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.

Rogue poll or not, all the signs point to a tectonic shift in New Zealand politics


Richard Shaw, Massey University

Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour Party at 60.9% and for National at 25.1% – suggests the team is not looking that strong at all.

Nor will it be having much to say on jobs or the economy following the general election on September 19 if those numbers are close to the result.

As you might expect, National’s leadership dismissed the poll as rogue, saying the party’s internal polling (which hasn’t been publicly released) puts it in a much stronger position.

But this latest poll is consistent with three others released since May (June 1, June 25 and July 15). Averaged out, these polls put support for Labour and National at 55.5% and 29.1% respectively.

That is quite the gap. Assuming they are broadly accurate, what do they tell us about the state of politics in Aotearoa New Zealand?

The centre is now centre-left

For a start, the political centre appears to be shifting to the left. Across the past four polls, support for Labour and the Greens sits around 62%. When nearly two out of three voters in a naturally conservative nation support the centre-left, something is going on.

Correspondingly, as the notional median voter shifts left, parties on the right are being left high and dry. The Reid Research poll put the combined support for National, ACT and New Zealand First at 30.4%, a touch under half the level of support for the centre-left.




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Two months from New Zealand’s election, National gambles on Judith Collins crushing Jacinda Ardern’s charisma


In 2017 National secured nearly 45% of the party vote. Nearly half of that support has bled away – and most of it hasn’t gone to other conservative parties. New Zealand First is on life support; the right-wing ACT party is at 3%; and the other centre-right parties (including the New Conservatives, the Outdoors Party and the conspiratorially inclined Advance NZ/Public Party coalition) are well off the pace.

The leadership gap

Then there is the question of leadership. Judith Collins was installed in an attempt to re-establish National’s bona fides as New Zealand’s natural party of government. But she has not had the impact Jacinda Ardern did when she took Labour’s reins several weeks out from the 2017 election.

In fact, while 25% of those polled by Reid Research support National, the party’s leader sits at only 14% in the preferred prime minister stakes: nearly half of those who would vote National do not rate Collins as the prime minister.

The polling suggests that Collins’s penchant for attack politics is not resonating with voters. She has not been helped by the recent antics of (now departed or demoted) caucus colleagues Hamish Walker, Michael Woodhouse and Andrew Falloon, but the buck stops with her.

National’s default claim of being the better economic manager also took a blow in the most recent poll. Asked who they trusted most with the post-COVID economy, 62.3% of respondents preferred a Labour-led government and only 26.5% a National-led one.

Could we see an outright majority?

Something may be about to happen to the shape of our governments. Under New Zealand’s previous first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral system we saw a string of manufactured governing majorities.

For the better part of the 20th century either National or (less frequently) Labour would win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives with a minority of the popular vote. Indeed, the last time any party won a majority of the popular vote was 1951.

That may be about to change. Since the first mixed member proportional (MMP) election in 1996 we have not had a single-party majority government: multi-party (and often minority) governments have become the norm. That is because MMP does not permit manufactured majorities in the way FPP does. To win an outright majority you need to enjoy the support of a (near) majority of voters.




Read more:
Ahead of the New Zealand election, Todd Muller’s resignation is a National nightmare – and a sign of a toxic political culture


Labour may be on the verge of doing precisely that. If it does, it will be a very different kind of single-party majority government to those formed after FPP elections.

In 1993, for instance, the National Party formed a single-party majority government on the basis of just 35% of the vote. If Labour is in a position to govern alone (even if Ardern looks to some sort of arrangement with the Greens) it will be because a genuine majority of voters want it to.

Rogue poll or outlier on the same trend, Collins has had her honeymoon (if it can even be called that). In a way, though, neither Ardern nor Collins is the real story here. Much can and will happen between now and September 5 when advance voting begins. But something bigger and more fundamental may be going on.

If the pollsters are anywhere near right, New Zealanders will look back at the 2020 election as one of those epochal events when the electoral tectonic plates moved.The Conversation

Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

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

Coalition’s lead increases in Newspoll; Biden maintains clear lead over Trump




Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted July 15-18 from a sample of 1,850, gave the Coalition a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. This is the Coalition’s largest lead since the first Newspoll of the current parliamentary term in July 2019.

