Essential Research: 52-48 to Labor

The only pollster currently in the game finds Labor retaining its modest post-election, and finds opinion finely balanced on superannuation reform and nominating Kevin Rudd for United Nations Secretary-General.

Essential Research, which is still the only polling series back in the game after the election, records Labor maintaining a 52-48 lead in the latest reading of its fortnightly rolling average, with primary votes also unchanged at Coalition 39%, Labor 37%, Greens 10% and Nick Xenophon Team 4%. Also featured:

• Support for nominating Kevin Rudd for Secretary-General of the United Nations was finely balanced at 36% for and 39% against, which was predictably split along party lines.

• Thirty-seven per cent said Tony Abbott should resign from parliament; 25% that he should be given a ministry; and 21% that he should remain on the back bench. A similar question in March found 47% saying he should quit at the looming election, with 18% saying he should be given a ministry and 15% that he should remain on the back bench.

• Capping after-tax super contributions backdated at $500,000 recorded 29% approval and 34% disapproval.

• A question on groups that would be better and worse off under the re-elected Coalition government returned the usual results, with large companies and the high-income earners expected to do very well indeed, small businesses somewhat less well but still net positive, and various categories of struggler expected to do poorly.

• As it does on a semi-regular basis, the pollster asked questions on trust in various media outlets. However, this asked specifically on reportage of the federal election campaign, dropped separate questions for the news and current affairs as distinction from talkback programming of “ABC radio” and “commercial radio”, and in the case of the newspapers, dropped the normal proviso that respondents be be a readers of the paper in question to qualify for inclusion. This led to much lower levels of trust being recorded for the newspapers across the board, while the radio results split the difference between the higher results that are normally recorded for news and current affairs, and the lower results for talkback. As far as relativities are concerned, the results as before find television the most trusted medium, public broadcasters favoured over commercial ones. However, The Australian did not perform significantly better than News Corporation tabloids, as it has usually done in the past, whereas the Fairfax papers continued to record somewhat higher levels of trust than News Corporation ones.

Essential Research: 52-48 to Labor

Labor gains a point in the latest Essential Research poll, which emphasises the importance of health issues in the recent election result, and records deep concern at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

The fortnightly rolling average from Essential Research, which has so far provided us with the only post-election polling, finds Labor gaining a point on two-party preferred this week, to record a lead of 52-48. The primary votes are Coalition 39% (steady), Labor 37% (up one), Greens 10% (steady) and Nick Xenophon Team 4% (steady). Also featured are questions on issues most influencing vote choice at the election, with health policies (60%) and Medicare (58%) at the top of the list, and favoured priorities for the new government, which likewise have investment in more hospitals and health services (55%) well clear on top, followed by investment in education (31%). The rest of the survey focuses on international affairs, and finds 47% trusting the current government to handle them compared with 46% not doing so, a marked improvement since the question was last asked on Tony Abbott’s watch in May last year, when the numbers were 35% and 58%. Sixty-three per cent of respondents said the relationship with the United States would worsen if Donald Trump became president, with only 7% thinking it would improve, while 24% thought it would improve under Hillary Clinton and 13% that it would worsen. The online survey was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1018, with the voting intention numbers also including results from last week’s sample.

Essential Research: 51-49 to Labor

A new poll suggests Bill Shorten did a lot better out of the election campaign than Malcolm Turnbull, and finds a mixed response to the new Senate electoral system.

The latest result from the Essential Research fortnightly rolling average finds the Coalition down two points on the primary vote to 39%, but with Labor’s 51-49 lead on two-party preferred unchanged. Labor and the Greens are both unchanged, at 36% and 10% respectively. There are some interesting findings in the supplementary questions:

• Malcolm Turnbull is rated by 30% as best to lead the Liberal Party, down nine since March, with Julie Bishop up four to 16% and Tony Abbott steady on 9%.

• Conversely, Bill Shorten has done very well out of the election campaign, with 27% rating him best to lead Labor, up 12% since March, while Tanya Plibersek is down two to 12%, Anthony Albanese is down three to 11%, and Chris Bowen is down to 3%.

• Thirty-seven per cent say the found Senate voting more difficult under the new system compared with 19% for easier; 20% found the outcome more democratic, 15% less democratic, and 39% that it made no difference.

• The current state of the Australian economy is rated by 30% as good, 26% as poor and 41% as neither; 33% as heading in the right direction and 35% in the wrong direction; 27% as likely to improve over the next 12 months, versus 41% for worse.

• Fifty-five per cent said they would support a national ban on greyhound racing, versus 27% opposed.

Election plus two weeks

A deep look at federal election swings, plus a few meagre snippets of post-election polling news.

Two points to emerge from our friends in the polling community, which passed notice while I’ve been diverted by close counts:

• ReachTEL has published a helpful table illustrating pollster accuracy, which is sporting of them given the attention it calls to the eye-watering accuracy of Newspoll. However, all concerned did very well in predicting a two-party preferred result which, by my back-of-envelope reading, will ultimately settle at around 50.5-49.5 to the Coalition. Essential and especially Ipsos overshot on support for the Greens, with the latter landing around 2% too low for both major parties, but the only other substantial errors involved the balance of support between the Liberals and the Nationals, which I don’t regard as particularly important. Electorate polls were a different matter, and will be looked at in greater detail when all the results are in.

• On the Tuesday evening following the election, Roy Morgan conducted an SMS poll poll from 3587 respondents on leadership approval. The poll had Malcolm Turnbull with a narrow 51-47 lead as preferred prime minister, which the Morgan release sets up for comparison with a 57-24 result from May. However, the May result was an interviewer-administered phone poll, a method evidently less conducive to a “neither/can’t say” response. The poll also found Malcolm Turnbull leading Tony Abbott by 71-25 as preferred Liberal leader, and Anthony Albanese leading Bill Shorten 49-48 for Labor.

