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What the Polls are really saying

'Inside Canberra' provides a unique service on a range of polls not found in the media. There are two major published polls on the standing of parties: - Newspoll published exclusively and only in The Australian. The Fairfax group ignores this poll as it is tied to the ACNielsen polls published in The Age, Melbourne and The Sydney Morning Herald. This poll is ignored by News Ltd.

Morgan polls, published on the Internet, are largely ignored by the media as is Reuters Poll Trends. 'Inside Canberra' pays close attention to all these polls.

A few words of explanation on reading party polling. ‘Primary’ is the percentage of the first preference for a party of those polled. ‘Two-party preferred’ is the percentage support when all the preferences of minor parties and independents are allocated to the Coalition Government and Labor. In an actual election it is the two-party preferred vote that wins a contest for a House of Representatives seat. If a candidate for a seat wins 50% of the two-party preferred vote plus a minimum of only one single vote, that is sufficient to win the seat.

'Inside Canberra' also covers a range of other polls relating to various issues. We provide the most comprehensive tracking of polling of any media outlet.

Voting Intentions

Howard still not the right salesman for Govt: Inside Canberra has been making the point that the Coalition's major problem is the head salesman, John Howard. This week the two most looked to polls – Newspoll and ACNielsen – not only reported the Coalition making little headway, but no improvement in Howard’s personal standing. As we have pointed out Howard’s standing with voters has slid steadily since Work Choices was unveiled. This week’s polls show Howard is barely breaking even between those satisfied with him and those dissatisfied, while Rudd’s standing remains sky high. Rudd continues to hold a convincing lead as preferred PM. [22.06.07]

Coalition hopes for lift in July: This year the Coalition has tried everything from Rudd’s boyhood memory of events after his father died, to a persistent scare campaign that under Rudd a Labor government would be the tool of ‘union bosses’. The Government has been able to boast about how it created the greatest economy in Australia’s history. Surely it must start to sink in that a large proportion of the electorate are not listening or, if they are, don’t believe the PM. Rudd has done nothing to deserve his poll standing, apart from not being Kim Beazley. [22.06.07]

PM keeps Rudd’s honeymoon going: Rudd has made some well publicised mistakes and the media (but not Inside Canberra) has made a big thing of his failure to win over the miners and construction industry, yet still his personal standing is way up while Howard is disliked by about half of all voters. All this confirms our view that the Rudd ‘honeymoon’ is directly due to the crash in Howard’s personal standings. The Liberals won’t improve markedly until Howard can improve his personal standing. Having said that, Liberal strategists say Rudd is not going as well as the polls show. How all the polls can be wrong is hard to accept, yet the Lib strategists seem genuinely confident, in contrast to the Government backbench. [22.06.07]

Govt expectations of recovery not realized: Coalition MPs had anticipated that, by now, John Howard would have substantially cut into Rudd’s lead. He hasn’t. In mid-March, Newspoll had Labor with support of 61% two-party preferred (up 13.8% on the actual vote at the 2004 election), and the Coalition on 39% (down 13.8% on the election). Now Newspoll’s latest finding (taken 25-27 May) has the two-party preferred outcome as Labor 60%, and Coalition 40%. We have been emphasising the basic problem for the Coalition is Howard and ‘Work Choices’. His IR earthquake marked the beginning of a long decline in the PM’s standing. Howard is still in negative territory with 47% Dissatisfied with him (up 1% on a fortnight ago), and 44% Satisfied (down 1%)- giving him a negative 3%. Rudd is positive 47%. [01.06.07]

Fairness test a failure: Newspoll says the Government’s new ‘fairness’ test for AWAs would persuade only 12% more likely to vote for the Government, as against 15% less likely, and 68% no difference. Asked about Rudd’s policy, 29% said it was more likely they would vote Labor, and only 15% less likely, with 52% no difference. This week’s Reuters Poll Trend (taking account of Newspoll, ACNielsen and Morgan, and adjusting for poll volatility), has the Government trailing two-party preferred by a massive 16.9%, but still the best figure for Howard since 22 February. Howard’s personal standing is still low. Reuters has Rudd’s lead as Preferred PM at 8.4%, although his lowest lead since 22 February. [25.05.07]

Rudd wins on most issues: ACNielsen says that the Coalition with 48%, leads Labor on National Security policy with only 35%. This again, is a bit of a mystery. Does it include Iraq, where polls consistently show the Government is way behind in support for staying there ‘until the job is done’? Labor is way ahead on ‘Health and hospitals’, and - despite Peter Costello touting the Budget as a winner for education - Labor easily wins on ‘Education’. On ‘Industrial relations’, Labor is 58%, and the Coalition 26%. On ‘The Environment’, Labor is 58% to Coalition 26%. These last two now appear the two most important voter issues, and unless Howard changes his strategy, they will continue to be so up till the election. Two-party preferred, ACNielsen has Labor on 58%, and the Coalition 42%. Since the Labor National Conference at the end April, the media has made a big issue of business not being happy with Rudd’s policy of dumping Australian Workplace Agreements. It hasn’t hurt Rudd. [25.05.07]

Budget no help at all: Now the Budget, hailed by the media as from good to brilliant, has failed to lift the Government’s position in this week’s Newspoll. In fact it has gone backwards. The primary vote is Labor 50% (up 2%), Coalition 36% (down 1%). Two party preferred it’s Labor 59% (up 2%), Coalition 41% (down 2%). This poll confirms the bad Galaxy poll for the Government published in News Ltd’s weekend papers. Since February 2006 Labor has won 24 Newspolls, the Coalition 4, and there were three dead heats. The Coalition has not won a poll since August 2006. If this week’s poll was repeated in an election Labor would have around 100 seats in the Parliament and the Opposition 50. Of course this won’t happen, but it illustrates the magnitude of the Labor lead. [18.05.07]

Small poll gain for PM: There has been a slight decline in Labor’s dominant position in this week’s Newspoll, compared to a fortnight earlier. The poll was taken last Saturday/Sunday. It’s probably too early to say whether it reflected messages coming out of last weekend’s ALP National Conference, or the Prime Minister’s Saturday announcement that his Government would embrace the nuclear industry. The Labor primary is still at a huge 48% (but down 2%), and the Coalition is on 37% (up 1%). Two-party preferred it’s Labor 57% (down 2%), and Coalition 43% (up 2%). If repeated at an election, it would still mean a landslide win to Labor. The Liberal primary remains a big worry at a mere 32% (up 1%). As the election will be won or lost in marginal Liberal seats, this is bad news for Howard. On personal ratings, the PM has not improved. His ‘Satisfied’ rating is 64%, and ‘Dissatisfied’ 49% - giving him a negative 7% (unchanged). Rudd has 64% ‘Satisfied’, and 18% ‘Dissatisfied’ - giving him a positive 46% (down 4%). Rudd leads as ‘Better PM’ with 46% (down 2%), and Howard 39% (up 3%) - a significant 5% turnaround in Howard’s favour. Two-party preferred, Labor - since February last year - has won 23 Newspolls, the Coalition 4, and there were 3 dead heats. The last Coalition win was in mid-August. [04.05.07]

Costello poll not reliable: ACNielsen didn’t duck the issue and found that if Costello were Prime Minister the Coalition primary vote would fall 2%, to 35%. Two-party preferred it trails Labor 16% and would fall a further 6% under Costello PM. This is anything but a conclusive figure and does not indicate how Costello would go if he was actually PM. If there were a move to depose Howard it would have to be soon after the Budget on 8 May. Costello would need every day he could serve as PM to get on top of Rudd. Many in the party room might be now thinking he is worth the gamble. Labor appointed Bob Hawke Leader of the Labor Party only 30 days out from the 5 March 1983 election, which he won. Yet Costello is no Bob Hawke. John Stirton of ACNielsen says John Howard is not the problem for the Coalition. Kevin Rudd is the problem. We disagree. As we have been reporting, the Coalition’s problem is the long-term decline in Howard’s standing, which was happening right through the Beazley leadership. [27.04.07]

Rudd leads as preferred PM: Stirton said earlier in the year the 2006 polls were showing the voters wanted to vote Labor, but had no one to vote for. Correct, and this can be shown by the stats. For example, in Newspoll’s results of 15 Oct 2006 Labor had an election winning two-party preferred lead of 53.5%, to the Coalition’s 46.5%. Yet as preferred PM (even in the face of Howard’s declining popularity) he led as Preferred PM by 54%, to Beazley’s 30%. Once Rudd arrived he was seized on as someone voters could go for. This was before voters knew much at all about him. The latest ACNielsen poll (taken (19-21 April) has Labor’s primary vote unchanged on 50%, while the Coalition have gained 2% compared to the previous poll in mid-March to be on 37% (still 10% below the vote it recorded in the 2004 election). The two party preferred vote is rather odd - ALP down 3% on 58%, and the Coalition up 3%, to 42%. Yet Labor’s primary vote is unchanged on 50%. It appears the Coalition has picked up the whole 2% primary lost by the Greens and the 1% lost by ‘Other’, which is hard to believe. Preferred PM it’s Rudd 51% (down 2%), to Howard’s 42% (up 3%). [27.04.07]

