for the M5S, with the League and the conservative Forza Italia also down.  The big beneficiary is the Brothers, who won just 4% in 2018, but are up to about 24% in current polls.

Italian governments need the confidence of both houses.  The Chamber of Deputies will have 400 members and the Senate 200.  Minimum voting age for the Senate was lowered from 25 to 18, the same as in the Chamber.  Seventy-four Senate seats and 147 Chamber seats (about 37% of both) will be elected by First Past the Post, and the rest by proportional representation with a 3% national threshold.

The right coalition at this election is composed of the Brothers, the League, Forza Italia and a small party, while the left coalition is composed of the Democrats and three small parties.  The M5S, a centrist alliance and Italexit are running separately.  Coalitions will nominate just one candidate for each FPTP seat.

While the lead parties of the right and left coalitions, the Brothers and Democrats, are roughly tied at around 24% each in the polls, the right coalition overall has far more support.  Three recent polls give the right coalition 48-50%, the left coalition 27-32%, the M5S 10-11% and the centrists 5-6%.

If these polls were replicated at the election, the right coalition would win a large majority of the FPTP seats and over half the proportional seats as the 5% “others” would be excluded as it would be unlikely an individual other would reach the 3% threshold.

The right coalition is likely to win, and as the two biggest parties in that coalition, the Brothers and League, are far-right, Italy’s next PM is likely to be the female leader of the Brothers, Giorgia Meloni.

US Democrats gain ground three months before midterm elections

I wrote for The Conversation on Thursday that the US Supreme Court’s denial of abortion rights appears to be helping Democrats as they gain ground three months before the November 8 midterm elections.  In FiveThirtyEight forecasts, Democrats are now a 61% chance to win the Senate, and lead the national popular vote by 0.3%.  In Kansas, an attempt to alter the state constitution to remove abortion rights was rejected by 59-41; Kansas voted for Trump by nearly 15 points in 2020. 

Recent economic data is also assisting Democrats, as inflation looks much better while the jobs situation continues to be strong.  And Democrats got important legislation on health and climate change through the 50-50 Senate last Sunday, and this passed the House Friday, so Joe Biden can sign it into law.

Liz Truss set to be Britain’s next PM

Conservative members decide via a postal ballot between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak who will be their next leader and Britain’s PM.  The result will be announced September 5, but votes have already been sent out, and most members will return their votes quickly.

A YouGov poll of Conservative members, taken by early August from a sample of 1,040, gave Truss a 69-31 lead over Sunak (60-26 with undecided and won’t vote included).  Truss’ lead increased from 62-38 in the poll taken after the final two candidates were known.  Conservative members thought it was wrong for their MPs to oust Boris Johnson by 53-41.  In a three-way vote, it would be 40% Johnson, 28% Truss and 23% Sunak.

Update Sunday: An Opinium poll of 570 Conservative members, conducted August 8-13 from a sample of 570 for The Guardian/Observer, gave Truss a 61-39 lead. Johnson would trounce either candidate head to head.

North West Central by-election and other WA news

A date set for WA’s first state by-election in over four years, plus news from the Liberal Party’s ongoing struggle to put the pieces back together.

I have knocked together a guide to Western Australia’s state by-election for North West Central, the date for which was set on Monday at September 17 following the official resignation of Nationals member Vince Catania. Nominations close August 26 – what’s known at present is that it will not be contested by Labor, likely making it a contest between Nationals candidate Merome “Mem” Beard, who has owned and run the Port Hotel in Carnarvon for two decades, and Liberals candidate Will Baston, owner of a pastoral property 150 kilometres east of Carnarvon and nephew of former Barnett government minister Ken Baston. The Nationals currently have four seats in the Legislative Assembly and the Liberals only two, giving Nationals leader Mia Davies the status of Opposition Leader, which would raise questions with no simple answer if the by-election result happened to make it three-all.

Other recent electorally related Western Australian state politics news:

• The Liberal Party’s state conference voted the weekend before last for a new preselection model that will grant a vote to all party members, replacing a system in which delegates were elected by each branch. However, the reform’s effectiveness in discouraging branch stacking has been limited by a failure to exclude non-branch delegates from the process, as had been recommended by the review conducted after the 2021 election debacle. This would have prevented it receiving the support of the factional leaders identified as “The Clan”, notably Peter Collier and Nick Goiran, whose power base rests largely on recruitment of members from suburban Pentecostal churches. Such support was required to clear the 75% bar required for changes to the party rules. Critics further complain that no action was taken against widespread payment of party memberships on single credit cards exposed by an audit in June.

