Sunday, June 7, 2015

ReachTEL: Liberals Consolidate, But Who Should Lead Labor?

ReachTEL (state) Liberal 48.5 Labor 29.9 Green 15.8 Other/Ind 5.8
Interpretation: Liberal 48.5 Labor 32.9 Green 13.8 Other/Ind 4.8
Result based on poll taken as read: Probable Liberal majority (about 13-9-3, with 12-9-4 or 13-8-4 also possible)
Result based on adjusted interpretation: Liberal Majority (13-10-2)

Not long since the last EMRS poll suggested the Hodgman Liberal government was emerging from a period of disappointing polling, The Mercury has commissioned a large-sample ReachTEL that has recorded an even stronger reading for the party.  Indeed, this ReachTEL is not very much different from the only other one taken since the last state election (see ReachTEL: Liberals With Solid Lead).  It provides some very useful electorate-by-electorate data, the first since September, and also some very revealing polling on who should be the state Labor leader.

The figures taken at face value

The following are the voting intention figures from this poll:

This is how it looks on a quota basis:

While the Greens appear close to a seat in Lyons, they would actually not win it, because of lack of an incumbent and unfriendly minor party preferences in that electorate.  However, a Green win in that seat is well within the margin of error.  It's also notable that Labor doesn't win two in Franklin by very much, and that the Greens don't beat Labor in Bass by very much.

Adjusted for apparent house effects

In my previous assessment of ReachTEL house effects I estimated that they were underrating Labor by 2.6 points, and the Liberals by 1.1, while overestimating the Green vote by 2.5 and PUP by 0.9.  PUP are no longer a factor.  I take the current poll (compared with the recent EMRS) as enough evidence to cancel out the assumption of a mild anti-Liberal house effect, to slightly strengthen the assumption of an anti-Labor one, and to slightly weaken the assumption of a pro-Green one.  I'm therefore adjusting this poll by reducing the Green vote by two points, increasing the Labor vote by three and reducing the Others vote by one.

In this version the Greens lose Bass to Labor but nothing else changes.

Updated aggregate

I'm including the figures from this poll in my state aggregate at a weighting of 45%.  

The new data have not changed the seat distribution in my aggregate, which remains at 13-10-2.  It's the same issues as usual - the Liberals dropping the low-hanging fruit in Franklin and Braddon, and the final seat in Lyons being crucial.

ALP Leadership

After the last election, Labor had serious problems when it came to a choice of a new leader.  Bryan Green was really the only option left standing after excluding those who had been there for at most one full term or were unsuitable for various reasons.  His appointment was widely seen as a stopgap while the less experienced leaders of the future became more experienced and better known.

The ReachTEL polling shows that voters share this opinion.  

The five options nominated are current leader Bryan Green, former Premier Lara Giddings, second-term MHAs Rebecca White and Scott Bacon, and also David O'Byrne.  O'Byrne lost his seat last year but would recover it in a recount if Giddings resigned her seat.  The poll does not include Michelle O'Byrne 

Only about one in six voters think the current leader should lead the party to the next election.  

The most popular choice is Rebecca White, but not by a great margin over Scott Bacon.  It is interesting that White's appeal is more or less uniform by gender and age and that she is the most popular choice among supporters of all parties bar the Greens (in that case she is just behind Giddings.)  Giddings' support is more concentrated among young, female and Green voters.

Even among Labor voters the current leader is considered best for the next election by only 23%.  Liberal voters are less likely to prefer either the current Labor leader or the former Labor premier - the slightly higher votes for the remainder among Liberal voters are simply by virtue of that sort of tribal dislike of current and past opposing party leaders.  

There's also a strong electorate basis - Green, White and Bacon all poll their best result in their own electorates.  Both Giddings and O'Byrne are from Franklin and indeed O'Byrne polls best in Bass, likely because his sister is an MHA there.

The poll will fuel the current low-level media speculation about the Labor leadership but the value of sentencing a new leader to the thankless task of first-term opposition at this stage is doubtful.  Also, the question is who should lead the party to the next election.  Had it asked who should lead the party now, the response may have been very different.

A third question on forcing the closure of some government schools showed 33.6% support and 48.6% opposed, with opposition strongest in the two most rural/regional electorates, Lyons and Braddon.

Update (June 11)

The Mercury today released two further questions from the poll, with full breakdowns published in the print edition and for one question at least on the ReachTEL site.  Unfortunately I was offline for work reasons and so wasn't able to provide any comments at the time.  Further questions on importance of various issues and on forced council amalgamations may be released later.

