Newspoll: 50-50

The Coalition’s lead disappears altogether in the latest Newspoll, which also records a resounding bounce in Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings.

Newspoll has turned in a result for its three-weekly federal poll which, if nothing else, shows it’s not letting the May election result prevent it from publishing optimistic-looking numbers for Labor. As related in The Australian ($), the latest poll has the major parties tied on two-party preferred, after four successive results of 51-49 in favour of the Coalition.

The Coalition is down two on the primary vote to 40%, with Labor up two to 35%, the Greens down one to 12% and One Nation up one to 7%. Anthony Albanese enjoys some encouraging movement on personal ratings, with approval up five to 42% and disapproval down seven to 37%. However, Scott Morrison’s ratings are little changed, with approval down one to 46% and disapproval down two to 43%, and his lead as preferred prime minister narrows only marginally, from 47-32 to 46-32.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1682.

Autopsy turvy

Amid a generally predictable set of recriminations and recommendations, some points of genuine psephological interest emerge from Labor’s election post-mortem.

The public release of Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s report into Labor’s federal election campaign has inspired a run of commentary about the way ahead for the party after its third successive defeat, to which nothing need be added here. From the perspective of this website, the following details are of specific interest:

• Labor’s own efforts to use area-based regression modelling to identify demographic characteristics associated with swings against Labor identifies five problem areas: voters aged 25-34 in outer urban or regional areas; Christians; coal mining communities; Chinese Australians; and the state of Queensland. The variable that best explained swings in favour of Labor was higher education. However, as has been discussed here previously, this sort of analysis is prey to the ecological fallacy. On this basis, I am particularly dubious about the report’s suggestion that Labor did not lose votes from beneficiaries of franking credits and negative gearing, based on the fact that affluent areas swung to Labor. There is perhaps more to the corresponding assertion that the Liberals were able to persuade low-income non-beneficiaries that Labor’s policies would “crash the economy and risk their jobs”.

• Among Labor’s campaign research tools was a multi-level regression and post-stratification analysis, such as YouGov used with notable success to predict seat outcomes at the 2017 election in the UK. Presumably the results were less spectacular on this occasion, as the report says it is “arguable that this simply added another data point to a messy picture”. The tracking polling conducted for Labor by YouGov showed a favourable swing of between 0.5% and 1.5% for most of the campaign, and finally proved about three points off the mark. YouGov suggested to Labor the problem may have been in its use of respondents’ reported vote at the 2016 election as a weighting factor, but the error was in line with that of the published polling, which to the best of my knowledge isn’t typically weighted for past vote in Australia.

• An analysis of Clive Palmer’s advertising found that 40% was expressly anti-Labor in the hectic final week, compared with only 10% in the earlier part of the campaign. The report notes that the Palmer onslaught caused Labor’s “share of voice” out of the sum of all campaign advertising fell from around 40% in 2016 to 25%, and fell as low as 10% in “some regional markets such as Townsville and Rockhampton”, which respectively delivered disastrous results for Labor in the seats of Herbert and Capricornia.

• It is noted that the gap between Labor’s House and Senate votes, which has progressively swollen from 1% to 4.6% since 1990, is most pronounced in areas where Labor is particularly strong.

Other news:

• The challenge against the election results in Chisholm and Kooyong has been heard in the Federal Court this week. The highlight of proceedings has been an admission from Simon Frost, acting director of the Liberal Party in Victoria at the time of the election, that the polling booth advertising at the centre of the dispute was “intended to convey the impression” that they were Australian Electoral Commission signage. The Australian Electoral Commission has weighed in against the challenge with surprising vehemence, telling the court that voters clearly understood that anything importuning for a particular party would not be its own work.

• The ABC reports there is a move in the Tasmanian Liberal Party to drop Eric Abetz from his accustomed position at the top of the Senate ticket at the next election to make way for rising youngester Jonathan Duniam. The Liberals won four seats at the 2016 double dissolution, which initially resulted in six-year terms being granted to Eric Abetz and Stephen Parry, and three-year terms to Duniam and David Bushby. However, the recount that followed the dual disqualifications of Jacqui Lambie and Stephen Parry in November 2017 resulted in the party gaining three rather than two six-year terms, leaving one each for Abetz, Duniam and Bushby. Bushby resigned in January and was replaced by his sister, Wendy Askew, who appears likely only to secure third place on the ticket, which has not been a winning proposition for the Liberals at a half-Senate election since 2004.

Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reports that Jim Molan is likely to win a Liberal preselection vote on Saturday to fill Arthur Sinodinos’s New South Wales Senate vacancy. The decisive factor would appear to be support from Scott Morrison and centre right faction powerbroker Alex Hawke, overcoming lingering hostility towards Molan over his campaign to win re-election by exhorting Liberal supporters to vote for him below the line, in defiance of a party ticket that had placed him in the unwinnable fourth position. He is nonetheless facing determined opposition from Richard Shields, Woollahra deputy mayor and Insurance Council of Australia executive, who was runner-up to Dave Sharma in the party’s hotly contested preselection for Wentworth last year.

Essential Research: budget surplus and economic management

Essential Research’s latest suggests voters still give the Coalition the edge on economic management, but are nervous about their prioritisation of surplus over stimulus.

It hasn’t yet appeared on the organisation’s website, but The Guardian had reports on Tuesday concerning the latest fortnightly poll from Essential Research, which is still holding its fire on voting intention. There’s the usual general report on the survey from Katharine Murphy, plus analysis from pollster Peter Lewis that features detailed tables for two of the key questions.

The headline finding is that 56% would favour prioritising economic stimulus at the cost of a later budget surplus to avoid a downturn, compared with 33% who favour a surplus as first priority. Other indicators of economic sentiment were more favourable for the government: only 29% of respondents deemed the government’s economic management the most likely cause of the IMF’s recent downgrade in Australia’s growth forecast, compared with 52% for factors outside the government’s control most likely to blame (comprising 42% for global factors and 10% for local ones), and 49% expressed greater trust in the Coalition to handle economic management compared with 34% for Labor (compared with 44% to 29% when the question was last asked in March). A question on the Extinction Rebellion movement found more favourable sentiment than you might have expected from following the news: 52% expressed support for the campaign, while 44% were opposed.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1033 respondents out of the pollster’s online panel.

Leave means leave

Mounting suggestions that the disappointment of Labor’s election defeat could prompt an end-of-year rush for the parliamentary exit.

By-election watch:

• In her column in The Australian yesterday ($), Niki Savva wrote that unspecified Labor MPs were convinced Mike Kelly would “be gone by Christmas and that his resignation could be the trigger for others such as Mark Dreyfus and Brendan O’Connor”. This raises the prospect of by-elections for, respectively, the famously marginal south-eastern New South Wales seat of Eden-Monaro (Labor margin 0.8%), the Melbourne bayside seat of Isaacs (6.4%) and the western Melbourne Labor stronghold of Gorton (15.4%). Savva also canvasses the prospect, noted here last week, of Eden-Monaro being contested for the Nationals by state party leader John Barilaro, who holds the corresponding seat of Monaro and is said to hanker for the federal leadership.

• A move to federal politics, successful or otherwise, by John Barilaro would also require a state by-election in Monaro. Labor held the seat from 2003 to 2011, and Barilaro eked out only modest wins in 2011 and 2015, before a 9.1% swing blew the margin out to 11.6% in March. That could just be the beginning of things on New South Wales by-election front – as Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reported yesterday, John Sidoti’s difficulties at the Independent Commission Against Corruption are likely to result in a vacancy in the safe Liberal seat of Drummoyne (margin 15.0%), and there are suggestions Labor MP Nick Lalich “might want to retire early” from his safe seat of Cabramatta (margin 25.5% against Liberal, 12.9% against independent Dai Le). There were also said to be rumours an unspecified Liberal MP was “suffering an illness”.

Latest from the event-packed preliminaries to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ inquiry into the federal election:

• A submission from the Australian Electoral Commission has raised the possibility that counting of pre-poll votes might begin before the 6pm close of polls on election day. This would address the growing issue of election night being a two-stage affair in which most of the election day booths are done counting by 9pm, while the larger pre-poll voting centres can be delayed by several hours beyond that.

