Whopping lead for Labor ahead of WA election, but federal Newspoll deadlocked at 50-50



Richard Wainwright/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, The University of Melbourne

With less than three weeks left until the March 13 Western Australian election, the latest Newspoll gives Labor a 68-32 lead, two-party-preferred. If replicated on election day, this would be a 12.5% swing to Labor from the 2017 election two party result.

Analyst Kevin Bonham describes the Newspoll result as “scarcely processable” and says it is the most lopsided result in Newspoll history for any state or federally.

Primary votes were 59% for Labor, up from 42.2% at the 2017 election, 23% for the Liberals (down from 31.2% in 2017), 2% National (5.4%), 8% Greens (8.9%) and 3% One Nation (4.9%). This poll was conducted February 12-18 from a sample of 1,034.

Premier Mark McGowan had an 88% satisfied rating with 10% dissatisfied (net +78), while Liberal opposition leader Zak Kirkup was at 29% satisfied, 41% dissatisfied (net -12). McGowan led Kirkup as “better premier” by a crushing 83 to 10.

A pandemic boost?

Other recent polls have been strong, albeit less spectacular for Labor. Bonham refers to a January 30 uComms poll that gave Labor a 61-39 lead, from primary votes of 46.8% Labor, 27.5% Liberal, 5.1% National, 8.3% Greens and 6.9% One Nation.

There is also a pattern here. Since the pandemic began, governments that have managed to keep COVID cases down have been rewarded. This includes Queensland and New Zealand Labo(u)r governments at their respective October elections last year.

WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup.
Zak Kirkup was only elected as WA’s Liberal leader last November.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

McGowan’s imposition of a hard WA border to restrict COVID has boosted both his and Labor’s popularity. There have been relatively few WA COVID cases, and life has been comparably normal with the exception of a five-day lockdown in early February.

Upper house a different story

But it’s not all good news for McGowan. While Labor will easily win a majority in the lower house, it will be much harder for the ALP and the Greens to win an upper house majority. The upper house suffers from both a high degree of rural malapportionment (where there are relatively fewer voters per member) and group ticket voting.

Group ticket voting, in which parties direct the preferences of their voters, was abolished in the federal Senate before the 2016 election, but continues to blight elections in both Victoria and WA.




Read more:
Victorian upper house greatly distorted by group voting tickets; federal Labor still dominant in Newspoll


There are six WA upper house regions that each return six members, so a quota is one-seventh of the vote, or 14.3%. While Perth has 79% of the overall WA population, it receives just half of upper house seats.

There is also malapportionment in non-metropolian regions. According to the ABC’s election guide, the south west region has 14% of enrolled voters, the heavily anti-Labor agricultural region has just 6% of voters and the mining and pastoral region 4%. All regions return six members.

Despite the convincing lower house win in 2017, Labor and the Greens combined won 18 of the 36 upper house seats, one short of a majority. Bonham notes if the Newspoll swings were replicated uniformly in the upper house, Labor would win 19 of the 36 seats in its own right on filled quotas without needing preferences.

But group ticket voting and malapportionment could see Labor and the Greens fall short of an upper house majority again if Labor’s win is more like the uComms poll than Newspoll.

Federal Newspoll still tied at 50-50

This week’s federal Newspoll, conducted February 17-20 from a sample of 1,504, had the two party preferred tied at 50-50, the same as three weeks ago. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison look towards the Speaker's chair in Parliament.
Newspoll continues to have the Coalition and Labor neck and neck.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Of those polled, 64% were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (up one), and 32% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +32. Labor leader Anthony Albanese dropped five points on net approval to -7. Morrison led Albanese by 61-26 as better prime minister (compared to 57-29 three weeks ago).

During the last week, there has been much media attention on the rape allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins against an unnamed colleague.




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However, it appears the general electorate perceives this issue as being unimportant compared to the COVID crisis. Albanese’s ratings may have suffered owing to the perception that Labor has focussed too much and being too negative on an “unimportant” issue.

Despite Morrison’s continued strong approval ratings and the slump for Albanese, the most important measure — voting intentions — is tied. Since the start of the COVID crisis, there has been a continued discrepancy between voting intentions based off Morrison’s ratings and actual voting intentions.

Newspoll is not alone in showing a close race on voting intentions or strong ratings for Morrison. A Morgan poll, conducted in early to mid February, gave Labor a 50.5-49.5 lead. Last week’s Essential poll gave Morrison a 65-28 approval rating (net +37).

Labor bump in Craig Kelly’s seat

As reported in The Guardian, a uComms robopoll in controversial Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s seat of Hughes has Kelly leading by 55-45. This is about a 5% swing to Labor from the 2019 election result.

Liberal MP for Hughes Craig Kelly.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly has recently been banned by Facebook for promoting alternative, medically unproven COVID-19 treatments on social media.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The poll was conducted February 18 from a sample of 683 for the community group Hughes Deserves Better.

While additional questions are often skewed in favour of the position of the group commissioning uComms polls, voting intention questions are always asked first. However, individual seat polls have been unreliable in Australia.

Trump acquitted by US Senate

As I predicted three weeks ago, Donald Trump was comfortably acquitted by the United States’ Senate on February 13 on charges of inciting the January 6 riots.

