Essential Research: robodebt, protests and coronavirus latest

The weekly Essential poll finds considerable displeasure at the government’s handling of the robodebt affair, even as Newspoll finds the electoral damage to be limited at best.

Together with the usual suite of questions on coronavirus, the latest weekly Essential Research survey offers findings on the government’s robodebt the recent disturbances in the United States. The former make grim reading for the government, or might do if Newspoll hadn’t suggested the debacle had made no difference on voting intention: 74% say the government should apologise to those negatively impacted, with only 11% disagreeing; 66% support interest and damages for those who wrongly repaid money, with 13% disagreeing; 55% supported a royal commission, with 23% disagreeing; and only 32% agreed the automated notifications were a good idea “even if it was poorly implemented”, with 43% disagreeing.

Regarding the protests in the United States, the propositions that “protesters are right to demand better protection and treatment of African Americans in society” and that “the protesters want to loot and cause property damage, more than they want social change” both received majority support, though far more emphatically in the former case, with 80% agreeing and 11% disagreeing, compared with 54% and 33% for the latter. There were likewise large majorities in favour of the notions that “authorities in America have been unwilling to deal with institutional racism” (78% to 10%) and that the death of George Floyd pointed to “wider discrimination against minority cultures in society” (72% to 16%), while only 33% considered Floyd’s death isolated and not illustrative of institutional police racism, compared with 54% who disagreed.

As for coronavirus, the number who are “very concerned” maintains a steady decline, down five to 27%, with quite concerned down one to 48%, not that concerned up six to 21% and not at all concerned up one to 5%. Approval of the government’s handling of the matter is little changed, with 70% rating it good (up two) and 12% poor (steady). Small-sample state breakdowns provide a further increment of support for the notion that the Western Australian government has done best out of the crisis, with the good rating at 84% and poor at 6%, with other states ranging from 67% to 79% on good and 8% to 13% on poor. Queensland respondents were most likely to say their government was moving too slowly in easing restrictions, although even here the result was only 23% compared with 63% for “about the right speed”. The poll was conducted online from Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1073.

Elsewhere, yesterday’s declaration of candidates and ballot paper draw for the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election revealed a field of 14 candidates. Along with Labor candidate Kristy McBain and Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs, there are starters for the Nationals (Trevor Hicks, who won a preselection vote on Saturday), the Greens, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Liberal Democrats, the Christian Democrats, Help End Marijuana Prohibition, the Science Party, Sustainable Australia, something called the Australian Federation Party and three independents.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

The latest Newspoll records little change on three weeks ago, with Scott Morrison dominating on personal ratings but the Coalition enjoying only a slender lead on voting intention.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has the Coalition’s two-party lead unchanged at 51-49, with both major parties down a point on the primary vote, the Coalition to 42% and Labor to 34%. The Greens are up two to 12% and One Nation are down one to 4%. Scott Morrison’s approval is unchanged at 66%, and his disapproval is down one to 29%; Anthony Albanese is respectively down three to 41% and up one to 38%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is now 56-26, out from 56-29. The BludgerTrack leadership trends (see also on the sidebar) have been updated with these numbers. The poll was conducted online from Wednesday to Saturday, from a sample of 1512.

UPDATE: The Australian has helpfully published a PDF display of all the poll results, including for a suite of questions on coronavirus and its foreign policy implications. Opinion was divided as to whether the World Health Organisation (34% positive, 32% negative) and United Nations (23% positive, 21% negative) had had a beneficial impact on the crisis, but quite a lot clearer in relation to “Xi Jinping and the Chinese government” (6% positive, 72% negative) and “Donald Trump and the United States government” (9% positive, 79% negative). Further results are available through the link.

Darwinian selection

Labor moves to save the Northern Territory’s second House of Representatives seat ahead of next month’s determination of state and territory seat entitlements.

The post below this one features Adrian Beaumont’s latest updates on the polling situation in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Back on home turf, I have two updates to relate.

The first involves the calculation of the states’ and territories’ House of Representatives seat entitlements for the next parliament, which will be determined next month on the basis of yet-to-be published quarterly population figures from December. Barring a sudden change in population trends in the last quarter of last year, this will cause Victoria to gain a seat for the second term in a row, boosting it to 39 seats — a return to where it was when the parliament was enlarged in 1984, before a lean period for the state reduced it to 37 in 1996. It is even more clear that Western Australia will lose the sixteenth seat it has had for the past two terms, reflecting the waxing and waning of the mining and resources boom.

Relatedly — and to get to my main point — the Northern Territory is also set to lose a seat, unless something comes of Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s announcement last week that she will introduce a bill to guarantee the territory its existing two seats. The territory just scraped over the line with 1.502 population quotas at the last determination in 2017, rounding up to an entitlement of two seats, and has since experienced a continuation of relative decline since the resource boom halcyon days of 2009 — and even then its population only amounted to 1.54 quotas.

