Essential Research and Redbridge Group Victorian poll

One pollster records nervous attitudes towards China, another a modest lead for the Labor government in Victoria.

The fortnightly Essential Research poll offers questions on foreign relations that include the finding that 51% believe Australia should become less close to China, down three points since December, with 24% believing relations should stay the same and only 12% believing they should get closer. By contrast, respondents were positive about relations with, in ascending order of enthusiasm, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Further questions record a surge for the influence of the United States since May last year and the intervening presidential election result.

An occasionally recurring question on climate change also found 56% believing it to be caused by human activity against 27% for normal fluctuation, suggesting a slight shift to skepticism since a few years ago. Forty-five per cent rate that Australia is not doing enough on climate change compared with 30% for enough and 12% for too much. Assessments on this question appear to have become more lenient since the onset of COVID-19, prior to which “not doing enough” was at upwards of 60%. A series of related questions record enthusiasm for renewable energy and a zero emissions target. The poll was conducted online from Wednesday to Sunday with a sample of 1087.

We also had a Victorian state poll yesterday in the Herald-Sun from Redbridge Group, which is run by former Labor operatives Simon Welsh and Kosmos Samaras. The primary votes are solidly better for the Coalition than last week’s Resolve Strategic poll in The Age, showing them with a lead of 41% to 37%, but Labor is nonetheless credited with a lead of 52.4-47.6 on two-party preferred, reflecting a Greens vote of 12% compared with Resolve Strategic’s 9%. These come with regional breakdowns that can be viewed here.

The poll also has a preferred premier question had Daniel Andrews at 42.4%, Michael O’Brien on 23.1% and neither on 28.2%; Andrews leads James Merlino 67.5% to 32.5% in a head-to-head question on preferred Labor leader, and O’Brien trails his predecessor Matthew Guy by 63-37. The poll was conducted June 12 to 15 from a sample of 1484.

Spillover effects

Another Nationals leadership spill may be brewing, amid growing discontent with low-key incumbent Michael McCormack.

A big but not necessarily good weekend for former and current Nationals leaders:

• Moves to topple Michael McCormack as Nationals leader could come to a boil at today’s party room meeting, which The Australian reports could see a spill or no-confidence motion being moved against him. Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud and Keith Pitt are all identified as potential successors, though presumably the latter is a long shot. The Australian reports Littleproud will not challenge McCormack directly, meaning he will only nominate if the motion passed is one of no confidence, which would exclude McCormack from contention. Samantha Maiden of News Corp says she “can count to ten votes” for Joyce, which is one fewer than he needs. A spill motion moved by Joyce’s backers in February last year was unsuccessful.

Andrew Clennell of Sky News reports former Nationals leader John Anderson has failed in his bid to return to politics, having lost a preselection vote for the New South Wales Senate ticket to former state party director Ross Cadell by a margin of 42 to 39.

On the other side of the fence:

• Labor’s national executive has endorsed former state party secretary Sam Rae as its candidate for the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe, after a process which had been delayed by a Supreme Court injunction and may yet be overruled should the court strike down the national executive takeover of the state party’s preselection process. The Herald-Sun reports that Rae won 18 votes against three for rival candidate Sarah Carter, a former mayor of Maribyrnong.

• Labor’s leadership selection process in Tasmania, which was determined half by party members and half by state conference delegates, has been won by David O’Byrne, a powerful figure in the Left faction. Adam Langenberg of the ABC reports O’Byrne easily defeated rival candidate Shane Broad with 72% of the votes from the ballot of more than 1200 party members and 75% of the state conference votes. A similar process in New South Wales did not proceed after Michael Daley withdrew from contention, leaving Chris Minns to be elected unopposed.

Resolve Strategic: Labor 37, Coalition 36, Greens 9 in Victoria

A poll finds Victorian Labor still in an election-winning position in spite of everything, despite being well down from the heights of its 2018 election result.

The Age has published the first of what will apparently be bi-monthly polls of Victorian voting intention that combine the results from two of the pollster’s regular monthly surveys. Since a New South Wales poll was published last month, we can presumably expect them to alternate. The poll credits Labor with 37% of the primary vote, down from the 42.9% it scored at the 2018 election, but little of the dividend has gone to the Coalition, whose 36% is barely changed from its disastrous election result of 35.2%. The Greens also fail to match their election result, polling 9% compared with 10.7%.

