Essential Research: leadership ratings, US and China, abortion law

Higher disapproval ratings for both leaders in the latest Essential poll, which also records lukewarm feelings towards the United States and cooler ones for China.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll again comes up empty on voting intention, but it does offer the pollster’s third set of leadership ratings since the election. As with Newspoll, these record a drop in Scott Morrison’s net approval rating, owing to a three point rise in disapproval to 37%, while his approval holds steady at 48%. However, Essential parts company with Newspoll in finding Anthony Albanese up on disapproval as well, by five points to 29%, with approval down one to 38%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister narrows slightly, from 44-26 to 44-28.

Further questions suggest the public leans positive on most aspects of the “influence of the United States of America” (defence, trade, cultural and business), excepting a neutral result (42% positive, 40% negative) for influence on Australian politics. The same exercise for China finds positive results for trade, neutral results for culture and business, and negative ones for defence and politics. Asked which of the two we would most benefit from strengthening ties with, 38% of respondents favoured the US and 28% China.

The small sample of respondents from New South Wales were also asked about the proposed removal of abortion from the criminal code, which was supported by an overwhelming 71% compared with 17% opposed. The poll has a sample of 1096 and was conducted online from Thursday to Sunday.

Note also the post below this one, being the latest Brexit update from Adrian Beaumont.

Brexit latest: will parliament thwart no deal?

Ahead of its resumption on September 3, a look at the methods Britain’s parliament could use to thwart a no-deal Brexit on October 31. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the Westminster system, the government usually controls the lower house of parliament, so bills passed contrary to the government’s wishes are relatively rare.  If the UK Parliament were to pass a bill requiring Boris Johnson to seek a Brexit extension beyond the current October 31 deadline, he has two options to defy Parliament.  It is the PM, not Parliament, that needs to make the extension request to the European Union leaders.

First, Johnson could advise the Queen to refuse royal assent.  As Anne Twomey wrote in January, such a move would put the Queen in an invidious position: she would need to make a political choice between accepting the advice of ministers, or the advice of Parliament.  The Queen would be likely to accept Parliament’s advice and give royal assent, as a government that advised to refuse assent would be an admission it had lost confidence.

A second option for Johnson would be to simply ignore any legislation passed contrary to the government’s wishes.  Parliament can legislate, but it is the government that implements and enforces that legislation with its civil servants, police and courts.  Civil servants are highly unlikely to defy Parliament en masse, but legislation requiring Johnson to seek an extension would attempt to only bind him, and I do not believe there is any way Parliament can force Johnson to comply – except by sacking him and appointing someone more friendly to Parliament as PM.

If there is a no-confidence vote in Johnson, he would remain caretaker PM until an ensuing election unless the Commons voted for confidence in a new government within 14 days after the initial no-confidence vote.  As I said in my previous article, such an election could be held on or after October 31, by which time a no-deal Brexit would have occurred.

To thwart a no-deal Brexit, the Commons must express confidence in a new government before the 14 days have elapsed.  If Johnson tried to hang on after someone else had won the confidence of the Commons, I believe the Queen would sack him.  The problem for opponents of a no-deal Brexit is that there is currently no viable alternative government.

Jeremy Corbyn has proposed that everyone who wants to stop a no-deal support a temporary Corbyn government that would extend Brexit and call a general election.  His main problem is that, while there are some Conservative MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit, they won’t vote for a socialist PM even to prevent that outcome.

As commentator Stephen Bush argued, it would be politically self-destructive for Corbyn to allow someone else to become PM, as doing so would validate his critics’ contention that he is unfit to be PM.  Some far-left Labour MPs might resist backing a non-Corbyn PM even if Corbyn were to stand aside.

A third way for Parliament to thwart no-deal is to revoke the Article 50 legislation.  Assuming such a revocation received royal assent, Brexit would be cancelled.  On April 1, a Commons amendment to revoke was defeated by 292 votes to 191.  While there is a Commons majority against no-deal, I believe that if the choice was no-deal or no Brexit, no-deal would win.

In summary, a Brexit extension is most likely to pass Parliament, but unlikely to be effective in binding Johnson.  An alternative government is not currently viable, and nor is repealing Brexit.  If Johnson sticks to his guns, Britain is likely headed over the cliff-edge.