The first question now released is a forced-choice question on which party is best able to manage the economy in the context of the recent budget, and the Liberals recorded 53.4%, Labor 32.4%, the Greens 14.2%.  Typically in economic management polling both incumbents and conservatives do very well, so it might be expected the Liberals would be further ahead of their primary vote share (and the Greens further behind) than this.  However, I suspect the reason they are not is simply the lack of an undecided option.  Loyal followers of a party who are not convinced their party has the goods on an issue will tend to say they don't know, but will still pick their party over the others if forced to do so.  I would not read anything into this result.

The other released result was that 29.8% believe the Government is "capable of delivering on its Budget target of 8,000 new jobs in the private sector" over four years, while 48.8% don't believe it; belief splits on predictably partisan lines.  8,000 jobs is just likely to sound intuitively like a big number, and there is general public scepticism about politicians' abilities to deliver on promises and targets, so I don't think this finding is a big deal either.

Update (June 14)  

Yesterday's Mercury reported health to have topped the poll of most important issues, with 30.7% picking it.  I am often slightly sceptical of this sort of finding since it is rare for health to be an obvious major election issue.  The alternatives were jobs, the economy, the environment, education, same-sex marriage and crime and safety.  I haven't yet picked up the full results.

Today's Sunday Tasmanian reported support for "the State Government forcing council amalgamations across Tasmania?"  Overall the question was supported 46.3-29.4 with support highest in urban areas and lowest in the most rural: Denison 53.5-23.4, Franklin 49.8-26, Bass 49.6-27.8, Braddon 41.1-32.9, Lyons 37.1-36.9.

This is very much weaker than the 72% support for amalgamation claimed by the Property Council of Tasmania based on commissioned EMRS polls, most likely mainly because the latter were skew-polls that used lead-in questions that stressed arguments for mergers (such as there being too many councils) in a way likely to train responses.  However it might be argued that "across Tasmania" implied an indiscriminate approach to mergers and that this might have driven support for potential mergers down slightly in the current poll.  Also, the most recent commissioned EMRS poll did not address the question of whether mergers should be forced or voluntary, instead asking whether respondents saw a "need" for them.  All the same the current poll is certainly more satisfactory than previous polling on this issue, and does show support for even forced amalgamations, even if it is not as strong as supporters claimed, and even if the smallest rural areas are equivocal about the concept.


  1. KB could you do a post some time on your assessment of Labor's prospects of regaining Bass, Braddon and Lyons at the next federal election? On these state figures it would seem the prospects are pretty poor, but you may have a different view. AC

  2. There is some recent federal voting intention polling for those seats which I covered at:

    (Bass, Braddon and Franklin were all polled and there is a note at the bottom re a second Braddon poll.)

    In general Labor poll better at federal than state level in those three seats. The recent federal polls had Labor 2.6 points higher on average at federal level than this state poll, and that was although the federal poll had an "undecided" option and the state poll didn't - so the real difference is probably more like 5 points.

    There is good evidence though that Labor are not recovering as well in Tasmania federally as in the rest of the country. On current polling it is touch and go whether Labor would recover even one Tasmanian seat. If the Coalition's national polling rises from here then that may move all three seats out of reach; if it falls Labor will have better prospects of winning back more than one.

    It is rather too far from the next election to try to predict these seats beyond the above brief assessments.

  3. What's your opinion of the standing and performance of the three sitting members, and of the prospective Labor candidates (if these are known)? I think you'd agree that this counts for more in Tasmania than it does elsewhere. I haven't thought much of Tasmanian Labor's federal candidate selections in recent years, apart from Collins and Singh.

  4. The sitting members have all become reasonably high-profile and well-known (some were already, eg Whiteley was a former state MHA). Possibly Eric Hutchinson (Lyons) lags the other two in profile terms, but he has made a lot of comments on forestry issues that are well in tune with my reading of that electorate. My only observation re their performance is that Andrew Nikolic (Bass) is especially confrontation-prone and polarising, though prior to the election this was also true and did not prevent him polling good approval ratings.

    Labor has endorsed Brian Mitchell as candidate for Lyons. This is a good move as Lyons has a lot of small communities and takes a long time to get around. Preselections are still being decided for Bass (according to the Mercury on 30/5 candidates were Ross Hart, Mark Price) and Braddon (Devonport alderman Justine Keay, Themba Bulle, Kristian Aaberg). I have no particular opinion (yet) about any of these candidates. Keay ran in the state election polling 1382 votes, which is neither bad nor anything special.

    Singh is reportedly at risk of being dumped to fourth on the Labor Senate ticket (even third could be hard to win from). I think the rank and file should instead stand up to the factional deals and demote Helen Polley. Not only are Polley's social-issue views unsuitable for a modern left party but Polley has also proved a significant liability, coming under scrutiny over travel expenses and workplace issues in her office.

  5. Thanks. I certainly agree with the last paragraph. Apart from Singh all the Tas Labor Senators are pretty useless.