Latest Reuter Poll Trends: On performance ratings Rudd has - 66% ‘Approve’ (down 1%) - 22% ‘Disapprove’ (up 3%), giving him a positive rating of 44%. Howard’s ‘Disapprove’ is 45% (down 4%), ‘Approve’ 49% (up 3%), giving him a positive rating of 4%, a slight dent in the huge Rudd lead in this category. Michelle Grattan points out this is the third published poll in a row (one each from ACNielsen, Newspoll and Morgan) to have the Labor primary vote on 50%. A weighted average of the 23 polls from these three organisations since Rudd became Labor leader has an ALP two-party preferred lead of 58%, to 42%, meaning a landslide win if repeated at the election. On primary votes over these polls the ALP average is 48%, to the Coalition’s 37%. The Liberal primary would be below this. Only Newspoll gives separate figures for Liberal and Nationals primary votes, The Liberal vote averages about 4.4% below the combined Coalition total. The latest Reuters Poll Trends based on the most recent polling by Newspoll, ACNielsen and Morgan has an almost unchanged Labor two-party preferred lead of 17.3%, down 0.3% from the 1 April poll. (Reuters applies the Henderson moving average to the polls, a statistical tool which dampens poll volatility). [27.04.07]

Attacks on Rudd fail: Now it’s really serious. Despite several weeks of Kevin Rudd being beaten around the head in the media over the ‘Sunrise’ Channel SEVEN Anzac day imbroglio in Viet Nam, Labor extends its lead in the polls. Personal attacks on Rudd (the Burke lunch, family disagreement about his childhood) have made no difference. For three consecutive polls, over a six week, period Rudd has scored an extraordinary ‘Satisfied’ rating of 66%. As Inside Canberra has emphasised throughout this year, it’s not a question of when the Rudd honeymoon will end, but rather whether John Howard can recover his personal standing. Newspoll (taken last weekend) gives Rudd a ‘Dissatisfied’ rating of 16%, so Rudd is plus 50%. Howard, with a ‘Dissatisfied’ rating of 49%, and a ‘Satisfied’ 42% is now negative 7% (down a further 3% on a fortnight ago). Howard’s personal standing has been declining since the last election, and he has been in negative territory since mid-Feb. As ‘Better PM’, Rudd is on 48% (unchanged), and Howard on 36% (down 2%). The latest primary figures has the Coalition 35% (down 4%), with Labor 50% (up1%). The Liberal primary vote has slumped 3%, to 31%. Two-party preferred it’s Labor 59% (up 2%), to the Coalition’s 41% (down 2%). [20.04.07]

Howard is the problem: If this was repeated at the coming election, Labor would have 100 seats of the 150 in the House of Representatives. This won’t really happen, but puts into sharp relief the meaning of Labor’s current lead. The latest Morgan poll confirms Newspoll’s findings. Morgan has Labor with a two-party preferred lead of 60%, to the Coalition’s 40%. Since February last year, Labor has won 22 Newspolls, the Coalition 4, and there were 3 dead heats. The Coalition has not won a poll since August last year, eight months ago. Apart from not being Kim Beazley, Kevin Rudd has not really done anything since coming to the leadership to ignite these sorts of polls. He is no Bob Hawke. He looks safe, polite, and has come up with a few policy ideas which have hardly been the talk of the town. Rudd recognised this implicitly this week in saying he didn’t want to win office on a protest vote, but on Labor’s worth in its own right. Howard is now the problem for the Coalition, and it’s hard to see how he can turn things around. There is hope within the Parliamentary Party that a good Budget may do the trick. Hardly. Budgets are only regarded as important by the Canberra press gallery, and the money market. The ordinary citizen sees them as impenetrably boring. Budgets have a shelf life of about three days. [20.04.07]

PM’s personal popularity rating: The question is - can Howard, who has seen his personal ratings crumble, turn the campaign around sufficiently to win. Howard’s ‘Satisfied’ rating in the marginals is 43%, and ‘Dissatisfied’ 47% - giving him a negative for his personal standing of minus 3%. Rudd’s ‘Satisfied’ rating is 62% (and ‘Dissatisfied’ 15%), giving him a plus 47%. Even in ‘safe’ government seats Rudd achieves plus 46%, while Howard is on plus 7%. There is something odd going on with the ‘Better Prime Minister’ ratings. In marginals seats, Howard leads with 45% to Rudd’s 37%. Yet Rudd does better in safe Coalition seats with 40%, compared to Howard’s 42%. In safe Labor seats (as could be expected), Rudd leads Howard as ‘Better PM’ by a whopping 24%. [13.04.07]

Puzzle of ‘Better PM’ standings: Why does Rudd on 45% lead Howard on 38% as ‘Better PM’ in all categories of seats, yet is behind Howard in marginal and safe government seats? Not only that, he has a better personal ranking in marginal, safe government and safe Labor seats. The answer might be Rudd’s huge lead as ‘Better PM’ in safe Labor seats of 24%. If so, it devalues his overall lead as ‘Better PM’, since he is behind where it counts - marginals. More likely, it is due to some polling aberration. On a state-by-state breakdown of two-party preferred (taking in all seats, marginal or otherwise) Labor leads: in NSW by 58%, to the Coalition’s 42%; in Vic by 58%, to 42%; in Qld 54%, to 46%; and in SA 61%, to 39%. WA is the worst state for Rudd with Labor holding a narrow lead of 51%, to 49%. [13.04.07]

Poll improvement for Govt - Labor still way ahead: Just as well there was a slight improvement in the position of the Coalition in the latest Newspoll (taken 30 March - 1 April). If the poll had been worse for the Government than two weeks ago, or even no change, some in the Liberal Party room might have started to think about replacing Howard. The most important change was in how the electorate perceive him. The PM remains in negative territory, with 44% ‘Satisfied’ with his performance, and 48% ‘Dissatisfied’ - a net negative of 4%. Since the beginning of 2005, the Prime Minister’s approval rating has fallen steadily and his disapproval rating has risen steadily. In the January 2005 poll, the PM’s net positive approval was 30% - 60% positive and 30% negative. By January 2006, it had fallen to a net 11% - 51% positive and 40% negative. In January this year, the PM’s net approval/disapproval rating was 3% , and at the beginning of February he was on zero - 44% positive and 44% negative. Since then, in fortnightly intervals, it has been negative - minus 2%, minus 7%; minus 9% and then in the latest poll minus 4%. At least it was an improvement on a fortnight ago. Kevin Rudd has a net positive rating in the latest poll of 52%, which was 2% better than a fortnight ago. [05.04.07]

Voters not listening to PM: We repeat, Howard finds himself with the same problem Paul Keating faced in the lead up to his 1996 defeat: he is not getting through to the electorate in the way he once did. More and more voters are not listening. If Howard is to defeat Rudd, he has to vastly improve his standing with voters. As ‘Better PM’ Rudd is on 48% (down 1% on a fortnight ago), and Howard is on 38% (up 2%). In short, in personal terms, while the PM has slightly improved, he is still a long way behind Rudd. There has been a 4% lift in the Coalition’s primary vote to 38%, while the ALP is on 49% (down 3% on the astonishing 52% of a fortnight ago). The improvement in the Coalition’s primary is mainly due to a most welcome 5% increase to 34% in the Liberal primary, with a 1% fall in the Nats to 4%. The two-party preferred is ALP 57% (down 4%) and Coalition 43% (up 4%). Since February 2006, the ALP has won 21 Newspolls, the Coalition 4 and there were 3 dead heats. The last Coalition win was eight months ago in August 2006. [05.04.07]

Howard and Work Choice are Coalition’s problems: The ‘A’ word could bring Howard down in the same way as Keating’s arrogance ended his political life in 1996. Newspoll reports 68% of voters believe Howard is arrogant, as against 29% believing the same of Rudd. The Coalition is in deep trouble and all due to Howard. The soaring Rudd poll figures can’t be simply explained as a honeymoon. Before this poll, apart from looking cool and competent, he hadn’t done or said anything particularly notable. Rudd is doing so well because of the long term decline in Howard’s standing. Labor is convinced, and some Liberals privately agree, the Work Choices legislation is starting to hurt and is the key to Howard’s decline. The Coalition finds itself in extreme difficulty with no new policy option. [23.03.07]

