Galaxy: 50-50 in Victoria

GhostWhoVotes reports a Galaxy poll has it at 50-50 in Victoria, the best result for the Coalition of the campaign. More to follow.

UPDATE: The Herald-Sun has a report which tells us the primary votes are 36 per cent for Labor (the same as in the 500 sample poll Galaxy reportedly conducted for the Victorian Association of Forest Industries), the Coalition on 44 per cent (two points higher) and the Greens on 14 per cent (two points lower). Other findings are that John Brumby leads Ted Baillieu as preferred premier 52-35; Brumby is more trusted to keep his promises 42-34; and Brumby is rated to have conducted the better campaign 46-31. I’m not quite sure what to make of this, but only 18 per cent say if Labor is re-elected it will be because they deserve to be against 54 per cent who say it will be because they deserve to lose, whereas the figures are more positive for the Coalition: 30 per cent say if they win it will be because they deserved it, against 54 per cent who say it would be because Labor deserved to lose. Possibly it’s a reflection of the fact that more of the respondents who landed on Coalition’s side of the two-party divide got there via primary votes rather than preferences.

UPDATE 2: All polls from the campaign period:

Sample/Dates (Nov) ALP 2PP ALP LNP GRN
Galaxy (800/23-24) 50 36 44 14
JWS Research (9218/20-22) 50.1 35 39 19
Galaxy (500/17-18) 51 36 42 16
Morgan (943/16-18) 52.5 39 41.5 15.5
Nielsen (1000/10-11) 52 38 40 16
Newspoll (1000/9-11) 51 37 44 14
2006 ELECTION 54.4 43.1 39.6 10.0

UPDATE 3: Other happenings:

• The Herald-Sun, The Age and The Australian have all backed Labor in their election eve editorials. Have to wait and see for the paywalled Financial Review, but taking the Sunday papers into account, it’s otherwise been an editorial clean sweep for Labor.

John Ferguson of the Herald-Sun rates Mt Waverley, Gembrook, Forest Hill, Mitcham, Frankston, Prahran and Bentleigh “in real danger of falling”, Melbourne “could fall to the Greens” and “speculation abounds of Bendigo West falling”, but Seymour is “tipped to stay with Labor”. However, “Labor may not hold on to Footscray – a result that would surprise many”.

Paul Austin of The Age notes the parallels between the current election and 1999: a Premier perceived as arrogant, a 2 to 3 per cent swing at the previous election, an opposition needing 13 seats to win, a feeling that this is a few more than even optimistic projections could deliver, and the latent possibily that a rural backlash could nonetheless make it happen.

• The Herald-Sun has asked various pundits for opinions on who will and should win. Derryn Hinch reckons it too close to call, but Neil Mitchell, Steve Price, Peter van Onselen, Barrie Cassidy, Ross Fitzgerald, Jill Singer and Nick Economou are all willing to punt for Labor. Hinch and Price think the Liberals should win, van Onselen, Fitzgerald, Singer and Economou think Labor, and Mitchell and Cassidy won’t say.

Tim Colebatch of The Age reviews the situation in the upper house, rating the Greens “almost certain” to hold the balance of power with a representation of five seats.

• The Greens’ number two candidate for the upper house region of Eastern Victoria, Cheryl Wragg, has been disendorsed by her party after repeated public criticisms of the party’s policy to close the Hazelwood power station within four years. Wragg will still be listed in the Greens group on the ballot paper, but will henceforth be running as an independent.

• The Greens have ceased distributing a flyer it was circulating in the electorate of Melbourne which claimed Labor “accepts donations from developers, alcohol gambling and tobacco” after a complaint to the Victorian Electoral Commission. Melbourne candidate Brian Walters has accepted the claim in relation to tobacco was wrong, blaming the error on the volunteer researcher.

