Galaxy: 54-46 to Coalition in NSW; ReachTEL: Labor leads in Ballina, Newtown and Strathfield

Three new electorate polls give Labor a mix of exciting and troubling news.

The Sunday Telegraph has a Galaxy poll giving the Coalition a 54-46 lead, from primary votes of 45% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor and 10% for the Greens. Further questions find 42% saying electricity privatisation makes them less likely to vote for the Coalition with only 13% going the other way. No detail is provided in the report, but I’m guessing this was run Tuesday to Thursday from a sample of a bit over 800.

We also have from ReachTEL the first three published electorate-level polls of the New South Wales election campaign, with interesting results in each case. The results bear out the recent hype about Ballina (which you can read about here, along with a lengthy review of regional happenings I posted last night), crediting Labor with a 52.2-47.8 lead and a swing of about 27%. However, Labor holds only a negligible 50.8-49.2 in Strathfield, the inner western Sydney seat being contested by Jodi McKay, which Labor would have well and truly had pencilled in. It’s a happier story for Labor in Newtown, a newly created inner city seat with a notional Greens margin of 4.8% over the Liberals, with Labor having run third in 2011. The poll credits Labor’s Penny Sharpe, who seeks to move from the upper house, with a 56.5-43.5 lead over Jenny Leong of the Greens.

The polls appear in today’s Sun-Herald, which has a nice graphic displaying the results. Interestingly, each of the three polls was supplemented by a question on hot-button local issues, and all three got a question on electricity privatisation. The Liberals got a higher rating than Labor on health policy in Strathfield, which Labor targeted this week with a promised $323 million redevelopment of nearby Concord Hospital. The electorate also recorded far the highest support for leasing of the electricity poles and wire network, at 36% compared with 24% for Ballina and 18% in Newtown (respectively outrated by 47%, 59% and 66% opposed). The question is whether this reflects genuinely distinctive local sentiment, or a Liberal-friendly sample.

In Ballina, 43% credited Labor with the better policy on coal seam gas, although a solid 30% favoured the Coalition. In Newtown, 45% rated Labor’s the better policy on WestConnex, compared with 24% for the Coalition.

UPDATE: I’ve updated the poll tracker on the sidebar with the Galaxy result, and also included a few earlier Morgan SMS polls that had escaped my net the first time around. I’ve also smartened up the seat allocation model by basing it on primary votes and applying the preference distributions that were published in the last ReachTEL. This has meant jettisoning the Ipsos respondent-allocated preference results, which were more favourable to Labor. For all that, the seat projection is unchanged on both two-party methods, although the Coalition has picked up on voting intention.

New South Wales election minus one week

A new-ish opinion poll from Lonergan finds Mike Baird’s government sitting fairly pretty with a 55-45 lead. Also featured: a review of the situation in the Northern Rivers and Central Coast regions, the blue-ribbon Liberal seats of Sydney, and the bellwether electorate of Monaro.

The Guardian has furnished us with the only opinion poll of the past few days, an automated phone survey of 1565 respondents conducted between Friday to Monday. It leaned slightly to the Coalition compared with the trend of other polling, crediting them with a lead of 46% to 34% on the primary vote (with the Greens on 10%) and 55% to 45% on two-party preferred.

For your further entertainment, here are some local area situation reports.

Northern Rivers

The single most interesting zone in the election is the Northern Rivers region just south of the Queensland border, home to three Nationals-held seats: Ballina (24.6%), Tweed (21.7%) and Lismore (24.3%). Ballina and Lismore have been held safely by the Nationals since time immemorial, but Tweed was held by Labor from 1999 to 2007 – as indeed was another local seat, Clarence (31.9%), where Labor is not thought to be competitive now.

As unassailable as the margins may appear, it’s universally reckoned that a very different set of rules applies at the coming election compared with 2011. Emphasising the extraordinary nature of the 2011 result, fully a quarter of the region’s voters switched from the Coalition to the Labor column at the federal election in September 2013 – this in the context of a poor result for Labor not just nationally but locally, with a 6.7% swing to the Nationals unseating Janelle Saffin in Page.

The specific issue which might cause voting patterns to snap into line with the federal election this time out is coal seam gas exploration, the local backlash against which has caused the government to suspend exploration licences in sensitive areas and promise tougher regulation all round, while deferring much of the important detail until after the election. Labor is purposefully offering a tougher line, angering explorers by threatening to terminate their licences without compensation.

