Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The fourth Newspoll since its wrong call at the election continues to credit the Coalition with only a modest lead on two-party preferred, with the minor parties continue to lift and Scott Morrison recording the opposite of a US visit bounce.

The fourth Newspoll since the federal election credits the Coalition with a 51-49 two-party lead, unchanged on the last poll three weeks ago, with both major parties down on the primary vote – the Coalition by one to 42%, and Labor by two to 33%. The Greens and One Nation are both up a point, the former to 13% – their best result from Newspoll since 2015 – and the latter to 6%.

Scott Morrison’s personal ratings have deteriorated, either despite or because of his activities in the United States last week, his approval down two to 47% and disapproval up four to 43%. Anthony Albanese has bounced back four on approval to 39% after a six-point drop last time, but the report in The Australian does not relate his disapproval rating (UPDATE: Steady at 40%). Morrison’s preferred prime minister reading goes from 48-28 to 50-31, as respondents apparently becoming more inclined to pick a side.

The poll was presumably conducted as usual from Thursday to Sunday – no sample size is provided, but the norm is around 1600. More to follow.

UPDATE: The sample was 1658, of which 900 came from online surveys and 758 from automated phone polling. Also featured is a question on which relationship Australia should prioritise out of the United States and China, who came in at 56% and 25% respectively. The split was 70-18 among Coalition supporters, 46-32 for Labor, 60-24 among men and 51-26 among women.

Forever blowing bubbles

More reform talk, this time involving suggestions MPs should be prevented from defecting from the parties for which they were elected.

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters chair James McGrath has floated another reform bubble, this time proposing that parliamentarians should be prevented from resigning from their parties under pain of either facing a by-election or being replaced by the nominee of the party for which they were elected. The Australian helpfully summarises recent situations where this would have applied: “Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus from the Palmer United Party, Cory Bernardi and Julia Banks from the Liberal Party, Fraser Anning and Rod Culleton from One Nation and Steve Martin from the Jacqui Lambie Network”. University of New South Wales constitutional law expert George Williams is quoted noting potential constitutional issues, particularly in relation to the lower house.

The proposal brings to mind the passage in New Zealand last year of what is colloquially known as the “waka jumping bill”, insisted upon by Winston Peters of New Zealand First as part of his coalition agreement with Labour after the 2017 election. This requires a constituency MP who quits their party to face a by-election, while party list MPs must vacate their seats and have them filled by the next candidate along from the list at the election. The move was poorly received by academics and the country’s Human Rights Commissioner, as it effectively gives party leaders the ability to dispense with troublemakers. It was also noted that Peters himself broke away from the National Party to form New Zealand First in 1990, but changed his tune after a split in his own party in 1998. However, the McGrath proposal would seem to be quite a lot less pernicious in that it would only apply to those who leave their parties of their own volition.

In other news, I had a paywalled article in Crikey on Tuesday regarding the YouGov methodological overhaul that was discussed here on Sunday, which said things like this:

Of course, transparency alone will not be sufficient for the industry to recover the strong reputation it held until quite recently. That will require runs on the board in the form of more-or-less accurate pre-election polls, for which no opportunity will emerge until the Queensland state election still over a year away. It’s far from certain that YouGov will prove able to get better results by dropping the telephone component of its polling, notwithstanding that phone polling is less conducive to the kind of detailed demographic parsing that it apparently has in mind. Nonetheless, the movements the pollster records over time within demographic and geographic sub-samples will almost certainly offer insights into the shifting sands of public opinion, even if skepticism will remain as to how it sees the numbers combining in aggregate.

I’m not sure when exactly we will see the fruits of YouGov’s approach, but we’re due some sort of Newspoll result on Sunday or Monday, and the fortnightly Essential Research falls due on Tuesday – we’re still waiting for the latter to resume voting intention, but I was told a little while ago it would happen soon.

Slicing and dicing

Hope at last that some good might come out of the Australian polling industry’s chastening experience at the May federal election.

Hopes that the Australian polling industry might again have something to offer soon have been been raised by YouGov’s announcement on Thursday that it is overhauling its polling methodology, and pursuing the establishment of a local industry body along the lines of the British Polling Council.

