Essential Research: Albanese approval and COVID management (open thread)

Albanese down a little off a post-election high, plus some detail from a further poll conducted immediately after the federal election.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes its monthly read on prime ministerial approval, but still nothing on voting intention or opinion of the Opposition Leader. Anthony Albanese maintains most but not all of his post-election bounce, his approval down three to 56% and disapproval up six to 24%.

The pollster’s now regular fortnighly question on national direction is effectively unchanged at 47% for right and 28% for wrong. Further questions relate to COVID-19, which find 55% believe we “need to get on with life and treat Covid like another form of flu”, but that 60% support the return of mask wearing in some settings 53% support the government rolling out of a fourth shot (which it began doing during the survey period).

About half the respondents felt Australia had handled the pandemic better than the United States, the United Kingdom and China, with between 16% and 22% opting for worse, while the result for New Zealand was broadly neutral. The poll was conducted Thursday to Monday from a sample of 1097.

Also out earlier this week was a brief release from the Australia Institute which reported that a poll it conducted on the night of the May 21 federal election found the Coalition had 37% support among men and 30% support among women, which became 28% to 38% when a further survey was conducted the following month. Given a list of 20 options to choose from as Coalition weaknesses, 67% tagged “the state of aged care” and 66% “the treatment of women in politics”.

UPDATE: The Australia Institute has now posted more detail from its polls. As well as a lot more detail on what respondents regarded as Coalition strengths and weaknesses going into the election, it has a set of voting intention numbers dating from June 14: Labor 34%, Coalition 31%, Greens 12%, One Nation 4%, United Australia Party 4%, independents and others 9% and not sure 7%. The first phase of the poll was conducted from May 21 to 25 from a sample of 1424, and the second was conducted “in June” from a sample of 1001.

Kiwi bono

The new government’s electoral reform agenda comes into view: voting rights for residents from New Zealand, truth-in-advertising, spending caps and more.

The Albanese government has made it apparent over the past few days that it has a substantial agenda of electoral reform in mind, which it will hopefully do a better job of delivering on than the last Labor government. My main focus here is on the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday that the government will look at reciprocating an existing arrangement where voting rights are granted to Australians resident in New Zealand for more than a year, along with other measures designed to smooth relations with New Zealand and otherwise drop the previous government’s obnoxious attitude.

Voting in Australia has been restricted to citizens since an earlier requirement of British subjecthood plus six months’ residency was dropped in 1984, grandfathered so as not to remove existing rights from a now dwindling band of mostly British and New Zealander non-citizens. New Zealand, however, has since 1975 granted voting rights to permanent residents, which raises the question as to why the Albanese government’s proposal should be limited to New Zealanders in particular.

When changes to electoral laws are on offer, it always pays to consider how those proffering them might stand to benefit — and I dare say there have been suggestions in right-wing media spaces over the past few days of a Labor plot to preserve its hold on power by unleashing legions of foreign dole bludgers upon our electoral roll. With this in mind I set to work on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ TableBuilder census data facility to get a detailed look at the demographic characteristics of New Zealand-born non-citizens, only to learn the hard way that they are yet to stock it with data from last year’s census.

Having made do instead with results from 2016, I have produced the chart below comparing population percentages among those aged 20 and over by weekly personal income. The only evidence for the stereotype is that 7.0% of New Zealand-born non-citizens report negative or no income compared with 5.5% for Australian citizens — that aside, our New Zealanders actually tend to be fairly affluent, particularly in the upper-middle part of the range.

SEC Newgate issues poll and Senate vacancy scuttlebutt (open thread)

Good to middling ratings for the Albanese government in a new issues poll, and talk of a Senate vacancy offering a second chance for defeated Liberal election candidates.

With a fortnight ago before the resumption of parliament, and what I presume will be the return of Newspoll to accompany it, two items to kick off a new week:

The Australian reports SEC Newgate’s monthly Mood of the Nation survey finds “nearly four out of every ten” respondents believe the new government has done an excellent or good job so far, with 31% choosing the middle option of “fair” and 26% going for poor or very poor. It also finds a sharp increase in expectations that the economy will get worse over the next three months, up from 36% a month ago to 57%, with only 8% expecting it to improve, down from 13%. Given a long list of potential contributors to rising electricity prices, 42% thought “Morrison government inaction” a “large contributor” compared with 30% for “Albanese government inaction”.

