Monday, June 7, 2010

Nielsen and Essential – the tea leaves get a work out

One morning, back in April 2008 I was walking to the coffee shop with a couple friends from work to get our regular dosage of caffeine. My friends leant to the ALP side of life, and had been pretty ecstatic some 5 months earlier when Howard had been taken down. As we stood at the stop lights, one of the said apropos of nothing, “Geez I’m sick of Kevin Rudd”. I had to admit that I too was getting sick of his speeches and that I wished he was a bit more “left”, but I said that we knew what he was like when we voted for him – he was always a boring, fairly conservative leader, why should we expect anything else? r380769_3420966

My friend didn’t care – she wanted him to be what she wanted him to be (some sort of mixture between Gough, Hawke and Keating) – and she stated and he was doomed to fail because he raised expectations too high (from memory this was around the time of the GroceryChoice and FuelWatch debates). I told her to look at the polls – he was incredibly popular, I said. I admitted I didn’t know why he was, but then I had never understood why Howard had been “popular”.

My friend said once Nelson was gone, Rudd would take a hit, because Turnbull was better. I laughed and said Turnbull wasn't as good as everyone thought he was. My friend, who by this time was quite rightly getting annoyed at my smug superiority on things political and also the long line at the coffee shop, said that she didn’t care what I said because Rudd “shits her to tears”.

I bet those on the left have had a number of such conversations with fellow lefty friends. Rudd has never been loved by the left, but he got rid of Howard, and he was popular and so we put up with him. Many would have preferred Julia, but when they looked at the polls they had to admit that the electorate liked Rudd – for whatever reason. And when he was super popular what could they do but lament that it seemed the electorate liked a right wing Labor leader.

Now his popularity has taken a massive hit, the knives are out and all those on the left who only liked him because he brought them victory (yeah, small thing that), and those on the right who hated him because he wasn’t left-wing enough for them and thus he is phony can be happy at his fate.

Which brings us to today’s polls. Two polls came out today. The one that got all the headlines was the Nielsen poll which had the LNP ahead 53% to 47%. The other poll was the Essential Report which had the ALP up 52% to 48%. In other words the two polls didn’t really agree – but the Nielson one came out in the morning and suggests the Libs will win the election and so naturally that was the one that got all the coverage.

The Nielson Poll however is the one most out of whack with the other polls. Last week’s Newspoll had the ALP up 51-49, the Morgan Poll was 52.5-47.5, and with today's Essential Poll of 52-48, you see are pretty obvious average of the ALP slightly ahead. But nonetheless the Nielson Poll isn’t completely “out there” especially as it showed a few things that all other polls are also showing:

  1. People don’t like Rudd
  2. People don’t like Abbott
  3. Some swinging voters are “parking their votes” with the Greens

Rudd’s dissatisfaction rating was 52%; Abbott’s was 51%. Both Rudd’s and Abbott’s satisfaction ratings were 41%. On Preferred PM, Rudd led 49% to 39% – Rudd’s support going down 4%, Abbott’s going up 1% (ie, nothing statistically), and a 3% increase in “Uncommitted”. So both are on the nose – Abbott always has been, but even two months ago, Rudd was still smelling like roses.

Now we can all sit around and argue why Rudd has got himself into this predicament. And what the hell, let’s do it (even though I already did it back in May). To give some ‘insight’, here’s The Australian finding a “swinging voter” on why he won’t vote for Rudd:

Mr Falzon said blunders by the government over its home insulation rollout, waste in the school rebuilding program and ditching emissions trading had culminated with the RSPT, costing Mr Rudd his vote. "This super tax, what another disaster," he said. "As someone who has superannuation and holds mining shares, just the statements he has been making (about the tax) have already had a negative effect."

Which if true means Rudd has lost the electorate because they believe everything written in The Australian (odd that The Australian was able to find such a voter…).