The vote was 57-43 in favour of conviction, but short of the two-thirds majority required. Seven of the 50 Republican senators joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Polls say Labor and Coalition in a 50-50 tie, Trump set to be acquitted by US Senate


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The first Newspoll of 2021 has the major parties tied at 50-50 on two-party preferred, a one-point gain for Labor since the final 2020 Newspoll in late November. The poll was conducted January 27-30 from a sample of 1,512 people.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (down one point), 36% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (up one).

63% were satisfied with PM Scott Morrison’s performance (down three) and 33% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of +30 points. While this is still very high, analyst Kevin Bonham says it is Morrison’s lowest net approval since April.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of -2, down five points. Morrison led Albanese by 57-29 as better prime minister (60-28 in November).

While much commentary has written off Labor for the next election, a source of hope for the opposition is that while the Coalition has usually been ahead since the COVID crisis began, the two-party-preferred margin has been close.




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Morrison’s great approval ratings have not translated into big leads for the Coalition. It is plausible that by the middle of this year COVID will not be a major threat owing to a global vaccination program.

A return to a focus on normal issues could assist Labor in undermining Morrison’s ratings and the Coalition’s slender lead on voting intentions.

Albanese has come under attack from the left owing to Thursday’s reshuffle in which Chris Bowen took the climate change portfolio from Mark Butler.

But the Greens lost a point in Newspoll rather than gaining. With the focus on COVID, climate change appears to have lost salience.

On Australia Day and climate change

In an Ipsos poll for Nine newspapers, taken before January 25 from a sample of 1,220 people, 48% disagreed with changing Australia Day from January 26, while 28% agreed.

But by 49-41 voters thought it likely Australia Day would be changed within the next ten years.

In a Morgan SMS poll, conducted January 25 from a sample of 1,236 people, 59% thought January 26 should be known as Australia Day, while 41% thought it should be known as Invasion Day.

In an Essential poll conducted in mid-January, 42% (down 20 since January 2020) thought Australia was not doing enough to address climate change, 35% (up 16) thought we were doing enough and 10% (up two) thought we were doing too much.




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But there was a slight increase in those thinking climate change was caused by human activity (58%, up two since January 2020), while 32% (steady) thought we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate.

Trump set to be acquitted in impeachment trial

I related on January 20 that Donald Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives over his role in inciting the January 6 riots with his baseless claims of election fraud.

Donald Trump boarding a helicopter as he leaves the White House.
Donald Trump departs the White House.
Alex Brandon/AP/AAP

The Senate is tied at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the majority with her casting vote. But it requires a two-thirds majority to convict a president, so 17 Republicans would need to join the Democrats for conviction.

On January 26, a vote was called on whether it was constitutional to try a former president. The Senate ruled it constitutional by 55-45, but just five Republicans joined all Democrats.

That is far short of the 17 required to convict, so Trump is set to be acquitted at the Senate trial that begins February 8.

Only ten of over 200 House Republicans supported impeachment. It is clear the vast majority of Congressional Republicans consider it more important to keep the Trump supporters happy than to hold Trump accountable for the rioters that attacked Congress.

In a late January Monmouth University poll, 56% approved of the House impeaching Trump while 42% disapproved. When asked whether the Senate should convict, support dropped to 52-44.




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FiveThirtyEight has started an aggregate of polls to track new President Joe Biden’s ratings. His current ratings are 54.3% approve and 34.6% disapprove for a net approval of +19.7 points.

While Biden’s ratings are better than Trump’s at any stage of his presidency, they are worse on net approval than all presidents prior to Trump this early in their terms.

Prior to Trump, presidents were given a honeymoon even by opposition party supporters, but it is unlikely the 30% or so who believe Biden’s win illegitimate will ever approve of him.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Albanese throws a bone to Labor’s Right, but Joel Fitzgibbon remains off the leash



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Anthony Albanese’s sudden change of heart, swapping out Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler in favour of the more conservative Chris Bowen, can be read in two ways.

First, as a shrewd chess move: one that sharpens the economic arguments in favour of green jobs, boxes in Bowen’s Right faction behind existing climate ambition, and perhaps constrains Bowen as a potential leadership aspirant.

Alternatively, critics could view Albanese’s decision as more self-serving — the manoeuvring of an opposition leader desperate to shore up his defences.

The NSW Right’s outspoken convener Joel Fitzgibbon had made unusually public attacks on the Left-aligned Butler. Albanese will have a job of convincing people he has not blinked under pressure, throwing an ally under a bus.

That perception could, in turn, be dangerous. It may even trigger existential discussions on his leadership. Not merely because of the loyalty questions it invites, but because of the policy implications in an area of chronic political miscalculation.

Anthony Albanese, left, and Mark Butler
Mark Butler, right, is a factional ally of Albanese’s.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Judging by his behaviour, Fitzgibbon surrendered his frontbench spot last year to free his arms for the move against Butler, and by proxy, the campaign against Albanese’s leadership.

The Hunter-based MP is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive. He’s made no secret of his antipathy for green-tinged inner-city politics, which he believes has alienated the party’s industrial origins.

Fitzgibbon blames Labor’s obsession with climate change for everything from the 2019 election failure – where it pledged a 45% emissions cut by 2030 – to the party’s dwindling purchase in the outer suburbs and regions.

Albanese’s position, like all opposition leaders, relies on a mixture of support: in his case, a foundation of Left MPs and the crucial backing of key NSW and some Victorian Right figures. Unsurprisingly, these supporters were the main beneficiaries of the reshuffle.




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Deputy leader Richard Marles gets a super-portfolio combining national reconstruction, employment, skills, small business and science. Another Victorian Right figure, Clare O’Neill, gets a frontbench promotion as spokeswoman for senior Australians and aged care services – assisting the relocated Butler in health and ageing.

