About two months from the expected May election date, this week’s Newspoll, conducted March 7-10 from a sample of 1,610, gave Labor a 54-46 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor (steady), 36% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (up two).
This Newspoll is the Coalition’s 50th successive Newspoll loss. The closest they have come to breaking that losing streak was a run of four consecutive 51-49 results from July to early August 2018 before Malcolm Turnbull was dumped. This Newspoll reverses the gains the Coalition had made to close the gap to 53-47 from 55-45 in November and December.
Despite the Coalition’s woes on voting intentions, Scott Morrison remains relatively popular. 43% were satisfied with his performance (up one), and 45% were dissatisfied (down three), for a net approval of -2. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up three points to -15. Morrison led Shorten as better PM by 43-36 (44-35 last fortnight).
I believe Morrison’s relative popularity is because he has not yet proposed something that would make him unpopular, in the way Tony Abbott did with the May 2014 budget, and his January 2015 knighting of Prince Philip. Turnbull was very unpopular with the hard right, and their hatred of him damaged his overall ratings.
During the election campaign, Labor will attempt to tie Morrison to unpopular Coalition policies, and this could impact his ratings.
The last fortnight has not been good for the Coalition with the retirements of Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo, infighting within the Nationals, and Turnbull and Julie Bishop saying they could have beaten Shorten if they were the leader.
While these events may have had an impact, I believe the Coalition’s biggest problem is weak economic data. On March 6, the ABS reported that Australia’s GDP grew 0.2% in the December quarter after the September quarter GDP was up 0.3%. In per capita terms, GDP growth was negative in both the September and December quarters, meaning Australia has had its first per capita GDP recession since 2006.
In the December quarter, wages grew by 0.5%, matching the rate of inflation in that quarter. The Coalition already has a problem with well-educated voters owing to their perceived lack of climate change policies and the removal of Turnbull – see my personal website for where I thought Morrison could have problems. With good wages growth and a strong economy, the Coalition may have been able to compensate with less educated voters.
With neither a strong economy nor good wages growth, I believe the Coalition’s only realistic chance of re-election is a massive scare campaign against Labor’s economic policies, such as the proposal to abolish franking credit cash refunds.
Essential: 53-47 to Labor
This week’s Essential poll, conducted March 6-11 from a sample of 1,080, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for Labor that validates Newspoll’s movement. Primary votes were 38% Labor (up one), 37% Coalition (down one), 8% Greens (down one) and 7% One Nation (up one). According to The Poll Bludger, this is the worst result for the Greens from any pollster since September 2016.
Morrison’s net approval was +2, down two points since January. Shorten’s net approval was -6, up six points. Morrison led Shorten by 44-31 as better PM (42-30 in January).
62% thought climate change is happening and is caused by human activity (down one since October). 51% thought Australia is not doing enough to address climate change (down two since December). By 52-48, voters thought the reopening of Christmas Island reflected genuine concern about boats arriving, rather than a political ploy; there was no undecided option in this question.
On issue questions, the Liberals led Labor by 19 points on border protection, 16 points on national security and 15 points on economic management. Labor was 18 points ahead on the important issue of safeguarding fair wages and conditions, and had 7-9 point leads on climate change, the environment, health, education and housing affordability.
NSW Newspoll: 50-50 tie, ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor, plus seat polls
The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. A Newspoll, conducted March 8-11 from a sample of 1,003, had a 50-50 tie, unchanged since late January. A uComms/ReachTEL poll for The Sun-Herald, conducted March 7 from a sample of 1,019, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged since the last NSW ReachTEL poll in late November.
Primary votes in ReachTEL were 28.7% Liberals (down 3.4%), 7.0% Nationals (up 2.6%), 34.1% Labor (steady), 9.6% Greens (steady), 5.6% One Nation (down 1.9%), 4.6% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (up 1.3%), 5.8% for all Others (steady) and 4.7% undecided (up 1.6%). After excluding undecided, The Poll Bludger has primary votes of 37.5% Coalition, 35.8% Labor, 10.1% Greens, 5.9% One Nation and 4.8% Shooters.
The drop for the Liberals but gain for the Nationals suggests that the Coalition could perform relatively badly in Sydney, but better in the country. According to the ABC’s Antony Green, the Shooters will be contesting 25 of the 93 lower house seats, and One Nation just 12, so both parties’ support will be overstated in this statewide poll.
In Newspoll, primary votes were 40% Coalition (up one), 36% Labor (steady) and 10% Greens (steady). In the January NSW Newspoll, One Nation had 6%, but they have been excluded from the current poll as they are not contesting many seats. The exclusion of One Nation probably assisted the Coalition.
44% were satisfied with Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s performance in Newspoll (up three), and 38% were dissatisfied (down five), for a net approval of +6. Opposition Leader Michael Daley’s net approval improved seven points to -1. Berejiklian led Daley by 41-34 as better Premier (44-31 in January).
Daley led Berejiklian as better Premier in ReachTEL by 53.3-46.7 (54.2-45.8 in November). ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM/Premier questions are usually better for opposition leaders than other polls. Voters opposed the government’s plans for Sydney sports stadiums by 52-37. By 48-43, voters thought that Labor was not ready to govern.
There were two YouGov Galaxy seat polls for The Daily Telegraph conducted February 28. East Hills was tied at 50-50 (50.4-49.6 to Liberal in 2015). Ryde had a 53-47 Liberal lead (61.5-38.5 to Liberal in 2015). Last week, there was also a national Greenpeace ReachTEL poll that gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent preferences. You can read more about these polls on my personal website.
The Daily Telegraph has seat polls of Lismore and Barwon conducted last week from samples of 500-600 by YouGov Galaxy. In Barwon, the Nationals lead the Shooters by just 51-49; the Nationals won 62.9% vs Labor in 2015.
In Lismore, Labor leads the Nationals by 51-49 (50.2-49.8 to Nationals in 2015). Primary votes were 35% Nationals (42.5% in 2015), 28% Greens (26.4%) and 27% Labor (25.6%). Even though NSW uses optional preferential voting, primary votes changes suggest an easier win for one of the left parties than 51-49. Seat polls have been very unreliable at past elections.
Key Brexit Commons votes this week
From March 12-14, the UK House of Commons will vote on PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal, whether the UK should leave without a deal, on delaying Brexit beyond the scheduled March 29 exit date, and on an amendment that would lead to a second referednum. Votes will occur in the early morning March 13-15 Melbourne time.
You can read my preview of these votes on The Poll Bludger. On February 28, I had a more general article about Brexit published by The Poll Bludger, which explained Labour’s recent slump in the UK polls.