Electorate is going off PM: Howard is not only the problem (and he won’t, or can’t recognise this), he is also locked into Work Choices. There is evidence that Rudd is hitting the button with many of (former) Howard’s battlers, finding it harder to balance family life with the demands of the boss, particularly in the largely union-free small to medium business sector. On top of this, Howard has stubbornly locked himself into an unpopular policy on Iraq. Yet more evidence the Rudd honeymoon is being fuelled by the electorate going off the Prime Minister came from this week’s Newspoll (taken 16-18 March), showing the slide in the standing of John Howard which, beginning after the 2004 election, continues. [23.03.07]

Liberal primary vote crashes: As Inside Canberra has reported, in the January 2005 poll, the PM’s net approval rating was 30 %: 60 % positive, and 30 % negative. By January 2006, it had fallen to a net 11 %: 51 % positive, and 40 % negative. At the beginning of February it was zero: 44 %, positive and 44 % negative. The latest Newspoll has the PM negative 9%: 41% positive, 50% negative (a decline of 2% since the last poll a fortnight ago). Rudd is 60% positive (up 6%). Rudd has extended his lead as Preferred Prime Minister with 49% (up 4%), to Howard’s 36% (down 2%). The latest primary voting is ALP 52% (up 5%), Coalition 34% (down 3%). Two-party preferred it’s ALP 61% (up 4%), Coalition 39% (down 6%). A worry vote for Howard is the collapse of the Liberal primary to a mere 29% (down 3%). Remember, of the 16 most endangered Coalition seats which Rudd must win to gain office, all are Liberal. The Liberal primary has to be close to 40% (it was 40.8% at the last election) to defeat Rudd. [23.03.07]

Howard’s approval ratings: Last week, Inside Canberra reported on research by Labor’s Bob McMullan (a former National ALP Secretary) which revealed the steady decline in Howard’s approval rating (as found by Newspoll) in the current term of Parliament. In the January 2005 poll, the PM’s net approval rating was 30% - 60% positive and 30% negative. By January 2006, it had fallen to a net 11% - 51% positive, and 40% negative. At the beginning of February, the Prime Minister’s net approval rating was zero - 44% positive and 44% negative. Now, a month later - and for the first time in this parliamentary term - he is in negative territory: 49% negative and 42% positive; a net minus 7%. As ‘Better PM’ Howard, is still behind on 38% (up 1%), to Rudd’s 45% (down 2%). [09.03.07]

Bad news for Libs in SA: The feature of the present poll is the continuing rise of Rudd’s popularity. Beazley’s ‘Satisfaction’ rating immediately before he lost the leadership of Labor was only 28%. Rudd immediately scored 41%, and is now at 60%, with a ‘Dissatisfied’ rating of 15%. This is far better than Howard, whose ‘Satisfaction’ rating of 44% is the same as his ‘Dissatisfaction’ rating. As ‘Preferred PM’, it is now almost a dead-heat - Howard 40%, Rudd 39%. Last week we warned the major political parties had to consider very carefully what impact John Howard’s plan for the Murray-Darling Basin would have on voters in Adelaide. It now seems that the Howard plan has put in danger the Coalition’s prospects at the next election. The Advertiser has taken three polls of marginal Adelaide seats, importantly, after Howard’s announcement of his water initiative. The polls, covering Kingston, Wakefield and Hindmarsh, point to a disaster for the Liberals. The Liberal primary vote across the three electorates is running at only 29% - 30%, and the Labor lead two-party preferred is commanding. [09.02.07]

Rudd’s popularity jumps: Howard’s ‘satisfaction’ rating in this week’s Newspoll is unchanged at 46%, and has been bested by Rudd who is on 56% (up a massive 15%). It is the first time since the 2004 election an Opposition Leader has been more popular than the PM. As ‘better’ PM, Howard is on 41% (up 2%), with Rudd on 39% (up 3%) - now very close to Howard. The latest Newspoll on attitudes to the Iraq war is bad news for the PM. In total, 62% are against the handling of the war, and only 28% in favour. Labor voters are much more ‘strongly against’ the war than Coalition supporters, yet of the latter, the majority oppose the war - 41% ‘against/22% ‘strongly against’. The ‘relevance’ poll is important, since it gives an indication of whether the war will influence voters at the polls. Those surveyed were asked if the Iraq war was very important, fairly important, or not important as to how they would vote in the election. In total, 71% said it was ‘important’, 40% ‘fairly important’, and 31% ‘very important’. Only 25% said it was ‘not important’ (4% uncommitted). Of most interest is the 23% of Coalition voters who said the Iraq war was very important as to how they would vote. [25.01.07]

Iraq war a real issue: The same questions were put on the Government’s handling of the David Hicks case: 56% said they were ‘against’ the way the Howard Government had handled the case, and 27% were ‘in favour’ (17% uncommitted). Understandably, Labor voters were more hostile to the Government on the issue than Coalition supporters, yet 21% of Coalition supporters were ‘strongly against’ how Hicks had been treated. On relevance for Hicks, respondents were split - with 47% saying it was ‘important’, and the same percentage saying it was ‘not important’. Yet 7% of Coalition voters said the Hicks case was ‘very important’ to how they voted. The Iraq poll may surprise the Government. Only recently, Inside Canberra was talking to a person close to Howard, and he was dismissive of Iraq and Hicks in terms of these issues having any bearing on the election outcome. He may be wrong on Iraq, but right on Hicks. To repeat Inside Canberra’s thoughts last week, the telling polls will be February and March, when the Parliament is sitting, and the Government will be striving to diminish Rudd’s standing. [25.01.07]

Reuters poll trend published: A number of interesting polls have been published since our last edition in December. Reuters Poll Trend has resumed publication for the first time since the 2004 election. It is not in itself a poll, but rather an analysis of the three major polls - Newspoll, ACNielsen and Morgan. Importantly, it uses a statistical tool, the Henderson moving average, which dampens short-term poll movements, yet leaves untouched the underlying poll trends. This first Reuters Poll Trend took into account the latest ACNielsen results, even though the Nielsen poll was conducted before Kevin Rudd won leadership of the ALP. Reuters finds the ALP primary vote is at 43.5%, a lead of 5.2% over the Coalition which is on 38.4% This compares to the actual outcome of the 2004 election when the Coalition was 44.1% of the primary, compared to the ALP’s miserable 34%. Reuters has the ALP two-party preferred vote at 55.1%, a 10.1% lead over the Coalition’s 44.9%. If this was repeated in an election the outcome would be a landslide win to Labor. [19.01.07]

Preferred Party

ACNielsen on-line and Galaxy bad for Govt: The Galaxy poll (taken 21-23 September) asked if Howard was out of touch and driven by self-interest? - 49% agreed, and 42% disagreed. So with half the voters polled disliking Howard, how can he quickly fix it? When Galaxy asked whether they agreed Kevin Rudd was superficial and lacking policy substance - 50% disagreed, and 42% agreed. The most striking point about this question was that while 62% of Coalition supporters agreed Rudd was superficial and lacking policy substance, 31% of Coalition supporters did not agree. In short, one in three Coalition supporters have a positive view of Rudd. Asked which team they preferred? - 46% of respondents said Rudd/Gillard, and 41% Howard/Costello. This last figure is almost exactly the same as the Galaxy finding of the primary support - 46% ALP, and 40% Coalition. [28.09.07]

Liberal primary vote disturbingly low: Still, there is a substantial 13% uncommitted. If these are allocated in the same proportion as the ALP/Coalition vote, it would give an outcome of 47% Howard/Costello, 53% Rudd/Gillard. Galaxy has the two-party preferred at 56% ALP, 44% Coalition. The bad news for Howard was Galaxy’s finding the Liberal primary vote is only 36%, which is 1% worse than the last Newspoll. In our previous issue we mentioned the problem Howard had with the Asian vote in his electorate, which has increased significantly since the redistribution of the seat. The latest Morgan poll has the two-party preferred Asian vote nationally as ALP 64.5%, L-NP 35.5%. Howard once had a strong vote in the Chinese community in Bennelong. This has changed since Pauline Hanson and Tampa. The Muslim vote is much smaller than the Asian vote, but would no doubt be even worse for Howard. [28.09.07]

More on poll results: This week’s Galaxy poll gave the two-party preferred as 56% Labor, and 44% Coalition. The Fairfax press this week also carried the first on-line polling conducted by ACNielsen. Most on-line polls are deficient, because it’s only impulse voters who bother to go on-line to vote as many times they wish. The Nielsen on-line poll (taken 18-20 Sept) was based on a list of 90,000 people who have agreed to be polled. The latest poll is of 1000 on this list, and weighted to be representative of all voters. Its findings were close to Nielsen’s last telephone poll. On-line voters had the primary vote as 50% Labor, 37% Coalition, 6% Greens. Two-party preferred it was 58% Labor, 42% Coalition. The six months average of Nielsen, Newspoll, Morgan and Galaxy two-party preferred is 57% to Labor, and 43% Coalition. [28.09.07]