In this discussion, I have ignored the House of Lords.  The Lords is far more pro-Remain than the Commons, so any legislation to pass the Commons that moves towards Remain is likely to easily pass the Lords.

A final hope for no-deal opponents is that Johnson is bluffing, and will propose something similar to Theresa May’s rejected deal at the 11th hour.  Johnson has ranted against May’s deal since he resigned as foreign secretary in July 2018.  He won the Conservative leadership on a promise to get Britain out by October 31, and appointed a hard Leave cabinet.  I do not think he is bluffing.

Trump’s ratings slightly down after gun massacres

I wrote for The Conversation on August 14 that Joe Biden continues to lead the US Democratic primaries.  Trump’s ratings have fallen slightly since the August 3-4 gun massacres.  There has been little movement in Trump’s ratings since that article; his net approval is currently -11.1% with polls of registered or likely voters in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate.

 

 

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The second federal poll since the election finds the Coalition back where it started after an apparent post-election bounce in the previous poll three weeks ago.

Newspoll’s first result in three weeks, and second since the election, turns up a surprise in recording a shrinking in the Coalition’s lead from 53-47 to 51-49 – which, if meaningful, would mean an end to the honeymoon period and a return to where things stood at election time. On the primary vote, the Coalition is on 42%, down two points on the last poll and up 0.6% on the election result; Labor is on 34%, up one point and 0.7%; the Greens are on 11%, steady and up 0.6%; and One Nation are on 4%, up one point and 0.9%.

Leadership ratings are likewise consistent with the fading of a post-election sugar hit, with Scott Morrison down three on approval to 48% and up six on disapproval to 42%. Anthony Albanese’s ratings also seem to be trending from mediocre to respectable, with his approval up two to 41% and disapproval down to 34%, leaving him shading Morrison by a point on net approval. However, this hasn’t translated to preferred prime minister for some reason, on which Morrison holds a healthy lead of 48-30, out from 48-31 last time.

The poll was conducted by online and automated phone surveying from a sample of 1623, from Thursday to Sunday. Full report from The Australian here. As before, we remain in the dark as to how the pollster’s methods have been adjusted since the election failure, if at all. However, the size of the movements, and the lack of anything obvious to explain them, suggests the poll has not been subjected to the smoothing method that Newspoll must have been using before the election to give it its uncanny and, as it turned out, misleading consistency.

Various stuff that’s happening

Sarah Henderson reportedly struggling in her Senate preselection comeback bid, plus yet more on the great pollster failure, and other things besides.

Newspoll’s no-show this week suggests last fortnight’s poll may not have portended a return to the familiar schedule. Amid a general post-election psephological malaise, there is at least the following to relate:

• The great pollster failure was the subject of a two-parter by Bernard Keane in Crikey yesterday, one part examining the methodological nuts and bolts, the other the influence of polling on journalism and political culture.

Richard Willingham of the ABC reports former Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson is having a harder-than-expected time securing Liberal preselection to replace Mitch Fifield in the Senate, despite backing from Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Michael Kroger. According to the report, some of Henderson’s backers concede that Greg Mirabella, former state party vice-president and the husband of Sophie Mirabella, may have the edge.

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has invited submissions for its regular inquiry into the 2019 election, which will be accepted until Friday, September 2019. Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath continues to chair the committee, which consists of five Coalition, two Labor and one Greens member.

Daniella White of the Canberra Times reports Labor is struggling to find candidates for next October’s Australian Capital Territory election, said by “some insiders” to reflect pessimism about the government’s chances of extending its reign to a sixth term.

• The Federation Press has published a second edition of the most heavily thumbed tome in my psephological library, Graeme Orr’s The Law of Politics: Election, Parties and Money in Australia. A good deal of water has passed under the bridge since the first edition in 2010, most notably in relation to Section 44, which now accounts for the better part of half a chapter.

Call of the board: Melbourne

More gory detail on the result of the May 18 federal election, this time focusing on Melbourne, where an anticipated election-winning swing to Labor crucially failed to materialise.