Primary votes were 44% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (down one) and 4% One Nation (up one). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

Scott Morrison’s ratings were steady at 68% satisfied, 27% dissatisfied (net +41). He maintains the highest net approval for a prime minister since Kevin Rudd in October 2009. Anthony Albanese’s net approval dropped one point to +1. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 59-26 (58-26 three weeks ago).

In the past weeks, there has been a major surge in Victorian coronavirus cases, reaching a peak so far of 428 new cases on Friday. Newspoll last polled the premiers’ ratings three weeks ago, when Victoria’s new coronavirus crisis was beginning. That poll had Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews dropping 18 points on net approval to +40.




Read more:
Labor set to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria


In an Essential poll last week, state breakdowns had the Victorian government’s response to coronavirus slumping to a net +23 from +52 in late June. As the coronavirus situation in Victoria has worsened, voters appear to be blaming the state government far more than the federal government.

I have previously written that, with Morrison’s net approval at about +40 since late April, the Coalition should have been far further ahead than the 51-49 leads they previously held. The “national cabinet”, which involved Labor premiers, held the Coalition back.

But with Andrews being blamed for Victoria’s coronavirus crisis, the Coalition has increased its lead. As long as the virus does not become more widespread across Australia, the federal Coalition is likely to perform well in the polls.

Eden-Monaro byelection final result

Labor’s Kristy McBain won the July 4 Eden-Monaro byelection by a 50.4-49.6 margin over the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs; this was a swing of 0.4% to the Liberals since the 2019 election. Primary votes were 38.3% Liberal (up 1.3%), 35.9% Labor (down 3.3%), 6.4% Nationals (down 0.6%), 5.7% Greens (down 3.1%), 5.3% Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and 2.3% Help End Marijuana Prohibition.

Biden maintains clear lead over Trump

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

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.5% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -15.0%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 41.1% approve, 55.4% disapprove (net -14.3%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about one point on net approval. While Trump’s approval has continued to drop, his disapproval has fallen a point from a peak ten days ago.

The latest FiveThirtyEight national poll aggregate gives Joe Biden a 50.4% to 41.6% lead over Trump. Most polls at this stage give voting intentions based on registered voters, but Republican-supporting demographics have historically been more likely to vote, hence FiveThirtyEight adjusts registered voter polls a little in Trump’s favour. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 9.6%.

Where there have been few recent polls of a state, FiveThirtyEight adjusts that state’s polls for the national trend. In the key states that are likely to decide the Electoral College, Biden remains well ahead. He leads by 9.0% in Michigan, 7.7% in Pennsylvania, 7.5% in Wisconsin and 6.8% in Florida.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 (232 Electoral Votes), he needs another 38 EVs to reach the 270 needed to win. If Biden wins Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (46 total EVs), he wins the election with at least 278 EVs.

The issue for Biden is that the tipping-point state in the Electoral College is still about 1.5% better for Trump than the national polls. In 2016, the tipping-point state was 2.9% better for Trump than the national popular vote. If Trump were able to hold Biden’s national vote margin to under five points, and make bigger gains in the Midwestern swing states, he could still win the Electoral College.

Trump’s general behaviour offends well-educated voters, and they were always likely to vote for an alternative. To compensate, Trump needed the support of voters without high educational attainment. Had the coronavirus faded well before the November 3 election, and an economic rebound was on track, such an outcome would have been plausible.

However, the last few weeks have seen records set in numbers of daily cases, then exceeded a short time later. On four days since July 10, over 70,000 new US coronavirus cases were recorded.

Despite the surge in cases, daily coronavirus deaths had generally been decreasing until about two weeks ago. But it takes time for patients to go from showing symptoms to death, and it also takes time for states to process the paperwork. US daily coronavirus deaths are rising again, with just over 1,000 recorded last Wednesday. It is likely they will increase further.

With coronavirus such a huge crisis, the candidate seen as best able to handle it is likely to win, and at the moment, that’s Biden. In a terrible Quinnipiac poll for Trump, in which he trailed Biden by 15 and had a -24 net approval, Biden led on the coronavirus by 59-35, and Trump’s net approval of handling of coronavirus was -27. By 67-30, voters said they did not trust information about the coronavirus provided by Trump, while by 65-26 they trusted information provided by Dr Anthony Fauci. Picking a fight with Fauci appears to be dumb.

