The purposes of this post are: firstly, to add some context to the dramatic findings of a recent NSW state Newspoll, and secondly, to link to the full results of some late August NSW state union polling that may be of some interest to somebody out there. I have actually had the latter for a few weeks but because I have been overseas and then very busy it has taken this long to do anything with it.
Newspoll record? Well, not really ...
The recent Newspoll has found that Mike Baird's status as Australia's most popular Premier by far has come to a sudden halt after nearly two years of stellar ratings. This finding was also foreshadowed by a slightly earlier Fairfax ReachTEL which showed Luke Foley ahead of Baird as Preferred Premier. The latter result, while still striking, was not quite the sensation it appeared to be: the forced-choice method used by ReachTEL does not advantage incumbents in the way that the method used by Newspoll, Galaxy, Ipsos and Essential does. So an Opposition Leader being preferred Premier in a ReachTEL poll usually just means the two-party race is close and the Premier is a little bit under the weather.
The Newspoll found Mike Baird's net satisfaction rating has crashed from +39 (61-22) in January to -7 (39-46) now. The Australian listed this at the top of a list of the greatest netsat falls by a Premier in Newspoll history. In a poll-to-poll sense this is true, but it is a misleading statistic as the intervals between two consecutive Newspolls in a given state historically have been anything from a few days in some cases to four years in others. In this case, eight and a half months is an unusually long interval, especially when the old Newspoll often routinely polled at intervals of two months.
In terms of points lost in nine months or less (counting from the end of the first polling period to the end of the second) Baird's 46-point netsat loss is close to the all-time record, but doesn't quite match it. The record high of 48 points is shared by two Premiers. One is John Cain (Labor, Victoria) who dropped from +5 to -43 in 1989-90 and resigned within months. The other is one who I think not many people would guess: Bob Carr (Labor, NSW) fell from an initial +29 to -19 in just eight months within his first year in office. Few would have thought then he would go on to be Premier for a decade and record his peak rating, +40, nearly eight years into the job. In fact, no other Premier who has polled personal ratings as bad as Carr's in his first term has ever yet been re-elected. (The worst netsat loss by a Premier inside a year, by the way, was 59 points by Mike Ahern (Nationals, Queensland), although federally, the incumbent PM has now beaten even that.)
The Newspoll also saw a tightening of the better-Premier gap by 25 points, from a 43-point lead (58-15) to 18 (42-24). This is again not quite a record, since ahead of Baird here are:
* Bob Carr (ALP, NSW) vs Peter Collins - 32 points in eight months
* Wayne Goss (ALP, Qld) vs Rob Borbidge - 27 points in six months
* Anna Bligh (ALP, Qld) vs Lawrence Springborg and Colin Barnett (Lib, WA) vs Mark McGowan - 27 points in nine months
and tied with him is John Kennett (Lib, Vic) vs John Brumby - 25 points in eight months.
For the time being, what we have is that Mike Baird is an ordinary political mortal and that his government is no longer vastly in front. The ReachTEL had the 2PP at 50-50 and the Newspoll 51-49 to the Coalition. (The most recent Morgan-SMS was at 50.5, for what that's worth, which I suspect is no great deal.) In many quarters the crash is being singly attributed to Baird's government's ban on greyhound racing, but that is far from the only battle-scar that this now 5.5-year-old state government is carrying. Baird's personal ratings aren't in the political death-zone for state Premiers yet but a further substantial decline from here would not bode well for him.
Commissioned Electorate Polling Results
The by-election for the Nationals seat of Orange on November 12 is attracting quite a lot of interest. Orange is in theory a very safe Nationals seat, which has been held by the party since 1947 (with the odd fairly close contest in that time). It is currently on a margin of 21.7%. However, the unpopularity of the dog-racing ban in country areas has fuelled expectations of a swing approaching that margin. It's also notable that Prime Minister Turnbull is most unpopular in non-city areas and on a state basis in NSW, and quite believable that the same problem might affect Mr Baird.
Anyway below are the full AMWU-commissioned ReachTELs of four state seats including Orange, which appear with permission (they weren't leaked). I have received some indirect assurances that these were the only seats polled in this run of polling. William Bowe has 2PP and swing estimates here (for Coalition: Penrith 48, Kiama 46, Orange c. 57 and Upper Hunter no real change from the current 52). My assessments are all the same to a point worse for the Coalition, noting that the very large Others vote in these polls makes any 2PP estimate very rubbery indeed. (These could be voters looking for One Nation and/or voters who have gone off the Coalition and are parking their vote because they don't like anybody else.) The usual cautions about all commissioned polling apply and the spread of swings seems a little on the large side. But that said I am lately finding that voting intention results in union-commissioned polls are generally meriting less cynicism than those from some other quarters. "Retweet is not ipso facto an endorsement", etc, here they are ...
Penrith (NB mislabelled as "Kiama" in text)
It's hard to gauge the relevance of the issues questions results regarding having train carriages built overseas without knowing what proportion of electors in each electorate were already familiar with the issue. If familiarity is low then the poll is picking up is the instinctive reaction voters have to governments not spending money to support local jobs; the reaction to a detailed discussion of the issue might (or might not) be quite different. It's very likely questions 2 and 3 have a training influence on the negative results in question 4, even if awareness of the carriage issue was already high.
A different commissioned ReachTEL result for the seat of Orange was mischievously released by NSW Labor, showing that voters in the seat very marginally preferred Tony Abbott or Julie Bishop as federal Liberal leader to Turnbull. A party breakdown here would be very interesting, but I haven't seen one reported.