The Northern Territory was first divided into its current two seats of Solomon and Lingiari in 2001, but its claim to a second seat has been consistently precarious. It would have reverted to one seat in 2004 if not for a legislative fix to change definitions in a way that put it over the threshold, which received bipartisan support partly because both major parties imagined at that time that they could win both seats. This proved a forlorn hope in the Coalition’s case, with Lingiari having remained with Labor at all times and Solomon having fallen their way in both 2016 and 2019.

As a result, Solomon and Lingiari have consistently had the lowest enrolments in the country, at a shade below 70,000 at the time of the 2019 federal election, compared with an average of 110,755 in the mainland states, 98,644 in the Australian Capital Territory (which gained a third seat last year) and 77,215 in Tasmania (which maintains the constitutionally mandated minimum of five seats for the six original states). Conversely, a single Northern Territory seat would have an enrolment far greater than any other, with the unfortunate effect of under-representing its indigenous population, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total.

My other update relates to the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election, for which nominations close on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph ($) reports four candidates have nominated for the Nationals’ Eden-Monaro preselection, to be held on Sunday: Trevor Hicks, deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang; Fleur Flanery, owner of Australian Landscape Conference; Mareeta Grundy, a dietician; and Michael Green, a farmer from Nimmitabel. The Greens announced on the weekend that their candidate will be Cathy Griff, a Bega Valley Shire councillor.

Leadership polling, Eden-Monaro latest, yet more on COVID-19

Scott Morrison settles in at a lofty approval rating perch, as hordes of candidates descend upon Eden-Monaro.

Firstly, as per the above post, don’t forget to give generously to the Poll Bludger’s bi-monthly donation drive. Now to an assembly of recent events in the worlds of polling and Eden-Monaro:

• The Guardian reports the latest Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which find Scott Morrison’s approval up a point to a new high of 65% and disapproval down a point to a new low of 26%, reflecting continuous improvement since a nadir of 39% and 52% in February. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is 53-23, compared with 50-25 last time. Albanese stands at 43% approval, up one, and 30% disapproval, up three. These numbers have been used to update the BludgerTrack trends, which can be see on the sidebar or in detail here, showing Morrison now at a plateau after his recent ascent.

• The Essential poll also finds 41% saying Jobkeeper reporting bungle reflected negatively on the federal government, compared with 43% saying it did not. “A third” wanted Jobkeeper broadened in response, along with another 20% who wanted the eligibility criteria broadened, while 45% preferred that it go to reducing the debt. The poll also featured a semi-regular suite of questions on the leaders’ attributes, which have become more favourable for both leaders across the board since January. This is especially so in the case of Morrison, and still more especially in the case of his ratings for good in a crisis (66%), leadership capability (70%) and trustworthiness (66%), which have yo-yoed between the bushfire and coronavirus crises. These ratings will be available to review in detail when the full report is published later day. UPDATE: Full report here.

• A poll by the Australia Institute finds 77% support across the country for state border closures. Labor and Greens supporters are somewhat more in favour, One Nation supporters somewhat less so. The poll was conducted online on May 27 and 28 from a sample of 1005. Small-sample state breakdowns suggested Western Australians were particularly supportive, at 88%, a finding consistent with …

The West Australian ($) had a poll yesterday that recorded a remarkable 89% in favour of keeping the state’s borders closed, with which the state government is persisting in the face of criticism from the federal government and New South Wales government. Presumably the poll had more to it than that, but that’s all there is in the report. The poll was conducted online by Painted Dog Research on Thursday from a sample of 1000.

Eden-Monaro latest:

• With a week still to go before the closure of nominations, the ABC by-election guide records ten candidates and counting, including Cathy Griff for the Greens, Matthew Stadtmiller for Shooters Fishers and Farmers, sundry candidates for the Liberal Democrats, Science Party, Christian Democrats and Sustainable Australia, and two independents. The Nationals have also opened nominations, although they have not traditionally polled strongly in the seat. The deluge has prompted Antony Green to argue that all candidates should be required to produce 100 locally enrolled nominators. This burden is currently imposed only on independents, exemption being a perk of party registration.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has announced its service plan for the by-election, detailing special measures arising from COVID-19. A familiar set of social distancing rules will apply at polling booths, and mobile polling will not be conducted as normal at hospitals and aged care facilities, where “support teams” will instead assist with postal and telephone voting (the latter still only available to the visually impaired).

Newspoll breakdowns broken down

Newspoll offers a deep dive into its recent polling data, offering unprecedented detail on voting intention by income, education, language and religion, along with more familiar breakdowns by state.

