This week is officially a "boring week" in federal polling so far, with only Essential appearing to date. Essential moved back to Labor by one point to 52:48, but that was from a Coalition-friendly excursion that no other pollster had been replicating, and so there is no net move on my aggregate, which stays at 52.3. However, this will reset to 52.1 if nothing happens before midnight tonight, since the probably unrepresentative result of the Newspoll before last will fall out of the system. If there is nothing else today then the aggregate will briefly be based on just three current polls. So much for too much polling! At this stage, the touted Fairfax replacement for Nielsen has yet to surface.
The coming federal polling will be of interest to see whether Bill Shorten's clearing by Victoria Police of a decades-old rape claim has any impact on perceptions of Shorten as a leader; indeed, it will be the first time for quite a while that Shorten's ratings have been of much interest or driven by anything. I don't think we'll know the answer right away. There may well be sympathy for him in the short term, and then it depends on whether the whole story dies off or branches out in new directions. More on that next week.
Anyway while we wait for more federal data, it's time to rope in some recent state results.
[Update: We've got a late 51:49 from ReachTEL, which is the first result from a pollster other than Essential that is closer than 52:48 since the Budget. That means the aggregate ends the week at 51.9, resetting to 51.6 - and nearly all the Budget damage is gone.]
Victoria: Still Up For Grabs
The Victorian state election is just over three months away now. Back in the middle of the year the Napthine government had a serious dose of Geoff Shaw and was being walloped around 55:45 in all polls. My article Victorian Liberals: Going, Going ... took a look at the polls at that time. I was also inspired to look generally at the question of "federal government drag" (the impact of being of the same party as the federal government) on state election outcomes and these findings were presented in What Kills State Governments: Age or Canberra? By historic standards, the Napthine government has youth on its side, but nothing else, and all else being equal it would be projected to lose.
Recently, however, things have picked up for the incumbents. The current Galaxy shows the government trailing just 48:52, confirming the finding of the late July Nielsen that the government's fortunes had improved, while also weakly supporting my suspicion that the 49% 2PP in the latter was overdoing things just a little bit. Denis Napthine's preferred-premier lead over Daniel Andrews sits at a modest eight points (Nielsen had the same); as usual, media sources portray this as the Liberals' great hope, and as usual I point out that preferred leader scores are skewed towards incumbents and that this sort of result is just what we should expect given the 2PP. As Galaxy does not usually poll approval ratings there is no further evidence to test the very strong personal scores for Denis Napthine in the Nielsen poll, taken in the aftermath of the MH-17 incident. Among non-major-party supporters (more than half of whom vote Green with PUP having very little presence in Victoria) Daniel Andrews is preferred over Napthine by a margin of about 35:14 (with 51% uncommitted.)
Other results in the poll provide something for everyone, with voters generally thinking Victoria is "heading in the right direction" (51:37) but with voters preferring the Opposition Leader (38:37) as a protector of jobs. A doubtless commissioned question about keeping the CFMEU in check is mere tabloid fodder since not all voters would agree that this is actually necessary. 33% say the Abbott government makes them less likely to vote for Napthine and 15% more likely; by the usual "divide by five" rule I apply to such questions this means that the federal government is likely to do at most 3-4 points damage to Liberal results, but even that is quite a lot in the context of a closely balanced parliament.
As usual media commentary on this poll has had more to do with sensation than fact, with the above-linked Herald Sun piece saying that Napthine faces a "massive challenge to overcome a four-point gap in the polls and win a second term in office". The challenge is indeed a large one, but this has nothing to do with a poll result less than its margin of error away from 50:50 and everything to do with the historic burdens of a same-party federal government. I don't think the polling says anything much about the chances of the Napthine government being returned, other than that they still exist.
It's also notable that there is no sign of any smoke signal of the rather grubby "Age Tapes" affair (in which recordings of "off-record" comments by ex-premier Ted Baillieu that were lost by a Sunday Age reporter were heard by Labor operatives then leaked by unknown persons. Both The Age and the The Australian made a big deal of Andrews' failings to explain the matter in the apparent impression that voters would care a very great deal more than they did.
Update 25 Aug: Or Not? Newspoll have reported a little earlier than I expected and the two-monthly Newspoll is an absolute shocker for Napthine's government, 55:45 to Labor. In contrast to the recent positive reading for Napthine, Newspoll finds him at an ordinary netsat of -3. (Andrews is also down to -9, but it really doesn't matter.) It should be kept in mind that this is a combined result for July and August and the worst end of it may be over; also, it is unlikely that even the average for this period was really as bad as that given the recent 51 and 52 readings from other pollsters. All the same an aggregated measure based on all polls would put Labor probably in the mid to high 52s, making the task of pulling back the lead much more difficult. A 10-point lead for Napthine as preferred premier is the only high point for the Coalition, as this is higher than expected for such a large 2PP gap, but it's not alone going to save them.
