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Morrison sees massive ratings surge in Newspoll over coronavirus crisis; Trump also improves



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Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 1-3 from a sample of 1,508 people, showed a huge boost in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval rating based on his leadership thus far in the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly two-thirds of people (61%) were satisfied with Morrison’s performance (up a massive 20 points) and 35% were dissatisfied (down 18), for a net approval of +26, up 38 points.

Anthony Albanese also improved his net approval by nine points to +9. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 53-29%, another large improvement from the last Newspoll, which was a closer 42-38%.

Analyst Kevin Bonham says these are the biggest poll-to-poll jumps for a PM in Newspoll history on both net approval and better PM. His tweet shows the largest net approval rises for PMs, and when they occurred.

The Newspoll also gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead over Labor in the two-party preferred question, a two-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll three weeks ago.

Primary votes were 42% Coalition (up two points), 34% Labor (down two), 13% Greens (up one) and 5% One Nation (up one).

Major crises tend to produce a “rally round the flag” effect for incumbents, though it doesn’t always last.

An example of a major crisis that produced an initial rally-round-the-flag effect, but nothing else, is the Queensland floods in December 2010 to January 2011, which affected over three-quarters of the state.

From October to December 2010, the Labor state government was trailing the opposition LNP by a landslide 59-41% margin. Based on Premier Anna Bligh’s handling of the floods, Labor surged ahead by 52-48% in the January to March 2011 polling, but then fell back immediately to a 60-40% deficit in April to June 2011.

Labor never recovered and was reduced to just seven of 89 seats at the March 2012 state election.




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There are currently far fewer coronavirus cases and deaths in Australia than in European countries and the US. If the crisis is resolved relatively painlessly in Australia, I believe Morrison’s ratings will stay high during the crisis, but then drop back after it ends.

In other Newspoll questions, 84% of respondents were worried and 14% confident about the economic impact of coronavirus (76-20% previously). On the preparedness of the health system, 57% were worried, compared to 41% confident.

An overwhelming majority (86%) supported the JobKeeper scheme. While 64% thought the $1,500-per-fortnight payment for qualifying workers was about right, 16% thought it was too much and 14% not enough.

Some 67% were worried about catching the virus, 38% about higher government debt, 36% about losing their jobs and 35% about their superannuation balance.

Is Trump’s modest ratings boost sustainable?

In the FiveThirtyEight polling aggregate, US President Donald Trump’s current ratings across all polls are 45.8% approve, 50.0% disapprove (net -4.2%).

In polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 45.6% approve, 50.9% disapprove (net -5.3%). Trump’s net approval has improved five to six points in the last three weeks and is at its highest since early in his term.

Despite the rise in Trump’s approval, the RealClearPolitics average of national polls gave virtually certain Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a 5.9% lead over Trump in the November 2020 election, down modestly from 8.5% three weeks ago.

A recent Fox News national poll gave Trump a 51-48% disapproval rating. However, 53% thought a quicker response from the federal government could have slowed the spread of coronavirus, while 34% said it was so contagious nothing could stop it spreading.




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Despite the higher rating for Trump, the same poll gave Biden a 49-40% lead in the presidential election.

Trump’s gains so far are dwarfed by then US President George W. Bush’s gains in approval of over 30 points after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

Other current leaders and governing parties have had far bigger bounces in their ratings than Trump, including Morrison.

In Britain, two recent polls gave the Conservatives 54%, up from the mid-to-high 40s. In Germany, the conservative Union parties are in the mid-30s, up from the mid-20s before the crisis. A recent French poll gave President Emmanuel Macron a -8 net approval, up 26 points.

Even in the US, Trump’s bounce is far less than the bounce for New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s net favourable rating improved from -6 to +48 in a New York Siena College poll. New York has the most coronavirus cases in the US so far.

If the coronavirus crisis is resolved relatively quickly, people will likely be more focused on other factors by the November presidential election. In that case, how much damage the economy takes and whether it is clearly recovering are likely to be the most important factors.

The more likely scenario is that coronavirus will damage the US both economically and in health terms for a long time. The US already has far more cases than any other country. I do not believe Trump’s ratings gains will be sustained if the US falls into a massive health and economic crisis.

The crisis has already had an economic impact: in the week ending March 21, almost 3.3 million new jobless claims were submitted, far exceeding the previous record of 695,000. In the week ending March 28, jobless claims jumped massively again to over 6.6 million. Weekly jobless claims are published every Thursday.

In March, the US unemployment rate rose 0.9% to 4.4%. The survey period was in mid-March, before the massive late-March losses.