Forty-seven per cent felt the Reserve Bank’s 0.5% interest rate hike last month (as distinct from the second hike last week) appropriate, with 31% thinking it too high and 9% too low. Sixty per cent said they were positive about transitioning to renewables and 55% believed progress had been too slow, compared with only 19% for negative and 17% for too fast. Sixty-one percent rated the 5.2% minimum wage increase appropriate, with 29% thinking it too low and only 10% too high. Regular questions on issue salience recorded mounting concern over cost of living, now rated extremely important by 68% (up five on last month), moving ahead of health care (down three to 61%). Forty-two per cent rated Labor best to manage the issue, compared with 23% for the Coalition. The survey was conducted June 23 and 27 from a sample of 1201.

Linda Silmalis of the Sunday Telegraph reports “fresh gossip in Canberra this week” that Andrew Constance, the former state government minister who narrowly failed in his bid for Gilmore at the May 21 federal election, could be a nominee to fill the New South Wales Senate vacancy that will be created if rumours of Marise Payne’s imminent retirement come to pass. Others who reportedly might be interested include Dave Sharma and Fiona Martin, also on the job market after their respective defeats in Wentworth and Reid.

Home alone (open thread)

New research suggests home ownership together with age were the distinguishing cleavages of the recent federal election, plus post-election blame games on both sides of politics.

There are posts above on state politics in New South Wales and below on the slow motion demise of Boris Johnson. This one covers local electoral news relevant to (mostly) the federal tier:

• In an article for The Monthly by George Megalogenis, Shaun Ratcliff of the University of Sydney relates research suggesting home owners were nearly twice as likely to vote Coalition than non-home owners after controlling for income. However, there was a marked exception for those under 35, who were twice as likely to vote Labor and Greens than the Coalition, which played a major role in the latter’s disastrous showing in the big cities. The Coalition had just 16% support among renters, compared with 38% for Labor and 35% for the Greens. Home owners were only half as likely to vote for the Greens as renters, while distinctions among Labor were more modest. This was based on the Australian Cooperative Election Survey, conducted during the campaign from a sample of around 5800 by YouGov and various universities, which we will be hearing a lot more from in future.

The Guardian reports Senator Andrew Bragg is pushing for changes to the New South Wales Liberal Party’s rules at its annual general meeting later this month to allow preselections to proceed without the involvement of the leader’s representative in the nomination review process. This seemingly arcane point lay at the centre of the long-running logjam in its preselection process before the federal election, when Scott Morrison’s centre right faction ally Alex Hawke persistently failed to show at meetings to move the process forward. Factional rivals said this was a deliberate effort to force the national executive to intervene to protect centre right incumbents from preselection defeats. Bragg’s proposal has been criticised by Hollie Hughes, Liberal Senator and centre right member, who instead blames reforms championed by Tony Abbott that required the concurrence of 90% of state executive members to certify factional deals that would have broken the deadlock.

Matthew Knott of the Sydney Morning Herald reports members of Labor’s Cabramatta branch have reacted to Kristina Keneally’s parachute malfunction in Fowler by calling for those who “white-anted” her to be disciplined. This included passage of a motion calling on the party administration to consider expelling Tu Le, whose own aspirations for the seat were thwarted by the Keneally manoeuvre. Local sources cited by Knott said members were “peeved by the presumption Le would have won a rank-and-file ballot given she had only moved to the electorate a year earlier herself and was not well-known in the area”.

• Poll Bludger regular Adrian Beaumont has a piece in The Conversation on the performance of the polls at the federal election, which I mean to get around covering myself in depth eventually.

• Matt Martino of the ABC drew upon my supposed expertise in a fact check on claims made by Barnaby Joyce about the federal election result. I rated him no pinocchios, but told him to watch it anyway.