The real winner is “independents”, a rather nebulous category given few voters will presently know which independent candidate they have in mind, if indeed there are any on offer at all. The poll finds support for independents at 12%, compared with 6.1% at the election, but presumably many of these respondents will ultimately be compelled towards other options. Resolve Strategic does not provide two-party results, but on a typical distribution of preferences (80% of the Greens vote to Labor and the rest splitting evenly) this would produce a result of 53-47 in Labor’s favour for a swing of about 4% to the Coalition.

Leadership ratings are provided for Daniel Andrews and his stand-in James Merlino as well as Liberal leader Michael O’Brien, using a three point positive-neutral-negative scale. Andrews records a positive rating of 42%, a neutral rating of 23% and a negative rating of 32% — not bad, but less good than Gladys Berejiklian, who last month scored 51%, 26% and 17% respectively. Merlino scores 30%, 30% and 15%, while O’Brien gets 14% 30% and 22%, with fully 33% professing themselves “unfamiliar”. Andrews records a 49-23 lead over O’Brien as preferred premier. (Also in today’s Age: “Federal push for state Liberal spill”, although I’m not seeing it online).

The results come with breakdowns by gender, which are rather eye-catching with respect to voting intention: the Coalition appears to be doing dismally among women, scoring 33% to Labor’s 39% and the Greens’ 11%, but is on 40% among men compared with Labor’s 34% and the Greens’ 7%. Daniel Andrews records a 52-18 lead over Michael O’Brien as preferred premier among women, compared with 47-29 among men.

Also included are responses to statements on “the recent COVID outbreak and lockdown in Victoria”, which I’m going to assume was limited to the current month’s survey and thus derive from a sample of about 550. This finds 63% agreeing the government “should have prepared better, e.g. QR codes, support or vaccines”, with 34% disagreeing (although I tend to think the examples provided in the question might have primed an affirmative response). Forty-six per cent agreed the government had been too quick to lock down large parts of the state with 36% disagreeing, which is the least favourable response to any such question I’ve yet seen. Nonetheless, 46% rated that the government had handled the outbreak well, with 34% disagreeing.

The sample for the poll was 1103, of which about half would have come from the survey conducted Tuesday to Saturday and the other half a month prior.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 40, Labor 36, Greens 10

Another poll finds Scott Morrison’s personal ratings on a downward trajectory, but still very little in it on voting intention.

The Age/Herald yesterday brought us the third result in its monthly federal polling series from Resolve Strategic, which had the Coalition on 40% (up one), Labor on 36% (up one), the Greens on 10% (down two) and One Nation on 3% (up one). This series doesn’t provide a published two-party result, but based on the last election this suggests a Labor lead of 50.5-49.5, down from around 51-49 last time. Scott Morrison has taken a hit on his personal ratings, down five on approval to 48% and up two on disapproval to 40%, while Anthony Albanese is down a point on both, to 31% and 44% respectively. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 46-23, unchanged in magnitude from 48-25 last time.

Full results from the poll, which was conducted last Tuesday to Saturday from a sample of 1600, can be viewed here. This includes the poll’s usual results for leader attributes and best party to handle various issues, as well as breakdowns for all major questions by region and gender. After last month’s poll unusually found Labor doing better in New South Wales than Victoria, this result reverts to normal. The pollster has also been up and down in its gender breakdowns, having found Labor doing better among women in the second poll a month ago, but little gender gap in the first poll and the third.

Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

11:24am Saturday A grim Survation poll for Labour in Batley and Spen, with the Tories leading Labour by 47-41.

11:06am Friday The Lib Dems have GAINED the UK Chesham and Amersham by-election from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%).

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.13-49.87 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.

Morgan poll, redistribution and preselection latest

Roy Morgan concurs with Newspoll in finding little separating the major parties on two-party preferred.

It was a fairly busy week for federal polling by recent standards, with Newspoll, Essential and Morgan publishing results of one kind or another. We may or may not get the monthly federal Resolve Strategic poll from the Age/Herald next week, from which we are also past due for a result on state voting intention in Victoria.

• Roy Morgan this week published results from its regularly conducted but infrequently reported federal voting intention series, showing Labor with a 51-49 lead on two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 40%, Labor 35.5%, Greens 11.5% and One Nation 3%. Two-party breakdowns are provided at state level, showing Labor with leads of 50.5-49.5 in New South Wales and 53.5-46.5 in Victoria and the Coalition with leads of 53-47 in Queensland, 51-49 in Western Australia and 50.5-49.5 in South Australia. The poll was conducted over the previous two weekends from a sample of 2817.