Now to an exercise I’ve conducted to get a clearer sense of what sort of areas did and didn’t swing. The chart below shows results of a regression analysis on 6582 polling booth results in which two-party swing data was available, which excludes the 14 electorates where the AEC’s two-party count is not between Labor and the Coalition. The purpose here is to discern if the swing to Labor was more or less evident in areas with particular demographic characteristics. The results record a big move back to Labor in the ever-volatile mortgage belts; an apparent failure of the Abbott-to-Turnbull leadership switch to improve the Coalition’s standing in ethnic communities; and better swing results for the Coalition where voters were wealthier and better educated, and – perhaps more surprisingly – older.


After the constant and starting with “Age”, the table lists the associations between polling booth swings to the Coalition, which in practice usually means negative results recording swings to Labor, and five demographic variables for the census districts in which the booths were located. All but one of these variables, English spoken at home, records a statistically significant association with the swing, as indicated by a score of less than .05 in the significance column on the right. The “B” coefficient of .001 for “Age” tells us that areas with a median age of 40 would generally swing 1% more favourably for the Coalition than areas with a median age of 30. “MFY” stands for median weekly family income and is measured in thousands, so the coefficient means swings tended to be 0.3% stronger for the Coalition for every $1000 of average household income. “School” represents the percentage of the 18-plus population who had completed high school, every point of which associates with nearly 0.1% of swing in favour of the Coalition. Conversely, Labor did 0.02% better for every percentage point of mortgaged dwellings.

The five demographic variables are followed by geographic ones that are there to ensure the results for the demographic variables aren’t influenced by regional differences in the swing, particularly those from state to state. Sydney is excluded so it works as a baseline, so the coefficient for Melbourne tells us that the Coalition would typically do 2.6% better there than at a demographically identical booth in Sydney. Finally, two variables are listed to control for retiring member and sophomore surge effects, which prove to be significant in both cases. “LNPgain” was coded 1 where the candidate was a Coalition sophomore and -1 where a Coalition member was retiring; vice-versa in the case of Labor sophomores and retirees; and zero where neither applied. “ALPloss” was coded 1 where Labor lost the seat in 2013 and 0 otherwise, to measure the boost to the sophomore effect in seats where Labor had a sitting member defending last time. The results suggest Coalition members who won their seats from Labor in 2013 did 2.2% better in swing terms than other Coalition candidates, which reduces to 0.5% in seats where they were replacing retiring Coalition members.

To observe these effects in action, the four tables below identify the 15 highest and lowest ranked electorates by the four statistically significant demographic indicators, and show their two-party swings to the Coalition where available. The lowest education electorates, all of which are regional, were 4.0% worse for the Coalition than those at the top of the scale, of which all apart from Fenner in the ACT are near the centres of the largest cities. Median age was more of a mixed bag — old electorates are regional, but the young ones encompass inner cities, mortgage belts, enclaves, a defence town and the largely indigenous seat of Lingiari. Nonetheless, the distinction here is as great as it was for education, and not in the direction that might have been anticipated from a touted backlash over superannuation policy.


The lowest income electorates, all of which are regional other than two in Sydney, recorded an average 3.5% swing to Labor, only slightly above the national result. But the results for the Liberals were well above average among the wealthiest electorates, over half of which swung in the Coalition’s favour. The mortgage effect is more modest, with 2.8% separating the averages for the top and bottom fifteen. Electorates at the top end of the mortgaged dwellings table are all in the outer suburbs of big cities, but the bottom end is a dissonant mix of regional and inner-city areas, producing a wide range of swing results.

The extent to which this exercise actually explains the results is illustrated by the chart below. For each electorate, the result the model would have predicted is plotted on the horizontal axis, and the actual result is plotted on the vertical. The electorates identified by name are those where the Coalition most under-performed or over-performed the prediction. Keep in mind that this accounts for regional as well as demographic factors, so Lyons shows up as a strong Liberal performance because the swing there was lower than in the other three Tasmanian seats included (remember Denison is not included due to its lack of two-party swing figures). Most electorates’ results were within 2% of the prediction, but a good many had results where alternative explanations are substantially required.


Essential Research: 51-49 to Labor

The first poll conducted since the election suggests the result has delivered a blow to Malcolm Turnbull’s public prestige.

Essential Research’s fortnightly aggregate keeps on rolling, this one combining results from polling conducted over the weekend of the election itself, and in its indecisive aftermath over the weekend just past. The result is little changed, with the Coalition steady on the primary vote at 41%, Labor down one at 36% and the Greens steady at 10%, but two-party preferred has nudged to 51-49 in Labor’s favour. Also included are leadership ratings, and these are particularly interesting in having been conducted only over the past weekend. They suggest that Malcolm Turnbull has taken a knock, with his approval down three to 37% and disapproval up eight to 48%. Bill Shorten is up two on both approval and disapproval, to 39% and 41% respectively. Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister narrows from 40-29 to 39-31. In the event of a hung parliament, which we now know won’t happen, 33% would have favoured a Coalition minority government, 36% would have favoured Labor, and 21% would have preferred a fresh election. Fifty-one per cent consider a fresh election likely in the next 12 months, versus 28% for unlikely (for what it’s worth, you can count me among the latter). For some reason, a semi-regular question on same-sex marriage finds a six-point drop in support to 58% and a two-point increase in opposition to 28%. Sixty per cent believe it should be decided by a plebiscite, down six, while 25% think it should be decided by parliament, up two.