Royce Millar of The Age reports that in response to his beat-up on Tuesday about party databases, Ted Baillieu has said he would make available information kept on constituents “to the maximum extent reasonable” and provide reasons for any refusal, while John Brumby declined to give such an undertaking.

• The Herald-Sun reports Nationals leader Peter Ryan is seeking to emulate Anna Bligh and Tony Abbott with “a 30-hour, 30-town blitz to finish off the campaign”.

• Those who fancy the Coalition’s chances can get $4.65 from Flemington Sportsbet, $4.50 from Centrebet and Sportingbet and $4.25 from Sportsbet.

Inner Melbourne Morgan phone micro-poll

Roy Morgan hasn’t let itself be put off by the flak it copped with last week’s small-sample poll results from the four inner-city Labor-versus-Greens contests, repeating the exercise with only a slightly larger sample of 327 respondents. Taken together they show Labor leading the Greens 53-47, which is seven points better for Labor than last week’s poll. All told this points to a 3 per cent swing to the Greens compared with 2006, which if uniform would just tip Labor out in Melbourne, but leave them safe in Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote. This is indeed borne out by the seat-by-seat breakdowns, which have it at 50-50 in Melbourne, 57-43 in Richmond, 52-48 in Brunswick and 52.5-47.5 in Northcote. The margin of error on the combined result is approaching 5.5 per cent.

UPDATE: Now Morgan offers a spiffy video display of “worm”-style Reactor responses to various election ads. It finds Coalition voters were far more positive about their own side’s advertising than were Labor’s, but that Labor appeared to offer both the most (attacking Liberal spending plans) and least (the famous Baillieu Knight Frank ad) effective attack ads. Labor also did pretty well among independents and Greens with a humanised John Brumby’s fireside chat on the economy. Labor’s “meerkat” and the Liberals’ “are we there yet” attack ads failed to impress Greens and independents in roughly equal measure, but the Liberals did better with their “mouldy fruit” ad. The Greens ad, once it began laying on the hard sell, found Labor voters responding barely less positively than to ads from their own side, while Coalition and independent voters headed south.

JWS Research: Victorian Labor to lose seven to 10 seats

The Herald-Sun reports an automated phone poll by JWS Research, such as the one it conducted a week before the federal election, shows the Liberals “on track to win Mount Waverley, Forest Hill, Mitcham, South Barwon, Mordialloc and Burwood” and the Greens “likely to gain Brunswick”. The Labor-versus-Greens contests of Melbourne and Richmond and the Labor-versus Liberal contest of Prahran too close to call. On the worst of these scenarios for Labor they would hold a bare majority of 45 seats out of 88; on the best, that would go up to 48. I will review how well the JWS Research federal poll performed when I get time.

UPDATE: Full results from JWS Research:

Sample 2006 POLL
Brunswick (vs GRN) 300 54.6 47
Richmond (vs GRN) 285 53.6 51
Melbourne (vs GRN) 222 52 49
Ballarat East 345 56.7 54
Ballarat West 339 56.6 59
Bentleigh 351 56.4 57
Bendigo East 420 55.4 54
Ripon 288 54.4 53
Burwood 373 53.8 43
Prahran 269 53.6 50
Mordialloc 325 53.6 42
Frankston 324 53.3 54
South Barwon 384 52.3 44
Mitcham 376 52 48
Forest Hill 357 50.8 47
Gembrook 349 50.7 52
Mt Waverley 372 50.4 44
Ferntree Gully 283 49.9 36
Kilsyth 318 49.6 47
Hastings 296 49.0 42
Narracan 350 47.3 40
Bayswater 324 47.1 44
Box Hill 380 44.7 40
Gippsland East (IND vs NAT) 580 58.5 (IND) 43 (IND)

UPDATE 2: From Roy Morgan: “Labor surge in Inner City Melbourne Means ALP Set to Retain Four Inner City Seats. Full results available tomorrow from a special telephone Morgan Poll of the key inner Melbourne Seats of Brunswick, Melbourne, Northcote & Richmond.”