As I wrote recently, the June US jobs report was good, but there’s still a long way to go to reach employment levels that would normally be considered poor. The coronavirus surge is likely to derail any economic recovery.

In the battle for the Senate, the RealClearPolitics Senate map currently shows 47 seats where Republicans are ahead, 46 with Democrats leading and 7 toss-ups.

Polish and Croatian elections

Owing to lack of elections, last Wednesday’s article about the recent Polish and Croatian elections is the first I’ve published on my personal website since February. In the Polish presidential election, the candidate aligned with the economically left but socially conservative Law and Justice party won narrowly. In Croatia, the conservatives won easily in a disappointing result for the left.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.

Labor likely to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria



Labor’s Kristy McBain Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.

Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.

While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.

If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.

In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Saturday is crucial for Albanese but July 23 is more important for Morrison


Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria

In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).

The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.

NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.

Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.

A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go

The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.

The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.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.

Eden-Monaro focus groups: Voters want government to cushion pandemic recovery path


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Eden-Monaro voters are calling for a compassionate and empathetic recovery process as Australia emerges from the pandemic.

In focus group research conducted this week, ahead of Saturday’s byelection, the vast majority of participants favoured increasing the JobSeeker payment above the pre-COVID level, extending the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, and providing targeted help for areas hit hard by the summer fires and the impact of the coronavirus.

More surprising, almost all participants were willing to pay more tax to assist the economic and social recovery effort. Many were concerned about leaving debt for future generations.

This was the second round of online research by the University of Canberra’s Mark Evans and Max Halupka. Two groups, with 10 and nine participants respectively, were held on Monday and Tuesday. All but three participants had taken part in the research’s first round. Drawn widely from the diverse electorate, participants included aligned and swinging voters.

Focus group research taps into voters’ attitudes rather than being predictive of the outcome.

Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have been very active in the seat as voting day nears, although over the campaign as a whole Albanese has been on the ground much more than the PM. But the Liberals have invested heavily in an effort to wrest the seat – which is on a margin of under 1% – from Labor and increase the government’s parliamentary majority.

There was only marginal change in participants’ views on the key issues.

Top issues are: action on climate change, the federal government’s response to the bushfire crisis, job creation, better access to public health care, and addressing the high cost of living.

Climate change action continued to receive the greatest support when people were asked to nominate the one most important issue to them. Most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for climate action.

People continued to be aggrieved at the Morrison government’s handling of the fire crisis, which they thought suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation and insufficient collaboration between federal and state government.

In the second round discussion, there was greater concern over economic recovery issues. “The economy looks weak so we will need good economic management and that tends to come from the Coalition,” a retired Coalition voter noted.

But there was some cynicism over the extra support the government has promised.

People saw Morrison’s announcement in Bega of a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires as “guilt money”. “It’s an obvious bribe – which might well work,” said a middle-aged hard Coalition supporter, while a female Greens voter described it as “a shameful example of logrolling”.

Most participants thought there would still be a bushfire backlash against the Coalition, despite Morrison’s announcement.

The government is hoping Morrison’s performance on the pandemic negates criticism of his handling of the fires.

Since their first discussion, people have cooled in their views of leaders’ management of the virus crisis. Morrison is now seen as the best performer, followed by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, a reversal from the first round.

Berejiklian’s poorer performance is attributed to general annoyance with the states and the perception they are acting “selfishly”. The vast majority of participants think Morrison “is handling the coronavirus outbreak competently and efficiently.” But people are worried by a second wave and cautious about re-opening too quickly.

Albanese is a distant third (the question about him was whether he was doing a good job holding the PM to account); his performance was rated more poorly in the second discussion compared with the first. He wasn’t impacting on the core political agenda: “he hasn’t got a plan,” said one participant.

The vast majority of participants, however, did not believe any party was offering a clear COVID-19 recovery plan and were surprised there hadn’t been a national conversation on the issue.

COVID-19 has constrained the usual forms of campaigning, and has led to a very high demand for postal votes. Participants perceived the Coalition had run a very traditional campaign using “old media”, while they thought Labor had run a “new media” campaign with more emphasis on social media platforms.

Both the major candidates are seen positively. Fiona Kotvojs (Liberal) was considered an “excellent” candidate even by Labor supporters. But several people suggested the intervention of senior Coalition figures in the campaign (Morrison and Payne) may have “reduced her community standing”. Labor’s Kristy McBain was considered a “really hard working” and a “very well liked” candidate by Coalition supporters.