Time for part four in the series that reviews the result of the May 18 election seat by seat, one chunk at a time. As will be the routine in posts covering the capital cities, we start with a colour-coded map showing the two-party preferred swing at polling booth level, with each booth allocated a geographic catchment area by means explained in the first post in this series. Click for an enlarged image.

Now to compare actual election results to those predicted by a demographic linear regression model, to help identify where candidate or local factors might be needed to explain the result. I now offer a new-and-improved form of the model that includes interaction effects to account for the differences in demographic effects between the cities and the regions. The utility of the change, if any, will become more apparent when I apply it to regional seats, which confounded the original version of the model. The coefficients and what-have-you can be viewed here – the table below shows the modelled predictions and actual results for Labor two-party preferred, ranked in order of difference between the result and the prediction of the model.

The main eyebrow-raisers are that the model anticipates a stronger performance by Labor in nearly every Liberal-held seats, to the extent that blue-ribbon Higgins and Goldstein are both rated as naturally highly marginal. While this could prove a portent of things to come in these seats, it might equally reflect a model leaning too heavily on the “secular/no religion” variable to cancel out the association between income and Liberal support in the inner cities.

As in Sydney, the numbers provide strong indications of incumbency advantages, with both Labor and Liberal members tending to outperform the model and thus appear at opposite ends of the table. I suspect this reflects both the obvious explanation, namely personal votes for sitting members, and a lack of effort by the parties into each other’s safe seats. A tendency for parties to perform more modestly when a seat is being vacated is not so overwhelming as to prevent strong results relative to the model for Labor in Jagajaga and Liberal in Higgins.

With that out of the way:

Aston (Liberal 10.1%; 2.7% swing to Liberal): Aston attracted a lot of discussion after the 2004 election when the Liberals recorded a higher two-party vote than they did in their jewel-in-the-crown seat of Kooyong. Now, for the first time since then, it’s happened again, and by a fairly substantial margin (the Liberal-versus-Labor margin in Kooyong having been 6.7%). As illustrated in the above table, the swing places Alan Tudge’s margin well beyond what the seat’s demographic indicators would lead you to expect.

Bruce (Labor 14.2%; 0.1% swing to Labor): Located at the point of the outer suburbs where the Labor swing dries up, cancelling out any half-sophomore effect that may have been coming Julian Hill’s way after he came to the seat in 2016.

Calwell (Labor 18.8%; 0.9% swing to Liberal): Among the modest number of Melbourne seats to swing to the Liberals, reflecting its multiculturalism and location at the city’s edge. Maria Vamvakinou nonetheless retains the fifth biggest Labor margin in the country.

Chisholm (Liberal 0.6%; 2.3% swing to Labor): Labor’s failure to win Chisholm after it was vacated by Julia Banks was among their most disappointing results of the election, but the result was entirely within the normal range both for Melbourne’s middle suburbs and a seat of its particular demographic profile. The swing to Labor was concentrated at the northern end of the electorate, which may or may not have something to do with this being the slightly less Chinese end of the electorate.

Cooper (Labor 14.6% versus Greens; 13.4% swing to Labor): With David Feeney gone and Ged Kearney entrenched, the door seems to have slammed shut on the Greens in the seat formerly known as Batman. After recording high thirties primary votes at both the 2016 election and 2018 by-election, the Greens crashed to 21.1%, while Kearney was up from 43.1% at the by-election to 46.8%, despite the fact the Liberals were in the field this time and polling 19.5%. In Labor-versus-Liberal terms, a 4.2% swing to Labor boosted the margin to 25.9%, the highest in the country.

Deakin (Liberal 4.8%; 1.7% swing to Labor): While Melburnian backers of the coup against Malcolm Turnbull did not suffer the retribution anticipated after the state election, it may at least be noted that Michael Sukkar’s seat swung the other way from its demographically similar neighbour, Aston. That said, Sukkar’s 4.8% margin strongly outperforms the prediction of the demographic model, which picks the seat for marginal Labor.

