Monday, April 19, 2010

Polls, Idle Polls, I know not what they mean

Today one of the irregular Nielsen Polls came out in the Fairfax papers. I generally don’t bother much with Nielsen because they only come out every 4 or 6 weeks and thus it is almost pointless trying to track any movements. A note to Fairfax: if you want your polls to have the influence that the Newspolls do, put them out every fortnight.

This one came out with Labor’s two party preferred score diving to its worst ever result since Rudd took over the leadership. It had the ALP at 51% and the LNP at 49%.

Normally this would be big news; the only problem is no one really believed it. The ALP’s primary vote had dropped by 3% and the Greens primary had increased by 3%. Nothing changed with the LNP, and on the leaders’ approval ratings, Rudd’s went up 2% and his disapproval went down 1%; whereas Abbott’s approval rating went done 4% and his disapproval went up 4%! So yeah people became more dissatisfied with Abbott, and more satisfied with Rudd, but the ALP vote fell? All in all a pretty odd poll result, and one that is pretty easily dismissed.

This is made obvious by the Fairfax papers pretty much ignoring the two party preferred figure. Of the four stories in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age only one gave any real prominence to what would normally be a major headline:

Tough line on immigration hurts Labor

And even this article didn’t give the 2PP anywhere near the usual prominence it normally would, most likely because the explanation of why the ALP’s vote dropped – the decision to suspend processing asylum seeker application for refugees from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – didn’t hold up when examined against other questions in the poll. This can be seen in the headline of one of the other three articles:

Labor wins support for asylum seeker stance

You see the poll also asked if voters backed the suspension of processing of refugees – 58% in total did (60% of ALP voters and 58% of LNP voters). That doesn’t mean the vote didn’t go down because of the policy, but it does show that it is hardly an election losing strategy. (As an aside don’t you love how the same poll can lead to diametrically opposed headlines?)

The other two articles focussed on the health policy questions:

Backing for Rudd on health

Rebel states to defy voters

The poll asked if voters supported Rudd’s health and hospital plan. It got a resounding 62% in favour. In Victoria the numbers in favour were 58%, and in WA it was 51%. Everywhere else it was over 60% (SA and QLD topping out at 66%). Does this mean a referendum on the issue would succeed? Well yes IF the numbers were replicated. But that is a big, big IF, and lot of ground has to be covered before we get to that stage.

I’m not as down on the chances of the referendum succeeding even if the LNP is against it as other commentators are, but the more likely result would certainly be a loss, as Mumble shows quite impressively: no referendum has ever passed that was opposed by the opposition.

Another poll come out today from the good folk at Essential Media. It had the two party preferred result at 54-46 – where it has been for the last three weeks. They also asked about asylum seekers. A whopping 69% supported the decision – 70% of ALP voters and 80% of LNP voters. This result will no doubt disappoint those of us who think the refugee issue is poorly handled by the politicians and media of this country, but it does demonstrate the master tactician that is Kevin Rudd. He has come up with a policy that if the LNP is to criticise, it means they are criticising a policy 80% of their own supports agree with. That is not a good way to win elections if you are Tony Abbott.

Today’s decision to reopen the Curtin Detention Centre is another soul destroying decision for lefties. It would be tempting to say if Turnbull was still leader of the Libs that ALP voters would shift to him, but that ignores the fact that he also took a hard line on asylum seekers as leader, and given this poll, if he were to be seen to be “softer” most likely the LNP would have lost voters to the ALP.

Sigh. If you hate these facts, get used to them. They’ll never change until two leaders both take a mature view on the issue, and with poll number like these that will never happen, as the temptation for the leader behind in the polls to take a “hard line” and grab the votes will be far too tempting.

Tomorrow the first Newspoll in 3 weeks will come out. The last one was the rather roguish 56-44 to the ALP. I can’t see that holding. If it is another 51 or 52, then we can say Nielsen got it right. If not I think we can put the poll down to just one of those statistical things that happens. Stat happens I guess. Apparently Dennis Shanahan will be announcing the Newspoll on Lateline tonight – as sure sign that it will be bad for the ALP. Given Shanahan is a Liberal stooge I wouldn’t be surprised if it is 50-50.

The Newspoll will also be viewed in the context of the COAG meeting, which looks likely to run at least till Tuesday afternoon. Whatever happens there may render this week’s polls quickly out of date one way or another.

UPDATE: The Newspoll is 54-46. Well that’s one conspiracy theory smashed! More on the poll later (though it looks to be pretty mundane)


Anonymous said...

Hi Grog,

Thakyou Grog

Excellent break-down of today's poll, Grog also very welcome, Possum is on holidays.

Love this sentence:

Apparently Dennis Shanahan will be announcing the Newspoll on Lateline tonight – a sure sign that it will be bad for the ALP. Given Shanahan is a Liberal stooge I wouldn’t be surprised if it is 50-50.

Cheers lyn

Agnes Mack said...

Grateful for your analysis. Possum can enjoy his holiday. Terrific post.

Do you think a bad Newspoll for ALP could influence Coag outcome?

Premiers could see an Abbott win looming and decide to take the money and run, or alternatively see Rudd's position as weakened (despite the positive polls on Rudd's health plan), so decide to dig in.

Greg Jericho said...

Agnes Mack,

Not even a bad poll won't have the Premiers thinking Abbott could win (or me).

The only thing that could sway the COAG is if Newspoll has a question about the health package and it is in favour of the states knocking it back - but I can't see that happening.

Oh and I am certainly no Possum!