However, it does go to the whole message – what is the story Rudd is telling? My friend back in April 2008 didn’t like Rudd because he used twenty words instead on two, and because he just wasn’t “Labor” enough. But while he was trying to get the ETS through (regardless of how bad you may think it was) he was doing what people thought a “Labor” PM would do. Dumping it, and more damningly dumping it the way they did had people suddenly thinking the way those on the left of Labor had been thinking for the last three years – except they didn’t have the attachment to Labor. But they don’t like Abbott either… so where to go…? Well Newspoll and Nielsen say they go to the Greens.

And so we rake through the entrails of the polls and try and work out who are those new Greens voters. Who will they eventually go back to? (Because they will – the Greens are not like the Liberal Democrats in the UK, they are a one issue party, and one issue will not get you 16% of the vote – it may get them 10%, remember at the last election they only got 7.7%). Are they dissatisfied lefties? Are they wavering swinging voters who can’t stand Abbott (or don’t trust him), but are sick of Rudd being Rudd?

A bit of both I’d imagine, neither are fantastic for the ALP (you want them to stay “in-house”), but neither will they give Abbott the keys to the Lodge. Yeah oppositions don’t win elections; Governments lose them, but oppositions do need to come up with some wining aspects – if at the end of the day people aren’t sure about Abbott, they’ll opt for the devil they know.

And so talk of Julia taking over will continue. It’s all stupid to be honest. There is absolutely no way the ALP will dump a PM with the polls at worst having them marginally behind. For Julia to seriously be considered, the ALP would need to be down around 44-45% in Newspoll (yeah Nielsen gets coverage, but Newspoll is the one that moves things), and I can’t see that happening while Abbott is leader of the Libs. Also there is no proof yet that Julia would be preferred as PM to Rudd (unlike say Turnbull or Hockey over Abbott).

So what can Rudd do? To be honest, I’m not sure. He performed well in QT last week, but he needs to get rid of what were once quirky little things we kind of liked, but which now we hate: you know, the “can I just say” and “you know something…” and “on the question of…”. Like the traits of ex-lovers, what was once endearing is now annoying.

In reality, the election is a long way off in most people’s minds and the election campaign will be about many, many things, many, many of which are not good for the opposition – education, health, the economy (believe me, the Govt will run very hard on how the GFC has killed other economies, but not Australia – and Abbott is an economics dill so he won’t do well on that score).

But it also comes down to the narrative. The media has one (and remember they don’t like Rudd – he’s “angry”, rude” and worst of all, he doesn’t give them easy copy as does Abbott). What is Rudd’s narrative? Why are we voting for him again? What’s the story?

If I were heading Rudd’s office, apart from sacking anyone who has been advising him for the past 6 months, I’d be getting the story set – and I would make sure it isn’t told in platitudes. And I’d make sure it was proudly told.


ChrisintheCapital said...

Hey Grog, you do a great geeing up the troops, among other things. I feel better already.

L said...

I wonder if "Mr Falzon" is a real person. Maybe he's the Australian's version of the unnamed "celebrity insiders" who give Who Weekly all of their exciting news about Jennifer Aniston. As if they told some junior reporter to go out and find an average voter, but he spent the day getting drunk with Glenn Milne instead and when deadline rolled around he just fabricated an entire personality out of News Ltd talking points.

Frank Calabrese said...

Most of these "Swinging Voters" are soft voters for one side or the other and are "suggested" to Journos by Party HQ

Slim said...

While it remains fashionable to characterise the Greens as a single issue party, it is hardly accurate. What is that 'single' issue? The 'environment'. Surely that's like calling the Libs a single issue party because they always support capital?

Grog said...

Yes Slim, the environment is a big issue, but it is still just one big issue.

Yeah the Libs support capital, but they also are required to come up with a health policy, a policy on education, IR etc etc, and they are percieved to support small business.

So long as The Greens call themselves "the Greens" they are just a one issue party in my opinion.

Go ask 10 of your work mates what is the Greens' policy on IR, Health and education - even just ask for a rough outline of what they believe in. The only ones I know of a those that are broadly in agreement with the ALP - ie anti-workchoice, promoting public health and education (but even on that I'm not sure).

Perhaps the only other issue the Greens really have is the asylum seeker one.