Dunkley (LABOR NOTIONAL GAIN 2.7%; 1.7% swing to Labor): Together with Corangamite, Dunkley was one of only two Victorian seats gained by Labor on any reckoning, and even they can be excluded if post-redistribution margins are counted as the starting point. With quite a few other outer urban seats going the other way, and a part-sophomore effect to be anticipated after he succeeded Bruce Billson in 2016, it might be thought an under-achievement on Chris Crewther’s part that he failed to hold out the tide, notwithstanding the near universal expectation he would lose. However, his performance was well beyond that predicted by the demographic model, which estimates the Labor margin at 6.6%.

Fraser (Labor 14.2%; 6.1% swing to Liberal): Newly created seat in safe Labor territory in western Melbourne, it seemed Labor felt the loss here of its sitting members: Bill Shorten in Maribyrnong, which provided 34% of the voters; Maria Vamvakinou in Calwell, providing 29%; Tim Watts in Gellibrand, providing 20%; and Brendan O’Connor in Gorton, providing 16%. The newly elected member, Daniel Mulino, copped the biggest swing against Labor in Victoria, reducing the seat from first to eleventh on the national list of safest Labor seats.

Gellibrand (Labor 14.8%; 0.3% swing to Liberal): The city end of Gellibrand followed the inner urban pattern in swinging to Labor, but the suburbia at the Point Cook end of the electorate tended to lean the other way, producing a stable result for third-term Labor member Tim Watts.

Goldstein (Liberal 7.8%; 4.9% swing to Labor): Tim Wilson met the full force of the inner urban swing against the Liberals, more than accounting for any sophomore effect he might have enjoyed in the seat where he succeeded Andrew Robb in 2016. Nonetheless, he maintained a primary vote majority in a seat which, since its creation in 1984, has only failed to do when David Kemp muscled Ian Macphee aside in 1990.

Gorton (Labor 15.4%; 3.0% swing to Liberal): The swing against Brendan O’Connor was fairly typical of the outer suburbs. An independent, Jarrod Bingham, managed 8.8%, with 59.2% of his preferences going to Labor.

Higgins (Liberal 3.9%; 6.1% swing to Labor): One of many blue-ribbon seats that swung hard against the Liberals without putting them in serious danger. Nonetheless, it is notable that the 3.9% debut margin for Katie Allen, who succeeds Kelly O’Dwyer, is the lowest the Liberals have recorded since the seat’s creation in 1949, surpassing Peter Costello’s 7.0% with the defeat of the Howard government in 2007. Labor returned to second place after falling to third in 2016, their primary up from 14.9% to 25.4%, while the Greens were down from 25.3% to 22.5%. This reflected a pattern through much of inner Melbourne, excepting Melbourne and Kooyong.

Holt (Labor 8.7%; 1.2% swing to Liberal): The populous, northern end of Holt formed part of a band of south-eastern suburbia that defied the Melbourne trend in swinging to Liberal, causing a manageable cut to Anthony Byrne’s margin.

Hotham (Labor 5.9%; 1.7% swing to Labor): The swing to third-term Labor member Clare O’Neil was concentrated at the northern end of the electorate, with the lower-income Vietnamese area around Springvale in the south went the other way.

Isaacs (Labor 12.7%; 3.4% swing to Labor): What I have frequently referred to as an inner urban effect actually extended all along the bayside, contributing to a healthy swing to Mark Dreyfus. The Liberal primary vote was down 7.4%, partly reflecting more minor party competition than in 2016. This was an interesting case where the map shows a clear change in temperature coinciding with the boundaries, with swings to Labor in Isaacs promptly giving way to Liberal swings across much of Hotham, Bruce and Holt.

Jagajaga (Labor 6.6%; 1.0% swing to Labor): Jenny Macklin’s retirement didn’t have any discernible impact on the result in Jagajaga, which recorded a modest swing to her Labor successor, Kate Thwaites.

Kooyong (Liberal 5.7% versus Greens): Julian Burnside defied a general Melburnian trend in adding 2.6% to the Greens primary vote, and did so in the face of competition for the environmental vote from independent Oliver Yates, whose high profile campaign yielded only 9.0%. Labor was down 3.7% to 16.8%, adrift of Burnside’s 21.2%. But with Josh Frydenberg still commanding 49.4% of the primary vote even after an 8.3% swing, the result was never in doubt. The Liberal-versus-Labor two-party margin was 6.7%, a 6.2% swing to Labor.