• Suggestions that the party might be able to draft a saviour in the shape of former test cricketer Justin Langer having fallen through, more recent reports have suggested that one of the two Liberal lower house members, Vasse MP Libby Mettams, might topple party leader David Honey, Cottesloe MP and Mettams’ only lower house Liberal colleague. Rounding out the Liberal party room are seven members of the Legislative Council, including the aforementioned Collier and Goiran.

• Two cabinet ministers have announced they will not be contesting the next election: Alannah MacTiernan, following a career going back to 1993 in which she has served in federal and local as well as state politics, serving in the latter capacity in both houses of parliament and two different Legislative Council regions; and Sue Ellery, who has served in the upper house since 2001 and is currently Education Minister.

Essential Research and JWS Research post-election survey (open thread)

Anthony Albanese’s ratings remain high, albeit slightly less high, while JWS Research offers results from a poll conducted in the days after the election.

Essential Research’s fortnightly report continues to not feature voting intention, and its monthly leadership ratings are continuing to not feature Peter Dutton. Anthony Albanese is down one on approval to 55% in this month’s result, while his disapproval is up four to 28%. Some steam has also gone out of a post-election surge on a monthly national direction question, on which 43% find Australia headed in the right direction, down four, with wrong direction up three to 31%.

In a series of “performance of the Albanese government” questions, there was a 56-44 majority in favour of it having its priorities right, 54-46 majorities for getting things done and being in touch and 52-48 for addressing long-term problems, although a 51-49 majority felt it too idealistic. A series on “support for federal government measures is less good: 60% want the fuel excise cut extended, with only 12% supporting the government’s intention to not do so, 44% support higher JobSeeker payments, with 27% opposed, and 42% want a delay in “stage three income tax cuts, which predominantly benefits higher income earners”, with 25% opposed.

“Awareness of proposed Voice to Parliament” would appear to be fairly low, with 33% saying they had heard nothing of it in the past month and 32% saying hardly anything, compared with 5% for a lot and 29% for a fair amount. With the notion explained, 65% said they were in favour and 35% opposed. Seventy-five per cent supported a parliamentary pledge to “Australia and the Australian people”, with only 15% opting for the Queen. The survey was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1075.

Also out this week is a post-election survey report from JWS Research, conducted from a sample of 1000 in the two days after the May 21 election. Asked what was most important in deciding their vote, more chose for “the party as a whole” than for “specific policies or issues”, and fewer still for the leaders and candidates, but Coalition voters were most inclined to rate the first of these and Greens voters uniquely favoured the second.

On issue salience, there was a 53-10 majority for economic over environmental issues among Coalition voters, but a 36-29 majority the other way among Labor voters, both sets of numbers being hardly changed from a similar survey after the 2019 election. An exercise in which respondents were asked whether or not the election campaign possessed various qualities also produced results very similar to 2019: 56-16 for important over not important, 39-30 for not interesting over interesting, 38-27 for negative over positive, 42-24 for deceitful over honest, 51-22 for same old stuff over new and different. For whatever reason, impressions were more negative across the board in 2016.

Thirty-six per cent rated the Labor campaign positive and 35% negative, compared with 28% and 44% for the Coalition. From 44% who said they favoured a Labor government, 25% favoured a majority and 19% a minority government; from 33% who favoured a Coalition government, 24% favoured a majority and 9% a majority.

Victorian election minus sixteen weeks

Labor prospects, Liberal prospects, independent prospects and preselection news from a Victorian election now less than four months away.

With low-level leadership rumblings being heard after the resignation of Liberal leader Matthew Guy’s chief-of-staff, taking with him much of the edge off opposition attacks on the government over corruption issues, Kos Samaras of Redbridge Group “believes the prospect of a minority government is growing increasingly possible”. Polling by Redbridge reported in The Age on Saturday had hypothetical teal independents beating Liberals by 51-49 in Brighton, 54-46 in Sandringham, 56-44 in Caulfield, 55-45 in Hawthorn and 55-45 in Kew, albeit that the wording perhaps helpfully specified that the candidates would be “like Zoe Daniel” or “like Monique Ryan”. While no teal independent candidates are in place, John Ferguson of The Australian reports Brent Hodgson, former marketing and data strategist to Monique Ryan, has set up an office in Hawthorn, and a “Kew Independents” group is being run by Ryan’s former social media manager, Hayden O’Connor.

Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported that 20 seats identified by Labor as key contests are dominated by outer suburban and regional seats where it fears blue-collar alienation with the government’s COVID-19 management. Annika Smethurst of The Age offers that the Liberals are “unlikely to win the election”, but that “the Liberal Party is increasingly confident it can snare the seats of Bayswater, Bass, Box Hill, Cranbourne and Nepean from Labor.”

The Liberals have been determining preselections for their Legislative Council tickets, opening a few cans of worms in the process:

• The Liberals’ choice of Melton City Councillor Moira Deeming to head the ticket in Western Metropolitan has prompted suggestions both within the party and without that the party has failed to make a sufficient break from her predecessor Bernie Finn, who was expelled from the party in May after extensive promotion of hard right views, the last straw being a call for a no-exceptions ban on abortion. Deeming has herself expressed opposition to abortion along with drag queen storytimes and the Safe Schools program, and her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates caused the party’s administrative committee to block her preselection for the western Melbourne seat of Gorton at the May federal election. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports that Deeming won more than twice as many votes as her nearest rival in the preselection, and that Finn has said it would be “fair” to describe her as his protege. The result caused Andrew Elsbury, who held a Western Metropolitan seat from 2010 to 2014, to resign from the party, saying Deeming was “basically going to spout the same stuff as Bernie Finn used to”.

• In Northern Metropolitan region, where the party holds only one seat, Craig Ondarchie was as long foreseen dumped in favour of Evan Mulholland, director of communications at the Institute of Public Affairs and a vociferous critics of federal Labor’s carbon emissions targets. Second position goes to Owen Guest, the state party’s treasurer. Paul Sakkal of The Age reports the first round results were 26 for Mulholland, 14 for Catriona Rafael, former staffer to former party leader Michael O’Brien, 11 for Owen Guest and ten for last-placed Ondarchie. With the latter eliminated, Josh Gordon of The Age reports the second round result was Mulholland 32, Guest 15 and Rafael 14.

• Gippsland chiropractor Renee Heath has deposed incumbent Cathrine Burnett-Wake, who filled the casual vacancy created by Edward O’Donohue’s retirement in December, to take top position in Eastern Victoria by what Sumeyya Ilanbey of The Age reported as a margin of 55 to 53. The Age further reports that “several Liberal officials raised concerns about Heath’s family connection to the City Builders Church, which has been accused of encouraging members to take part in the Living Waters Program, an externally run gay conversion therapy that has since closed”, albeit that the connection involves her father rather than herself. The second position on the ticket is reserved for Nationals incumbent Melina Bath.

• Nick McGowan, a former staffer to Ted Baillieu and reported close friend of Liberal leader Matthew Guy, has secured the second position in North Eastern Metropolitan, with Kirsten Langford in the unpromising third position. Gladys Liu, the recently defeated federal member for Chisholm, was unsuccessful, as was Ranjana Srivasta, an oncologist and Fulbright scholar who had previously sought preselection for the Senate and the federal seat of Casey.

Further:

Rachel Eddie of The Age reports the anti-lockdown Freedom Party has organised a bloc of like-minded parties who will exchange all-important preferences for the Legislative Council, also to include Family First and the Federation Party. Among the party’s number is Aidan McLindon, who in his term in Queensland parliament as the member for Beaudesert from 2009 to 2012 successively represented the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Queensland Party, and will now run against Daniel Andrews in Mulgrave. McLindon says he and his bloc are uninterested in doing deals with Glenn Druery, noted arranger of preference networks that take advantage of the group voting ticket system, which now survives only in Victoria. The Age report also says the United Australia Party, whose sole success at the federal election was a Senate seat in Victoria, plans to “team up with like-minded parties”.

• Following Steph Ryan’s resignation as deputy Nationals leader and announcement she would not contest the election last month, the Shepparton News reports Strathbogie Shire councillor and local caravan park owner Kristy Hourigan will run for Nationals preselection in her seat of Euroa.

• Russell Northe, who held Morwell for the Nationals from 2006 to 2017 and as an independent thereafter, including after his re-election in 2018, has announced he will retire at the election.

Preference flows and by-elections (open thread)

A look at preference flow data from the 2019 and 2022 elections, and the latest on looming by-elections in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and (sort of) Western Australia.