Govt losing ground in polls: Reuters poll trend starkly reveals the desperate situation the Government is in. It examines Newspoll, ACNielsen and Morgan, applies the Henderson moving average formula and works out the two-party preferred gap. Since 10 May, the Coalition was gradually closing the gap until it was a manageable 8.9% on 15 August. On 19 August, it had again gone out leaving the Coalition 11.5% behind. This week it blew out another 3.2%, to 14.7%. No wonder Coalition MPs are in a panic. Heading into the formal election period, they are going backwards. If this vote was repeated in an election, the Coalition would be reduced to a rump party. Everyone, including Inside Canberra, has been saying the margin between Labor and the Coalition will close, but over successive months it hasn’t. When will it? The only other measure Reuters tracks is Preferred PM. Back on 15August, Rudd led Howard by only 6.7%. Now it has leapt to 10.9%. Based on the latest Mackerras pendulum, Rudd needs a 4.8% swing to win 16 seats to put him in Government. Yet the analysis is undertaken net of the Latham factor. On the basis of the 2004 pendulum, Labor will win easily. [14.09.07]

Key insights from latest ACNielsen poll: The best part of Monday’s ACNielsen poll for John Howard (published in the Fairfax Press) was his net approval rating: 50% ‘Approved’ of his performance, and 44% ‘Disapproved’ - a net positive of 6% (up 2% on a month ago). The problem is that Kevin Rudd is far more popular, with a net approval rating of 46%. At 67% this equals the record he set in March - the highest Approval rating ever by an Opposition Leader since ACNielsen polls have been published. Given the difference in the two leaders’ ratings, it is no surprise Rudd has increased his lead as Preferred PM - now 52% (up 4%), with Howard on 39% (down 3%). One school of thought says Howard should immediately call an election, no matter how far he is behind in the polls. This is based on mythology that during the formal election campaign, Howard invariably marks back the Opposition lead, and ultimately prevails on Election Day. This is wrong. Laura Tingle in the Fin pointed out the biggest shift in the Coalition’s primary vote since Howard became Liberal Leader in 1995 was at the 2001 election, when it dropped from 50%, to 43.1%. (Yes, this looks wrong, but it isn’t). Howard won that election with a primary of 43.1 - which in itself is not to be sneezed at. In the other campaigns (1996, 1998 and 2002), Howard gained between 1% and 3% . The Coalition primary is now (says Nielsen) on 39%, with Labor on 49%. On his past record, the PM could not possibly succeed given Newspoll has the Liberal primary at only 33% (compared to 40.8% in 2004). As we have been emphasising, the 16 seats Rudd must win are all Liberal seats, so the Coalition primary gives a misleading impression of the true strength of the parties. ‘Most important issues’ polling doesn’t tell us much: the Economy - 23%; Health - 21%; Industrial relations - 15%; the Environment - 14%; Education - 12%; Interest rates - 6%; and National security - 5%. What do electors believe is ‘the Economy’? Every listed issue is part of ‘the economy’. So they all influence ‘the Economy’ to a greater or lesser extent. [14.09.07]

More on polls, and the election: A really worrying aspect of this week’s Newspoll for Howard is the very low Liberal primary vote - only 35%, compared to Labor’s 51%. On these figures, Rudd would have no trouble winning the 16 seats (all Liberal) he needs to govern. As preferred PM, Rudd is on 48% (up 2%), and Howard 37% (down 2%). Howard has a satisfied rating of 46% and Dissatisfied of 44%, giving him a net positive of 2% (up 4%). Rudd has a net positive of 47% (up 14%). Last Friday’s Morgan poll not only had the Coalition in a much better position than either Newspoll or the latest Galaxy poll, but also had the Government gaining ground. It had a two-party preferred outcome of ALP 54.5% (down 4%), to Coalition 45.5% (up 4%). The average two-party preferred of Newspoll, Morgan and Galaxy is Labor 56.8% and Coalition 43.2%, which is still landslide territory. Inside Canberra stills sees a December election as likely, although the act of declaring an election date is expected to see the Government gain ground in the polls. Immediately before the 31 August issue of writs for the 2004 election, Labor led 52% to Coalition 48%. A week later, Howard had improved to 50% each (Newspoll) and went on to win the election 52.8%, to 47.2%. There are fundamental differences this time around. Rudd is no Mark Latham, and is likely to begin the election campaign with a much bigger lead than Latham. Newspoll consistently has the Green vote much lower than other polls, and currently has their primary vote on a miserable 3% (down 2%). Morgan has it at 6.5% (down 0.5%), and Galaxy at 9% (down 1%). The size of the poll sample obviously makes it more difficult to accurately pick minor party support. The Greens scored 7.2% in the House at the election. See for additional, and continuing, election coverage. [07.09.07]

Polls still bad for PM: Shanahan made a big point of Howard closing the gap as Preferred PM two weeks ago. Then Rudd led by 43%, to Howard’s 42%. It was the lead story in the Oz. Now that Howard has slipped back again with the gap widening to 3%, Shanahan had this well down in his yarn. However, Howard is just in positive territory by 1% in his latest personal standing in Newspoll, with 45% ‘Satisfied’ with his performance and 44% ‘Dissatisfied’. Rudd is plus 40%. The Coalition’s Primary vote rose 1% (to 40%) thanks to a 1% increase in the National’s vote. The Liberal primary vote remains stuck on 35% for the third straight poll. Labor’s primary is 47% - with the two-party preferred 55% Labor, Coalition 45%. The Coalition’s parlous position is not truly reflected in the two-party preferred vote for the Coalition, as it includes the 5% National support. As Inside Canberra has previously said, the 16 most marginal Coalition seats Labor has to win to gain office are all Liberal seats. So the Liberal two-party preferred vote in these seats (if the same figures applied in an election), would be only 40%, and Labor’s two-party preferred would be close to 60%. The Coalition has not won a Newspoll since August last year. There is some good news for the coalition in last week’s Morgan poll. It showed exactly the same two-party preferred vote, but had Labor down 4% on the previous poll and the Coalition up 4%. Morgan polling (taken in the first two weeks of July) shows 52% of those polled believe Labor will win the next election, and 34.5% believe the Coalition will be victors. [27.07.07]

Howard versus Rudd: The latest Newspoll on how the electorate views Howard and Rudd on various issues has not changed much. Howard leads as ‘decisive and strong’, ‘experienced’, ‘best on economy’, ditto ‘national security’. Rudd leads on ‘vision for Australia’, ‘understands the major issues’, ‘likeable’, ‘in touch with voters’, ‘cares for people’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘best for education’, ditto ‘health and Medicare’. On ‘arrogant’, Howard (63%) is seen as far more arrogant than Rudd, on 37%. If national security and running the economy were important, why does Howard trail so badly in the polls? These polls do throw light on why Howard’s personal approval rating is now so bad. Rudd is preferred on all the issues relating to personal approval and most importantly, as most ‘trustworthy’. [27.07.07]

Polls examined: Newspoll says the latest marginal polling taken April-July follows the January-March polling. It shows the Labor primary vote at 51% (up 1%), and the Coalition 36% (down 1%) The Liberal primary in the marginals is a miserable 33%. Two-party preferred saw Labor 59% (up 1%), Coalition 41% (down 1%). As Better PM in the marginals, Rudd on 48% (up 11%) easily leads Howard 38% (down 7%). Labor is in landslide territory. Newspoll also looked at state voting across all classes of seats April-June. Two-party preferred NSW was best for Labor where the outcome was ALP 61% (up 3% on Jan-March), Coalition 39% (down 3%). Other mainland states: VIC - ALP 58% (unchanged), Coalition 42% (unchanged); Qld - ALP 54% (unchanged), Coalition 46% (unchanged); SA - ALP 56% (down 5%), Coalition 44% (up 5%); WA - ALP 50% (up 1%), Coalition 50% (down 1%). In the five capitals (where the great majority of seats are), it was ALP 59% (unchanged), Coalition 41% (unchanged). Non-capitals - ALP 56% (up 2%), Coalition 44% (down 2%). Rudd leads as Better PM in all the five capitals and non-capitals and four of the mainland states. Only in WA did Howard (on 45%) outpoll Rudd, on 39%. Labor will be heartened by making some headway in WA. Oddly Rudd’s standing is better in WA than Howard’s, with Rudd having 55% Satisfied, as against 23% Dissatisfied - while Howard had Satisfied 50%, Dissatisfied 40%. [20.07.07]