And Ed Husic, also an influential player in the NSW Right, is elevated to shadow cabinet in industry and innovation.

Taken separately, these moves may be justified. Together, however, they might also hint at Albanese’s vulnerability, given his own Left faction’s minority position.

Joel Fitzgibbon
Joel Fitzgibbon is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The bigger concern for progressives in the short-term will be what these personnel changes amount to in policy terms, if anything.

Does Albanese intend to scale back Labor’s climate ambitions? Fitzgibbon has explicitly called on his party to ditch interim targets entirely, and simply adopt the government’s goal of 26% emissions reduction by 2030.

During the 2019 election, then leader Bill Shorten struggled to quantify the negative impact on economic growth arising from Labor’s proposed 45% cut in emissions.

It was a strategic vulnerability on which Prime Minister Scott Morrison capitalised. He argued relentlessly that Labor’s formula would cost Australian jobs and send household and business electricity prices soaring.




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Albanese’s decision to defer interim targets until closer to the next election had already invited doubts about whether Labor is truly committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Butler’s removal is likely to exacerbate those doubts.

The hold-fire approach leaves Labor’s left flank exposed to the Greens’ claims it is equivocating on climate action, just as the rest of the world finds new resolve.

As Albanese put the final touches on his reshuffle, the Climate Targets Panel of scientists and economists released a chastening report. It showed Australia would need to slash emissions by 50% by 2030, and achieve zero emissions by 2045 (rather than 2050) to be in line with the Paris commitment of keeping global warming inside 2℃.

Freshly installed US president Joe Biden has used a series of executive orders to accelerate US restructuring. He hopes to spur global momentum for climate action, calling on developed economies to rapidly increase their commitments.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden will call for developed economies to act on climate change.
Evan Vucci/AP

Albanese, however, denies any diminution. He maintains that Bowen, a former treasurer, is better placed to reframe climate policy in more starkly economic terms, stressing the opportunities for new green jobs against the risks cited by the Coalition.

This may well be sound. Bowen’s established economic standing could allow a “green jobs of the future” rebranding of Labor’s emissions approach.

That would be a breakthrough, given the widening divide between Labor’s professional and blue-collar constituencies, and claims by Fitzgibbon and others on the party’s Right that it has abandoned regional workers through its green emphasis.

There’s little doubt that, as an experienced minister, Bowen has the skills and the policy depth for the job.

But there’s a judgement question. His role in the 2019 election loss – chief advocate of an unwieldy suite of adventurous tax proposals – was arguably more central to Labor’s shock defeat than any perceived overreach on climate.

Not finished yet, Fitzgibbon has described Butler’s removal as a good start but called for further policy change.

Fitzgibbon’s Right-aligned parliamentary colleagues seemed willing to accept his public undermining of Butler. It will be interesting to see whether they allow the same treatment of Bowen.




Read more:
Biden’s Senate majority doesn’t just super-charge US climate action, it blazes a trail for Australia


The Conversation


Mark Kenny, Professor, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Embattled Albanese uses reshuffle for a political reset



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese will attempt a political reset to shore up his leadership with a major frontbench reshuffle, shifting climate and energy spokesman Mark Butler and bringing shadow defence minister Richard Marles into a more frontline portfolio.

Butler’s job will go to Chris Bowen, from the right, currently health spokesman, as Albanese faces the challenge of forging a climate policy that straddles Labor’s dual suburban/ regional and progressive constituencies.

Until recently, sources close to Albanese have said the reshuffle would be minor. But Albanese starts 2021 facing widespread criticism from within the party as well as from commentators, and the imminent reshuffle has presented an opportunity to get more vigour into Labor’s performance.

He told the ABC on Wednesday the reshuffle “will achieve a stronger team going forward with the right people in the right jobs. And it will be, I think, a positive move”.

Butler, from the left and personally close to Albanese, held the climate portfolio under Bill Shorten and is strongly identified with the policy that Labor took to the election. He has resisted calls to water it down.

Faced with public urging from former frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon to move Butler, Albanese last year refused to do so.

Shifting Butler will facilitate reshaping the policy, which Albanese has started to do, and send a signal about a more pragmatic position. But it could also lead to a backlash from progressive supporters and give the Greens room to score points.

Butler will become spokesman for health and ageing. This will ensure he is to the fore in the next few months, with the release of the royal commission report that will be highly critical of the aged care system.

He is a former minister for ageing and has written a book on the area, titled Advanced Australia: the Politics of Ageing.

Butler said in a statement: “The job of every frontbencher is to serve in the portfolio allocated by their leader. That’s always been my position under the four leaders I’ve had the privilege of serving under”.

As expected, Ed Husic, who joined the frontbench as resources spokesman when Fitzgibbon moved to the backbench late last year, will go to another post.

There is speculation Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong might move from foreign affairs.

UPDATE

Here is the new shadow ministry line up, which Anthony Albanese announced on Thursday.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison remains very popular in Newspoll as the Coalition easily retains Groom in byelection



James Ross/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll will presumably be the final one for 2020. It gives the Coalition a 51-49% two-party-preferred lead, unchanged from three weeks ago. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (steady) and 2% One Nation (down one).

This is One Nation’s worst result in a federal Newspoll since before the 2019 federal election. It comes after the party slumped by 6.6 percentage points at the recent Queensland state election.