Something I really should have noted in last week’s post is that the Australian Electoral Commission has now published two-candidate preferred preference flow data from the election, showing how minor party and independent preferences flowed between Labor and the Coalition. The table below shows how Labor’s share increased for the four biggest minor parties and independents collectively (and also its fraction decrease for “others”) from the last election to this and, in the final column, how much difference each made to Labor’s total share of two-party preferred, which was 52.13%.

Note that the third column compares how many preference Labor received with how many they would have if preference flows had been last time, which is not the same thing as how many preferences they received. Labor in fact got nearly 2% more two-party vote share in the form of Greens preferences at this election because the Greens primary vote was nearly 2% higher this time.

State and territory by-election:

• Six candidates for the August 20 by-election in the Northern Territory seat of Fannie Bay, in ballot paper order: Brent Potter, described in a report as a “government adviser, army veteran and father of four”, for Labor; independent George Mamouzellos; independent Raj Samson Rajwin, who was a Senate candidate for the United Australia Party; Jonathan Parry of the Greens; independent Leah Potter; and Ben Hosking, “small business owner and former police officer”, for the Country Liberals.

• Following the resignation of Labor member Jo Siejka, a by-election will be held for the Tasmanian Legislative Council seat of Pembroke on September 10. Siejka defeated a Liberal candidate by 8.65% to win the eastern Hobart seat at the periodic election in 2019. There will also be a recount of 2021 election ballots in Franklin to determine which of the three unelected Liberals will replace Jacquie Petrusma following her resignation announcement a fortnight ago. As Kevin Bonham explains, the order of probability runs Bec Enders, Dean Young and James Walker.

• Still no sign of a date for Western Australia’s North West Central by-election.

Newspoll: 56-44 to Labor (open thread)

Labor and Anthony Albanese ride high in the first Newspoll since the federal election.

The Australian has published the first Newspoll since the federal election, showing Labor opening up a commanding 56-44 lead, compared with a two-party result of 52.1-47.9 at the election. The primary votes are Labor 37% (compared with 32.6% at the election), Coalition 33% (35.7%), Greens 12% (12.2%), One Nation 6% (5.0%) and United Australia Party 2% (4.1%).

Anthony Albanese’s approval rating has shot from 41% before the election to 61%, while his disapproval rating has fallen from 46% to 26%. The former exceeds honeymoon approval ratings recorded by Tony Abbott (47%), Kevin Rudd (59%) and John Howard (45%) upon Newspoll’s return after the three previous changes of government. The net result of plus 35% is the strongest since the early days of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership in November 2015, and previously by Kevin Rudd in October 2009.

Dutton’s opening numbers are 37% approval and 41% disapproval, and he trails Albanese 59-25 as preferred prime minister, the widest gap in Newspoll since the early days of Rudd’s prime ministership in 2008. Debut results for past opposition leaders were 35% approval and 40% disapproval for Anthony Albanese in 2019, 32% and 24% for Bill Shorten in 2013, 40% and 35% for Tony Abbott in 2010, 50% and 25% for Malcolm Turnbull in 2008, 36% and 19% for Brendan Nelson in 2008 and 41% and 10% for Kevin Rudd in 2006. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1508.

Liberal with the truth

A look back on what internal Liberal polling appeared to be saying ahead of the May election, and the related matter of the Katherine Deves controversy.

Last week I took a big picture look at how the main public pollsters performed in their immediate pre-election polling. Today I offer a necessarily incomplete account of the only partly knowable subject of internal party polling – specifically that of the Liberal Party, and how it played out against the backdrop of bitter conflict over its strategy of the campaign of pursuing culturally conservative constituencies at a time when those under threat from the teal independents needed every socially liberal vote they could get.

Much of this story relates to the controversy surrounding Warringah candidate Katherine Deves, which Scott Morrison appeared to consider the key to unlocking enough Labor-held seats in the outer suburbs and regions to balance defeats in inner metropolitan seats, at least to the extent of allowing him to hold on to power in a minority government. The notion that this strategy might have been hitting its mark was not the exclusive preserve of Liberal Party optimists. Shortly after the controversy first emerged early in the campaign, Phillip Coorey of the Financial Review wrote that “in the suburbs, the regions and the religious communities, the government – and Labor – believes the Deves issue is going gangbusters in Scott Morrison’s favour, messy as it may be”. A week later, Chris Uhlmann cited a Labor strategist in the Age/Herald who believed the issue was playing “90/10 in Deves’ favour” in the suburbs and the regions. Cameron Milner, a former Queensland Labor state secretary now all too comfortable in a new perch on The Australian’s op-ed page, described the Liberals’ exploitation of the controversy as “brilliant foghorn politics” that would yield a bumper crop of Hanson and Palmer preferences.