So that's two. I'd say the Democrats were a broader issues party - now that may have led to their decline. I'm not sugesting the Greens should become a multi-issue party, more that in their current setup they'll never get a massive chunk of the votes - ie 20-25%.

We should be realistic, if they get 10%, they will have done a fantastic job.

janice said...

Grog, I don't think the real 'swinging voters' have entered the equasion just yet, and they won't until the election is called.

Those who are parking their votes with the greens and others are, IMHO, voters who voted Labor in 2007 and a fair percentage of those who vote Labor come what may. The former are those who have succomed to the anti-Rudd campaign because of all those little annoyances re his manner of speech etc you have outlined, and the latter are those who are protesting about the big rise in the tobacco tax, and I don't blame them one bit since they are a minority group who have been consigned to the status of society lepers (fair enough) but now are asked to provide the funds for a big chunk of our Health budget.

Come election day, I believe these voters will stick with Labor for the simple reason that memories of Howard are still fresh and Abbott is a hundred percent worse prospect.

Anghared said...

Green Policies in other areas are all on their website and have been for a long time. Go see.

Anonymous said...

Go ask 10 of your work mates what is the Greens' policy on IR, Health and education

I don't think the Greens can really be blamed for the media's general lack of interest in talking to them unless there's some empty space that needs to be filled down the bottom of an article with an environmental theme. That's when their position isn't being actively misrepresented.

Slim said...

Indeed, Anonymous makes a valid point - the MSM and MSPollies actively misrepresent the Greens and a single issue party of lunies whose policies would destroy life as we know it.

So I thought it a cheap shot by Grog, who otherwise makes great commentary. He should know better.

Grog said...

So I thought it a cheap shot by Grog, who otherwise makes great commentary. He should know better
I was talking about how they are perceived. Maybe I should know better, maybe the entire electorate should as well, but I'm talking about reality here, and the reality is that The Greens are perceived by the vast majority of the electorate as a one (or maybe two) issue party.

So long as they are percieved as such, I can't see them getting more than 10% of the vote.

Sure maybe that's the fault of the MSM. But I also think it is a case of the Greens' believing their cause is best served by being a narrowly focussed party.

When the issue is say IR, does anyone really give a stuff what Bob Brown has to say? Maybe to the point of wondering whether or not he'll vote for the legislation, but his actual policy? Who cares? But when it's something to do with the environment, suddenly in the media's (and public's) eyes, he is considered an important voice. It would do him no good to try and be "the voice" on every issue - it wouldn't work and it would dilute the things he says on enviro issues.

As I say, if they get 10% of the vote in this year's election, they should (and I bet will) celebrate long and hard.

The main point of my argument was the fallacy of comparing The Greens to the Lib-Dems in the UK. They are nothing alike. Not the least because the Lib-Dems have many seats in the lower house. If the Greens were to suddenly have half a dozen lower house seats, then the media would be a lot more interested in what they have to say on other more economic issues (just look at the Tasmanian election - the Greens there were being asked much broader questions than I'd say Bob Brown has to field).

It would be interesting to see how that would change their dynamic.

At the moment as well, all the best Greens' candidates are running for or are in the Senate. You'll know they are a real "third party force" when their best people are running for lower house seats.

I think they're a long way from that yet.

Agnes Mack said...

Totally agree with your final paragraph. Have to hope though that MSM carry the narrative. Prospects not bright on that front.

On the Greens....Surely Bob Brown's advice to followers to put Greens first then do whatever they like destroys the Greens' credibility on their core issue/s - the environment and asylum seekers. That's an invitation to vote for inaction on climate change and a return of the Pacific solution, TPVs etc.

Labor's record may not be pristine but only a neanderthal would say it's not better than what Abbott offers.

If Greens voters put the Coalition second they're not genuine about Green's issues.

I'm starting to wonder if, for some people, voting Green is more a fashion statement than a thought out position on national issues.

Grog said...

Agnes Mack, I assume the Greens will eventually do a preference deal with the ALP, but they're playing hard to get.