Australian’s odd take on polls: This week’s Newspoll has the two-party preferred vote unchanged - ALP 56%, Coalition 44%. The latest Morgan Poll (taken 4-5 July) has ALP 59%, Coalition 41%. Average the two and it’s ALP 57.5%, Coalition 42.5%. Labor’s primary vote (said Newspoll) jumped 2% (to 48%), with at least 1% due to the decline in the Green vote. Dennis Shanahan would surely have amazed even Coalition supporters reading The Australian, and his take on Newspoll. “Howard checks Rudd’s march”, said the page one banner headline on Tuesday. This was based on the ‘preferred’ Prime Minister question, with Howard on 42% (up 2%), and Rudd on 43% (down 3%). So amazing was Shanahan’s report that, on Wednesday, the Oz thought it a good idea to run a story attempting to justify the proposition that the ‘preferred’ PM question is a vital indicator of who will win the election. Here are a couple of examples of how the ‘preferred’ PM outcome impacts on elections: In 1996, in the last week of the election campaign, Keating led Howard as preferred PM 45% to 40%, and Howard went on to a landslide win; In the last week of the election campaign of 1993, John Hewson led Keating as preferred PM 41% to 40%, and Keating went on to win. In short, the preferred PM is not a consistent guide as to who will win an election. Incidentally, Gremlins were at work last week. Inside Canberra reported the Opposition going backwards since the Galaxy poll in the first week of June, when it should have read the Government was going backwards. [13.07.07]

All polls agree on ALP’s lead: Newspoll (taken last weekend) has Labor with a two-party preferred lead of 56% (down 4% on a fortnight ago), to the Coalition’s 44% (up 4%). The big jump is probably due to an inaccurate Newspoll last time when it had Labor with a big, hard to believe lead. Leaving that poll aside, there has not been much change since March. Further, the Government hasn’t won a Newspoll since August of last year. ACNielsen (also taken last weekend) has a two-party outcome of Labor 57% (down 1% on the last Nielsen poll a month ago), and Coalition 43% (up 1%). Two-party preferred Morgan found the ALP held a comfortable lead of 16% on a two-party preferred basis: ALP 58% (up 0.5%), L-NP 42% (down 0.5%). Reuters Poll Trend examines the findings of Newspoll, Nielsen and Morgan and applies the Henderson moving average statistical tool to smooth poll volatility. Its latest two-party preferred is Labor 57.5%, Coalition 42.5%, with the Coalition 15.0% behind. This is an improvement on the gap in the middle of May when the Coalition trailed by 16.0%. The Coalition has trailed Labor by more than 10% in every Poll Trend since Rudd was elected Labor Leader in December. [22.06.07]

Galaxy poll on Qld wrong: The latest report of the three major polls illustrates how questionable the much-hyped Galaxy poll was (see last weekend) which so cheered the Government party room. Galaxy in a special poll in Queensland found the two-party preferred situation as Labor 52%, Coalition 48%. So the Galaxy poll would have us believe that in Labor’s strongest state, Queensland - where Rudd clearly has an advantage - Labor is not polling nearly as well as the three major polls find is the national situation. Howard’s personal rating, according to Newspoll, is zero - 45% Satisfied, and the same number Dissatisfied. Rudd’s rating is plus 40%. The PM does a little better in Nielsen with plus 7%, while Rudd is on plus 40%. Newspoll’s preferred PM is Rudd 46%, Howard 40%. Nielsen has it as Rudd 48%, Howard 42%. Nielsen has Labor now on equal terms in the over 55 years age group, with 50% each for the Coalition and Labor two-party preferred. In 40-54 years it is - Labor 61%, Coalition 39%; 25-39 years - Labor 58%, Coalition 42%; and 18-24 years - Labor 61%, Coalition 39%. [22.06.07]

Mixed polls on economic management: Latest polling on the issue of who best would run the economy - Howard or Rudd - is very mixed. It is an important issue, because the Coalition is ramping up a scare campaign to persuade voters a Rudd government would endanger economic prosperity. In the middle of March, Newspoll reported Howard’s previous huge lead on this issue had been cut back - 45% to Rudd’s 34%. Labor was making ground. This week, ACNielsen had a big lead to Howard with 60%, to Rudd’s 30% - meaning (according to Nielsen), Rudd is going backwards. This week, The Bulletin had a poll with Rudd in front as an economic manager with 33% (to Howard’s 32.3%), but a huge 34.7% undecided. The Bulletin commissioned IPSOS, which polled 1537 respondents after the Budget, and 1079 before the Budget. Presumably, public digestion of the Budget would have had a major impact on the question of who best would run the economy. The finding on: ‘Do you think the Budget will make you better or worse off ?’ was: 27.2% Better off; 19.1% Worse off; 44.5% The same; and 9.2% Undecided. So, on The Bulletin’s poll, the judgement about who would best run the economy does not vitally depend on the Budget, otherwise Howard would be trailing Rudd. [25.05.07]

‘Work Choices’ no help: What does the public believe constitutes the ‘economy? - is it their own personal economy, or is it the national economy? Do they believe jobs and industrial relations are part of the economy? A Newspoll at the end of March found that 51% believed Howard’s IR policy was bad for the ‘Australian Economy’, and 32% believed it was good. Howard stresses that his IR policy is good for the economy, even after he has done a partial backflip with his ‘safety net’ to ensure people are fairly compensated for losing various entitlements, such as overtime. If voters believe IR is an important part of the economy, and judge the Budget not a great success, why does Howard have such a big lead on the economy (at least according to ACNielsen)? It could perhaps be that because the economy is booming - whether or not it is all due to the China boom - people are prepared to give the Government credit. Yet that doesn’t explain The Bulletin poll. [25.05.07]

Labor may again use Costello as bogey: Presuming Howard leads the Government at the election, Labor may yet again trot out the slogan that a vote for Howard is a vote for Costello as Prime Minister. With Howard going for his fifth term in Government, this will have much more potency than at previous elections. At the end of the next term, Howard will be 71. The Bulletin poll this week had something to say about this. When respondents were asked who would make a better PM, Howard scored 43.9%, to Costello’s 17.3%. When the question is who would make the best PM - Rudd or Howard - Rudd scores 49% to Howard’s 28%. Asked should Howard have retired, 53% say Yes, and 35% say No. Asked will Howard serve out a full term (if elected), 54% say No, and 31% Yes. Note, this question was not should he serve a full term, but rather, will he? This is important, since it is saying over half of electors believe, if Howard is re-elected, he will not serve a full term. If so, they would much rather Rudd first up as PM, than Costello after Howard’s exit. [25.05.07]

Govt to lose Senate majority: ‘Better PM’ Rudd is on 49% (up 2%), and Howard 37% (down 2%). Galaxy polls published at the weekend asked - ‘On balance whose industrial relations polices would you prefer, John Howard’s or Kevin Rudd’s’. The result was - Howard’s 35%, Rudd’s 52%, Uncommitted 13%. Unsurprisingly the Government is also doing very badly in Senate polling and if the latest stats reported by Morgan are any guide, the Government will almost certainly lose control of the Senate when the present Senate expires on 30 June 2008. In the March/April period, 45.5% of electors supported Labor for the Senate, compared to 39% in September/October, 40% in November/December, and 42% in January/February. Support for the ALP (during March/April) was highest in South Australia (47.5%) and lowest in Western Australia (41.5%). Support for the Coalition 32.5%, which is down 3.5% from its January/February result of 36%. Support for the Greens is 9.5%. Among the other minor parties, support for the Australian Democrats is 4%, Family First 2%, One Nation 1%, and support for Other Parties and Independent Candidates is 5.5%.[18.05.07]

Greens to have power balance: On these figures Labor would win 3 of the 6 seats in every State except WA, where it would still have a chance of three. This is how Morgan sees it: NSW - 3 ALP Senators, 2 L-NP and 1 (most probably) Greens; Vic - 3 ALP, 2 L-NP, and 1 (most probably) Greens; Qld - 3 ALP 2 Liberal and another (most probably) 1 from either the National Party, the Greens or Pauline Hanson after preferences; SA - 3 ALP, 2 L-NP and 1 from the Greens, Democrats or Family First after preferences; WA - 3 or 2 ALP, 2 L-NP Senators, 1 Greens (although this Greens seat and a third ALP seat would depend on how preferences go). With only 14 long term Senators not facing the polls, even winning 3 Senators in every state plus 2 from NT and ACT, Labor could not gain a majority. The Greens would have the balance of power and the Democrats would be wiped out. [18.05.07]