Newspoll figures are from The Poll Bludger. This poll was conducted November 25-28 from a sample of 1,511 people.

Two-thirds of respondents said they were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (up two points) and 30% were dissatisfied (down two), for a net approval of +36. Morrison’s approval rating has consistently been over 60% since April, following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese recorded a net approval of +3, down one point. Morrison led as better PM by 60-28% (58-29% previously).




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Coronavirus may be the only important issue for many voters at the moment, and Morrison is perceived to have handled that well. In normal times, issues less favourable to the Coalition would likely have gained traction, undermining Morrison’s ratings, but these times are not normal.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has enjoyed a similar polling boost in her state as well, due to her handling of the pandemic.

In a NSW YouGov poll taken after revelations of her affair with former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, she still had a 68-26% approval rating.

LNP easily retains Groom at federal byelection

There was very little media attention on Saturday’s byelection for the safe Coalition seat of Groom in Queensland.

Only four candidates ran, representing the Coalition, Labor, Sustainable Australia and the Liberal Democrats.

The LNP won by 66.6-33.4%, a 3.9% swing to Labor since the 2019 federal election.




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Primary votes were 59.0% for the LNP (up 5.6%), 27.8% for Labor (up 9.1%), 8.0% for Sustainable Australia and 5.3% for the Liberal Democrats. The major parties benefited from the absence of One Nation and the Greens, which respectively won 13.1% and 8.0% in 2019.

Analyst Kevin Bonham says the average swing against a government at byelections in its own seats is 6%, so this is not a great result for Labor.

Furthermore, there was a 5.2% swing to the Coalition in Groom in the 2019 election, as it romped to a 58.4-41.6% drubbing of Labor in Queensland.

If federal Labor had recovered support in Queensland since then, a much bigger swing would have been expected.

While Labor easily won the recent Queensland state election, state and federal voting can be very different.

Biden’s popular vote lead stretches

In the Cook Political Report tracker of the national popular vote in the US presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden leads incumbent Donald Trump by 51.1-47.1%.

Biden’s four-point lead is up from 3.1 percentage points on November 8 when the states of Pennsylvania and Nevada were called for him, making him the presumptive winner. Many mail votes are still be counted in New York, which will heavily favour Biden as well.

Biden came out on top in the Electoral College vote count, 306-232.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Biden’s popular vote margin now exceeds Barack Obama’s margin of 3.9 percentage points in 2012. But Obama won the “tipping-point” state that put him over the magic 270 electoral college votes by 5.4 points, while Biden won his tipping-point state (Wisconsin) by just 0.6 percentage points.

Trump performed 3.4 percentage points better in the tipping-point state in 2020 than in the national popular vote and this difference will increase further as more New York votes are counted. In the 2016 election, the difference was 2.9 points.




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In the House of Representatives, the Democrats lead the Republicans 222-206 in seats, with seven races uncalled.

Republicans lead in all seven of these uncalled races. If they hold their leads, Democrats will win the House by just 222-213. That’s a net gain of 13 seats for Republicans from the 2018 midterm election.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition gains in Newspoll after budget; Trump falls further behind Biden



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted October 8–10 from a sample of 1,527 voters, gave the Coalition a 52–48% lead over Labor in the two-party preferred question, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 44% Coalition (up one), 34% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (steady).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison remained very popular: 65% were satisfied with his performance and 31% were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +34. These figures are unchanged from the last poll.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval slid three percentage points to -4. His net approval is down six points since late August. Morrison led as better PM by 57-28% (compared to 59-27% three weeks ago).

Newspoll asks three questions after each budget: whether the budget was good or bad for the economy, whether it was good or bad for you personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget.

On the economy, 42% said the budget was good and 20% bad. When it came to people’s personal fortunes, 26% said they would be better off after the budget, compared to 23% who said worse off. By 49-33%, respondents said Labor would not have delivered a better budget.

Analyst Kevin Bonham tweeted a graph showing this budget performed well compared to historical budgets. The 16-point deficit for the question of whether Labor would have delivered a better budget is the worst for an opposition since 2009.

The one-point gain for the Coalition on people’s voting intentions is also consistent with a well-received budget.

Australian state polls: Victoria and WA

A Victorian Morgan SMS poll, conducted September 29-30 from a sample of 2,220 voters, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5% lead over the Coalition, unchanged from mid-September.

Primary votes were 39% Labor (up two), 39.5% Coalition (up one) and 10% Greens (down two). Morgan’s SMS polls have been unreliable in the past.

In a forced choice, Premier Daniel Andrews had a 61-39% approval rating, down from 70-30% in early September.

Three weeks ago, Newspoll gave Andrews a 62-35% approval rating (compared to 57-37% in late July).

An Utting Research poll of five Western Australian marginal seats showed an average swing to Labor of 16%. In Liberal leader Liza Harvey’s Scarborough seat, the result was 66-34% to Labor.

Labor had a big victory at the March 2017 state election, and this poll suggests a Liberal wipe-out at the next election, due in March 2021.

Biden’s national lead over Trump exceeds ten points

In the FiveThirtyEight national poll aggregate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden now leads President Donald Trump by 10.4% (52.2–41.9%). It’s somewhat closer in the key swing states, with Biden leading by 8.0% in Michigan, 7.3% in Pennsylvania, 7.2% in Wisconsin, 4.5% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona.

Since my article about Trump’s coronavirus infection and the first presidential debate, Biden’s national lead has increased by 1.4%.

