Essential Research: leadership ratings and vaccine rollout polling

Scott Morrison’s personal ratings continue tracking downwards as vaccine rollout problems take their toll.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the regular monthly leadership ratings, their principal item of interest in between their quarterly dumps of voting intention numbers. The pollster included a bonus result for Scott Morrison’s leadership ratings in the last fortnightly poll by way of discerning any emergent gender gap in light of recent events. The results chart a steady decline for Scott Morrison, from 62% a month ago to 57% a fortnight ago to 54% now, and a corresponding rise in disapproval from 29% to 35% to 37%. While he remains well in positive territory, a distinct downturn can be observed in the BludgerTrack polling trend. The gender gap that opened a fortnight ago, which you can read about here, has neither narrowed nor widened.

Anthony Albanese records his weakest personal ratings in a while, with approval down two to 39% and disapproval up two to 34%. GhostWhoVotes, who monitors these things, points out that breakdowns by voting intention have him down five on approval among Labor voters to 55% and up six on disapproval to 22% – this is from a sub-sample of 483 and a margin of error of about 4.5%, so make of it what you will. In any case, he has taken a reasonable bite out of Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister, which narrows from 52-26 to 47-28.

The remainder of the survey is mostly about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout, including the regular question on the quality of the federal and state governments’ responses. The federal government’s good rating is down eight points to 62% and its poor rating is up five to 17%, though this isn’t a whole lot different to the situation before the government’s numbers surged in mid-November for whatever reason. The ratings for the five mainland state governments are down as well, by two in the case of New South Wales to 73%, four for Victoria to 58%, three for Queensland to 72%, seven for Western Australia to 84% and ten for South Australia to 75% (with progressively increasing caution required for small sub-sample sizes). As with the federal results though, these numbers don’t look that remarkable when compared with their form over the longer term.

Respondents were also asked how confident they would have been about COVID-19 management “if a Labor government under Anthony Albanese had been in power”, with an uninspiring 44% rating themselves confident and 37% not so. Fifty-two per cent felt the vaccine rollout was proceeding too slowly, with 19% happy with the situation and 20% signing on to the seemingly odd proposition that it was happening too fast. For those in the former category, 42% held the federal government mostly responsible, 7% state governments, 24% international supply chains and 18% “unavoidable delays in the production of vaccines”.

There are a whole bunch of further questions on the vaccine rollout, interstate travel and the end of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplements, plus one on paid parental leave, which you can read about in the full release.

Morgan COVID-19 poll, Laming latest and more

Evidence vaccine rollout issues are taking their toll on the Prime Minister’s popularity.

I had a vague hope that last fortnight’s sooner-than-expected Newspoll portended a return to a (usually) fortnightly rather than three-weekly schedule, but apparently not. Essential Research should be along this evening though, hopefully including its monthly leadership ratings. Then there’s this:

• Roy Morgan has published results of an SMS poll conducted on Friday and Saturday from a sample of 1423, which asked if respondents were still up for the COVID-19 vaccine in light of recent developments (only 17% were not, increasing to 24% when those who would only settle for Pfizer were included) and, most interestingly, if they approved of Scott Morrison’s handling of “all COVID-19 related issues”. In the absence of a non-response option, the latter question recorded 49% approval and 51% disapproval. I’m aware of two past polls that specifically asked about leaders’ rather than governments’ handling of COVID-19, both from Newspoll – one in April and one in July – from which the weakest result was 61% approval and 36% disapproval for Daniel Andrews in the July poll.

Sarah Elks of The Australian reports that Andrew Laming has declined Scott Morrison’s invitation to sit out the preselection for his Brisbane seat of Bowman, and is “collecting evidence in an effort to disprove a series of allegations against him”. The report notes he has an incentive in a $105,600 reward available to to MPs who “retire involuntarily”, which would not be granted if he went gracefully. Laming will also need to pass muster with the Liberal National Party’s “candidate suitability panel” if his nomination is to proceed to the stage where local party members have a say.