When Deves recanted her initial apology for her comments a fortnight out from the election, Niki Savva in the Age/Herald cited a Liberal source saying this had been “set up deliberately to resuscitate the issue”. Complicating the notion of a divide between what Uhlmann called “the inner-city bubble” and mainstream opinion further afield, Lanai Scarr of The West Australian reported that some were “even tipping Deves could pull off her own ‘miracle’ win and insulate other conservative electorates nationally in the process”, potentially saving the Liberals in such difficult contests as the Perth seat of Swan.

Needless to say, none of this looks terribly prescient now that the election’s unknowns are known. The possibility that the Liberals were acting on faulty intelligence is intriguingly raised by a report from Peter van Onselen on Ten News four days out from the election, which related that Liberal polling had Katherine Deves trailing Zali Steggall by only 53-47 – quite a lot closer than Steggall’s eventual winning margin of 61-39. Lest it be thought that this was some kind of Liberal Party psyop, it formed part of a batch of polling that was otherwise disastrous for the Liberals, with two-party preferred scores inclusive of an uncommitted component showing them trailing 50-43 in Bennelong and 50-41 in Parramatta (worse than their actual losing margins) and 49-48 in Reid (better), with particularly large deficits among women.

This happened to be the second batch of Liberal seat polling that van Onselen had been able to report late in the campaign, the first of which emerged as a bone of contention post-election in the party’s deepening culture war over the teal independent seats and whether they should be cut loose in favour of a more populist approach that took its cues from Donald Trump. This had the Liberal primary vote at 43% in Kooyong, 37% in Goldstein and 44% in Higgins, which bore up quite well against respective final results of 42.7%, 40.4% and 40.7%. Shortly after the election, Sharri Markson of The Australian recorded the following reaction to the leak inside the Liberal camp:

Senior Liberal figures scratched their heads, wondering where it had originated. The precise numbers did not reflect what was emanating from the party’s official poster, Crosby Textor. An internal probe discovered that (Senator Andrew) Bragg had submitted expenses to the NSW Liberal division of about $35,000 to $40,000 to conduct his own alternative polling in many NSW seats. There is no suggestion that Bragg leaked the polling to van Onselen, which he denies. It was not in his interest to depress the prospects of candidates he was fighting hard to help win. It’s not even clear whether the polling Bragg commissioned was the same polling broadcast on Ten. However, Morrison’s team believed it was.

Bragg had circulated the polling he commissioned to many Liberals – an action one source described as “sloppy” – and the suggestion is a recipient subsequently leaked it to the media. Questioned about the research for this article, Bragg admits he commissioned alternate polling and is scathing about the way Liberal headquarters and Crosby Textor treat Liberal candidates, who he says are kept in the dark about how they are faring.

“The Liberal Party and Crosby Textor treat the candidates like absolute shit and don’t give them the information they need,” Bragg says. “The candidates, who are often members of parliament, all they are given is a phone briefing and if they’re lucky they might get a piece of paper. Crosby Textor omit key things like the favourability of the leader because they’re worried that will leak to the media. If you know the party leader is massively unpopular you’ll differentiate so you can hang onto the seat. But if you’re not told that how are you supposed to know? It’s conflicts galore.”

Echoes of Bragg’s criticism were to be heard outside the tent from Kos Samaras, who as one of the principals of the Redbridge Group had provided polling and strategic advice to Climate 200 (with which, as per the disclosure notice at the bottom of this site’s sidebar, I was involved myself):

Why did the teals win? Many reasons. But at the centre of the campaign was an absolute commitment to the data. There were no games with what the internal polling said. There were no favourites shown, whereby resources are sent into a seat, even though the polling painted a different picture … (The Liberals) poured resouces into one seat, Kooyong, at the expense of others, even though their data was indeed showing a grim picture. That picture of course was never told, as the constant backgrounding into the media was akin to a story-telling session, skunk drunk, at a pub. The Liberal decision-making was riddled with bias and subjectivity, fuelled by an internal factional structure that made it impossible for data to be utilised correctly.

If early indications are anything to go by, the tension between the Liberal Party’s determination to tack to the right on cultural issues and electoral imperatives to win the favour of more liberally minded voters could be set to play out again at the Victorian state election in November. Stay tuned.