But McBain was regarded as having run the better campaign.

When people were asked who they would vote for, the responses suggested a Labor victory and strong support for McBain. However there had been some attitudinal changes over the campaign.

There appeared to be a marginal increase in support for Cathy Griff (Greens) as the campaign neared its end and two independent candidates emerged from the woodwork – Narelle Storey (Christian Democratic Party) and Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) – during the discussion. That suggested the possibility certain soft Coalition voters might be exercising a protest vote against the government.

Some soft Coalition and Green voters might have moved to Labor and some soft Coalition voters to the Greens, but hard Coalition, Green and Labor voters looked to be remaining loyal.

Kotvojs’s well-resourced campaign appeared to be losing some momentum. But the participants continued to think the election – a straight Labor-Liberal battle despite a field of 14 candidates – would be very close.

This is a byelection where even seasoned watchers are wary of chancing their arm in advance of Saturday night.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 approval ratings reach highest level for PM in 10 years; Trump falls further behind Biden



Joel Carratt/AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings continue to soar thanks to his handling of the coronavirus crisis, reaching the highest level for any prime minister since the early years of the Rudd government in this week’s Newspoll.

Morrison’s approval rating was at 68%, up two points from the last Newspoll, while 27% of respondents were dissatisfied. His net approval rating was +41.

This is Morrison’s highest net approval, topping the +40 he achieved in a late April Newspoll. It is also the best net approval for any PM since Kevin Rudd had +43 in October 2009.

This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 24-27 from a sample of 1,520 people, gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead, unchanged on three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 35% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (down one).




Read more:
Why good leaders need to hold the hose: how history might read Morrison’s coronavirus leadership


Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +2, down one point. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 58-26%.

Given Morrison’s stratospheric ratings, it is surprising the Coalition is not further ahead on voting intentions. This could be due to the fact the national cabinet has been in charge of coronavirus policy-making, and these decisions are seen as more bipartisan and do not boost the Coalition.

Labor leading in Eden-Monaro byelection polls

The Eden-Monaro byelection will be held on Saturday following the April resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly. Labor won the seat by just a 50.9-49.1% margin at the 2019 election.

The Poll Bludger reported on two Eden-Monaro polls last week by the robo-pollster uComms, one for The Australia Institute and the other for the Australian Forest Products Association.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


The Australian Institute poll gave Labor a 53-47% lead by 2019 election preference flows, and a 54-46% lead by respondent allocated preferences. The AFPA poll gave Labor a 52-48% lead.

These two polls are much better for Labor than an internal party poll, reported on June 13, which showed the Liberals clearly positioned on primary votes to gain the seat.

Labor’s Kristy McBain has a slight edge over the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs in recent polling.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Biden further extends lead over Trump

US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their worst since the US government shutdown in January 2019.

In the latest FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.6% approve, 56.1% disapprove (net -15.5%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 40.9% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -14.6%).

With the presidential election now just over four months away, FiveThirtyEight has started tracking the presidential general election polls.

As there are far more national polls than state polls, the website adjusts state polls for the national trend. So, as former Vice President Joe Biden widens his national lead, FiveThirtyEight will adjust states in Biden’s favour where there hasn’t been recent polling.




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


The latest national poll aggregate gives Biden a 50.7% to 41.4% lead over Trump. US polls usually include an undecided option, so the remaining voters are mostly undecided, not third party. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 6.6 percentage points.

In 2016, four states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida – voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or less. In the latest FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden leads in Florida by 7.2%, Pennsylvania by 8.0%, Wisconsin by 8.1% and Michigan by 10.6%.

Biden also leads in several states Trump won comfortably in 2016, such as Arizona (a 4.7% lead over Trump), Georgia (1.4% lead), North Carolina (2.9% lead) and Ohio (2.6% lead). Trump maintains an extremely narrow lead in Iowa (0.1%) and Texas (0.3%).

Trump is looking shaky in states he carried comfortably in the 2016 election.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

If the election were being held next week, there is little doubt Biden would win both the national popular vote and the Electoral College easily.

Can Trump recover before November 3? If Biden’s national lead is reduced to fewer than five points, the Electoral College could save Trump, as the Democrat’s lead is narrower in the pivotal battleground states.

Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit due to his responses to the pandemic and the protests after the police killing of George Floyd.

Earlier this month, US coronavirus cases and deaths had fallen from their peaks in April, but there has been a surge in the last week. Over 45,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Political analyst Nate Silver says this increase is not caused by greater testing (as Trump claims), noting the positive test rate rose to 7.7% on June 24, from 4.9% a week earlier.

A genuine economic recovery is unlikely while coronavirus cases are still surging. Trump’s best chance of re-election is for the pandemic to have faded by November and the US to have made a strong economic recovery.

The US jobs report for May was much better than in April, but April was so terrible that a recovery still has a long way to go.

Can the Democrats retake Congress?

As well as the presidency, all 435 House of Representatives seats and one-third of the 100 senators are up for election in November.

Democrats gained control of the House in November 2018 and are very likely to retain control. They have a 7.9% lead in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker.

The Republicans currently have a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate, making it difficult for the Democrats to take control. The RealClearPolitics Senate map gives Democrats some chance of winning the Senate, projecting 48 Republican seats, 48 Democrats and four toss-ups.

In deeply conservative Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones unexpectedly won a December 2017 special election, but is unlikely to repeat his success.

House seats are allocated to each state on a population basis, but in the Senate, each state is guaranteed two seats regardless of population. As low-population states in the Midwest and West tend to be conservative, this makes it harder for Democrats to win the Senate.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.

Eden-Monaro byelection will be ‘very close’, according to participants in focus group research


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The July 4 byelection in the highly marginal NSW Labor seat of Eden-Monaro is shaping up to be “very close”, according to participants in focus group research conducted by the University of Canberra.

Climate change, job creation, the federal government’s response to the bushfires, and health care were most frequently nominated when people were asked to choose, from a list of 13, the issue that would be extremely or very important in informing how they would vote.

Climate change was nominated by six of the 16, with job creation chosen by three, followed by the government’s response on bushfires and health care (each nominated by two people). The government’s response to COVID-19, support for tourism and action on the high cost of living received one nomination each.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Labor Party’s dirty linen on display at bad time for Anthony Albanese


Most participants believed the summer fires would have a negative impact for the Coalition, and that this might make a difference in a close election.

On Tuesday Scott Morrison campaigned in Bega, with a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19. While the money is not confined to Eden-Monaro, its target is winning votes there. Anthony Albanese visited the pre-poll booth in Queanbeyan.

The three online focus groups, totalling 16 participants, were conducted by Mark Evans and Max Halupka of the university’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. People were drawn from various parts of what is a very diverse electorate. Two groups were done last week and the other on Monday. Participants included Coalition, Labor and Green supporters, with a mix of firmly aligned and swinging voters.

Participants were asked their voting intentions and their responses suggested a Labor victory. Swinging voters seemed to have moved to Labor but hard Coalition and Labor voters are remaining loyal.

But it should be stressed focus groups are not predictive of the result, but rather tap into attitudes at a point in the campaign.

Asked about management of the COVID-19 crisis, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was seen as the best performer, followed by Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, who were equally regarded.

Albanese – who has campaigned extensively in Eden-Monaro – was seen as having a low profile throughout the pandemic crisis. In the words of one Labor swinging voter this was attributable to “his lack of a platform”. As another participant observed, “Crises are a great advantage for government”. Participants were luke warm about how good a job Albanese was doing in holding Morrison to account over the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

When asked who they listened to most when looking for guidance on COVID-19, people pointed to Norman Swan and the ABC.

Participants’ trust in Morrison has marginally increased as a result of his handling of COVID-19, but from a low level following the bushfire crisis. One man, a strong Coalition supporter, said the PM “needed to learn and has learned”.

A female Coalition swinging voter attributed Morrison’s improvement to “the national cabinet. He was given some good lessons in leadership and the group kept his tendencies under control.”

Discussing issues, people thought the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation, and insufficient collaboration between federal and state governments.

Critics of the Morrison government’s handling of the fires included most of the hard Coalition voters – although it was not enough to change their vote.

There was also a perception the federal government had lost interest in the bushfire recovery process. “It makes sense to tackle the problem in front of you and that’s the virus,” said a Coalition supporter.