With Pennsylvania and Wisconsin now polling very closely, both can be seen as “tipping point” states. Previously, Pennsylvania had been better for Trump than Wisconsin.

The gap in Trump’s favour between the national vote and the tipping-point states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania has increased from 2.4% to 3.2%. If Trump were within five points nationally, this election would be highly competitive. But this difference isn’t going to matter with Biden up ten points nationally.

CNN analyst Harry Enten says Biden is polling better than any challenger against an incumbent president since 1936, when scientific polling started.

US polls include undecided voters, so it is hard for candidates to reach 50%. In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton never reached that mark in polls, and Trump was able to win far more of the late deciders.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Trump a 14% chance to win, down from 17% last week. Trump has just a 6% chance to win the popular vote.

The Senate forecast gives Democrats a 72% chance to win the Senate, up from 70% last Wednesday. The most likely Senate outcome is still a narrow 51-49 Democratic majority.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Anthony Albanese tries to climb an impossible mountain


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Many people who know Mathias Cormann – let us except Malcolm Turnbull – will hope he wins his bid to become secretary-general of the OECD.

Not only is he well qualified, but it would be a feather in Australia’s cap.




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He’s certainly no shoo-in, however. There are already multiple candidates, the pandemic will make campaigning complicated, and Australian’s record on climate change might be a negative.

But he’ll have strong government support and, given his meticulous organisational skills and network of contacts abroad, nothing will be left undone.

Finance minister throughout the Coalition’s term, Cormann is respected across the political spectrum, which has made him effective as the government’s “wrangler” of the difficult characters in the Senate.

His dour image conceals a lighter side, seen in Wednesday’s cameo appearance on the ABC’s “Mad as Hell” as he jested with his “spokesman” Darius Horsham, a long-running character on the show.

Cormann’s October 30 parliamentary exit – the timing determined by the OECD’s process – is a significant loss for the government. But Scott Morrison was determined not to let it become a disruption.

Morrison has filled Cormann’s shoes even before his minister has stepped out of them, announcing Simon Birmingham will take over the finance portfolio and Senate leadership when Cormann goes.

The PM said he’d make no other changes at that time, but there’ll be a reshuffle at year’s end.




Read more:
Simon Birmingham to become finance minister and Senate leader as Australia nominates Cormann for OECD


Birmingham will then shed his trade ministry, and Morrison will have the opportunity to make other alterations to his team. With aged care set to be a mega issue after the royal commission reports in February, one thing he should do is put a heavyweight into that portfolio and elevate it to cabinet.

Thursday’s small shuffle was a side show in the major play of the week, which saw a budget with a deficit of $213.7 billion this financial year that gambles on being large enough to get the country marching to recovery.

It will take months to judge whether the government has pitched its budget well (and that’s assuming no new seismic setbacks), but it is satisfied with the immediate reception. Income tax cuts are likely to be popular even if their critics argue other measures would be better. Business can only welcome the massive incentives to invest, although many enterprises won’t survive to take advantage of them.

Labor has given its support to the huge tax concessions for business in Josh Frydenberg’s second budget.




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This ease of passage is in sharp contrast to the company tax cuts in then treasurer Scott Morrison’s first budget, which embroiled the Turnbull government in a debilitating fight from 2016 to 2018. Even Cormann couldn’t wrangle the big business tranche of those through the Senate; it was abandoned in the final week of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

The budget has come under fire on various fronts – for example, the wage subsidy for younger workers carries the risk of being rorted, and there’s criticism about the lack of assistance for older workers.

Nevertheless, it has been a difficult budget for the opposition to savage, given Labor is endorsing its core elements of income tax cuts and business concessions.

But one fertile area for the opposition has been the lack of specific assistance for women, many of whom have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. They’re often in casual jobs, and in sectors with the biggest job losses (although Frydenberg pointed out women have been strongly represented in the restored jobs). Women have also carried a disproportionate load of home schooling.

Anthony Albanese tapped into this area of government vulnerability when he delivered his Thursday night budget reply.

The opposition leader had several imperatives to meet as he went into that speech. To produce some policy flesh. To set up an ideological difference with the government. To cut through to the public.

With possibly only a little over a year before an election, the opposition is under pressure to start rolling out detailed policies. Albanese’s promises to make child care more affordable (at a cost of $6.2 billion) and to modernise the energy grid (a $20 billion investment) were substantial commitments.

The child care policy will appeal to women in particular. The pandemic has made families, but especially women, even more aware how important child care is for them – the brief period of it being free only increased the appetite for a better system – and the budget didn’t respond.

The proposals Albanese put forward to boost skills and local manufacturing highlighted Labor’s message that it believes in using government as a driver of change, through prescriptions, procurement policy and other means.




Read more:
Albanese promises $20 billion plan to modernise electricity grid, and $6.2 billion for child care


Albanese proposes mandating that a certain proportion of workers on major government-funded projects should be apprentices and trainees. He even suggests this could be extended to government-funded sectors such as aged care – how practical that would be is debatable.

There wasn’t a detailed social housing policy but Albanese flagged Labor would invest substantially in this area – that’s spending favoured by many economists as well as necessary to improve lives.

While Albanese is at pains to argue he’d mobilise the power of government, Morrison has muddied this political water.

The budget might be heavily private-sector oriented (and from that vantage point, seen as ideological), but Morrison is also interventionist when it suits him. His so-called gas led recovery, and his identification of designated sectors in his manufacturing policy are examples.