• Late counting has shown the Liberals’ performance in Saturday’s Bragg state by-election in South Australia to have been a bit less bad than it appeared on the night. There has actually been a 2.8% swing in their favour on postals and pre-polls, compared with a 6.0% swing on the election day votes that were all we had to go on on Saturday. This leaves the Liberal margin at 5.5%, down from 8.2% at the March election (and 16.8% at the election before).

Monday miscellany (open thread)

Return of the vexed question of expelling elected members of parliament, an improbable set of state voting intention numbers from Victoria, and more.

I would guess that Newspoll will return on the eve of the resumption of the parliament, which is still three weeks away. This is an off week for Essential Research; there may be a Roy Morgan poll, or there may not. Until then:

• Kylea Tink, the newly elected teal independent member for North Sydney, says she believes a new federal integrity commission should have the power to sack parliamentarians for sufficiently serious breaches of a parliamentary code of conduct; David Pocock, newly independent Senator for the Australian Capital Territory, says he would have “real concerns about an unelected body being able to dismiss elected representatives”. The federal parliament denied itself of the power to expel representatives through legislation passed in 1987, such power only ever having been exercised in 1920, when Labor MP Hugh Mahon made “seditious and disloyal utterances” regarding British policy in Ireland. Mahon then re-contested his seat of Kalgoorlie but was narrowly defeated, which remains the only occasion of a government party winning a seat from the opposition at a by-election.

• If you can’t wait another three years for my 2025 federal election guide, Robin Visser offers an online geospatial tool for examining polling booth results at the recent federal election.

Victorian state news to go with that related in last week’s dedicated post on the subject:

• Roy Morgan has results of a “snap SMS poll” of state voting intention in Victoria, showing Labor with a rather inplausible two-party lead of 59.5-40.5 from primary votes of Labor 43.5%, Coalition 29.5%, Greens 12%, United Australia Party 2% and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party 1%. The poll was conducted Thursday to Saturday from a sample of 1710. A similar poll in November produced the same two-party result.

• Morgan’s result is at odds with a detailed assessment of the state of play by pollster Kos Samaras, who expects Labor to struggle to maintain its majority in the face of four to five losses to the Liberals, two to the Greens and others yet to independents. However, it’s also “extremely difficult to see how the Coalition get anything north of 38 to 40 seats” in a chamber of 88.

• Jane Garrett, who held a seat in the Legislative Council for Eastern Victoria region, died on Saturday of breast cancer at the age of 49. Garrett moved to the chamber from the lower house seat of Brunswick at the 2018 election, which duly fell to the Greens. She resigned from cabinet in 2016 after a dispute with the United Firefighters Union in her capacity as Emergency Services Union brought her into conflict with Daniel Andrews. Garrett announced last December that she would retire at the election. Labor’s ticket in Eastern Victoria will be headed by incumbent Harriet Shing, who was last week promoted to cabinet, and Tom McIntosh, a former electrician and (at least as of 2019) electorate officer to federal Batman MP Ged Kearney, who is presumably well placed to fill Garrett’s casual vacancy in the interim.


• As detailed at length on my live commentary thread, South Australia’s Liberals copped a 6.0% swing in Saturday’s Bragg by-election to add to the 8.8% one they suffered at the March state election, leaving about 2% intact from a margin that was 17.4% after the 2018 election, and had never previously fallen below 12.8%. The next by-election off the rank is for the Western Australian state seat of North West Central, to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Vince Catania. The Nationals last week preselected Merome Beard, proprietor of Carnarvon’s Port Hotel, whose BLT comes strongly recommended. Labor is considered unlikely to field a candidate, but the Liberal state council voted last week to call for nominations.

Coming to our census

Some insights on electoral demographics from this week’s census data release, plus a look at how states’ House of Representatives seat entitlements might look when the matter is determined next year.

The first and best tranche of data from the 2021 census was released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, prompting an article by me in Crikey yesterday in which I examined how the demographics of various electorates had changed over the past two five-year census cycles, with an inevitable focus on the teal independent seats (which have actually changed very little in demographic terms, some reporting and conservative rhetoric to the contrary) and other seats that turned against the Coalition. The latter tended to be notable for having few old people and, in many cases, large Chinese populations.