In the discussion, most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for action on climate, and said their views on the importance of the climate issue had sharpened significantly over the past six months. There were some exceptions: “Older people don’t go with the mantra of climate change, though they know something is going on,” said a middle aged male Coalition voter.

Coalition voters were more focused on local issues – economic issues, better infrastructure and improved access to health care, education and transport. “The Coalition has the track record to get the economy back on track,” said one man.

People generally thought Australia was more resilient than most other countries to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis. But they were worried about Australia’s economic vulnerability, particularly its dependence on China.

Participants wanted politicians to be more collaborative and less adversarial in a post-COVID-19 world and for experts to have a greater say in decision making. An older female Labor supporter said, “We need politicians to behave better and take community issues more seriously”, while a male Coalition voter opined, “we need more adult politics as the national cabinet has shown us”.




Read more:
Coalition gains Newspoll lead as Labor ahead in Eden-Monaro; Trump’s ratings recover


There was some concern the old politics would resume. “[The national cabinet] started well but it already seems to be falling apart,” said a hard-Labor voter.

In a field of 14 candidates, this is a Labor-Liberal battle, and both major parties are running female candidates with good local credentials. The Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed the former MP Mike Kelly close at the 2019 election, has a background in teaching, science, farming and small business; Labor’s Kristy McBain has most recently been mayor of Bega.

The focus group participants thought the two women were strong on credentials but low on having high constituency-wide profiles, suggesting voters would be likely to vote on party lines rather than for personalities.

But some participants noted the Liberals were spending a lot on Kotvojs’ campaign and predicted this was likely to increase in the time remaining.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.

Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin installed to run crisis-ridden Victorian ALP


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The ALP national executive has decided on sweeping federal intervention into the crisis-ridden Victorian ALP, in the wake of revelations of the alleged “industrial scale” branch stacking and threats by now former state minister and power broker Adem Somyurek.

Former state premier Steve Bracks and former federal cabinet minister Jenny Macklin will run the state branch and prepare reforms, while the ALP national executive will handle federal and state preselections.

The intervention follows Nine’s 60 Minutes and The Age revealing recorded conversations in which Somyurek boasted of his power over state and federal MPs, and of running massive branch stacking. He also used highly offensive language about a female colleague.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews sacked Somyurek from his cabinet on Monday, and two other ministers, Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz, whose staff were allegedly associated with the stacking have resigned, while denying any wrongdoing. Somyurek quit the Labor party on Monday before he was due to be expelled.

The scandal comes at the worst time for federal leader Anthony Albanese who is fighting the byelection in the Labor held seat of Eden-Monaro, which is on a margin of under 1%.

Another complication for the federal party is that some of the secret recording was apparently in the electorate office of Victorian federal Labor MP Anthony Bryne, who is deputy chair of the powerful parliamentary committee on intelligence and security.

ALP national president Wayne Swan said in a statement after a national executive hook up on Tuesday night that Bracks and Macklin “will provide the national executive with recommendations on how the Victorian branch should be restructured and reconstituted so that the branch membership comprises genuine, consenting, self-funding party members”.

He said in developing their recommendations, the administrators would consult party members and affiliated unions.

“The conduct exposed in recent days is reprehensible and at odds with everything the ALP stands for,” Swan said. “The national executive takes these matters incredibly seriously.”

Andrews wrote to ALP national secretary Paul Erickson calling for profound reform of the branch, and asking for its members’ voting rights to be suspended.

“I have no confidence in the integrity of any voting rolls that are produced for any internal elections in the Victorian branch,” he said.

“Accordingly we must suspend those elections and begin a long and critical process of validating each and every member of the Labor party in Victoria as genuine, consenting and self-funded”.

All state officials and staff will have to report to Bracks and Macklin, who are appointed until January 31 next year. All committees are suspended.

All voting rights are suspended until 2023.

Bracks and Macklin will do a scoping report by the end of next month, including recommendations on integrity measures that are needed for the branch. By Novemeber 1 they are to produce a final report on the restructuring and reconstitution of the branch.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.

Labor’s branch stacking scandal is a problem for the whole party. Not just Victoria.



James Ross/ AAP

Geoffrey Robinson, Deakin University

Victorian Labor, the jewel in the party’s crown, has been thrown into crisis by the allegations of massive branch stacking.

A third state Labor minister has now left their position over the scandal that as engulfed the party in the wake of revelations by the The Age and 60 Minutes.