• A submission from the Liberal Party has called for the number of pre-poll voting centres to be reduced ($), and the pre-polling period to be cut from three weeks to two. Labor’s submission has also noted a three-week period places “significant pressure on political parties’ ability to provide booth workers”.

• GetUp! remains in the sights of the Liberal Party, and indeed much of the conservative end of the news media, with the Liberals aggrieved that the organisation has escaped classification as an associated entity of the ALP, despite it targeting exclusively Coalition members.

• Labor is correspondingly unhappy with the Australian Electoral Commission’s determination that the Liberal election day advertising that has prompted the challenges to the Chisholm and Kooyong results is beyond the reach of the section of the Electoral Act dealing with “misleading or deceptive publications”.

• The Greens want political truth-in-advertising laws adjudicated by an independent body, campaign spending caps and fixed three-year terms.

• A submission from Facebook has sought to address Labor complaints that the service was used to disseminate misinformation about Labor’s plan for a “death tax” by saying “thousands of posts” making such claims were demoted to give them less prominence in their news feeds, thanks to the work of its “third-party fact checkers”. It also claims to have shut down two accounts for spreading fake news, without providing any further detail.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

No change at all on voting intention in the latest Newspoll, which records a mixed bag of movements on the leaders’ personal ratings.

The Australian reports absolutely no change on voting intention in the latest Newspoll, which is now appearing predictably on a three-weekly schedule. The Coalition continues to lead 51-49 on two-party preferred, from primary votes of Coalition 42%, Labor 33%, Greens 13% (maintaining a four-year high) and One Nation 6%. Scott Morrison is steady on 47% approval and up two on disapproval to 45%, while Anthony Albanese’s ratings continue to yo-yo, with approval down two to 37% and disapproval up four to 44%. Despite that, Morrison’s lead as preferred minister is now at 47-32, narrowing from 50-31. The field work period was presumably Thursday to Sunday, and the sample presumably between 1600 and 1700. UPDATE: The sample was 1634, consisting of 953 online and 681 automated phone poll surveys, the latter breakdown still being the only concession offered to greater transparency since the election.

Note also below this post Adrian Beaumont’s latest on Brexit and Canada.

Bellwether forecast

More Labor MP departure scuttlebutt; Morrison down and Albanese up on Essential’s monthly leadership ratings; and a YouGov Galaxy poll gives a thumbs up for drug tests for welfare recipients.

Plenty of fascinating electoral/political action going down at the moment – in Britain. Adrian Beaumont has the latest on that in the post below. Back home though, just the following:

• Following last week’s chatter surrounding Mark Dreyfus, another round of “speculation” concerning the future of a federal Labor MP: this time Mike Kelly, who has a precarious hold on the former bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro. According to Renee Viellaris of the Courier-Mail ($), Kelly is “frustrated he is not opposition defence spokesman”, and has been telling colleagues he has been “offered a job based in Australia for a Silicon Valley firm”. Even more strikingly, unidentified Nationals have put it to Viellaris that John Barilaro, who leads the state Nationals and holds the corresponding seat of Monaro, is hoping to contest the seat with a view to deposing Michael McCormack as federal leader, and that Kelly is more than comfortable with the idea.

The Guardian reports the latest Essential Research poll once again has nothing to say on voting intention, but does feature the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings. These record negative movement for Scott Morrison, who is up down two on approval to 47% and up two on disapproval to 38%, and positive movement for Anthony Albanese, who is respectively up four to 40% and down two to 29%. Similarly, Morrison’s lead on preferred prime minister is at 42-28, narrowing from 46-25. The poll also features a semi-regular question on the attributes of the major parties, which are discussed in general terms in the report – hopefully Essential will publish full results later today. Essential’s website has further results on attitudes to family violence, which are of sociological interest (older respondents were considerably more likely to take a broad view of what constituted family violence) but have little to offer the party politics obsessive.

• The Daily Telegraph ($) had a YouGov Galaxy poll last week showing 70% support for “a federal government trial for unemployed people newly claiming Newstart or Youth Allowance to undergo drug testing and for those who test positive being put on an income management program involving a cashless welfare card”, with only 24% opposed. The poll was conducted last Wednesday to Monday from a sample of 1075.