Lalor (Labor 12.4%; 1.8% swing to Liberal): The area around Werribee marks a Liberal swing hot spot in Melbourne’s west, showing up as a slight swing in Lalor against Labor’s Joanne Ryan.

Macnamara (Labor 6.2%; 5.0% swing to Labor): Talked up before the event as a three-horse race, this proved an easy win for Labor, who outpolled the Greens 31.8% to 24.2%, compared with 27.0% to 23.8% last time, then landed 6.2% clear after preferences of the Liberals, who were off 4.6% to 37.4%. The retirement of Michael Danby presumably explains the relatively weak 5.0% primary vote swing to Labor in the seven booths around Caulfield and Elsternwick at the southern end of the electorate, the focal point of its Jewish community. The result for the remainder of the election day booths was 9.7%.

Maribyrnong (Labor 11.2%; 0.8% swing to Liberal): Nothing out of the ordinary happened in the seat of Bill Shorten, who probably owes most of his 5.0% primary vote swing to the fact that there were fewer candidates this time. Typifying the overall result, the Liberals gained swings around Keilor at the electorate’s outer reaches, while Labor was up closer to the city.

Melbourne (Greens 21.8% versus Liberal; 2.8% swing to Greens): The Greens primary vote in Melbourne increased for the seventh successive election, having gone from 6.1% in 1998 to 22.8% when Adam Bandt first ran unsuccessfully in 2007, and now up from 43.7% to 49.3%. I await to be corrected, but I believed this brought Bandt to within an ace of becoming the first Green ever to win a primary vote majority. For the second election in a row, Bandt’s dominance of the left-of-centre vote reduced Labor to third place. On the Labor-versus-Liberal count, Labor gained a negligible 0.1% swing, unusually for a central city seat.

Menzies (Liberal 7.2%; 0.3% swing to Labor): Very little to report from Kevin Andrews’ seat, where the main parties were up slightly on the primary vote against a smaller field, and next to no swing on two-party preferred, with slight Liberal swings around Templestowe in the west of the electorate giving way to slight Labor ones around Warrandyte in the east.

Scullin (Labor 21.7%; 2.1% swing to Labor): Third-term Labor member Andrew Giles managed a swing that was rather against the outer urban trend in his northern Melbourne seat.

Wills (Labor 8.2% versus Greens; 3.2% swing to Labor): The Greens likely missed their opportunity in Wills when Kelvin Thomson retired in 2016, when Labor’s margin was reduced to 4.9%. Peter Khalil having established himself as member, he picked up 6.2% on the primary vote this time while the Greens fell 4.3%. Khalil also picked up a 4.2% swing on the Labor-versus-Liberal count, strong even by inner urban standards, leaving him with the biggest margin on that measure after Ged Kearney in Cooper.

EMRS: Liberal 38, Labor 30, Greens 16 in Tasmania

The Liberals maintain the lead in a new Tasmanian state poll, but Hare-Clark and a high minor party vote obscure the picture.

It seems the only state that can rely on a regular polling series these days in Tasmania, where local outfit EMRS has been plugging away with state voting intention polling on a more-or-less quarterly basis for as long as this site can remember.

Its latest numbers raise the possibility that state Labor has suffered collateral damage from the federal election, with their vote down four to 30%, while the Liberals are steady at 38% and the Greens up three to 16%. Nonetheless, Labor’s Rebecca White remains in the unusual position of leading the incumbent, Will Hodgman, by 45-40 as preferred premier, up from 43-41.

Kevin Bonham’s take on the voting intention numbers is that the Liberals would hold on to a bare majority, with the qualification that a) the Greens and especially “others” numbers seem higher than plausible, true to the pollster’s form, and b) Sue Hickey’s rebellious activities raise doubts about the implied second seat for the Liberals in Denison/Clark.

The poll was conducted last Monday to Wednesday from a sample of 1000. The series used to be branded as a phone poll, but these days the survey method is not divulged. Kevin Bonham’s pollster field guide suggests it now covers the gamut of landline, mobile and online panel polling.