• In a piece for The Conversation, Benjamin Reilly of the University of Western Australia evaluates the likely impact of optional preferential voting, as mooted by the Coalition members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. The conclusion is that Labor would only have won about half of the 36 seats it won on preferences at the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections after trailing on the primary vote, and that few if any members of the House of Representatives front bench would have got their foot in the door.

• I have a guide up for the Upper Hunter state by-election in New South Wales on May 22, though it’s still at a preliminary stage since most of the candidates haven’t been announced, together with a Tasmanian state election guide that has lately been supplemented with a page for the Legislative Council contests.

Newspoll quarterly breakdowns: January to March

Big movement to Labor in the smaller states in the latest Newspoll breakdowns, but nothing of what might have been expected on gender.

My assertion in the previous post that we faced a dry spell on the polling front hadn’t reckoned on Newspoll’s quarterly breakdowns, published today in The Australian. These combine the four Newspoll surveys conducted this year into a super-poll featuring various breakdowns from credible sample sizes (though I’d note that nothing seems to have come of talk that new industry standards would require that such breakdowns be provided in each poll individually, in a new spirit of transparency following the great pollster failure of 2019).

The latest numbers offer some particularly interesting insights into where the Coalition has been losing support over recent months. Whereas things have been reasonably stable in New South Wales (now 50-50 after the Coalition led 51-49 in the last quarter of 2020) and Victoria (where Labor’s lead narrows from 55-45 to 53-47), there have been six-point shifts in Labor’s favour in Western Australia (where the Coalition’s 53-47 lead last time has been reversed) and South Australia (51-49 to the Coalition last time, 55-45 to Labor this time). Labor has also closed the gap in Queensland from 57-43 to 53-47.

It should be noted here that the small state sample sizes are relatively modest, at 628 for WA and 517 for SA, implying error margins of around 4%, compared with around 2.5% for the larger states. I also observed, back in the days when there was enough state-level data for such things to be observable, that state election blowouts had a way of feeding into federal polling over the short term, which may be a factor in the poll crediting Labor with a better result than it has managed at a federal election in WA since 1983.

The gender breakdowns notably fail to play to the script: Labor is credited with 51-49 leads among both men and women, which represents a four-point movement to Labor among men and no change among women. There is also nothing remarkable to note in Scott Morrison’s personal ratings, with deteriorations of 7% in his net rating among men and 8% among women.

Further results suggest the government has lost support more among the young (Labor’s lead is out from 61-39 to 64-36 among those aged 18 to 34, while the Coalition holds a steady 62-38 lead among those 65 and over), middle income earners (a three-point movement to Labor in the $50,000 to $100,000 cohort and four-point movement in $100,000 to $150,000, compared with no change for $50,000 and below and a two-point increase for the Coalition among those on $150,000 and over), non-English speakers (a four-point decline compared with one point for English speakers) and those with trade qualifications (a four-point movement compared with none among the university educated and one point among those without qualifications).

You can find the full results, at least on voting intention, in the poll data feature on BludgerTrack, where you can navigate your way through tabs for each of the breakdowns Newspoll provides for a full display of the results throughout the current term. Restoring a permanent link to all this through my sidebar is part of the ever-lengthening list of things I need to get around to.

Easter eggs

Preselection jockeying for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, a looming state by-election in NSW, and a post-mortem into yet another election defeat in the ACT.

The interruption of Easter means we’re not likely to see any opinion polls this week. A new post is wanted though, so I offer the following loose assemblage of news items. My own efforts have late have been consumed by my Tasmanian election guide, which is currently being buffed and polished ahead of publication later today.

