Polls that don’t count: numbers three and four

The Poll Bludger has been a little too busy to give Thursday’s Queensland election Newspoll its due weight and by now there’s not much left to say that hasn’t already been said. For the record it shows Labor on 50 per cent (up from 46 in the last Newspoll and 48.9 at the last election), Liberal on 19 per cent (down from 22, up from 14.3), the Nationals on 17 per cent (up from 13 and 14.2), Greens on 4 per cent (steady and up from 2.5) and One Nation on 2 per cent (down from 3 and 8.7). Compared with the last election we might read that as Labor holding firm and the Coalition absorbing 6 to 7 per cent of a disappearing One Nation vote, with not much cause for excitement for the Greens. Anyone who doubts Newspoll’s reputation for accuracy is well deserved need only look at their final poll going into the last Queensland election – a spot-on 49 per cent for Labor and 13 per cent for each of the Coalition parties, against 14 per cent each at the actual election. However, as far as the two-party preferred measure goes (it shows Labor leading 57.5 to 42.5 per cent compared with a guesstimate of 60/40 from the last election), The Poll Bludger presumes to offer Newspoll the following advice – ditch this measure and give respondents the option of answering with "none of the above", an option which will certainly be exercised by an enormous number of voters from all points of the political spectrum on polling day.

One striking change from other Newspolls of the current term that has gone unremarked has been the Nationals’ recovery at the expense of the Liberals, just as the Poll Bludger had finished harping on about the Liberals’ dramatic lead throughout the course of the current term. Until now the gap between the Coalition parties had never been less than 9 per cent – all of a sudden it’s now down to 2 per cent. The Poll Bludger doesn’t quite know what to make of this, especially when taking into account that nowhere will voters actually have competing National and Liberal candidates to choose between. Perhaps the publicity surrounding the election announcement has sharpened distinctions in the public mind between the state and federal contests and focused attention on the fact that voters face a choice between Beattie and Springborg. Unless Newspoll carefully targets voters in particular electorates and points out to them the specific choice facing them, many who respond that they plan on voting Liberal will presumably end up having to vote National. If anyone can offer the Poll Bludger any intelligence on this matter he would be most grateful, because the shift to the National Party makes perfect sense if voters who would have chosen Liberal are now being informed by their questioner that this option is not available to them. The Poll Bludger also suggests that a proportion of potential Liberal voters would sooner vote Labor (perhaps explaining their 4 per cent spike against the last Newspoll?) or cast an exhausting vote for an independent if denied the option of voting for their preferred party, hence the urgent importance for the Coalition of fielding Liberal candidates in urban areas.

For the second weekend in a row the Courier Mail is giving results from a TNS poll of 700 respondents. The Poll Bludger is wondering if TNS is monitoring the same sample of 700 throughout the campaign, which would be an interesting way of going about it. In-depth results are unfortunately not available but the poll, which records a percentage of undecided voters rather than distributing them proportionately as Newspoll would, finds that Labor have picked up 4 per cent on last weekend to reach 42 per cent, compared with the Coalition still stuck on 30 per cent. The poll confirms a general perception that neither One Nation or the Greens have much to crow about, with both losing ground (although it doesn’t say how much).

Campaign updates

Some of those Queensland election guide entries were showing their age so updates have now been added where necessary. Readers are invited to take a another look at the entries for Broadwater, Bundaberg, Burdekin, Burleigh, Burnett, Charters Towers, Currumbin, Darling Downs, Glass House, Gympie, Hervey Bay, Hinchinbrook, Kawana, Maryborough, Mundingburra, Noosa, Springwood, Thuringowa, Toowoomba North and Townsville. Also note the definitive lists of candidates as provided by the Electoral Commission of Queensland. TGIF because the Poll Bludger now hopes to absorb the last few days’ events in coming posts.

Highlights of day nine

Only a token effort today unfortunately, on the day in our history when the Liberals and Nationals both decided that they too wanted in on the just-vote-one action. Cut out of preference deals, minor parties and independents might as well follow suit, except in so far as they might preference each other. With talk of dummy independents in the news today, The Poll Bludger will take a very suspicious view of any independent recommending preferences to a major party. Labor has accused Darling Downs candidate Kathy Sankey, a long-serving staffer to federal National Party MP Bruce Scott, of running to absorb votes leaking from those displeased with incumbent Ray Hopper’s mid-term decision to join the National Party after being elected as an independent. Thuringowa Councillor and independent candidate David Moyle made similar claims last week against Labor – who ever could he have had in mind? The only other independent running in Thuringowa is one John Ryan, whose candidacy had wholly escaped the Poll Bludger’s attention until the Electoral Commission released its candidate list yesterday.

Following up from earlier postings, disendorsed Nationals candidate for Maryborough Michael Giles today added weight to the Poll Bludger’s view that the party is content for independent Chris Foley to retain the seat, while the Council for Civil Liberties weighed in with the possibility that Springborg’s public declaration of the cause of Giles’ troubles may have been illegal. Meanwhile in the case of Reynolds vs Millard, the Crime and Misconduct Commission today ruled that one side was saying one thing and the other side was saying another thing, and no-one could say for sure who was telling the truth.