The Australian has published a set of geographic and demographic breakdowns compiled from multiple recent Newspoll results, once a regular quarterly feature of the pollster notable for its results at state level, but now greatly expanded as more elaborate methods are adopted in response to last year’s pollster failure. Where in the such breakdowns were limited to geography, gender and age, there are now also education (no tertiary, technical and university), household income, English or non-English speaker at home, religion (only Christian and no religion are provided, but they presumably have a small sample result for other religions).

Compared with a national result of 50-50, the state breakdowns show level pegging in New South Wales (1.8% swing to Labor), 55-45 to Labor in Victoria (1.9% to Labor), 56-44 to the Coalition in Queensland (2.4% to Labor), 55-45 ditto in Western Australia (0.6% swing to Labor, and 53-47 to Labor in South Australia (2.3%). These suggest statistically indistinguishable swings to Labor of 1.8% in New South Wales, 1.9% in Victoria, 2.4% in Queensland, 0.6% in Western Australia and 2.3% in South Australia. The primary votes are notably strong for the Greens in Queensland, up nearly three points from the election to 13%, and One Nation in Western Australia, who are on 9% after never having done better than 7% in the last term.

The age breakdowns are notable for the 62-38 lead to Labor among the 18-34 cohort, a differential quite a lot greater than that recorded by Newspoll in the previous term, which ranged from 4% to 8% compared with the present 12%. The gender gap — 52-48 to the Coalition among men and the reverse among women — is at levels not seen since the Tony Abbott prime ministership, whether due to genuine churn in voting intention or (more likely I think) a change in the pollster’s house effect.

Analysis of the education breakdowns is made easy by the fact that two-party is 50-50 for all three cohorts, with even the primary vote breakdowns recording little variation, other than university graduates being somewhat more disposed to the Greens and allergic to One Nation. As the table below illustrates, there are notable differences between these numbers and comparable findings for the Australian National University’s post-election Australian Election Study survey, which recorded a strong leftward lean among the university-educated compared with those without qualifications and, especially, those with non-tertiary qualifications.

For income, Newspoll reflects the Australian Election Study in finding the low-to-middle income cohort being Labor’s strongest, with a relative weakness among the low-income cohort presumably reflecting their lack of support in rural and regional areas. However, the distinctions are less marked in Newspoll, which credits the Coalition with 46% of the primary vote among the top household income cohort (in this case kicking in at $150,000) compared with 51% in the Australian Election Study, with Labor respectively at 34% and 32%. Differences were predictably pronounced according to language (51-49 to the Coalition among those speaking English only, 57-43 to Labor among those speaking a different language at home) and religion (58-42 to the Coalition among Christians, the reverse among the non-religious).

The results are combined from the last four Newspoll surveys, collectively conducted between March 11 and May 16, from a sample of 6032, with state sample sizes ranging from 472 (suggesting a 4.5% margin of error on the South Australian result) to 1905 (suggesting 2.2% in New South Wales.

Essential Research: coronavirus and attitudes to China

A major souring in Australians’ attitudes to China but little change on coronavirus (at least since last week), according to the latest Essential poll.

Another week, another Essential Research coronavirus poll — this one focusing on attitudes to China, which have notably soured. As related by The Guardian, respondents were asked if they had a favourable or unfavourable view of China’s influences on Australian life, which produced a net rating of minus 30% on trade, compared with plus 1% last August, and a net rating of minus 40% for Chinese business operating in Australia, down from minus 21%. There were also scores of minus 26% for defence, minus 36% for politics and minus 9% for culture. Conversely, the United States scored net positive scores, albeit that these were quite a lot bigger for defence (plus 29%), business (plus 15%) and trade (plus 14%) than politics (plus 2%) and culture (plus 7%).

Asked which relationship would be more beneficial to strengthen, 42% favoured the US and 18% China, compared with 38% and 28% last August. Respondents had two bob each way on trade in that 53% thought Australia “needs to do all it can to avoid a trade war with China”, with 17% opposed, but 48% felt Australia should impose retaliatory tariffs, with 22% opposed. The poll found “more than half” believe China’s trade sanctions against Australia were motivated by the government’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

The poll continued its weekly suite of questions on coronavirus, recording no change on the government’s handling of the crisis, which was rated positively by 73% and negatively by 11%. Levels of concern little changed on last week (79% either very or quite concerned, down one, and 21% either not at all or not that concerned, up one). A divide appears to be opening on restrictions, with higher responses for both lifting them as soon as possible (up five to 14%) and holding off (up two to 27%). The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1087; a full report should be published later today.

Note that below this post is a dedicated thread for the Eden-Monaro by-election, which you are encouraged to use if you have something specific to say on that subject.

UPDATE: Full report here.