Friday, May 5, 2017

EMRS: Both Majors Rebuild Following Labor Leader Change

EMRS: Lib 39 ALP 34 Green 15 Ind 7 PHON 3 Others 2
Interpretation: Lib 41 ALP 37 Green 12 PHON 3 all others 7
Liberals would probably just retain majority based on this poll

A very brief preliminary report on the EMRS state poll just released (  See also the trend tracker at

The poll shows a noticeable recovery by both major parties (the Liberals up four points and Labor up five) at the expense of the Greens, One Nation and the supposed "independent" vote (all down three), following both Labor's shift to Rebecca White and a tanking in the national One Nation vote. In other states, points that have come off One Nation have generally gone straight back to Labor, so the Liberals will be relieved if that turns out not to be the case down here.

The Greens' result may look OK, since it is higher than their 2014 election outcome, but EMRS has a long history of overestimating their vote by a few points, so they would probably go backwards in an election held "right now".  This isn't any surprise really - they were always going to struggle when Labor shifted to a young, female and relatively left-wing leader.  While the salmon farming issue may yet play out in the party's favour, they sorely lack both experienced MPs and the shiny new thing factor and may even have a fight on their hands in Franklin come election day.

As for One Nation, while we could sort-of entertain the prospect of them winning a seat a few months ago (before dismissing it because the evidence really wasn't there) this poll sees them back around their Senate vote, and for now not any kind of threat.  It's just one reading but my view is that One Nation will not win a seat at the election, and I'm not expecting any of the right-wing minor parties to do so either.

Here's a possible model of how votes and seats might fall based on this poll, taking into account EMRS's skew to Greens and Others and against Labor and, most likely, incumbent governments:

(A note: I've tweaked the PHON votes slightly to stop them falling to absurdly low levels in the Hobart seats).

Some unpacking of a few seats may be useful here.  On the model the Greens would have some chance of beating the Liberals in Bass, but the Liberal vote would probably not be very leaky and preferences would not help much if at all.  In Franklin the Greens drop below quota but are lucky with the distribution of the other party votes and for the time being have not too much cause for concern (this may change should Labor gather steam though).  In Lyons, the Greens have a nominally large lead over the Liberals but the Liberal vote split very evenly between their three MPs last time, and would be quite likely to do so again.  Preferences in Lyons are also very unfriendly for the Greens.

There is some argument the Greens might do well in Lyons off the back of the fish-farming issue, but there is also a case that Labor will do especially well off the back of a home-electorate effect for their new leader.  The Greens also have a challenge to establish their new lead candidate, Fraser Brindley, who is little-known in the electorate and who has an issue in his past that takes some explaining.

It's not unthinkable that Labor could win three seats in Lyons to two for the Liberals.  It wouldn't happen on this model, but if they can get up to 2.4 quotas and find two equally strong support candidates for their new leader, then they could start to think about eliminating the Greens early enough to actually get their preferences.  Of course, if that happens then there goes majority government for the Liberal Party.  Labor themselves are still, for the moment, well short of a pathway to 13 seats.

White's Stellar Start

As well as the voting intention figures, this poll was eagerly awaited for what it would tell us about the leadership of Rebecca White.  Since the last poll in February, the switch to a new Labor leader has closed the gap on the preferred premier front from 32 points (52-20) to three (42-39).

From the outset I must say that this is just not normal honeymoon polling for a new leader.  New leaders often poll good approval ratings, but take time to build up steam on the preferred leader front.  Steve Bracks went on to be an extremely popular Victorian Premier, for example, but in his first Newspoll he trailed Jeff Kennett 58 to 21.

In Newspoll history over the past thirty years, there have been only eight cases of a new Opposition Leader being this competitive or more so so quickly.  Three of these had led their party before, either as Premier (Lawrence, Kirner) or in a previous stint as Opposition Leader (John Howard).  The remainder include three state leaders who were facing governments that were clearly dead in the water (Dean Brown, John-Paul Langbroek and Campbell Newman - Langbroek didn't even make the election because he wasn't winning heavily enough!) They also include Kevin Rudd against John Howard, and, because he is always there to ruin everything, Alexander Downer against Paul Keating.

White has not been leader previously but is not facing a clearly dying government, nor has her ascension immediately damaged the government's primary vote.  Nor is it clearly the case (as with Keating) that the government's leader is very unpopular.  So it may be we are seeing a high level of enthusiasm from left-of-centre voters (including those who were so displeased with Bryan Green that they were actually preferring Hodgman) but that even the soft Liberal voters who have been flirting with One Nation aren't going back to Labor just because it has changed leader.  Usually bounces for replacing an unpopular Opposition Leader have some voting effect immediately, but they quite often take around three to six months to build to their full level.