For the purposes of this exercise, I supplemented the new census data for federal electorates with comparable figures from the 2011 and 2016 census, aggregating finely granulated Statistical Area 1 results to produce numbers based on current boundaries. From this I further offer the tables below, the first two of which identify the fastest and slowest growing electorates in population terms over the past ten years. The majority of the former are on the outskirts of Melbourne and, in one case, Geelong — although as will be noted below, the underlying population boom this reflects has hit the skids since the onset of the pandemic. The latter include fully urbanised seats in the big cities and remote electorates that tend to be stagnant at the best of times, but have particularly come off since a resources development boom that peaked over a decade ago.

The tables in the Crikey article show which electorates have changed the most in terms of age, income and multiculturalism. Those below simply list those which rank highest and lowest on these measures, and where they placed on the rankings based on the 2011 data. It is notable that all ten of the bottom ranked seats by household income, as well all being in regional areas, are held by the Coalition – this was not the case ten years ago, when Lyons, Richmond and Gilmore featured. Labor’s near lock on the most multicultural seats, marred only by the loss of Fowler, has been assisted by the gain of Reid, which in turn was symptomatic of the swing against the Coalition among voters of Chinese heritage. Bennelong and Chisholm are placed twelfth and fourteenth on the list, and first and second for Chinese language speakers. The “growth” figures are as compared with the 2016 census.

Talk of federal electorates and population growth naturally leads on to the important question of how House of Representatives seats will be apportioned between the states and territories after the next election, which will be determined on the basis of the latest available population figures in the middle of next year. This is a little hard to call at the moment given growth hit a wall in the year after the onset of the pandemic, the impact of which fell so heavily on Victoria that its population actually fell by 1.5% over 2021, but a compensating recovery is now projected by people whose business it is to project such things. With that in mind, the following table shows how the determination would have looked based on population figures from the end of the past three years.

So steep has been the fall of Victoria’s share of the national population that it would appear to be headed for an unprecedented loss of two seats, although I would presume that with the return to normal conditions it will now bounce back and in fact lose only one. New South Wales is also presently teetering on the cusp of 46.5, below which it will lose a seat. By contrast, population growth in Queensland and Western Australia proceeded apace over the past three years, such that Western Australia looks like it will recover the sixteenth seat it lost last time — a fact that would once have boded ill for Labor, but seemingly no more — while Queensland would gain a thirty-first if its quota growth rate were maintained. It’s also not impossible that South Australia will arrest over three decades of declining representation to gain an eleventh seat. Constitutional limits and vagaries of the calculation formula ensure the status quo will be maintained in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Polls: Morning Consult, Essential Research, Lowy Institute (open thread)

Anthony Albanese’s approval remains in the ascendant, plus further polling on the minimum wage, the gas crisis and foreign affairs.

American pollster Morning Consult’s current read on various international leaders’ domestic approval credits Anthony Albanese with an approval rating of 57%, up six on his debut showing last month, with disapproval up one to 26% and the balance accounted for by a drop in the uncommitted. It seems this poll is conducted on a daily basis and its published numbers are seven-day rolling averages – I’m not sure how often updates are published, but this one came out a week ago, from polling conducted between June 15 to 21.

In the absence of anything to tell us on voting intention or leadership approval, the most interesting finding of the fortnightly Essential Research survey for mine is that 67% support the Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 5.2%, with only 15% opposed. It appears Essential Research now has a regular question on whether Australia is headed in the right or wrong direction, the latest figures of 47% and 29% differing little from the result a fortnight ago, which registered a post-election surge of optimism.

The survey also features questions on the gas crisis and emissions targets, which to my mind are flawed by a lack of response options capturing anti-renewables climate skeptic sentiment. Forty-five per cent blamed the gas crisis on “years of neglect and of successive governments” when given a choice between that and “factors that couldn’t have been predicted, like the war in the Ukraine and the pandemic” and the “fossil fuel lobby and the LNP” having “deliberately fought against the transition to renewables”, which scored 35% and 20% respectively. Forty-nine per cent felt the government should implement the emissions reductions target it took to the election and 30% felt it should go further, with “unsure” the only option for those of neither opinion.

