Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poll Roundup: Coalition Equals Term High

2PP Aggregate: 52.8 to Coalition (+0.1 in a week, +0.4 in two weeks)
Coalition would easily win election "held now"
(Article also includes comments on the voting age)

Eight weeks into the Turnbull Prime Ministership, we're still yet to see any lasting reversal in the polling trend towards the Coalition.  This week Newspoll, which in its new Galaxy-run incarnation has displayed a slight Labor lean, came out with a headline 53:47 in the Coalition's favour, the Coalition's best Newspoll 2PP since November 2013.  We also had a 53 last week and a 52 this week from Essential and a 55 last week from Morgan (56.5 by respondent preferences).

After considering the primary votes and Morgan's current house effect, I counted the Newspoll as 52.9 to Coalition, last week's Essential at 52.8, this week's Essential at 51.9 and last week's Morgan at 53.1.  This took my aggregate from 52.4 ("Newspoll Smells The Coffee") to 52.7 by the end of last week, and then to 52.8 now. On the assumption that no more polls are released this week, that will be the equal high for this term.  (Early in the Abbott era I did release a figure of 53.1 at one stage, but it was later revised after more accurate preferences were available).  The figure after Newspoll, 52.9, was also the equal highest point the aggregate has reached partway through a week in this term.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

It might seem significant that a government that is over two years old has equalled its term polling peak.  However, it is not an unqualified triumph.  Firstly, where the Coalition is after eight weeks of PM Turnbull is exactly where it was after seven weeks of PM Abbott, and we all saw what happened to that.  Both figures occurred during the honeymoon period of a new PM, and while it seems logical that Turnbull's will last a lot longer than Abbott's, we still need to see it do so.

Secondly, the term polling peak is still 0.7 points below the 2013 election result.  Most governments at some time in their term are polling substantially above their result at the previous election.  Prior to the Gillard-Rudd 2010-2013 Labor government, I have to go back to the Fraser years to find governments for which this wasn't true.


Not surprisingly, this fortnight's Newspoll saw a small correction to the extreme disparities between Malcolm Turnbull's massive personal ratings and the Coalition's 2PP.  While the Coalition added another 2PP point this week, Turnbull's netsat is down three to +32.  Meanwhile Bill Shorten is up two to -30, and the preferred PM gap has closed from 46 points to 43 (now 61:18).   Leadership figures of all forms are much more volatile than 2PP polling and so these moves mean very little, except that for one week at least the pattern of undecided voters moving to liking Turnbull has stalled.

Essential had Turnbull with a +36 netsat (56-20), up six points in a month, and it had Shorten on -20 (27-47).  Greens supporters had a better impression of Turnbull than Shorten (+5 vs -19) as did Others voters (+8 vs -15) and even for Labor supporters it was close (+14 for Turnbull, +23 for Shorten).  There was also dismal news for Shorten in Essential's preferred PM polling with Turnbull leading 55:14 and Shorten leading only 33:32 among Labor voters!  This hardly replicates Morgan's extreme phone poll results, but it still shows that even among voters who support his party, Shorten's leadership is currently seen as irrelevant at best.

Other Federal Polls

Not a great deal to add here.  Essential found the following:

* 43-30 support for mining and exporting uranium (Coalition voters strongly in favour, Labor and Others weakly so, Greens against).
* A 40-40 tie on nuclear power plants in Australia (in this case Others voters were opposed 31-58 while Labor voters were tied)
* 31-50, a predictable nimby response, on nuclear waste storage (even Coalition voters opposed, though only by a point)
* Right-wing voters tend to support increasing the GST while lefties prefer raising income taxes (no surprises there either)
* A rousing 63-15 sendoff to Tony Abbott's signally silly captain's call of reintroducing knights and dames.  Other pollsters might get over 70% support for this change.

A commissioned ReachTEL for the Australia Institute on coal mines included some voting intention results for the electorates of Wentworth and North Sydney, which the sponsor commendably published promptly and with adequate detail.  After redistributing the undecided, the poll in Malcolm Turnbull's own electorate comes out to Liberal 61.5 (-1.8 since election), ALP 16.7 (-2.7), Green 18.1 (+3.5) Other 3.7 (+1), for a roughly 1% swing against the PM.  Given the extreme vagaries of seat polling, especially in inner-city areas, there's nothing to see in this one beyond the vague prospect of Wentworth going "non-classic" at the 2016 election.