Labor has big lead in marginal seats: Newspoll’s survey of marginal seats published this week reveals the true height of the mountain John Howard has to climb to win the next election. Two-party preferred in the marginals (January-March this year), it is Labor 58%, to Coalition 42%. Labor has to win 16 seats to govern in its own right, and needs a swing of 4.8% to do it. In the period January-March this year, it has achieved a swing of 8.3% - which would give it a landslide win of 34 seats. Included in such a landslide would be the Prime Minister’s own seat of Bennelong. This unlikely, although Howard himself admits he is not taking the seat for granted. Labor will not repeat swings of the size indicated by marginal seat polls in the election. [13.04.07]

PM fails on ‘Trustworthy’ comparison: Since February last year the ALP has won 20 Newspolls, the Coalition 4, with 3 deadheats. The last Coalition win was in August last year. John Stirton of AC Nielsen, said last month - “They (the voters) like the change and I think that the majority have been saying ‘we want to vote Labor’ for the last 18 months. They see Rudd as someone who is much more likely than Beazley to deliver victory.” The Newspoll published Wednesday pointed to the failure of one ploy the Government has been following to pull Rudd down - he is not experienced enough to run the economy. Now some 61% of voters say he is experienced (Heavens knows how they make that judgement, apart from liking Rudd). The perception of Howard and Rudd is revealing. Rudd wins all the categories except ‘Decisive and Strong’, which is almost a dead heat - Howard 79% to Rudd’s 75%. Rudd leads in all the others (Vision for Australia; Understands the major issues; Likeable; In touch with voters). Most significant is Trustworthy - Rudd 67%, Howard 49%. On issues, Rudd has a big lead on Education and Health and Medicare. The PM’s lead on ‘Best to handle the economy’ has been cut back to Howard 45%, Rudd 34%. A year ago it was Howard 67%, Beazley 15%. Another interest rate rise would be decisive in this area. The Coalition’s lead in ‘Best to handle national security’ is slipping and is now Howard 44%, Rudd 36%. A year ago it was Howard 58%, Beazley 23%. [23.03.07]

Morgan poll on issues: Special Roy Morgan Qualitative Research was conducted this month, in which electors gave reasons for supporting their preferred Party. Supporters of the Liberal Party cite its economic management as a major reason for their preference. Another major attraction for Liberal supporters is John Howard’s experience and leadership. Key themes amongst Labor supporters are: the disapproval of John Howard; the Coalition Government’s unpopular IR laws; and a number of ALP supporters are excited by the qualities that Kevin Rudd exhibits. This confirms the Labor view that there is resentment and uneasiness among Howard’s battlers over Work Choice. Labor says the message they are getting from the battlers is that if Howard was for them, he would not have produced Work Choice legislation. There is strong evidence the expected Labor win in the NSW election will be substantially due to Labor hanging Howard’s IR policy on the Liberal leader, Peter Debnam. [23.03.07]

Rudd attack not shifting polls to Coalition: The personal attack upon Kevin Rudd that was launched in Parliament on Thursday of last week, is yet to work. The latest Newspoll (taken last weekend) gave Labor its biggest lead since Howard came to power in 1996. Rudd’s sky high level of personal support came back somewhat, but he is still a long way ahead of John Howard. The Coalition’s primary vote slid from 41% (to 37%) since the poll a fortnight earlier. The ALP primary at 47% (up 1%), was the highest since March 2001. This produced a two-party preferred outcome of ALP 57% (up 3%), to Coalition 43% (down 3%), the best two-party preferred outcome since Newspoll commenced recording the two-party outcome six years ago, with preferences distributed on the basis of the 2004 election. [09.03.07]

Serious slump in Lib primary vote: Labor has now won 19 polls since February last year, the Coalition four, and there were three dead heats. The Coalition has not won a poll in the last seven months. A shocker for Howard was the Liberal primary of 32% (down 4%), and almost 9% lower than at the last election. Kevin Rudd needs to win 16 seats net from the Coalition to gain office. The 16 most endangered Coalition seats are held by margins of between 0.1% and 4.8%, and all are held by sitting Liberals. The contest, therefore - in the 16 most endangered Government seats - will be between the Liberals (now with a primary vote of 32%), and Labor with 47%. On these figures, all 16 would go to Labor, however it is reasonable to expect the polls will narrow as the election date approaches. What is certain, even from this distance, is that Labor will be very competitive. Rudd’s ‘Satisfied’ rating is 62% (down 6%), and Howard’s ‘Satisfied’ at 42% (down 2%).[09.03.07]

When will the honeymoon end?: John Stirton of ACNielsen, commenting on the latest poll (Tuesday), reminded us that Labor may be streets ahead, but it’s still a honeymoon for Rudd, and they last anything from three to six months. Most pertinent was this comment from Stirton on AM - “They (the voters) like the change, and I think the majority have been saying ‘we wanted to vote Labor’ for the last 18 months - they see Rudd as someone who is much more likely than Beazley to deliver victory.” He also thought it particularly significant Rudd now leads Howard (see below) as preferred PM, a poll which always favours the incumbent. Howard is looking edgy and somewhat flustered. The honeymoon will not last forever, and the PM will at some stage settle on a strategy to try and turn aside the Rudd challenge. It’s not that Howard was not rattled by Latham when he first took over leadership of the ALP, but week by week, and as events unfolded, cracks in the Labour campaign began to appear giving Howard the opportunity to go for the jugular. Howard has plenty of time to get his act in order. Reuters Poll Trend on Thursday (based on the three major polls, using the Henderson technique to smooth volatility) has the ALP two-party vote on 57%, Coalition 43%. Kevin Rudd is well on top as ‘Mr. 65%’, an approval rating no other Opposition Leader has matched in the history of ACNielsen polling. In the middle of 1975 - when the Whitlam Government was in a mess - Malcolm Fraser hit 65%. John Howard is now way behind with an approval reading of 49%. More surprisingly, Rudd (on 48%) leads Howard (on 43%), as ‘Preferred PM’. An important feature of the first ACNielsen poll of the year is that it was taken 8-10 February, well after Howard’s water initiative last month, and after the Premiers refused to sign up last week. [16.02.07]

Nats are in trouble: Labor’ primary vote is at 46% (up 1% on the 30 Nov-2 Dec poll), while the Coalition is on 36% (down 3%). The Greens have surged, and are at 11% (down 1%). The Greens Senate vote would be much better, and they can now be confident of being the dominant small party in the next Senate. Labor has a huge two-party preferred lead with 58% (up 2%), compared to only 42% for the Coalition (down 3%). In the cities, where all the votes are, Labor’s two-party preferred is 60%, to the Coalition’s 40%. In the bush, Labor is on 55% to the Coalition’s 45%. This latter figure suggests the Nationals will be struggling to hold the 12 seats they now have. As they will lose Gwydir in NSW because of a redistribution, to sustain 12 they will need to hold their existing seats, and win the new seat of Flynn in Queensland. In this predicament, the Nationals simply cannot afford to give way to the Liberals and agree to abolition, or even the watering down, of the single desk export wheat marketing system. [16.02.07]

Weak Liberal vote Howard’s big worry: For John Howard the most serious aspect of Tuesday’s Newspoll is the continuing weakness of the Liberal primary vote. Newspoll (taken 2-4 February) has the Labor primary vote at 47% (up 3% on a fortnight earlier), and the Coalition on 38% (down 1%). Yet the true weakness of the Government’s position is not shown by the Coalition’s vote since it includes 3% of the Nationals vote. The Nationals have only 12 seats in a House (one of which will disappear at the next election because of redistribution). The contest for the other seats will be between Labor and the Liberals (except for the three seats held by independents). The Liberal primary vote is a mere 35% (a gain of only 1% in a fortnight). The Liberal primary vote needs to be ahead of the Labor vote (as it was in the 2004 election). Labor can have a slightly lower primary vote and yet win an election on two-party preferred terms because it gains more of the preferences of the other parties. [09.02.07]

Rudd’s effort best since early 2001: There is a long way to go before Howard achieves ascendancy in the primary vote. The latest two-party preferred vote is ALP 56% (up 1%), Coalition 44% (down 1%). This is the 17th poll win for Labor in the last 12 months, during which the Coalition has won only 4 polls, and 3 were dead heats. The Coalition has not won a poll since last August. The latest Morgan poll has Labor going backwards, not forwards, for the second fortnight in a row. Primary support for the ALP is down 3.5% to 43.5% (up 5.9% since the 2004 election), while primary support for the Coalition Government is up 2.5% to 39% (down 7.4% since the 2004 election). Morgan has the two-party preferred vote ALP 54.5% (down 3%), L-NP 45.5% (up 3%). Average Morgan with Newspoll and the two-party preferred is ALP 55.25%, Coalition 44.75%. [09.02.07]