On the first point, the pollster says it will “transition to the standard YouGov methodology for national and statewide polling”. This means an end to the mix of online and automated phone polling associated with Galaxy Research, the established local outfit that has been conducting Newspoll since 2015, and which YouGov bought out at the end of 2017. In line with its modus operandi internationally, YouGov will move entirely to online polling, enabling it to adopt a more detailed scheme of demographic weightings that will encompass variables “such as education and more sophisticated regional segments”.

We may already have received a taste of this with the recent YouGov Galaxy poll from Queensland, which was conducted entirely online and supplemented the traditional weighting model of “age interlocked with gender and region” with variables for education and voting at the previous election. This looks much like the pollster’s approach with its British polling, but with education taking the place of a “social grade” variable that holds those with managerial or supervisory jobs distinct from the rest of the workforce.

The notion of an Australian Polling Council offers the exciting prospect of industry standards that will require the publication of sample weightings and full demographic and regional breakdowns from each poll, such as can be seen in this recent YouGov poll of voting intention in Britain. The YouGov announcement says that “several other companies have agreed in principle to establish this council and an announcement will be made in due course”.

Also of note recently:

• The first batch of submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the recent federal election has been published. This does not include the Labor submission, but The Guardian reports it calls for the committee to investigate the impact on election campaigning of social media platforms, its specific concern being with the widespread circulation of claims through Facebook that it had “secret plans to introduce a death tax”.

The Australian reports the Nationals federal council has endorsed a proposal floated a fortnight ago to all but purge the Senate of minor parties by breaking each state into six provinces that would each return a single Senator at a normal half-Seante election.

• The challenges to the election results in the Melbourne seats of Chisholm and Kooyong have been referred for trial in the Federal Court, which will likely take about three months to reach a determination.

Brexit, Israeli election results and upcoming elections

Latest Brexit developments, stalemate in Israel and previews of elections in Austria, Portugal, Poland and Canada. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Boris Johnson said he wants a deal with the European Union, but has also said that if there is not a deal, he will ignore parliament’s legislation, and break free of the EU like “the Incredible Hulk”. Courts in Northern Ireland and England upheld parliament’s prorogation, but a Scottish court rejected it. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by next week. Polls in the last week gave the Conservatives nine-point or better leads, except for ComRes (just a one-point Conservative lead).

The key question is whether Johnson is serious about coming to a feasible deal with the EU, or is he pretending so he can blame the EU and parliament once talks collapse? A feasible deal would be attacked by Nigel Farage and hard Leave Conservative MPs, and be unlikely to pass parliament, which three times easily rejected Theresa May’s deal.

The remainder of this article will be a recap of the Israeli election, then previews of elections in Austria (September 29), Portugal (October 6), Poland (October 13) and Canada (October 21). Except for Canada, all these countries use proportional representation.

Neither side wins Israeli election 

The 120 Knesset members were elected by proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. At the September 17 election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud won 31 seats, one behind the left-leaning Blue & White. With potential allies, Netanyahu had 55 seats, to 56 for the opposition.

Yisrael Beiteinu (YB), with nine seats, is the kingmaker. Netanyahu failed to form a government after the April 2019 election because YB advocated introducing conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, which religious parties opposed. YB’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, said prior to the election that he would only join a Likud and Blue & White government. Neither the left nor the right can claim victory in this election.

Austria (September 29) 

Austria uses proportional representation with a 4% threshold. At the October 2017 election, the conservative ÖVP and far-right FPÖ formed government, having won a clear majority of seats. In May, this government collapsed after the FPÖ leader was accused of collusion with a Russian oligarch, and new elections were scheduled.

Polls have the ÖVP leading with 35.5%, followed by the centre-left SPÖ at 21.6%, the FPÖ at 19.8%, the Greens at 10.9% and the liberal NEOS at 8.5%. The ÖVP would prefer to govern with NEOS, but it is unlikely that these parties will have enough seats. The alternatives are another ÖVP/FPÖ government, or a grand coalition, which had governed prior to the 2017 election.

Portugal (October 6)

Portugal uses proportional representation at the regional level; bigger parties win a greater share of seats than their national votes imply. After the October 2015 election, the Socialists formed a minority government supported by the Left Bloc, Communists and Greens.

There has been a trend towards right-wing and far-right parties internationally, but Portugal is the exception. The Socialists have 39.6% in the polls, the combined vote for conservative parties is just 24.5% and other left-wing parties have a combined 24.1%. The only question, given the bonus for big parties, is whether the Socialists win a majority in their own right.