There is no point drawing comparisons with the North Sydney poll and the last election (since there is no Labor candidate), but it is fully consistent with an easy Liberal win at the by-election there in a few weeks' time.  The North Sydney results with undecided excluded imply a massive win on first preferences for Trent Zimmerman, but it's likely the undecideds are mostly Labor voters who will vote for anyone but the Liberal on polling day, so it may not be quite that easy!

Lowering The Voting Age

Bill Shorten strangely thought it was a good idea to propose allowing 16- and 17- year olds to vote.  Whether letting them vote is a good idea, proposing it right now was not: it not only smacked of a desperate attempt to distract attention from the forces driving Turnbull's excellent polling, but also came across as an attempt to drive electoral reform for blatant partisan advantage.  To make things worse, Shorten chose to cherrypick from an article on the subject by Ian McAllister, even though McAllister had been obviously lukewarm on the idea all along, which resulted in McAllister making Shorten look even sillier.  Essential this week found that Shorten's proposal is about as popular as knighting Prince Philip was back in February.

For a long time this proposal has been mainly championed by an especially insufferable subspecies of Green, who thinks that any 16-year-old (or for that matter, 8-year-old) who likes their party is automatically wiser than a 30, 55 or 70 year old who doesn't.  Not all Greens think like this, and when I, age 17, once put the same idea to the Reverend Lance Armstrong, he responded with a fine and  measured appreciation of the arguments for the status quo.

Shorten's woeful attempt at the proposal does not exactly raise the bar.  However, when I consider the proposal on its merits, I find that not only are the arguments for it easily disputed (as McAllister has done), but the arguments against it are easily disputed too.  For instance, against the claim that left-wing teenagers don't know how to cast a vote in their own interests, I can point out that even the fact that they will vote differently later on does not necessarily prove their initial votes were wrong.  The policies that are best for a person economically as a young student are not necessarily the same as the policies that are best for them economically at various points later in life, and at the risk of giving them a plug, the Greens' policies may just be the more appealling for those who have some reason to engage with Centrelink.

There is then the argument that the real problem is that young people are actually too altruistic or too clueless about the welfare of others (human, animal or plant) to be making decisions on their behalf.  This argument is largely correct, but it ignores the problem that "socially conservative" voters (concentrated in the older demographics) often support decisions affecting the welfare of others that are actually outright harmful and discriminatory.  Moreover they can do so (I'm thinking of same-sex marriage  as the obvious example here) on pretexts that are not based on even an empirically sound attempt at assessing the good of any person or the common good, but that are ultimately based on religious prejudice.  If insufficient experience of the world is reason enough to disqualify 16 and 17 year olds from voting, then wilful ignorance of empirical experience of the world where it contradicts religious dogma is likewise reason to disqualify religious fundamentalists, national service supporters and so on.

It is true that young people's stake in elections is reduced by the limited direct impact of elections on them while they are generally living at home and paying very little tax (though these days almost everyone is a taxpayer, thanks to the GST).  However, one might construct a sort of calculus of the impact of an election on a person based on factors like:

* how long the election outcomes will take to effect them (outcomes further in the future carrying reduced weighting for uncertainty)
* how much those outcomes will affect them
* how well they are placed to understand and predict those outcomes

By the time one added up all the possible impacts through a long life expectancy compared to a short one, I suspect the result would be that 16-year-olds have objectively slightly more business being allowed to vote if they want to than the average 100-year-old.

For now, I come down against the proposal because the arguments for and against it are close enough to balanced, and it's just silly to be contemplating big spends on electoral reforms of debatable benefit while electoral administration is close to crisis and electoral reforms that are necessary are being ignored.  I make this point about the need for Senate reform in this context especially because the lack of Senate reform is one reason not to lower the voting age now.  Other countries that have lowered the voting age generally have electoral systems much less at risk from gimmick parties that might exploit teenage fads.  In any other system such parties are just fringe entertainment, but if Bill Shorten wants Labor's next Prime Minister to be driven from office by the blocking of supply by a Senator from the Taylor Swift Hottest 100 Party, then he is going exactly the right way about it.

Speaking of Senate reform, there was a terrible article about it in New Matilda this week, in which about the only new things added to the debate were new errors.  Time is short because of work commitments so I'll leave refuting that for another day.


  1. It looks like Lance Armstrong is alive

    1. Ta, fixed. Surprised it took so long for anyone to catch that; this article did have quite a lot of hits but I guess they were all federal readers.

    2. Were you being mischievous then? Perhaps people just took you for your word, your posts always seem authoritative.

  2. No. In the hundreds of thousands of words on here a small number of howlers have snuck through my often rushed proof-reading. Most of them are noticed by someone or other almost immediately and corrected.