Three new opinion polls in the past 48 hours — from Galaxy, Essential Research and Newspoll — have all recorded hefty movements away from Julia Gillard and Labor. Surely, given the poll-driven nature of the ALP, Gillard’s demise is now a simple question of when.
The first raft of multiple polls in quite some time is in tonight, and its message is damning for the Prime Minister; each of the three polls in isolation conveys bad news, but bundled and averaged — and any discrepancies thereby cancelled out — the figures spell disaster for the Labor Party under its present leadership.
Tomorrow’s Newspoll for The Australian is the worst of the three, although it should be pointed out that Newspoll researchers were still conducting fieldwork yesterday following Gillard’s pitiful attempt at shoring up her position by “jettisoning” Messrs Thomson and Slipper.
Even so, these polls are diabolical; let’s look at the figures, then talk them through.
Newspoll — ALP 27% (-2%); Lib/NP 51% (+3%)
Galaxy — ALP 30% (-4%); Lib/NP 49% (+2%); Greens 13% (+1%); Others 8%
Essential — ALP 31% (unch); Lib/NP 50% (+1); Greens 11% (unch); Others 8%
Newspoll — ALP 41% (-3%), Lib/NP 59% (+3%)
Galaxy — ALP 44% (-2%), Lib/NP 56% (+2%)
Essential — ALP 43% (-1%), Lib/NP 57% (+1%)
Preferred Prime Minister
Newspoll — Gillard 36% (-3%), Abbott 41% (unch)
Galaxy and Essential did not ask this question in their current opinion samples.
At time of writing, I do not have the approval/disapproval figures for Abbott and Gillard from Newspoll (our early source @ghostwhovotes doesn’t always publish these immediately) but what we’ve got gives a clear enough picture.
Look at the ALP primary vote; it doesn’t even average 30% across the three polls, and — bearing in mind Essential’s methodology typically produces kinder results for the ALP than do the other polls, an aggregate primary vote of 28-29% for Labor is probably about right based on these numbers.
All three polls show movement away from Labor on both the primary and the two-party measures; it is true that these movements are modest, but they continue a slow but continuous trend of movement away from the ALP that began as soon as the Rudd challenge to Gillard’s leadership was concluded.
The trend line for the two-party vote on these numbers is roughly 57.5% to the Coalition; a swing away from the ALP of 7.6% since the 2010 election, and one which if replicated at an election would see the coalition win 107 of the 150 House of Representatives seats, Labor 41, Katter 1 and Adam Bandt to retain the seat of Melbourne for the Greens.
I have scored Melbourne off to the Greens on account of the collapse in the ALP vote (much of which would transfer to the Greens in that seat) and the fact Bandt would likely be re-elected on ALP preferences.
If these figures materialised at an election, Labor would be wiped out in WA and the NT; be left with one seat only in Queensland (if Rudd held on in Griffith); and suffer heavy losses across the remainder of the country, including 13 seats in NSW alone.
Since Julia Gillard’s carbon tax announcement in March last year — breaking a solemn election promise — there have been individual opinion polls tabled that are, solus, worse for the ALP. But the “basket” of concurrent figures across these three polls represent the single worst polling position, overall, that Labor has found itself in for nearly 15 years.
The only figures on the “Preferred PM” in these surveys — from Newspoll — sees Tony Abbott consolidate a lead over Gillard, increasing from two points clear to five points clear.
The other polls did not ask this question this time around. Even so, the Newspoll figure would give Gillard pause for thought, and her backers and detractors much to think about; this, traditionally, is a very difficult measure for an opposition leader to win, and Abbott has won it more often than not for well over a year now.
Galaxy asked respondents whether they wanted Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to support a no-confidence vote in the Gillard government and force an election; 52% said they wanted this to occur and 38% didn’t. Significantly, more than one in five respondents identifying as Labor supporters also wanted the early election option.
Galaxy also found that 58% of its respondents thought the ALP was desperately clinging to power; 37% said Labor was doing a good job in government in difficult times but again, 25% of “Labor voters” were of the view the government is desperate to cling to power.
Essential asked about an early election now as well, with more even results; a narrow plurality of its respondents favoured the government running full term. But 42% still wanted an early election now, which is hardly a vote in favour of Gillard and her government.
Looking at these numbers from an overall perspective, the picture isn’t pretty from an ALP perspective.
All the stunts, own goals, misjudgements and everything else are now flowing into Labor’s polling numbers, with the clear indication that the bad polls recorded early in this term of government are now firming, and becoming permanent judgements.
For Gillard — whose leadership is now being called into question — these numbers may just be the difference to tip party hardheads into commencing the process of replacing her. After all, the numbers can’t get much worse before something has to happen.
But for Labor, the real risk is that Windsor and Oakeshott start behaving like the conservative independents they purport to be, and withdraw their support for the government. Were that to happen, the polling numbers here might well become reality.
My sense is that we will see more numbers like this; they are not an aberration. It will be interesting to see how they affect the goings-on in Canberra in the coming week leading up to the resumption of Parliament for the budget session.