PM came back from the brink in 2001 election: Howard was in almost as bad a position in February 2001, with a Coalition primary of only 39% compared to the ALP’s 47%. Howard then hurled billions of dollars at the voter - petrol excise indexation ended and the first home owners grant was lifted, while money rained down on pensioners and the elderly. Slowly Howard began to claw back. Then with the attack on the World Trade Centre - the 9/11 outrage - things started to go Howard’s way. Firstly, he was in Washington when terrorists attacked the Pentagon with a hijacked aircraft and he was able, in interviews in Washington, to drive home the message that the terrorists were a grave threat to the world. Then in the last week in August Howard announced the boarding of the Tampa, and this drama stayed in the headlines right up to the election of 10 November. On top of that Howard, in the last week of the campaign, took full advantage of the false allegation that boat people had thrown their children overboard. Fear and loathing of the boat people was intense among many Australians as they went to the polls, and many of them believed that Howard, by his firm action on the Tampa, was the man to handle the threat. In the end he won the election fairly narrowly with 50.9% of the two-party preferred vote, as against the 49.1% Labor scored under Beazley. [09.02.07]

Labor vote still sky high: Labor’s primary vote in the latest Newspoll (taken 19-21 January) has slipped by 2% since the last poll (8-10 December), which was the first after Rudd won the ALP leadership. Yet the 44% primary is 6.4% better than that recorded by Mark Latham at the last election. The Coalition primary is unchanged on 39% - 7.7% worse than its election effort. The Liberal primary remains on a depressing 34%. The Greens picked up 2%, to go to 7%. This enabled Labor to retain its two-party preferred lead with 55%, to the Coalition’s 45%. If repeated in an election, this would give Labor a big majority in the House of Representatives. Since January 2006, Labor has won 16 Newspolls, the Coalition 4, and there have been three dead heats. The Coalition has not won a poll since mid-August. The Morgan poll (taken 6-7 and 13-14 January) has the ALP primary at 47% (down 2% on 16-17 December), with the Coalition on 36.5%. The two-party preferred vote according to Morgan is Labor 57.5% (down 1.5%), and Coalition 42.5% (up 1.5%). Averaging the Newspoll and Morgan two-party preferred produced: Labor - 56.25%; and the Coalition - 43.5%. [25.01.07]

Newspoll: The Newspoll (taken 15-17 December) showed a big turnaround in public expectations about the election outcome following Rudd’s climb to Opposition Leader. Some 42% thought the Coalition would win. This compares with 58% who thought the Coalition would win in advance of the 2004 election. Labor was seen under Rudd as a winner by 39%, compared to a mere 23% prior to the 2004 election. A whopping 19% (nearly one in five voters) were uncommitted. Looking at party supporters, 17% of Coalition supporters believed Howard will lose the next election, and 63% of Labor supporters agreed. [19.01.07]

ALP Leadership

Labor seems right on Rudd: Newspoll (taken October-November) appeared to show Labor had made the right decision to turn to Rudd. Taken before the Rudd challenge, it showed Kim Beazley’s Satisfaction rating in key marginal seats had fallen to 33% (2% below the July-September finding). The Labor primary vote fell 2% in the marginals, to 40%. Two-party preferred Labor still led in the marginals 52% to 48%, which was a good position, despite Beazley’s lower approval. [19.01.07]

Liberal Party Leadership

Turnbull as Costello’s challenger: The Sunday Telegraph commissioned Galaxy to quiz NSW voters on who they would prefer as replacement for Liberal leadership once John Howard departs. Costello scored 32%, Malcolm Turnbull, although not yet a minister, was on 16%, Tony Abbot on 12% and the highly ambitious Brendan Nelson, who is so obviously after the top job, scored a mere 9%. Costello has no reason to be pleased. More than two-thirds of NSW voters don’t rate him number one choice. [19.01.07]

NSW Libs in terrible trouble: A depressing outcome for NSW Liberals was Newspoll (taken November-December) which showed the Iemma Labor Government has easily survived scandals. The poll was taken after a NSW Government minister was sacked when facing charges of child sex offences and the Police Minister was forced to resign for twice misleading Parliament. Labor’s primary vote was 39%, and the Coalition’s 37% (with the Liberal vote on a miserable 32%). Two-party preferred the outcome was: 53% ALP (down 1% on September-October), and 47% Coalition (up 1%). If repeated at the March election, Labor would lose few if any of its 23 seat majority. A number of conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, the Liberals and its Leader, Peter Debnam, are seen by a majority of voters as not offering an alternative government. Secondly, unless voters are directly affected, they take recurring political scandals on both sides of the political fence as further evidence that pollies are by and large self-serving lying bastards. Thirdly, NSW transport may not be good, but it seems not to impact on swing voters. Iemma’s satisfaction rating of 42% was down only 2%, while Debnam could only manage 29%, which was down 2%. Iemma was preferred Premier by 45%, to Debnam’s 23%. It seems Debnam is in similar mode to Kim Beazley - he can’t cut through. [19.01.07]

Rann way ahead in SA: The outlook in South Australia was as depressing for the Liberals as was NSW. The Newspoll (taken October-December) found that the Liberals have lost ground in SA since the hammering given to it by voters in the election 10 months earlier. Opposition Leader, Iain Evans, after ten months in the job was making no impression. The Labor primary vote was 47% (up 1.8% on the election), with the Liberals on 33% (down 1% on the election). The two-party preferred was Labor 58% (up 1.2%), and Liberals 42% (down 0.8%). Premier Mike Rann’s Satisfaction rating was at 63%, with Evans on 36%. Rann led as better Premier, 61% to Evans 14%. [19.01.07]

Industrial Relations

IR must be hurting Howard: Something is going badly wrong for the Government. What is described as Rudd’s honeymoon (honeymoons are not supposed to last), is primarily due to the decline in Howard’s standing. In turn, this must be due to a significant degree to voter hostility to the PM’s Work Choices legislation. This is the conclusion which can be drawn from the latest Newspoll on attitudes to the IR changes. A sizeable majority of voters polled last weekend believe Work Choices is bad for the economy (51%, compared to 47% in mid-December), and bad for job creation (48%, compared to 45% in mid-December). More to the point, while 48% believe Work Choices is neither good nor bad for them personally, 33% (unchanged on mid-December) believe they are worse off, and only 14% (unchanged) better off. Of households with an income of less than $70,000 a year, 36% say they are worse off, and only 12% better off (these households would be the great majority). Of the households with income of over $70,000, surprisingly 32% say they are worse off, and 16% better off. [05.04.07]

Non-unionist still cranky: Coalition voters are, of course, the greatest supporters of Work Choices, with only 10% saying they are worse off, and 31% better off. Of the Labor supporters, 51% say they are worse off, and only 4% better off. The Government has seized on the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey showing a decline of 6.6% in trade union membership to 20.3% of the workforce in the 12 months to August last year. IR Minister, Joe Hockey, said it showed workers were turning their backs on the unions. Maybe, but it doesn’t help the Government with its argument on the virtues of Work Choices. What has shown up is that - mainly because of the ACTU campaign - a majority of people (most of whom are not in a union), are against Work Choices. David Forsyth, senior lecturer in workplace law at Monash, said the drop in union membership seemed to reflect the widespread use of workplace agreements in the mining industry. He also agreed with ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, that Work Choices made it harder for unions to organise. [05.04.07]

IR poll bad for Howard: A bad poll for Howard was the Newspoll survey on attitudes to the government’s Work Choice legislation (taken 15-17 December). On the question of whether the IR changes would be better for the economy, there was little difference from the previous poll of 7-9 April 2006. The latest poll showed 34% believed the changes would be better for the economy, and 47% believed it would be bad for the economy. Uncommitted was 14%. On job creation (which is surely the same thing as whether the IR changes were good for the economy) 33% said the IR changes would be good for job creation, and 45% said it would be bad. Uncommitted was 15%. [19.01.07]

‘Better off’ key question: The key question however was whether those polled felt they would be personally better off or worse off. This is the issue which can change votes. Only 14% said they would be better off, while 33% said they would be worse off. Nearly half the electorate, 48%, said the changes would make no difference to their welfare. A mere 4% were uncommitted, meaning the vast majority of those polled had made up their minds about the IR changes. Inside Canberra’s analysis of the figures show the most telling stats related to support or opposition to the changes by party supporters. Unsurprisingly, Labor supporters were hostile to the changes, with 45% saying they would be worse off, and only 7% believing they would be better off. The key is the finding on Coalition supporters’ attitudes. More than half - 54% said the changes would make no difference to them, and only 26% said they would be better off. A surprising 17% said they would be worse off, with 6% saying they would be 𠆊 lot worse off’. If even half of the 6% of Coalition supporters changed their vote to Labor it would produce a swing of 6% against the Government, a serious setback for the Coalition. [19.01.07]

