Wednesday, September 1, 2021

EMRS: Old Poll Could Have Been Worse For Labor

EMRS Tasmania (state) August: Liberal 49 Labor 28 Green 13 Others 10
Results more or less identical to 2021 election (seat result 13 Liberal 9 Labor 2 Green 1 IND)

A new EMRS poll has been released today, and it shows ... er no, strike that and start again.

For whatever reason Tasmanian pollster EMRS has just released a state voting intentions poll that came out of field 23 days ago.  EMRS has often not released polls close to the time they were taken in recent years, in some cases hanging on to results for 3-6 months before back-releasing them with other results.  I'm not a pollster but it seems to me that one of the advantages of polling for publicity for a company is releasing it at a time when it is topical and fresh rather than only unveiling it when it looks like something from the antique store.  In the meantime there have been significant developments with David O'Byrne leaving the Parliamentary Labor Party after leader Rebecca White said he should quit parliament, and Huon MLC Bastian Seidel announcing he would quit Caucus and would also resign his seat at the end of the year, citing disgust and demoralisation over Labor's ongoing infighting.

Maybe these events have trashed Labor's already modest standing since the August poll was taken.  Maybe the party was already about as low as it could be (given that COVID bounces for incumbent governments have generally gone away now).  Maybe the O'Byrne matters are for now only of interest to those who follow politics closely or are directly affected.  Without fresher data we can't say.  

Anyway, the poll does say some things about the state of voting intention as of the faraway time that was August 7-9.  At this point, since losing the election, Labor had seen the resignation of Rebecca White as leader, a relatively low-key leadership contest between David O'Byrne and Shane Broad, and O'Byrne's resignation as leader just over three weeks into the job.  It was the shortest Labor leadership in any state that I can find excluding leaderships ended by changes of government and interim leaderships described as such.  Rebecca White has had the shortest gap between spells as leader with the same proviso.  

There are a couple of things that could have plausibly happened in a poll taken at this time, but didn't.  Firstly, Labor's standing and/or its leader's could have already suffered from the post-election mess.  This doesn't seem to have occurred, with Rebecca White closing the Better Premier gap to Peter Gutwein from 35 to 30 points (now 59-29 in Gutwein's favour).  Gutwein still retains a large lead even by the standard of an indicator that skews to incumbents.   The second - and it could have been hard to distinguish the two - is that the Government could have picked up a honeymoon bounce that was still detectable three months later.

I don't think a lasting honeymoon bounce was ever really likely from this election.  Honeymoon bounces usually happen when a party performs more strongly at an election than expected, or when a new government takes office.  The Liberals had to wait two weeks for everyone to be sure they had won 13 seats again, and Adam Brooks' election then immediate resignation following firearms charges took the gloss off their victory.  The general public wouldn't have noticed that to just hold on was a feat unparalleled in state elections in decades in the circumstances, nor perhaps appreciated that while retaining a majority was a close-run thing, on a two-party basis the election was a thrashing.  Or if they did notice such things, they may have put it down to COVID.  

However the lack of further damage for Labor might be taken as some kind of positive sign for the willingness of some voters to stick with the party.  And it had been through so much chaos and disappointment in the few months before August already that I am not sure last week's events would have added more than a few points to the damage.  Where the O'Byrne saga may really hurt (if not before) will be at the next election where he will presumably not be endorsed as a candidate, leaving Labor with one incumbent.  That is, assuming he serves out the term or the matter is not otherwise resolved.  A lot more will happen in the party before then, including the findings of a federal review into its 2021 defeat and structural issues (hmm, wonder how that's getting on.)

Anyway, that's about all I have to cover off on that one - just thought I should say a few words whenever a Tasmanian poll comes out! 


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