UPDATE 3: John Scales of JWS Research writes:

To confirm/explain a couple of questions for your readers:

• Yes, we do weight by age and gender according to ABS stats, they are the first questions asked after the introduction and eligibility question.

• We only accept data for respondents who have completed the entire survey, drop outs are not included.

• We did include mobiles where that was the only number available at the address.

• We also surveyed DNCR registered numbers and when I have time I would like to publish an analysis of the results and profiles for landlines v mobiles and DNCR v not.

• We surveyed in all 88 seats State-wide and final sample in each seat was targeted weighted to the same proportion, so boost sample seats contribute the same proportionately as non boost seats to the overall State-wide results.

• It’s ironic that people still complain about low sample sizes where I have surveyed 300+ in 24 seats on top of a State-wide representative poll – this is exponentially more useful and reliable than relying on low sample, grouped seat swings in other published polls. We funded this poll ourselves and yes, it gives us publicity but the information is out there for the public interest too so I believe that’s a fair trade. If people would like to make financial contribution, I would be happy to survey larger samples on a seat by seat basis. I also believe there are other Labor seats in play further up the pendulum, such as Seymour, Carrum, Bendigo West, Bellarine, Macedon and Geelong, but without financial support, there are limits to what I can do.

• Let’s also be very clear that this poll, just like my poll the weekend before the Federal election, is not a prediction. It is a poll of voting intention at the time – people are asked how they would vote if the election were held ‘today’ – and I will no more claim “I was right” if Saturday’s results are the same as this poll than I will accept out of hand criticism of this poll or the Federal poll if it is different to Saturday’s result. In the Federal election, the numbers changed in the last week and I would expect the same to happen here.

Yesterday’s news today

Hold the front page! In a heavy-hitting exclusive headlined “Revealed: How the ALP keeps secret files on voters”, the intrepid sleuths at The Age have blown the lid off the political scandal of the decade. Labor, it turns out, has “secretly recorded the personal details of tens of thousands of Victorians – including sensitive health and financial information – in a database being accessed by campaign workers ahead of this Saturday’s state election”. Contained within this database are “profiles of constituents based on its communications with MPs, attendance at rallies, membership of groups, letters to newspapers and through polling and surveys”. Perhaps a moment of quiet reflection might be in order at this point, so that we can fully contemplate the debt of gratitude we owe The Age for its heroic vigilance on our behalf.

Small problem though. As the article eventually gets round to acknowledging, observers of electoral politics have known all about Labor’s Electrac database and its Coalition equivalent, Feedback, for years. All the way back in 2003, Peter van Onselen and Wayne Errington published an academic paper which The Age’s breathless efforts have failed to displace as the definitive work on the subject. Shorter accounts by van Onselen and/or Errington were published in Online Opinion and Democratic Audit in 2004. More recently, in a column in The Australian, van Onselen reviewed the practice in light of the parties’ dissemination of postal vote applications to aid their information-gathering.

The Age’s front page report tells us that its investigations have “revealed how Labor is building profiles of constituents based on its communications with MPs, attendance at rallies, membership of groups, letters to newspapers and through polling and surveys … The system allows searches based variously on people’s names, addresses and their stances on issues such as gay rights and the environment.” Personally, when I encounter the word “revealed”, I await to be told something I didn’t already know. But the only substantial difference between the previous quote and the following from van Onselen and Errington is that it focuses on Labor’s database rather than the Coalition’s:

Constituents are tagged based on information gathered through contact with the electorate office, local newspaper coverage (letters to the editor provide good information about issues of interest to particular voters), doorknocking and telephone canvassing. Feedback provides specific tags for voting information (to identify swinging voters, strong or weak party identification), issues of concern, any history of party donation, ethnic identity, and alternative contact details.