But with federal leader Anthony Albanese also facing questions about party culture, the scandal will not be contained to Victoria.

Declining membership facilitates branch stacking

On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sacked Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek from his cabinet. This came after allegations Somyurek was involved in “industrial scale” branch stacking and used offensive language about a ministerial colleague.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sacked Adem Somyurek on Monday.
Scott Barbour/AAP

As federal Labor MP and former academic Andrew Leigh has shown, the propensity of Australians to join formal organisations has been in steady decline for 50 years, and parties are a key example. Weeds have sprouted in these ruins.

The infrastructure of party and union branches that once underpinned politics in Labor heartlands has collapsed. The factories are gone and Labor branches have in most cases shrunken to a few ageing true believers.




Read more:
Explainer: what is branch stacking, and why has neither major party been able to stamp it out?


Branch stacking is possible because Labor’s active membership is now so low they can be easily swamped by those “stacked” into the party.

Preselections for safe seats in state parliament are often determined by fewer than 50 votes at the local level.

We have been here before

Branch stacking is, however, not new.

During the Cold War, membership soared as left and right battled for control. But back then, it reflected real ideological disagreements that mobilised thousands. This popularisation sparked a catastrophic split in the ALP.

Today, Labor is not divided by deep ideological battles and as a consequence, its membership is much lower. As a further result, it is much easier to stack the branches.

With Labor as the dominant political force in Victoria, it is now mostly jobs – from lowly electorate officers to ministerial roles – that people fight about. The power of factional bosses rests on their ability to control access to these positions.

The need for change

The decline in the levels of Labor membership and the commitment of Labor voters have concerned supporters for decades.

Today, new political forces such as the Greens and independents are now going after Labor in their heartland. Even at the 2018 landslide victory of the Andrews government, the Greens retained three seats and independents mounted serious challenges in safe Labor seats.

The Greens are challenging Labor in heartland seats.
Penny Stephens/ AAP

One popular proposal has been to increase the rights of members, so they can have a greater say in how the party is run.

At the federal level and for some states, this has taken the form of direct ballots for parliamentary leaders.

This method was described by former ALP national secretary George Wright as “an outrageous success” in 2013, leading to an extra 4,500 members at the time. But some states – including Victoria – have not gone down this path.




Read more:
Explainer: what does the law say about secret recordings and the public interest?


Some have argued it would be better to give up the dream of building a mass membership Labor Party and instead allow all Labor voters, not just party members, to select candidates by an American-style system of primaries.

However, here, the likely outcome would be an even more media-centric politics, where political celebrities – such as Canadian leader Justin Trudeau – would communicate directly with voters. It is a weak shield against a populist right on the march.

Organisational reforms flagged

On Tuesday night, ALP president Wayne Swan announced former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and former federal frontbencher Jenny Macklin had been appointed administrators of the Victorian branch until the end of January 2021.

They will report on how the branch “should be restructured and reconstituted so that the branch membership comprises genuine, consenting, self-funding party members”.

So, organisational reforms are most likely in the short term. These could include banning the payment of membership fees in cash as well as a proposed audit of party membership.

But in the absence of a larger and engaged membership, organisational reforms will always be subject to evasion. The highly-centralised pre-selection system in Victorian Labor provides an incentive to stack, but reform of this would disrupt the delicate factional balance within the ALP.

The political fallout

The branch stacking scandal also presents political opportunities for Labor’s opponents.

For the Greens, this latest scandal offers the opportunity to challenge Victorian Labor’s progressive image. In the short run, the Andrews brand is strong enough to ride out the loss of less talented ministers, but one day, the political tide will turn. The collapse of the once all-conquering NSW Labor Party is a cautionary lesson.

The branch stacking scandal is an unwelcome distraction for Anthony Albanese ahead of the Eden-Monaro by-election.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

At a federal level, it drags Albanese back into mire of Labor politics and undercuts his attempt to present him as an inner-suburban everyman – unlike former leader Bill Shorten, who could never escape his identity as a political hack.

If Labor loses the forthcoming Eden-Monaro byelection, this is something all Labor MPs, not just the Victorians, will have more to worry about.

Albanese most of all.




Read more:
Eden-Monaro byelection to be on July 4


The Conversation


Geoffrey Robinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

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