In terms of the imperatives he was trying to meet, Albanese did produce some policy flesh but of the announcements, probably only the child care initiative is likely to achieve general “cut through”.

The danger for Albanese is that come the next election, if Morrison sees child care as a political weak spot, he’s likely to address it.

In his stress on child care and social housing, Albanese made his point that Labor had different priorities to the government’s. And we got the message about putting government in the driver’s seat.

But the picture of what an Albanese government would actually look like wasn’t clear – as it can’t be, because that remains a work-in-progress.

Nor did we get any comprehensive idea of how, if this had been a Jim Chalmers budget, Labor would be tackling the immediate crisis differently.

Albanese’s problem was that circumstances demanded too much of him in his budget reply. He had a fair crack at meeting those demands, but he couldn’t change the perception that the pandemic has made the opposition one of its victims.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition regains Newspoll lead; time running out for Trump



AAP/Dean Lewins

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted September 16-19 from a sample of 2,068, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up one) and 3% One Nation (steady) – all figures from The Poll Bludger.

65% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (up one), and 31% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of +34. Anthony Albanese’s ratings fell into negative territory: his net approval was -1, down three points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 59-27 (58-29 last time).

The last Newspoll had the Coalition’s lead dropping from 52-48 to a 50-50 tie, while Morrison’s net approval was down seven points. This Newspoll implies movements in the previous Newspoll may have been exaggerated.

It is also possible the federal Coalition is benefiting from restrictions to fight coronavirus becoming less popular in Victoria. A Morgan Victorian state poll (see below) gave Labor a narrow lead, but that lead was well down on the November 2018 election result. In other state polls, there was a clear surge to the incumbent government.

Australian state polls: Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania

A Victorian SMS Morgan poll, conducted September 15-17 from a sample of 1,150, gave Labor a 51.5-48.5 lead over the Coalition, a six-point gain for the Coalition since the November 2018 state election. Primary votes were 38.5% Coalition, 37% Labor and 12% Greens. Morgan’s SMS polls have been unreliable in the past.

A South Australian YouGov poll, conducted September 10-16 from a sample of 810, gave the Liberals a 53-47 lead over Labor, a six-point gain for the Liberals since March, likely due to the state’s handling of coronavirus. Primary votes were 46% Liberals (up seven), 35% Labor (down three) and 10% Greens (down one).

Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a massive surge in net approval, to +52 from -4 in March. Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas had a +22 net approval.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 18-24 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 54% (up 11 since the last publicly released EMRS poll in March), Labor 24% (down ten) and the Greens 12% (steady). Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein led Opposition Leader Rebecca White by 70-23 as better premier (41-39 to White in March).

Time running out for Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I had published for The Poll Bludger last Thursday.

Six weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 6.8% lead over Donald Trump (50.3% to 43.5%). This is an improvement for Trump from three weeks ago, when he trailed by 8.2%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.6% in Michigan, 6.6% in Wisconsin, 4.6% in Pennsylvania, 4.5% in Arizona and 2.0% in Florida.

In my article three weeks ago, the difference in Trump’s favour between the Electoral College tipping-point state and the national vote had widened to three points, but this difference has fallen back to about two points, with Arizona and Pennsylvania currently two points more favourable to Trump than national polls.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he gets exactly 269 Electoral Votes, one short of the 270 required for a majority. Maine and Nebraska award one EV to the winner of each of their Congressional Districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

Under this scenario, Biden would need one of either Nebraska’s or Maine’s second CDs for the 270 EVs required to win the Electoral College. Nebraska’s second is a more likely win for Biden as it is an urban district.

The US economy has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus nadir in April. Owing to this, the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects some narrowing as the election approaches. Every day that passes without evidence of narrowing in the tipping-point states is bad news for Trump. Biden’s chances of winning in the forecast have increased from a low of 67% on August 31 to 77% now.

While Trump has improved slightly in national polls, some state polls have been very good for Biden. Recently, Biden has had leads of 16 points in Minnesota, 21 points in Maine, 10 in Wisconsin and 10 in Arizona.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 43.2% approve, 52.7% disapprove (net -9.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 44.0% approve, 52.8% disapprove (net -8.8%). In the last three weeks, Trump has gained about two points on net approval, continuing a recovery from July lows.

The RealClearPolitics Senate map has 47 expected Republican seats, 46 Democratic seats and seven toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51-49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

Coronavirus and the US economy

The US has just passed the grim milestone of over 200,000 deaths attributable to coronavirus. However, daily new cases have dropped into the 30,000 to 50,000 range from a peak of over 70,000 in July. Less media attention on the coronavirus crisis assists Trump.

In the US August jobs report, 1.4 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 1.8% to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has greatly improved from its April high of 14.7%.

The headline jobs gained or lost are from the establishment survey, while the household survey is used for the unemployment rate. In August, the household survey numbers were much better than the establishment survey, with almost 3.8 million jobs added.

It is probably fortunate for Biden that the September jobs report, to be released in early October, will be the last voters see before the election. The October report will be released November 6, three days after the election.

I believe Trump should focus on the surging economy in the lead-up to the election, and ignore other issues like the Kenosha violence and culture war issues. Particularly given the Supreme Court vacancy, Biden should focus on Trump and Republicans’ plans to gut Obamacare.

Implications of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

On Friday, left-wing US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. While Democrats control the House of Representatives, only the Senate gets a vote on judicial appointments, and Republicans control that chamber by 53-47.