None of this is to deny that the specific material The Age has accessed from Labor’s database is highly newsworthy in its right. However, the paper is blowing its own trumpet far too loud when it asserts that “little has been known until now about how the software is used”. Similarly, The Age is quite right to argue, as van Onselen, Errington and many others have done in the past, that the major parties’ collusion in quarantining their activities from privacy legislation is of very serious concern. But these concerns existed last week, last month and last year. What ultimately stands out from The Age’s exposé is its appearance four days out from a state election, in terms that would give the casual reader cause to specifically impute the practice to one party rather than the other.

Newspoll: 52-48 to Labor

After a fairly lengthy period where the phone pollsters marched in lock-step, GhostWhoVotes reports that Newspoll has broken away from the pack with a 52-48 lead for Labor. More to follow.

UPDATE: The Australian reports Julia Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister is up from 49-34 to 54-31, but that “only 23 per cent of voters believe the government should go ahead with the NBN without meeting the Coalition demands for a full costing of the venture”.

UPDATE 2: Full tables here, as usual courtesy of GhostWhoVotes. Labor is up two points on the primary vote to 36 per cent, the Coalition down four to 39 per cent and the Greens up one to 14 per cent. Julia Gillard’s approval rating is up five to 46 per cent and her disapproval down four to 37 per cent, while Tony Abbott is down two on approval to 42 per cent and up three on disapproval to 45 per cent. Given the lack of corroboration elsewhere, the collective move in Labor’s favour should be treated with due caution (although their figures were probably a bit undercooked in the previous poll). On the National Broadband Network, 42 per cent support the Coalition’s demand for a cost-benefit analysis with the aforementioned 23 per cent opposed, while 19 per cent express wholesale opposition to the project “in its current form”.

Other matters:

• Peter Wellington, who has enjoyed enormous electoral success since winning the Sunshine Coast hinterland seat of Nicklin at the 1998 state election, says he will run in the corresponding federal seat of Fairfax if the Coalition’s “spoiler” tactics succeed in bringing on an early election. Fairfax has been held since 1990 by Alex Somlyay, a former Liberal and current Liberal National who has said he will not seek another term. Kate Dennehy of Fairfax reports speculation that James McGrath, a “former federal Liberal Party deputy director who reportedly had a falling out with its director”, might be interested in the LNP preselection.

Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald has more on JWS Research focus group findings which were reported on in the context of the Victorian election by the Sunday Herald-Sun, this time in relation to federal politics. Labor is said to be suffering a perception that having dumped one leader they could very easily dump another, and that its minority government position has made it “too afraid to make a decision at the risk of offending someone”. While Gillard is “liked”, voters “do not think she is shaping up well as a leader”. However, Tony Abbott has problems of his own, with women finding him “a bit of a bully boy”.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports speculation Alannah MacTiernan will run for lord mayor of Perth next year, after failing in her recent bid to move from state to federal politics. The story goes that MacTiernan is keen to again run federally for Canning, but “a three-year wait for another federal election was proving too much”. The report also says Labor was hoping the present lord mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, might make way for by running for the party at the next state election, but the ABC reports she “angrily rejected” suggestions she might do so.

• Tasmania’s Legislative Council last week voted against a motion supporting an increase in the chamber’s numbers from 15 to 19. This follows an agreement between the Labor, Liberal and Greens leaders last month that the Legislative Assembly should revert to the 35-member seven-seat region model which prevailed until 1998, when Labor and the Liberals combined to support a 25-member five-seat model in the expectation that it would neuter the Greens. The ongoing rise in the latter’s electoral support gave lie to that, and the state returned to minority government with the election of one Greens member in each region at the election held in March – with the added sting of the major parties being deprived of the range of parliamentary talent that they would have enjoyed in the old days. However, Premier David Bartlett told Tim Cox on ABC Radio that it would be up to the Council to decide if it wanted to follow suit in reverting to its pre-1998 numbers. The motion was opposed by the chamber’s three Labor members, who were no doubt mindful that the proposed increase in lower house numbers was a hard enough sell as it was – although the solitary Liberal, Vanessa Goodwin, joined with four independents in support.