There were two questions on foreign policy, one of which found overwhelming majorities felt it important to have close relationships with the United States, Pacific nations and European Union nations, with a more modest 58% feeling the same way about China and 33% doing so about Russia. Sixty-two per cent believed “Australia should take a more assertive role in protecting our national interest”, compared with 38% who favoured the alternative option of “Australia should look for opportunities to increase global cooperation”. The poll was conducted Thursday to Monday from a sample of 1087.

For a lot more on the foreign policy front, the Lowy Institute has published its annual in-depth poll on the subject, which I haven’t had time to look at properly yet. It would seem declining confidence in Joe Biden is not a purely domestic affair, with 58% having confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, down from 69% last year. This places him effectively level with Boris Johnson on 59% and behind Jacinda Ardern on 87%, Emmanuel Macron on 67% and Japan’s Fumio Kishidia (who I’m guessing respondents weren’t required to recognise by name) on 65%. Vlaidimir Putin was down ten points to 6%, placing him on par with Kim Jong-un on 5%. The survey was conducted March 15 to 28 from a sample of 2006.

Joshing around (open thread)

Josh Frydenberg and his well-wishers start plans for his comeback; strong support for political truth-in-advertising laws; research on social media advertising expenditure; and new election result analysis toys.

Still nothing from Newspoll; the fortnightly Essential Research should be along this week, but may not tell us anything too exciting if it’s still holding off on resuming voting intention; and who knows what Roy Morgan might do.

Recent news items relevant to the federal sphere and within the ambit of this site:

John Ferguson of The Australian reports on Liberal plans to get Josh Frydenberg back into federal parliament, which one party source rates as “only a matter of how and when”. However, finding a vehicle for his return is a problem with no obvious solution. While some are reportedly urging him to win back Kooyong, another Liberal is quoted saying an infestation of sandals and tofu in Hawthorn means the seat is now forever lost. Another idea is for him to win Higgins back from Labor, supposedly an easier task since Labor will receive weaker preference flows than an independent. There is also the difficulty that the local party is dominated by a moderate faction of which Frydenberg does not form part, despite efforts to cultivate an impression to the contrary as he struggled to fight off Monique Ryan. Suggestions he might try his hand on the metropolitan fringes at La Trobe and Monash are running into concerns that he might go the way of Kristina Keneally. Yet another source says he might sit out two terms, the idea being that conditions are likely to remain unfavourable for the party in 2025.

• The Australia Institute has published results from a poll of 1424 respondents conducted by Dynata from the day of the election on May 21 through to 25 which found 86% agreed that truth in political advertising laws should be in place by the time of the next election, with little demographic or partisan variation. Sixty-five per cent said they had been exposed to advertising they knew to be misleading at least once a week during the campaign.

• A further study by the Australia Institute found that Labor led the field on social media advertising with expenditure of more than $5 million, after its 2019 post-election review found its social media strategy had been lacking. The Coalition collectively spent around $3.5 million and the United Australia Party $1.7 million.

Election analysis tools:

• Jim Reed of Resolve Strategic has developed a three-pronged “pendulum” to deal with the limitations of the traditional Mackerras model, which entirely assumes two-party competition. Labor, the Coalition and “others” each get a two-sided prong, with margins against the other two recorded on opposite sides.

• David Barry again provides Senate preference calculators that work off the ballot paper data to allow you to observe how each parties’ preferences divided among the various other parties, which you can narrow down according to taste. The deluxe model involves a downloadable app that you can then populate with data files, but there is now a no-frills online version that is limited to above-the-line votes.

• Andrew Conway has a site that allows you to do all sorts of things with the Senate results once you have climbed its learning curve, such as conduct a double dissolution-style count in which twelve (or any other number you care to nominate) rather than six candidates are elected in each state (on a relevant state page, click the “recount” link, enter 12 in the vacancies box towards the bottom, and click “recount”. Its tools can be used not only on each Senate election going back to 2013, but also on New South Wales local government elections at which councillors were elected under the Senate-style single transferable vote system last December.

• Mitch Gooding offers a tool that allows you to replicate how you filled out your Senate paper and calculates exactly how your vote was chopped up and distributed through various exclusions in the count and which candidates it helped elect, if any.

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