This week has seen developments that the Coalition needed like a hole in the head, with columnist Terry McCrann issuing a ludicrous call for the return of the man who lost an unloseable election fifteen years ago, Jeff Kennett, while even John Elliott at 72 can't keep his nose out of the trough. There have also been plenty of signs that the Geoff Shaw problem is not isolated, but rather that the Liberals have a systemic problem with offensive fringe elements. Probably, that does not add up to as much in terms of voting intentions as the article suggests, but it is nonetheless a constant source of unhelpful distractions. This Newspoll will be deeply unhelpful to morale and may feed into a damaging narrative that the wheels have simply fallen off.
Queensland: Newman Problems Continue
Queensland polling was last covered here in an often-updated article started in late April (Is Campbell Newman Actually In Trouble?) and then in July (Careful With That Pendulum, Eugene). The long-standing picture here is that the LNP government clings to a narrow two-party preferred lead, the electoral meaning of which is unclear given the size of the PUP vote. Premier Campbell Newman is unpopular, trailing in his own seat and apparently dragging his own party down. The party continues to face the bizarre and unpleasant prospect of going to an election with a polling lead but while being unable to tell the voters who will be Premier if it wins. It is hard to see how such a situation would end well.
The two newest state polls in Queensland are basically "rinse and repeat". Galaxy gives the LNP a 52:48 lead off primaries of 39-36 with 12% for PUP, 7% for the Greens, 3% for KAP and 3% for others. ReachTEL gives the same 2PP off primaries of 41.0-34.4 with PUP on 12.6%, 5.5% for the Greens and 6.5% for Others including KAP. Some friendly assumptions about rounding are required to squeeze a 52% 2PP for the government out of a mere three-point primary lead in the Galaxy, but ultimately the exact reading doesn't affect the overall picture here, and Queensland 2PP estimates are all pretty rubbery anyway. Poll Bludger tracking shows a continual narrowing of the government's flimsy lead and even produces a trend estimate of 50.9% 2PP off primaries of 37.6-34.3.
The dramatic result in the Galaxy is that although Campbell Newman's party leads, he holds only a one-point "lead" over Annastacia Palaszczuk as preferred premier, 42-41. The Opposition Leader is hardly wildly popular and this sort of thing from a Premier whose government still leads is a strong sign of just how many voters cannot stand him. Galaxy also released nasty approval figures for Newman, with his netsat on -20 (36-56) to Palaszczuk's +4 (39-35). The -20 is almost as bad as the -24 polled by Newspoll (in a result that was almost certainly contaminated by sample noise and unreliable) and the one-point preferred premier lead appears to be the worst such result of Newman's time in office.
The ReachTEL leader scores may look even more dramatic, but because of ReachTEL's use of a "satisfactory" option, it can be argued that they're not. Indeed on the generally sound assumption that half the "satisfactory" scores are weak positives, the ReachTEL results come out as a netsat of -12.5 for Newman (+3.8 in a month) to -2.9 for Palaszczuk (-0.1). The ReachTEL results, even when parsed in this manner, show the Newman government in negative territory on health, education and cost of living, though only on the last is it rating much worse than the Premier himself. The Newman government does however get the thumbs up on crime and safety (indeed by my conversion method it comes out with a rather strong +27 rating on this score.)
An interesting small poll from Queensland comes from the Townsville Bulletin which commissioned a small sample local-area Galaxy of the seats of Mundingburra, Townsville and Thuringowa. The poll showed Labor on 39% (cf 27.5% at the last state election), LNP 33 (39.3), KAP 7 (25), PUP 10 (-), the Greens 5 (5.4) and others 6 (2.8). The Townsville Bulletin's analysis that this sort of swing would likely result in two LNP seat losses to Labor with the third seat too close to call is correct. A useful thing here is the evidence concerning the weakness of the movement from KAP voters to PUP. This was also suspected based on ReachTEL's previous questioning of PUP voters, but self-reporting of past voting patterns are unreliable. Here we see that at least 45% of KAP losses in these seats have gone somewhere other than PUP, but given that PUP would be taking votes off the LNP as well, the true figure is doubtless much higher than that. KAP nearly won Thuringowa in 2012 but on these figures neither KAP nor PUP would get near taking any of these Townsville-area seats.
The evidence is that PUP and KAP are rather different beasts and that the best available public model of where PUP might do well at this stage is the vote distribution from the federal election (at which the collapse in KAP support was already apparent). But the latest polling also suggests the PUP vote at state level may have peaked. At this time the party would probably win no more than a few seats at a state election, and it may have been further weakened by the loss of one of its two state MPs, with Alex Douglas quitting the party citing a lack of preselection involvement. While Clive Palmer's responses to the loss of his party leader may seem plausible, the still fledgling party is building quite a record of personnel instability around the nation.
All else being equal, we will probably not get more Newspoll data for Queensland until the end of September, while a two-month sample for Victoria could well emerge at the end of August (and has: see update above).