The biggest danger to the Nationals clearly lies in Ballina, where incumbent Don Page will be taking into retirement the personal vote he has built up over 27 years, which makes the 24.6% margin from 2011 particularly deceptive. The electorate encompasses Byron Bay, and has a large green-left constituency living aside the more traditional regional Nationals-voting base, to the extent that the seat might even present an opportunity for the Greens.

Central Coast

It might be anticipated that the work of the Independent Commission Against Corruption will make this region a washout for the Liberals, who are attempting to defend Wyong (4.6%), The Entrance (11.8%) and Gosford (11.9%). The first two seats are being vacated by ICAC casualties Darren Webber and Chris Spence, while Gosford is being defended by the last Liberal standing in the local region, Chris Holstein.

Despite their travails, the Liberals have been putting some effort in locally, particularly in the last week. Mike Baird toured the region and promised to spend $126 million duplicating the Pacific Highway at Lisarow, and relocate 200 Department of Finance and Services jobs from Sydney to Gosford. Labor has made a pitch for the environmental vote by promising to cancel without compensation the $800 million Wallarah 2 coal mine in Wyong, operated by South Korean company Kores. The Liberals promised the mine would not proceed before the 2011 election, but then allowed it to proceed through planning processes that appear likely to conclude shortly with it being granted conditional approval.


Quite a lot being written on this seat in south-eastern New South Wales, which appears to be playing out very differently to the aforementioned Nationals seats at the other end of the state. It might have been thought that the seat would be a Labor gimme, and not just because of the slender Nationals margin of 2.0%. Labor up-and-comer Steve Whan is attempting to win back the seat after after losing it to John Barilaro of the Nationals in the 2011 landslide, since which time he has found a place for himself in the Legislative Council, and been rated as a leadership contender after John Robertson’s resignation.

Whan was a notably popular local member, and suffered one of the smallest swings in the state in the course of losing his seat. Furthermore, nearly half of Monaro’s voters live in Queanbeyan, which is essentially a commuter suburb of Canberra. As Mark Coultan of The Australian notes, this gives the electorate the state’s highest proportion of public servants, and a corresponding sensitivity to federal government job cuts. Under similar circumstances at the state election in 1999, Monaro recorded a thumping swing to Labor of 16.0%. Coultan’s report further notes that the electorate is effectively part of the Canberra media market, the news content of which is “all Abbott, all the time” – which, naturally, is bad news for Barilaro.

Despite all that Ean Higgins of The Australian reports that Labor is “not fully confident”, since Barilaro too has also “proved very popular”. In staging the party’s campaign launch last weekend, Nationals leader Troy Grant targeted the electorate with a promise of a “regional education hub” in Queanbeyan.

Sydney’s blue belt

Earlier in the campaign, Rick Wallace of The Australian reported on the growing strength of the Greens in the traditional blue-ribbon seats encompassing expensive real estate near the big cities, naturally making note of the party’s success in winning the seat of Prahran at the Victorian election in November, together with its primary vote of over 20% in Hawthorn.

John Black, former Labor Senator and now director of demographic profiling company Australian Development Strategies, related that a modelling exercise derived from Queensland election trends foreshadowed “large swings to the Left in seats thought to be safe”, including Willoughby, North Shore, Vaucluse and Manly (not to mention Warringah, Wentworth and North Sydney federally, respectively held by Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey). As Black sees it, support in these areas is derived from a new strain of Greens voter, “wealthier and more likely to vote on job security than their more earthy peers”.

It should be cautioned that similar talk was abroad in 2004 and 2007, when the proposition was that Howard government policies in relation to asylum seekers and Iraq war were troubling the collective conscience of “doctors’ wives”. It was indeed the case the Liberal margins in such electorates softened a little during this period, before bouncing back in 2010, but at no stage were any of the members seriously endanger them. Black does allow that he does not expect the Liberals to lose any such seats on this occasion, but thinks their members will be given “a nodding acquaintance with their own mortality”.

New South Wales election minus ten days

Polling continues to point to a much-reduced but still solid majority for the Baird government after the March 28 election, regardless of which way preferences are sliced.

Keen-eyed observers will have noted that a state election poll tracker appeared in the sidebar yesterday. It has since been updated with the results of Morgan’s latest SMS poll, on which more below. The chief innovation is separate two-party and seat projections based on both previous election and respondent-allocated preferences, the Queensland experience having cast serious doubt over the utility of the former method under optional preferential voting when a big swing is on. Respondent-allocated data is available in two polls from Ipsos and one from ReachTEL, and my method is to crudely split the difference between the two (or rather an average of the two, in the case of Ipsos). However, it had hitherto escaped by notice that ReachTEL provided detailed results from its preference breakdown, and now that I know this I’ll use it to sharpen things up a little when the next poll comes out.