Even if Democrats were to win control of both the Senate and presidency at the November 3 election, the Senate transition is not until January 3, with the presidential transition on January 20.

There is plenty of time for Trump to nominate a right-wing replacement for Ginsburg, and for the Senate to approve that choice. That will give conservative appointees a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition and Morrison’s ratings dip in Newspoll; Trump improves in crucial battleground state polls



Lukas Coch/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll showed the Coalition and Labor in a 50-50 tie on a two-party preferred basis, a two-point gain for Labor since the previous Newspoll three weeks ago.

This is Labor’s best result in Newspoll since late April.

Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down two points), 36% Labor (up three), 11% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (down one). (The figures are from The Poll Bludger.)

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) were satisfied with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance (down four points) and 32% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of +32, down seven points. While Morrison’s ratings are still very good by historical standards, this is his worst net-approval since early April.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval, meanwhile, dipped one point to +2. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 58-29% (compared to 60-25% three weeks ago).

In late July and early August, new coronavirus cases peaked in Victoria, reaching more than 700 per day. Since then, new cases have dropped back to just 73 today. While the Victorian Labor government was blamed for its initial handling of the outbreak, it is likely now receiving credit for controlling it.




Read more:
The government has thrown another $171 million at the problem. But a real plan for aged care has been missing all along


While coronavirus deaths have not slowed, the vast majority of these are connected with aged care, which is a federal government responsibility. Conservative attacks on the Victorian government also likely appear partisan to many voters, and this may have further contributed to the Coalition’s slide.

In an additional question, 80% of respondents thought premiers should have the authority to close their borders or restrict the entry of Australians who live in other states, while just 18% disagreed. Support for this was over 90% in Western Australia and South Australia.

Labor wins NT election with at least 13 of 25 seats

Analyst Kevin Bonham has followed the late vote counting after the recent Northern Territory election. Labor has now won 13 of the 25 seats, the Country Liberal Party (CLP) six and independents two, with four seats still in some doubt.

If doubtful seats are assigned to the current leader, the result would be 15 Labor (down three since the 2016 election), seven CLP (up five), two independents (down three) and one Territory Alliance.

Electoral College may save Trump

This section is an updated version of an article I had published for The Poll Bludger last week.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, President Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 42.0% approve, 54.2% disapprove (net -12.2%).

In polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.9% approve, 53.4% disapprove (net -10.5%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about one percentage point, continuing a recovery from July lows.

Just over two months from the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national polling aggregate has Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s lead over Trump slightly increasing to a 50.4% to 42.2% margin, from a 50.0% to 42.5% margin three weeks ago.

In the key battleground states, Biden leads by 6.9% in Michigan, 5.9% in Wisconsin, 5.4% in Pennsylvania, 5.3% in Florida and 3.9% in Arizona. FiveThirtyEight adjusts state polls to the current national vote trends.




Read more:
Trump is struggling against two invisible enemies: the coronavirus and Joe Biden


On current polling, Pennsylvania and Florida are the most likely “tipping-point” states — that is, these states are most likely to give Trump or Biden the magic 270 electoral votes needed to win the Electoral College and the election.

So, if Biden wins either of those states (and all the other states more favourable for him), he become president.

Trump, however, can win the election by capturing Pennsylvania, Florida and all of the more reliably Republican states.

Joe Biden still leads in crucial states like Pennsylvania and Florida, but a key election model shows his chances of winning down to 69%.
Paul Vernon/AP

The problem for Biden is the gap between his national polling advantage and his lead in those two tipping-point states has widened from three weeks ago. Biden leads Trump by 8.2% nationally, but only by 5.4% in Pennsylvania and 5.3% in Florida.

This makes the scenario where Trump loses the popular vote, but sneaks a win in the Electoral College more realistic.

In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.1%, but won the tipping-point state by just 0.8% — giving him the election.

FiveThirtyEight now has a model forecasting the presidential election result, which currently gives Biden a 69% chance to win, down from about 72-73% a week ago.




Read more:
How is the American President elected?


Biden has received virtually no bounce from the Democratic national convention two weeks ago, while Trump could get some bounce from the more elaborately staged Republican convention that concluded last week.

Why has Biden’s advantage in tipping-point states shrunk recently? One possible reason is that the Midwestern states have a higher percentage of non-university-educated whites than nationally. Trump’s general behaviour has offended better-educated voters, and they are likely to vote for Biden.

This tweet by Cook Political analyst Dave Wasserman shows whites without a university education made up over half the 2016 vote in most battleground states, but only 44% nationally.

Whites without a university education may have moved slightly back to Trump because new coronavirus cases are slowing and the economy is improving.

On the economy, there is a clear downward trend in new jobless claims since their peak in April, and also a downtrend in continuing jobless claims.

If the jobs situation continues to improve, and there is no resurgence in coronavirus cases, Trump could win another term in the same way he won his first term — by exploiting the greater share of whites without university education in the electoral battlegrounds than nationally.

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, meanwhile, Republicans currently lead Democrats by 46 seats to 44, with ten toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49, unchanged from three weeks ago.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition maintains Newspoll lead federally and in Queensland; Biden’s lead over Trump narrows



AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s federal Newspoll, conducted August 5-8 from a sample of 1,509, gave the Coalition a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (down one), 33% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 4% One Nation (steady). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

68% (steady) were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 29% (up two) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +39, just off Morrison’s record +41 in the last two Newspolls.