Lydia Lynch of the Brisbane Times reports the executive of Queensland’s Liberal National Party has voted to reopen preselection nominations for Andrew Laming’s seat of Bowman, by a bare margin of 11 to 10, but for which the position would be assured for businesswoman Fran Ward, the only candidate to nominate against Andrew Laming when he still intended to run. The Australian reports that “conservative forces” were keen that this should happen to open the way for Henry Pike, communications adviser for the Property Council and unsuccessful candidate for Redlands at the October state election. The Brisbane Times report says the preselection looms as a three-way contest between Ward, Pike and barrister Maggie Forrest. Senator Amanda Stoker has ruled herself out, despite expectations she could use the seat to resolve a difficulty where she and James McGrath are in competition for the safe first and loseable third positions on the LNP Senate ticket, the second position being reserved to the Nationals.

• A by-election will be held in the New South Wales state seat of Upper Hunter following the resignation of Nationals member Michael Johnsen after he was accused of raping a sex worker. I will have a dedicated post and election guide up for the by-election hopefully later in the week. For what it’s worth, Sportsbet has Shooters Fishers and Farmers as favourites to win the seat, paying $1.50 compared with $3.25 for the Nationals and $8 for Labor.

• The Canberra Times reports on the findings of an internal review into the ACT Liberals’ sixth successive election defeat in October, finding more effort should have been made to win over “soft Greens voters” who might be persuaded by a pitch targeting the Greens’ “anti-small business bent” and “soft law and order policies”. The review was conducted by Grahame Morris, lobbyist and one-time chief-of-staff to John Howard, Vicki Dunne, recently retired Liberal MP, and Daniel Clode, the party’s campaign manager in 2016.

Essential Research: Morrison approval and gender issues

A new poll finds an unprecedented gender gap opening up on prime ministerial approval.

Essential Research has seized the day in its latest fortnightly survey with new personal ratings for Scott Morrison, in addition to its normal montly reading (together with Anthony Albanese’s and the preferred prime minister rating) which came in the last poll. The results are broadly similar to Newspoll’s in finding Morrison down five on approval to 57% and up six on disapproval to 35%.

However, the real kicker is the accompanying gender breakdowns, which have Morrison steady at 65% approval and up two on disapproval to 30% among men, but down ten on approval to 49% and up ten on disapproval to 40% among women. This 16% gender gap on prime ministerial approval is twice as big as the Newspoll record from 1996 to the present, which came when Tony Abbott scored 42% among men and 34% among women in January-March 2014 (the biggest the other way was when Julia Gillard scored 38% among women and 31% among men in April-June 2011).

Further questions from the survey continue on this theme: presented with five propositions as to why there are fewer women than men in parliament, the most popular was that “political parties do not do enough to ensure gender equality in their organisations”, with which 63% agreed. Forty-eight per cent indicated support for gender quotas, with 36% opposed. Variations by party support were in the directions you would expect, but were not of great magnitude.

On other fronts, the poll finds respondents taking a mostly positive view of the causalisation of the workforce: while they were most likely to believe it was good for employers, at 65% versus 11% for bad, 46% felt it had been good for the economy, 42% for indivdual workers and 41% for the nation, compared with respective bad ratings of 19%, 29% and 26%. However, 84% expressed support for the right of workers to convert from casual to permanent employment after six months, with only 10% opposed, and 80% felt gig-based workers with regular hours should be recognised with permanent employment, with only 8% opposed.

For good measure, the poll finds 48% supportive for a republic and 28% opposed, although the question emphasises “a republic with an Australian head of state”, which tends to encourage a positive result. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1100.

Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

The Prime Minister’s personal ratings take a tumble after a problematic fortnight, but with no significant change on voting intention.

The Australian has come good with a Newspoll just a fortnight after the last, quickening its usual three-weekly schedule. This actually has very slightly better numbers for the Coalition on the primary vote, up one to 40% with Labor down one to 38%, the Greens up one to 11% and One Nation down one to 2%, but with Labor’s two-party lead unchanged on 52-48.

However, Scott Morrison’s personal ratings have taken a hit: he’s down seven points on approval to 55% and up six on disapproval to 40%, comfortably his worst numbers since the onset of COVID-19. Anthony Albanese is up a point on approval to 43% and steady on disapproval at 41%, and his deficit on preferred prime minister has been cut from 56-30 to 52-32.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1517.