Notable news nuggets:

• The aforementioned Roy Morgan poll was conducted from Friday to Sunday by SMS from a sample of 1287 respondents, and it has the Coalition well clear of Labor with 46.5% of the primary vote to 33.5%, and the Greens on 11.5%. The published two-party result is 55.5-44.5 in favour of the Coalition. However, the size of the lead hasn’t made much difference to the poll tracker, as this series has been reasonably consistent in landing above trend for the Coalition, and has been bias-adjusted accordingly.

• Labor has reached a deal with the Greens in which the latter will recommend their voters preference Labor in 23 seats, including most of the ones that matter. Furthermore, it would seem the party is further set to direct preferences to Labor in many seats not directly subject to the deal. It would appear that this is more consequential than it would be under compulsory preferential voting, with Kevin Bonham calculating a 1.7% gain to Labor for every 10% of the vote recorded by the Greens, based on an Antony Green study of results from the 2007 election. The Daily Telegraph has made the deal the subject of one of its trademark front page hatchet jobs in today’s edition of the paper.

Kirsty Needham of the Sun-Herald reports focus group research from market research firm Visibility, which specifically targeted voters in western Sydney who changed their vote to Liberal in 2011, has found the government isn’t having much luck in its endeavour to link electricity privatisation to the roads and transport measures that will be funded from its proceeds. By contrast, “the participants showed a spontaneous recall of ‘facts’ from Labor and union attack ads”. Labor’s claim that privatisation will lead to higher prices is widely accepted by voters, as reflected by Luke Foley’s invocation of the voting public as the “ultimate independent experts” in countering the argument that prices are to be set in any case by an independent regulator. On the other hand, the research confirmed the popularity of Mike Baird, found “little mood among voters for change”, and reported a perception that the government had not been beset by scandal, despite the best efforts of ICAC.

Andrew Clennell of the Daily Telegraph reports that “privately, Labor people virtually admit they are done in terms of winning but that their real aim is to win as many seats as possible to get the party back in contention for 2019”. Clennell further quotes a Labor source saying the party has a corruption attack ad “ready to go” should the Liberals strike first with one invoking the spectre of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, but so far it’s been a case of “mutually assured destruction”. On the Liberal side, there have reportedly “been calls for some Obeid advertising to be run and frustration that this has not occurred”.

Galaxy: 54-46 to Coalition in NSW

A mid-campaign poll for the Daily Telegraph supports the established picture in crediting the Baird government with a stable and decisive lead.

The Daily Telegraph brings us a Galaxy poll for next fortnight’s New South Wales state election, which finds the Coalition government’s two-party vote up a point on last month’s result to give them a lead of 54-46, based on 2011 election preference flows. The primary votes are 44% for the Coalition (up one), 36% for Labor (steady) and 10% for the Greens (steady). Mike Baird’s lead as preferred premier is little changed but the uncommitted rate has dropped, causing his advantage to shift from 46-22 to 49-24. Luke Foley’s name recognition has improved from 19% to 38%, with Baird’s on 65%. However, the poll finds only 32% agreeing with the proposition that the Legislative Council should pass electricity asset sales if the government has a mandate in the form of an election win, with 48% declaring otherwise. The telephone poll of 820 respondents was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

Further public opinion snippets:

• Results from the ABC’s self-selecting Vote Compass survey, which has attracted 32,000 respondents, confirm an impression of Mike Baird’s popularity, with non-Coalition voters finding him greatly more trustworthy and competent than they did the parties’ leaders at the last Queensland, Victorian and federal elections. Averaging responses on a scale of zero to 10, Baird came in at 3.6 for Labor supporters and 3.4 for the Greens, compared with 1.0 and 1.1 for Campbell Newman. However, the survey also finds only 31% in support of the Coalition’s proposed sale of electricity assets with 55% opposed, rising to 60% in rural areas.

• Further evidence of opposition to privatisation from the Fairfax papers courtesy of Ipsos, whose last poll in early February found 67% opposed and only 23% in support when it was asked if electricity infrastructure should be partly sold. However, this became 46% and 47% when joined by the qualification that “funds raised could only be used to build other infrastructure in NSW”.