• The federal redistribution for Western Australia has been finalised, although maps and accompanying data will not be published until August 2. For now we have a media release detailing the adjustments that have been made to the original draft published in March, which was covered here. The biggest of the six revisions is that the 3000 voters of the Shire of Waroona south of Perth will not now be transferred from Canning to Forrest, a fact of interest to the seats’ respective Liberal members but not to the nation at large. Revisions in Perth target areas that don’t currently have many residents but will do later, and the transfer of the Shire of Wiluna from Durack to O’Connor affects a lot of land but not many people. The finalised Victorian redistribution should be along fairly shortly.

The Age reports a Victorian Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday lifted the injunction on the process by which Labor’s national executive is preselecting federal election candidates in the state, bypassing the usual procedure which includes a vote of party members. However, national executive preselections may yet be invalidated if the court ultimately rules against the intervention. This effectively amounts to a battle over the new seat of Hawke, which appears set to go to former state party secretary Sam Rae if the matter is left to the national executive. Rae’s principal backer is federal MP Richard Marles, who is struggling for dominance over the Victorian Right with rival powerbroker Bill Shorten, an opponent of the intervention.

• Emma Dawson, executive director at the Per Capita think tank, appears set to win Labor preselection to take on Greens MP Adam Bandt in Melbourne. The Age reports Dawson’s backers include “academic Janet McCalman, prominent employment lawyer Josh Bornstein, Rhodes Scholar and venture capitalist Josh Funder, and former deputy prime minister Brian Howe”.

Essential Research: leadership ratings and COVID management

Downward trends continue for federal leaders’ ratings and perceptions of COVID-19 management at both federal and state level.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which finds Scott Morrison’s approval down one to 57% and disapproval up four to 36%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively steady on 39% and up one to 36%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 48-28, narrowing from 50-24 last time. The pollster’s regular question on the handling of COVID-19 gives the federal government its weakest result since the beginnings of the series in March last year, with its good rating down five to 53% and its poor rating up six to 24%.

The trends for the leadership ratings are COVID-19 questions are worth noting: the former can be found at BludgerTrack, which no longer registers a recovery for Morrison after his slump in May, but also now records Anthony Albanese in net negative territory for the first time; the latter is shown in the chart of the Essential Research series below.

However, it’s not just the federal government that Essential Research finds to be down from its earlier peaks on COVID-19 management: the Victorian government’s good rating is down 15% amid the state’s latest lockdown to 48% (the federal government is also down 15% in the state, to 42%), and recent results for the other state governments are all down around six points from where they were at the start of the year, ranging from 65% for Queensland to 75% for Western Australia.

The poll also finds 40% view the federal government less favourably than they did a year ago, compared with 25% for more favourably and 35% for the same; 43% of the view that the vaccine rollout is being conducted efficiently (unchanged since April), 67% that is is being done safely (up four) and 54% that it will be effective at stopping the virus (up two); and 55% agreeing the Victorian government is raising valid concerns about the federal government’s vaccine rollout performance compared with 45% for the alternative option that it is seeking to shift the blame.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1104. This being Essential’s first result since the launch of the Australian Polling Council code of conduct, it comes with a separate disclosure statement containing detail of the poll’s response options for voting intention, from which we learn that state and Senate voting intention questions were included even if we may never see the results, and that the poll is weighted for age, gender, location and party identification (a somewhat contentious practice in the latter case).

Newspoll: 50-50

A steady set of numbers on voting intention from Newspoll, with Scott Morrison taking a knock on personal approval.

As reported in The Australian, the latest Newspoll has the Coalition and Labor tied on two-party preferred after four polls with Labor in front, most recently by 51-49. However, this is not reflected by appreciable movement on the primary vote, on which the Coalition and Labor are steady at 41% and 36% with the Greens down one to 11% and One Nation up one to 3%.

On the personal ratings, Scott Morrison has lost the ground he recovered over the past two polls, being down four on approval to 54% and up five on disapproval to 43%, leaving him with his weakest net approval rating since the onset of COVID-19. Anthony Albanese has softened slightly from what were already his weakest ratings since he became leader, being down one on approval to 38% and up one on disapproval to 47%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 55-30 to 53-32.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1516.

UPDATE: The Australian also has a piece from Campbell White of YouGov about the Australian Polling Council’s new code of conduct, which “will require polling companies to provide more information about how they obtain their samples, how they analyse their data and how they structure their questionnaires”. I had a piece of my own on the subject in Crikey last Thursday — both of the above are paywalled.