• Also in Tasmania, state Treasurer Michael Aird has announced he will be quitting his upper house seat of Derwent, to which he was re-elected for a six-year term at the periodical election in May 2009. This means an election for the seat will be held concurrently with the annual periodical upper house elections on the first Saturday in May, which next year will cover the seats of Launceston (previously known as Paterson), Murchison and Rumney, respectively held by independent Don Wing, independent Ruth Forrest and Labor’s Lin Thorp. The ABC reports talk Labor preselection might be contested by David Llewellyn, who lost his seat in Lyons to party rival Rebecca White. More surprisingly, Damien Brown of The Mercury reports former Premier Paul Lennon might fancy a tilt at the seat. The Liberals have confirmed they will field a candidate for the seat, which has traditionally been safe for Labor.

Victorian election minus five days

The first editorials are in: the Sunday Herald-Sun backs Labor, while the Sunday Age wimps out. Other than that, we have a fair bit of micro-polling going on:

Stephen McMahon of the Herald-Sun reports a 500-sample Galaxy poll commissioned by the Victorian Association of Forest Industries shows Labor with a two-party lead of 51-49, from primary votes of 36 per cent for Labor, 42 per cent for the Coalition and 16 per cent for the Greens. The margin of error is approaching 4.5 per cent.

• The Sunday Herald-Sun has conducted a dubious “survey of 200 people across the electorates of Mitcham, Mt Waverley, Melbourne and Bendigo”. We aren’t given any details on the methodology, but the fact that 20.5 per cent were rated “yet to make up their minds” makes clear the poll was uninformed by expertise of any kind. Of the rest, 45 per cent backed the Coalition (compared with 43.5 per cent across the four seats in 2006), 34 per cent Labor (36.5 per cent) and 22.5 per cent Greens (13.5 per cent). Even if the poll were conducted properly, the margin of error would be approaching 8 per cent.

John Ferguson of the Herald-Sun quotes a senior Labor source identfying the significance of the “f— you vote”, voicing fears that wavering late deciders might collectively “decide the Government’s had enough time”. Ferguson’s report also tells us that “Labor does not expect the two Ballarat seats to be in play but senior Liberals have indicated that seats such as Yan Yean might swing sharply”. Bendigo East is rated “in real danger of falling”, with “questions also over Bendigo West”. It is also suggested the Nationals might be a show to unseat independent Craig Ingram in Gippsland East, but they might again lose Mildura to an independent after having recovered it from one in 2006.

James Campbell of the Sunday Herald-Sun reports on findings from focus group research conducted by John Scales, formerly of Morgan and Crosby Textor. This suggests Labor has done well out of its television advertising, particularly the “blank slate” attacks on Ted Baillieu and ads designed to “humanise” John Brumby. The “boot camp” policy is said to have gone down well, but Myki, the desalination plant and Labor’s performance federally all loom as negatives. John Brumby was found to be more popular among swinging voters than his party. Michael Bachelard of The Age reports both parties are believed to have spent an “average” amount on television advertising of “perhaps $3 million to $4 million each”. Labor has favoured humourous negative ads over the traditional “formula of grainy black, white and red colouring and a gravelly voice-over”, as it feared being seen as “bullying”.

The Age reports the Coalition has threatened to sue the ALP for defamation unless it drops a television accusing Ted Baillieu of benefiting financially from the sale of schools under the Kennett government. The latest version of the ads, which recycle an attack waged during the 2006 campaign, further link Baillieu’s real estate firm to the sale of the Preston and Northcote Community Hospital, despite the fact that he was no longer a director by that point. The Age notes Baillieu “remained indirectly linked to Knight Frank through a shareholder and alternate director of holding company DBF Holdings, which in turn was a shareholder of Knight Frank”.