In the household survey, employment was down almost 3 million people, compared to a mere 701,000 in the headline establishment survey. While average hourly wages rose 11 cents, this probably reflects the shedding of lower-paying jobs.
As average weekly working hours fell, average weekly wages dropped almost US$2 from February.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.

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The US is fast-tracking a coronavirus vaccine, but bypassing safety standards may not be worth the cost



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Paul Komesaroff, Monash University; Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney, and Lyn Gilbert, University of Sydney

Last week American biotech company Moderna commenced the first clinical trial of a vaccine for COVID-19.

Similar studies are reportedly being planned in the US, China, Israel, Australia and elsewhere, with at least 20 potential vaccines under development.

The usual time scale for the development of a new vaccine is five to ten years. But the scale of the emergency we are facing creates overwhelming pressure to speed up this process.




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The Moderna trial shows this has already been at least partially successful. The speed at which this trial vaccine has been developed is breathtaking, given the virus was only identified three months ago.

However, the shortcuts being taken – including skipping animal trials and going straight to human testing – may end up doing more harm than good.

What’s significant about these trials?

The rapid progress has been made possible, in part, by a promising new technology which is still largely untested.

Unlike traditional vaccines, the Moderna vaccine candidate doesn’t use modified or killed forms of the virus. Rather, it relies on genetically engineered fragments of the virus’ genetic code, which are calculated on the basis of a theoretical model.

But the goal of both types of vaccines is the same: to provoke an immune response that will provide protection against infection.

Similar methods have been tried in small clinical trials of new vaccines for other viral infections (not coronaviruses), with promising, but still inconclusive, results.

The trial is also unprecedented in that it involves testing a completely new therapeutic substance in humans.

Vaccines are usually tested in animals before they’re tried on humans.
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Usually, new drugs and vaccines are required to undergo a thorough assessment of safety in animals before humans are exposed to them.

However, in the present emergency it has been argued that there is no time to undertake such a process.

What’s the problem with jumping to human testing?

Testing a substance on humans that has received a minimal assessment of its safety poses potential risks. It could cause unexpected effects in the study participants, including severe illness and even death.

It’s also possible that an untested vaccine could even accelerate or enhance the effects of the virus instead of blocking them.




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We mightn’t like it, but there are ethical reasons to use animals in medical research


Speeding up the approval process and recruitment of participants also runs the risk of eroding ethical requirements relating to consent, privacy and the protection of vulnerable people, especially where payments may be involved. This could both increase the risks to volunteers and undermine public trust in clinical research.

The anti-vaccination movement already seeks to discredit the importance of vaccines. If a new vaccine, tested and introduced without established safeguards, is associated with major health problems, people may be less likely to undergo other vaccinations in future.

The ethics approval process needs work

The research ethics regulatory system has protected us against these risks for 50 years. It ensures newly released products will be safe and effective.

But the system has problems. It has become deeply bureaucratised and ethical discourse has often been replaced by rigid administrative rules and the slavish completion of forms.

Often the approval process can take months, and involve an extensive cycle of quibbling with little or no ethical content.

Research approval processes are slow and unnecessarily complicated.
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The challenge of COVID-19 research may prompt a rethink of this bureaucracy. The sheer urgency of the task may force a review of current ethics processes and open the way for a more efficient, streamlined system.

This process could stimulate a move away from the focus on formal rules and procedures and a return to the core idea of ethical deliberation in the service of urgent social needs.

Is there still a role for animal testing?

The question of the use of animals in research is more complex than it may first appear.

Animal testing has played a fundamental role in the development of many vaccines in the past and will continue to do so. But different viruses may produce different effects in different species. A candidate vaccine that appears useful in one animal species may not be effective in humans.




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Of mice and men: why animal trial results don’t always translate to humans


At the same time, animal rights groups have rightly pointed to a history of cruelty towards animals and have strongly advocated for the reduction or elimination of animal testing.

It would, however, seem premature to dispense with animal testing, which can provide invaluable guidance for human clinical studies. The search for animal models which mimic the effects of coronavirus in humans, and the testing of candidate substances, should continue, albeit with great care.

We need to maintain safety standards

The development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines is urgent and it is important to find ways to speed things up.

However, it has to be undertaken without compromising standards of care and safety.

Tried and tested processes to assess risks and benefits, protect research participants, and ensure the ethical conduct of clinical trials, must be preserved.




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The Conversation


Paul Komesaroff, Professor of Medicine, Monash University; Ian Kerridge, Professor of Bioethics & Medicine, Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney, and Lyn Gilbert, Clinical Professor in Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney

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