Poland (October 13)

Poland uses proportional representation in multi-member constituencies with a 5% national threshold for single parties and 8% for coalitions. At the October 2015 election, the Law and Justice (PiS) party won a majority on just 37.6%, as the centre-left coalition fell below the 8% threshold and was wiped out. While socially conservative and anti-immigrant, PiS is economically left-wing.

Polls for this election give PiS 45% of the vote, followed by a coalition of right and left-wing parties on 27% and a centre-left coalition on 13%. It is likely that PiS will win another majority, but the centre-left should return to parliament.

Canada (October 21)

Canada uses first-past-the-post. At the May 2011 election, the Conservatives won a majority on just 39.6% as left-wing parties split virtually all the remaining vote. Prior to the October 2015 election, which the centre-left Liberals won with a majority, current PM Justin Trudeau promised to reform the electoral system, but disappointingly he wimped out.

I will use CBC analyst Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker. This currently gives the Conservatives 34.4%, the Liberals 34.1%, the left-wing NDP 13.8%, the Greens 9.5% and the Quebec Bloc 4.4%. Although the two major parties are tied in vote share, the Liberals are expected to win 167 of the 338 seats, the Conservatives 139, NDP 16, Quebec Bloc 12 and Greens four.

Essential Research leadership ratings

The latest Essential poll finds Scott Morrison’s approval rating edging up to a new high, with most respondents supporting a tough line on offshore detention of asylum seekers – but not so tough that they support the repeal of medical evacuation laws.

Another fortnight, another Essential Research poll that baulks on publishing voting intention numbers. We do, however, get the monthly leadership ratings, which find Scott Morrison at a new peak of 49% approval, up one on a fortnight ago, with disapproval down one to 36%. Anthony Albanese is down two on approval to 36% and up two on disapproval to 31%. Morrison also records the strongest preferred prime minister lead out of the four such results published by Essential since the election, at 46-25, out from 44-28 last month.

The poll also finds strong support for indefinite offshore detention for asylum seekers, with 52% supportive and 32% opposed. However, only 21% accept the government’s position that the medical evacuation legislation “will weaken our borders and result in boats arriving in Australia as they have in the past”, with 41% saying it strikes an appropriate balance and 23% saying it does not go far enough.

A series of questions on Friday’s climate strikes finds 56% in favour and 30% opposed, although only 35% said they were aware of them in response to an initial question, with 54% saying they were unaware. The New South Wales-based respondents to the survey, of which there were 352, were asked a further question on a mooted relaxation of the state’s lockout laws, which 58% supported and 30% opposed.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from an online panel of 1093 respondents.

Triumph of the spill

A relatively bloodless year in Australian politics stands to be interrupted by a conservative spill motion against Gladys Berejiklian over abortion reform, quixotic as it may appear.

Three of the principal Liberal Party dissidents against Gladys Berejiklian’s handling of a conscience vote on abortion law reform, Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies and upper house members Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato, have announced they will move a spill motion against her leadership tomorrow, despite not having an alternative contender to line up behind. The Australian reports the rebels believe they will get the support of between 15 and 20 members of the 46-member party room, but the press gallery consensus on Twitter is that this is highly optimistic. The leader of the Nationals, John Barilaro, has taken to Twitter to denounce the motion as “ridiculous”, noting that the party’s coalition agreement is with Berejiklian personally.

The bill is sponsored by independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich but is the subject of a Liberal Party conscience vote, in which Berejiklian has been among the minor of party representatives in favour. There have been suggestions that Davies and Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly would walk out of the party in protest, which would cost the government its bare majority. However, Conolly does not appear to have signed on for the spill motion. Developing …

UPDATE: The spill was called off early this morning, ostensibly because the rebels had been offered concessions on the abortion bill, although a source quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald flatly denied this, offering that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”. Another (or perhaps the same one) later said the spill was called off because they “couldn’t get more than three votes”. It seems the rebels had been hoping on a secret ballot, and recognised they would find few if any takers for a vote conducted on a show of hands. There has been a prompt return to business as usual in New South Wales politics, with the spill move passing unremarked at this morning’s party room meeting, and Sports Minister John Sidoti standing aside in the afternoon pending an ICAC investigation.