• The leaders’ debate on March 8 was rated a 56-44 win for Luke Foley by “Seven News viewers”, although I’m unclear how that was determined exactly. An “audience of uncommitted voters” assembled by Galaxy had 50 opting for Baird and 25 for Foley, with the remaining 25 uncommitted (note that these are raw numbers of respondents).

• The only substantive mention I’ve heard of internal polling comes from James Robertson of the Australian Financial Review, who reports the Nationals believe themselves to be under “serious threat” in Tamworth from former independent member Peter Draper, who is seeking to recover the seat he lost in 2011.

New South Wales election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s New South Wales election guide, detailing the ins and outs of every one of the state’s 93 lower house electorates.

Yesterday saw the closure of nominations and ballot paper draws for the New South Wales state election, now a little over a fortnight away. As always, the details are neatly summarised by Antony Green. For my part, I’m marking the occasion with the long overdue publication of my seat-by-seat election guide, which goes the whole hog in featuring 2011 booth results maps and charts displaying past results and demographic indicators, together with exhaustively comprehensive write-ups. No doubt there are errors and maybe the odd technical teething problems (for one thing, I will find a way to make the new and old electorate boundaries in the maps appear tidier), which you may call to my attention in comments. With that chore out of the way, you should finally start to see some serious campaign coverage on this blog over the coming fortnight.

ReachTEL: 53-47 to Coalition in NSW

Three weeks out from the election, ReachTEL is unchanged on last week in having the Coalition with a moderate lead. Also featured: how a state election would look based on 2013 federal election results.

With three weeks to go until polling day, ReachTEL has an automated phone poll from a sample of 1731 respondents, conducted on Thursday for the Seven Network, which records remarkably little change on its poll last week. On the primary vote, the Coalition is down 0.6% to 44.0%, Labor is down 0.2% to 34.8% and the Greens are up 0.2% to 10.2%. This time ReachTEL has treated to a respondent-allocated preferences result, but it’s exactly the same as the pollster got using 2011 election preferences last week from near-identical primary vote numbers, with the Coalition lead at 53-47. I wrote in Crikey last week that preference behaviour had traditionally been less variable in New South Wales than Queensland; this poll offers at least some evidence that that isn’t about to change, though more respondent-allocated results would be good to see. Hopefully Ipsos will come through at some point.

I haven’t had much to say about the election campaign so far as I’m busy getting my election guide in order, but by way of throwing you a bone, here is my calculation of what an electoral pendulum would look like if the results of the 2013 election were precisely replicated on state boundaries. The Coalition’s 54.35-45.65 win on two-party preferred translates into 58 seats for the Coalition and 35 for Labor. I’ll have more to say about this in Crikey tomorrow or the next day, but for now I’ll stick to noting that a very interesting pattern emerges with the seats on the North Coast.

Newspoll: 54-46 to Coalition in NSW

Two new polls strengthen the view that Mike Baird’s government will enjoy a fairly comfortable victory next month – provided assumptions about preferences prove correct.

James J in comments relates that tomorrow’s Weekend Australian carries a New South Wales state Newspoll showing the Coalition leading 54-46, with primary votes of 43% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor and 11% for the Greens. Mike Baird has personal ratings of 59% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied, while Luke Foley’s are 36% and 31%. Baird leads as preferred premier by 55-25. The poll was conducted from Monday to Thursday from a sample of 1119, in keeping with Newspoll’s regular practice of conducting polls at the start and end of state election campaigns.

Also out today was a Roy Morgan phone poll conducted from Friday to Sunday, and while the sample was a very modest 418, the results were remarkably similar to Newspoll’s: 43% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor and 10.5% for the Greens. However, Morgan has come up with a rather different headline two-party figure of 52.5-47.5. As I noted in relation to further similar results from Galaxy last week, a lot depends on the veracity of the pollsters’ assumption that preferences will behave as they did in 2011, notwithstanding that things played out very differently in Queensland.

UPDATE (ReachTEL): A ReachTEL automated phone poll conducted for the Seven Network is slightly stronger for the Coalition than Newspoll on the primary vote, crediting them with a lead of 44.6% to 35.0%, with the Greens on 10.0%. However, ReachTEL calculates a narrower two-party preferred lead of 53-47. Further questions confirm that Mike Baird is rated a good deal more highly than Luke Foley, but that the Coalition is heavily weighed down by hostility towards the Abbott government. The poll was conducted on Thursday night from a sample of 1496.

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