The next poll will be awaited with interest, but for now this is a very unusual combination of results.

What we really need to make more sense of it all is some personal ratings for Will Hodgman.  Yes this wouldn't be the first or even the 20th time I've banged on about this, but simple questions about whether voters approve of the job each leader is doing are much more informative than the hideously messy preferred-leader rating.  There has been a view that Hodgman is himself popular, but maybe Bryan Green just made him look good and maybe his personal standing with voters is only middling or worse.  We just don't know!


There's a case that given the ALP leadership change I should just bin my aggregate and start again, but generally I will only do that when there is a change in who is leading the government, or following an election.  Still given the age of the previous data and the fact that there has been a change, I am weighting the new poll at 65%.

Naturally the aggregate is quite similar to the current poll, but it shows the Greens' notional lead in Lyons a little higher.  I'm unsure even that would be enough (if Barnett, Hidding and Shelton could split the vote exactly between them it would not be) but I've left the sidebar aggregate as is at 12-10-3 pending further evidence.

ReachTEL In The Field

A second opinion on what is going on may arrive very shortly - or not!  ReachTEL were widely reported as being in the field this week, polling state voting intention, voter opinions of the two leaders, and issue rankings. It is unknown whether this is a media poll or party polling for this stage. The Liberal Party has frequently used ReachTEL in the past.


  1. I think 12/10/3 is more likely. Okehampton Bay is why the Greens will win back a seat in Lyons. There is a large groundswell of opposition to the new fish farm and the more that is revealed about the damage to Macquarie Harbour the stronger the opposition gets. Braddon will be 3/2, Bass 3/2, Lyons 2/2/1, Franklin 2/2/1 and Denison 2/2/1.

  2. Also the federal redistribution proposal was just released today. Presumably the state boundaries will also change to keep them in line with the federal divisions as they currently are.

    1. This depends on the timing of the state election. After the final federal boundaries are determined, which is scheduled for mid-November, state parliament still has to pass the acceptance of the new boundaries as valid for state elections as well. Sometimes there have been significant delays in this process in the past. A significantly early election could well be on the current boundaries.

  3. Will the Greens wake up in time to avoid a complete disaster at the next election? This poll is a disaster.

    It should be clear to the parliamentary party what is required, I am stunned they have avoided addressing their marketing problems for so long, some people may even think it looks like deliberate sabatage of the party brand.

    Address your public perception deficiencies!

    Do it fast because it's getting too late. Talk about cost of living pressures, sustainable wealth creation ideas, full time jobs, cost savings to the budget, and rallying against the establishment and corruption. Do it all with conviction. There is a different, positive story to tell, isn't there? Elections of 2006 and 2010?

    Forgive me if I'm wrong but the major themes I have heard from the Greens over the last 3 years are gay pride and rights, feminism, "precious forests", care for young criminals and salmon. Everything I have mentioned I support by the way.. but when those stories become the main narrative, it's divorced from most people's lived experience and MORE importantly how/why people vote the way they do. Salmon is probably different but you need a cohesive policy on it!

    Are the Greens happy with 1, 2 or 3 seats only? Interesting question I ask. No longer want to be a major third party in the parliament? Wasn't that the strategy not too many years ago?

    Every step that was made to be a bigger and more respected party under the leadership of Putt and McKim ( pre 2010 ) seems to have been wound back. I wonder whether this is deliberate or just really bad communication to the public, and too much emotional emphasis on the wrong issues?

    I wonder if Kevin Bonham's next analysis of the next poll speaks of Cassy O Connor being the only Green left standing at the next election, just like Peg Putt in 1998.

    Usual Green party voter here, maybe Cassy O Connor is reading, change tune fast. ( I say that hoping the Greens have worked on alternative policies on the main things people vote on? ).

  4. Hi Kevin - will you be doing an article on the candidacy of Tim Cox and David O'Byrne? If not what are your thoughts around the implications of them standing?

  5. I have considered writing something but don't think there will be a full article.

    O'Byrne - this has been strongly expected for so long it is barely news. High profile candidate makes it more likely Labor will win two in Franklin which is necessary at the least to win government.

    Cox - not confirmed as standing yet but sounds quasi-official. Interesting. I agree he is a threat to Ogilvie if he contests. Could also be seen as protecting Labor from Independent threats and making it more likely that any high-profile indie who does run will be more of a problem for Liberals.

    Still seems very hard for Labor to win three in either seat this time around. State vote not nearly high enough at this stage.


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