Anthony Albanese’s net approval improved two points to +3. Despite these slight movements against Morrison and favouring Albanese, Morrison’s better PM lead widened to 60-25 from 59-26 three weeks ago.

So far the Victorian Labor government is taking the blame for the coronavirus crisis. Three weeks ago, Newspoll polled the ratings of NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. 57% were satisfied with Andrews and 37% were dissatisfied for a net approval of +20, down 20 points since late June. Berejiklian’s net approval also slid eight points to +34, with 64% satisfied and 30% dissatisfied.

As long as the Victorian government is blamed for the new coronavirus surge, while the federal government escapes blame, it is likely the federal Coalition will maintain its poll lead.

Rex Patrick’s resignation from Centre Alliance makes Senate easier for Coalition

On Sunday, SA Senator Rex Patrick announced he was leaving Centre Alliance and would continue in the Senate as an independent.

After the 2019 election, the Coalition held 35 of the 76 senators, Labor 26, the Greens nine, One Nation two, Centre Alliance two and Cory Bernardi and Jacqui Lambie one each. In January, Bernardi resigned from the Senate, and his seat reverted to the Liberals.

Before Patrick left Centre Alliance, the Coalition’s easiest path to the 39 votes required to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens was to win support from One Nation and one of Centre Alliance or Lambie.

Now the Coalition has an extra option if they win One Nation’s support, needing just one out of Lambie, Patrick or Centre Alliance.

Queensland Newspoll: 51-49 to LNP

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A Newspoll, conducted July 23-29 from a sample of 1,000, gave the LNP a 51-49 lead. Primary votes were 38% LNP, 34% Labor, 12% Greens and 11% One Nation.

This poll was branded as Newspoll, but Newspoll is conducted by YouGov. A YouGov poll in early June gave the LNP a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 38% LNP, 32% Labor, 12% Greens and 12% One Nation.

Despite the LNP lead on voting intentions, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings improved from the late June premiers’ Newspoll. 64% (up five) were satisfied with her performance, and 29% (down six) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +35. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington was at 34% satisfied, 42% dissatisfied. Palaszczuk led as better premier by 57-26.

Both Palaszczuk and Morrison had great results on handling coronavirus, with Palaszczuk at 81% well, 14% badly and Morrison at 80% well, 17% badly.

Biden’s lead over Trump narrows

This section is an updated version of an article I had published for The Poll Bludger last Friday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 41.4% approve, 54.7% disapprove (net -13.3%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.0% approve, 54.4% disapprove (net -12.4%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about two points.

Less than three months before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate has Joe Biden’s lead narrowing to a 49.9% to 42.1% margin over Trump, from a 50.3% to 41.2% margin three weeks ago.

In the key states, Biden leads by 7.8% in Michigan, 7.3% in Wisconsin, 6.0% in Pennsylvania, 5.2% in Florida and 3.6% in Arizona.

On current polling, Pennsylvania is the tipping-point state. If Trump wins all states more favourable for him than Pennsylvania, and Biden wins Pennsylvania and other states that are better for him, Biden wins the Electoral College by 278 Electoral Votes to 260. But the issue for Biden is that Pennsylvania is currently 1.8% more pro-Trump than the national average.

Trump’s gains come despite a coronavirus death toll that has trended up to over 1,000 daily deaths on most days. There have been over 160,000 US coronavirus deaths. However, the daily new cases have dropped into the 50,000’s from a peak of over 78,000 on July 24.

I believe Trump has gained owing to memories of George Floyd’s murder fading, and thus race relations becoming less important to voters. An improving economic outlook could also explain the poll movement.

Despite the coronavirus’ effect on the US economy, Trump’s economic approval is close to a net zero rating according to the RealClearPolitics average. Analyst Nate Silver says real disposable personal income increased sharply in April, contrary to what occurs in most recessions. This increase was due to the coronavirus stimulus, and explains Trump’s better economic ratings.

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans lead in 46 races, Democrats lead in 45 and there are nine toss-ups. If toss-up races are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49. If Trump’s numbers continue to improve, Republicans are likely to be boosted in congressional races.

Danger for Democrats in mail voting

Owing to coronavirus, much of the US election will be conducted by mail voting. Trump has been castigating mail voting, and this could depress Republican mail turnout. But there is a danger for Biden and Democrats in Trump’s attacks.

As Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman says, mail votes can be rejected owing to voter error. Also, while there are some states that conduct elections mostly by mail, the US as a whole does not. This means there could be errors such as voters not being sent their ballot papers in time.

If Republicans mostly vote in person, while Democrats mostly vote by mail, it is likely to distort the election night results as mail votes usually take longer to count. Furthermore, mail errors, whether by election officials or voters, are likely to cost Democrats in close races.

If Trump could get within five points in national polls, his advantage in the Electoral College and the mail issue could see him sneak another win.

Another good US jobs report

After the terrible US April jobs report, the last three have indicated a clear recovery trend from coronavirus. In July, 1.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 0.9% to 10.2%. The unemployment rate is still high by historical standards, but much better than the 14.7% in April.

Job gains in July slowed from 4.8 million in June and 2.7 million in May. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans employed – increased 0.5% in July to 55.1%, but is still over 3% below the 58.2% low reached in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

NZ Labour has huge poll lead ahead of September 19 election

On July 28, I wrote for The Poll Bludger that a New Zealand Reid Research poll gave Labour a thumping 61% to 25% lead over the opposition National. A Colmar Brunton poll, released after the Poll Bludger article was published, gave Labour a 53% to 32% lead.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.