Coming attractions

Nominations for the Queensland election closed at noon today and those of you who enjoy a good read can peruse the fill list courtesy of our friends at the Electoral Commission of Queensland. It emerged today that National Party candidate for Maryborough Michael Giles would not be making the cut after all, with revelations he had failed to disclose "information that could embarrass the party", namely a domestic violence order that had once been taken out against him. Interestingly he is not on the ECQ list despite the fact that media reports of Giles’ problems did not emerge until early in the afternoon, shortly after the closure of nominations. The ABC report on the story describes the seat as "important" but the Nationals hadn’t been behaving as if it were. Giles, who has been battling cancer, told the Fraser Coast Chronicle on Friday that he had "a great deal of respect" for independent incumbent Chris Foley, whom he described as "a good mate of mine". Foley ran as an independent in a by-election last year after failing to win preselection for the National Party, who are presumably happy to have a seat held by Labor until 1998 in relatively friendly hands.

Blogging may be light on for the next day or two as the Poll Bludger marks today’s campaign milestone by reupholstering his Queensland election guide, which will soon feature definitive candidate lists and "campaign updates" appending electorates of interest. Watch this space.

Preferential treatment

In the wake of the Beattie’s promise to spend $150 million addressing land clearing yesterday, a lot of ink has been wasted over the issue of the Greens’ preference allocations, a subject the media has long had difficulty keeping in perspective. This Parliamentary Library research paper gives a good idea of just how little impact how-to-vote cards have on Greens voters, demonstrating that Labor enjoyed only a 3.5 per cent increase in their share of the Greens’ vote in seats where the party’s preferences were thus directed. In a compulsory preferential voting system that demands voters ultimately choose between Labor and the Coalition, at least 70 per cent of Greens voters will conclude that Labor is the lesser evil. Queensland of course has the complication of optional preferential voting, but as professional Democrats number-cruncher Senator John Cherry notes in this revealing exchange with Antony Green at Crikey, the 2001 result in the state seat of Indooroopilly saw a below-average number of exhausted Greens votes and an above-average flow of preferences to Labor, despite it being one of only two electorates where the Greens did not direct preferences.

Of more electoral significance is the fact that the Greens are running 72 candidates this time against 31 in 2001, as this will lead to wastage of preferences through exhausted votes in the same way that divided conservative votes damaged the Coalition last time. But the make-up of the Greens’ how-to-vote cards will have little bearing on this, as Beattie presumably well knows. The Poll Bludger imagines that Labor instead hopes to prevent these votes from being able to leak in the first place by encouraging the environmentally conscious to vote Labor rather than Green. Certainly Labor’s decision today to again run with the just-vote-one recommendation suggests that Greens preference deals are not hugely important to them. The question is, will the tactic work as well now that Labor are in as much danger from vote-splintering as a Coalition now relieved of three-cornered contests and facing a lesser threat from One Nation?

As for the Nats, it appears discipline is being maintained over the issue of One Nation preferences. Despite worrying noises in the lead-up to the campaign from candidate for Cook Graham Elmes, Springborg felt able to tell the Courier Mail yesterday that "we’ve got it all worked out – it hasn’t been an issue to date and it won’t be an issue". Despite state One Nation leader Bill Flynn’s bluster about his party being ready to assume opposition status, it seems that with Pauline now definitively out to pasture, One Nation no longer packs enough electoral punch to scare regional candidates into defying the party line.

Unhappy families: revisited

The Poll Bludger flatters himself to imagine that his posting from Friday on the state of the Queensland Coalition sent shockwaves through the Liberal Party and set light bulbs off over the heads of party heavies, prompting this report from today’s Courier Mail. The article quotes Liberal sources displeased that the National Party should still be contesting seats on the Gold Coast in this day and age, a difficult judgement to contest. An article by Stephen Wiesenthal in the Financial Review on Thursday (subscriber only so no link) provides a thorough overview of demographic developments in the area, in which the nation’s most rapid rate of urbanisation has soaked up waves of affluent emigrants from the southern states in a region once dominated by dairy farms. Federally the Gold Coast electorate of McPherson went from Country to Liberal Party control way back in 1972 and is currently held with a margin of 12.2 per cent. The newer seat of Moncrieff has been Liberal since its creation in 1984, with a National Party challenger in 2001 polling only 6.3 per cent against Liberal Steven Ciobo on 50.9 per cent. At the state level however, where a vote for the Liberal Party is a vote for a National Party premier, newcomers wanting a mainstream urban-oriented government have only one option. The Poll Bludger will not be the only one keeping a very careful eye on the Nationals’ performance in the winnable Gold Coast seats of Broadwater and Burleigh (plus not-winnable Southport), relative to that of Liberal candidates running in the tougher Currumbin, Mudgeeraba and Gaven.