The Environment & Other Issues

Issues - Textor versus Newspoll: Newspoll this week gave details of its polling on issues and which party best handled each issue. There was something for both the Government and Labor in the figures. In order of their importance to voters, the top five were: Health and Medicare - Labor with 45% best able to handle, Coalition 33%; Water Planning (which was included only in February and has rocketed to the second top issue) - Labor 36%, Coalition 29%; Education - Labor 50%, Coalition 28%; The environment - Labor 39%, Coalition 25%; and The economy - Coalition 51%, Labor 30%. For more on polls see page 4. Meanwhile, Labor awaits details of the business-funded advertising campaign designed to support the Government’s Work Choice legislation. The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published what it claimed was research drawn from focus groups in marginal electorates, personally conducted by Mark Textor. Textor’s conclusions differ from the Newspoll (the latter involving all electorates). According to Textor the top five issues are: Water - Newspoll has it 2nd and Labor best to handle; Education - Newspoll 3rd, Labor best; Industrial relations - Newspoll 12th, Labor best; Border/homeland security - Newspoll 8th, Coalition best. So Labor wins 3 of Textor’s top five as best able to handle. Kevin Rudd will no doubt be hoping Textor is right and IR is indeed 4th. Rudd has every reason to believe he will continue to win on this issue right up to the election. Incidentally, the bad marks the Government gets on water must be a disappointment to Howard and Malcolm Turnbull, who has been out and about trying to make the PM’s water scheme work. [22.06.07]

More on issues: We have mentioned the Newspoll findings on the top five issues interesting voters. After the top five (in order) are: Welfare and social issues - Labor wins 49%, Coalition 28%; Family issues - Labor 46%, Coalition 28%; National security - Coalition 47%, Labor 28%; Interest rates - Coalition 49%, Labor 27%; Taxation - Coalition 44%, Labor 32%; Industrial relations - Labor 47%, Coalition 31%; Defence - Coalition 46%, Labor 29%; Unemployment - Coalition 47%, Labor 37%; Inflation - Coalition 49%, Labor 28%; Women’s issues (only women polled) - Labor 39%, Coalition 23%; Immigration - Coalition 37%, Labor 33%; and Aboriginal and native title (poll taken before Howard announced new plan for Aboriginals in NT) - Labor 39%, Coalition 23%. Leadership polled ninth place, but respondents were not asked which party gave the best Leadership. Of the 16 issues on which respondents were asked the question of who best to handle, Labor and the Coalition won 8 each. It seems some issues are immutable, such as the Economy, National Security and Defence that the Government always wins and Industrial Relations and Education that Labor always wins. None of this indicates what impact all 17 issues will have on the elections. For example, although Industrial relations is way down in 12th place, there are undoubtedly a number of workers (no-one knows how many) who voted Coalition last time but will switch to Labor this time on IR. Labor must be disappointed with the Government winning so easily on interest rates (10th place). After all Government advertising in the last election campaign said the Liberals had a ‘plan’ to keep interest rates at record low levels. Since then there have been four rises totalling 2%. [22.06.07]

Odd poll on tax cuts & interest: To make a tax cut worthwhile, it would have to broach three percentage points, meaning a tax cut of 10% (or 10c in the dollar). At $6 billion in costs to revenue, this is too expensive. Social welfare based transfers (ie: Family payments), are much cheaper and noticed by each and every family. This week’s Newspoll analysis was contradictory on what taxpayers think. Asked: ‘Would you personally be in favour of, or against, income tax cuts being given in the federal budget?’ - 66% were in favour, 19% against, and 15% uncommitted. Another question asked: ‘Some economists believe giving personal income tax cuts in this budget may lead to a rise in interest rates. Given this possibility, would you personally be in favour or against income tax cuts being given in the federal budget?’ - 36% were in favour, against 53%, and 11% uncommitted. Given the large uncommitted figure, in both instances, it is hard to judge the dominant attitude. The second question was somewhat equivocal, citing ‘some economists’ (ie: compared to say the majority of economists), believe income tax cuts ‘may lead’ (cf: will lead ) to interest rate increases. The turn around in the two polls is odd, given the equivocation of the second poll. [04.05.07]

Nuclear option gains ground: The small decline in Rudd’s personal standing might encourage Howard to maintain his personal attack on the Opposition leader. This might not be wise for a man who invented two ways to classify electoral promises - ‘core’ and ‘non-core’. There is a positive aspect for Labor flowing from the personal attacks on Rudd: an indication that Howard is deeply worried by the polls and he has not been able to find a successful policy slant upon which he can wedge Labor. It was thought, before the attack was launched on Rudd, that Howard saw a wedge opportunity in nuclear power, for which he is promoting an open debate and has subsequently declared is ‘clean and green’. This week’s Newspoll would give him some comfort should he want to return to the issue. One question was - “Are you personally in favour of or against the development of a nuclear power industry in Australia, as one of the range of energy solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?” Total in favour - 45% (20% Strongly, 25% Partly), Against 40% (27% Strongly, 13% Partly). [09.03.07]

Yet NIMBY rules: So far so good. Yet there was another question - “Would you personally be in favour of, or against, a nuclear power station being built in your local area?” In favour 25% (9% Strongly, 16% Partly), Against 66% (Strongly 53%, Partly 13%). NIMBY rules. A majority are in favour of nuclear development somewhere in Australia if it helps greenhouse gas reductions. Yet if it is in their area, more than half of Australians are strongly against. The votes that count are Coalition voters and 37% of them are strongly against. If half of these supporters change their vote (having become convinced there is risk a of a nuclear station being built in their area), Howard will lose the election by a big margin. If he drops the issue altogether, he won’t lose a vote. No one will vote against him if he fails to develop a nuclear power industry, or put a power station into supporters’ electorates. [09.03.07]

Poll on issues: In view of the debate on global warming and dealing with the drought, Labor has a big lead on the �nvironment’ with 60%, to the Coalition’s 26%, and on ‘Water Resources’ 48%, to the Coalition’s 35%. Labor has a big lead on ‘Health and Hospitals’ and ‘Education’, while the Coalition has a similarly big lead on ‘The Economy’, ‘National Security’, and ‘Border Protection’. How these issues will have played out by the end of the year is unclear. One senses ‘Border Protection’ and ‘National Security’ are fading, although our sister publication - Australian Defence Business Review - reports the Government is planning a major counter-terrorism initiative. Issues voters are more likely to focus on include: industrial relations; global warming; the drought; and worsening home affordability. Any terrorist attack on Australian soil in the run up to the election would bring ‘Security’ roaring back as an issue, yet Howard might not benefit. Instead, he might be blamed for ignoring warnings our role in the war in Iraq has increased the risk of terrorist attack. If the drought doesn’t break this Autumn and increases its grip on Australia, ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Water Resources’ will be big issues come the election. [16.02.07]

Voters don’t like PM’s nuclear plan: Having taken time off in his holidays to launch a blistering attack on Labor for opposing the idea of generating power from nuclear reactors, John Howard was immediately confronted by news that the great majority of voters were against him. Newspoll (taken 15-17 December) found 35% in favour of nuclear power (down 3% on 26-28 May poll). A mere 14% were ‘strongly in favour’. Against was 50% (down 1%), with ‘strongly against’ 36% (down 1%). Uncommitted registered 15%. Of Coalition supporters 51% were in favour of nuclear power (23% ‘strongly in favour’), and 35% were against (22% ‘strongly against’). This last figure should give Howard cause for pause on his sales pitch favouring nuclear. [19.01.07]

Treated sewage given tick: A refreshing sign that the Australian electorate is not stupid on big issues, was the Newspoll of 15-17 December. It found that 69% of those polled would accept drinking treated sewage if it was the same quality as current tap water. ‘Strongly in favour’ registered 45%, and ‘partly in favour’ 24%. (How someone could be ‘partly in favour’ of drinking treated sewage is not apparent). Newspoll found 29% of those who would not drink treated sewage would be in favour of using such water for toilet flushing and outdoor use.(How anyone could be opposed to such uses is hard to imagine). [19.01.07]

Thumbs down to Iraq war: Australians are still overwhelmingly against the Iraq war. A big majority believe: the war was not worth getting into; our troops should be brought home immediately or a timetable set for their return; and the war has greatly increased the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Australia. A Newspoll poll taken 15-17 December (before the announcement by Bush of more troops going to Iraq) revealed -

  • 71% believe the war was not worth getting in to (up 3% on Oct);
  • 80% want the troops brought home immediately or an exit date should be set (up 16% on Oct);
  • 64% believe a terrorist attack in Australia is more likely because of our part in the war (up 3% on Oct). [19.01.07]

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