Heeding Morgan “Preferred Leader” Poll Would End In Tears

WITH LEADERSHIP SPECULATION the topic of the week in some quarters, Morgan Research has published findings on the preferred leaders of the Liberal and Labor parties; not surprisingly, the headline numbers suggest Malcolm Turnbull is preferred over Tony Abbott by a mile. This is the kind of stupid, distorted data that unless skewered can incite foolish MPs to foolish acts, and its findings should be dismissed as simply more wishful thinking.

First things first: I should just make it clear at the outset that I mean absolutely no offence at all to Gary Morgan; the deeply troubling truth is that I instinctively believe the survey his people have conducted and tabulated is so close to 100% accurate that the difference scarcely warrants quantifying, and the “stupidity” to which I refer emanates from his respondents, not him or his agency.

In fact, it’s entirely predictable, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Morgan Research has published findings this afternoon that show former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull overwhelmingly favoured to resume that role, with 44% of its respondents nominating him as opposed to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, supported by a mere 15%. Treasurer Joe Hockey (16% — a point ahead of Abbott) and Foreign minister Julie Bishop (8%) round out the top results for the names canvassed, although it surprises me that Immigration minister Scott Morrison hasn’t found his way into the mix as yet in any meaningful sense.

Readers know that with the keenest of regret, we have had to revisit the issue of “Malcolm for Leader” this week in light of the extraordinary spat that developed from his encounter with Andrew Bolt, and fuelled by some ill-advised prattle from Clive Palmer. I do apologise to Malcolm for continuing to bang on about this, but I think he realises the political considerations that are intertwined with these matters finding their way into public discourse yet again.

Certainly, those who support Labor and the Communist Party Greens do.

Among Labor voters surveyed by Morgan, Turnbull is preferred to Abbott as Liberal leader by the thumping margin of 56% to 1%. Among Greens supporters, Turnbull enjoys even more support, preferred by 61% of them to nil for Abbott. It’s not difficult to ascertain why; Turnbull’s social views are what some might call “progressive” and this sits well with voters on the Left.

Turnbull — to put it bluntly — is also not Tony Abbott, and in the grand tradition of the hatreds of the Left, it has demonised the candidate it knows represents the greatest ongoing threat to its electoral prospects. It did exactly the same thing to John Howard for decades, albeit not perhaps with the same degree of vitriol with which it approaches Abbott.

Turnbull has already shown himself as a likely election loser in 15 months of consistently abominable voting intention polling during his stint in the Liberal leadership, and this merely underlines the point that as much as the Left like Malcolm, they wouldn’t vote for him in a pink fit.

For the record, Abbott continues to head Turnbull among intending Liberal voters, 35% to 29%.

Even so, the proverbial “nervous Nellies” — along with some people who simply can’t be told — remain more than capable of whipping up a real leadership putsch on the basis of figures such as this, as opposed to the nonsense that Malcolm’s dinner meeting with Palmer last week unfortunately sparked.

The message is clear: just don’t go there. It won’t work. It will all end in tears.

There are some other interesting findings from the Morgan results, which readers can access in full here.

I only wanted to comment on this briefly this afternoon on account of the link to the discussion earlier in the week, but before I go, there are two noteworthy figures on the Labor side of the table that warrant mention.

One, that among intending Labor voters, the combined numbers for Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese (29%) almost equal support for incumbent “leader” Bill Shorten (32%): I’ve been very explicit about the liability Shorten poses to Labor’s political prospects in the medium term, and these numbers tend to bear that out.

If the ALP is able to coalesce definitively around one of them as an alternative — Plibersek, if it has its collective wits about it — then the depth of Shorten’s support as “leader” (or lack of it) could throw up some interesting permutations in the months ahead if the ALP’s voting numbers collapse.

That’s highly probable: as we’ve discussed, short-term politics based on idiot slogans in response to a tough budget will only carry the ALP until people realise the sky isn’t going to fall in. When that happens Shorten will be revealed as the one-trick pony he is, and the Labor Party will need a new leader quickly if it’s to stand any chance of winning in 2016.

And two…apparently, according to the Morgan findings, 10% of Labor voters want Wayne Swan to take on the leadership of their party.

It just goes to show how stupid some people actually are. It ought to surprise me, but it doesn’t.



Final Polling: Big Coalition Win; 53.5%-46.5% Lead

SIX YEARS of Labor government is set to end in landslide defeat today, if the final opinion polls across all mainstream pollsters are accurate; with an average lead of seven points after preferences across the polls, Tony Abbott is set to be elected in a win that will rival John Howard’s triumph in 1996.

Over the past 24 hours, I have been watching the special election eve survey results from each of the major polling outfits filter through; there is some variation between them, but nothing beyond the margin of sampling error — or anything even approaching it.

I am only going to focus in detail on the two-party figures, because — after all — every seat in the House of Representatives will be determined on a two-candidate final count.

At the business end of the process it’s votes that ultimately matter: approval ratings and “preferred Prime Minister” contests are useful in the middle of the cycle, but tomorrow Australians will vote for who they will — and with neither leader recording messianic ratings, those questions now seem redundant.

I will however make the observation that across all of the latest polls, on average, Tony Abbott ends up with a modest lead over Kevin Rudd in the “preferred PM” stakes.

Indeed, Abbott ends this campaign more popular than Rudd.

And that’s an absolute indictment on Rudd and the ALP, with Rudd purportedly the most popular politician in the country, and Labor supposedly having executed an electoral masterstroke by restoring him to its leadership to contest today’s election.

Instead, it may well have worsened the inevitable defeat.

In this final round of special polls, the two-party preferred breaks (all in favour of the Coalition) are: Newspoll, 54-46; Essential, 52-48; Galaxy, 53-47; and Nielsen, 54-46.

I saw a poll yesterday from industry newcomer Lonergan Research, effectively finding 51-49 for the Coalition; this, however, was a mobile phone only poll, and it is reasonable to expect its findings were disproportionately drawn from the younger age quintiles where ALP/Greens support is higher (even if the data was weighted to compensate).

And even the often-maligned Morgan poll — whose results are often inclined to wild and inexplicable fluctuations, quite literally, from one week to the next — has posted final figures showing a 53.5-46.5 result in the Coalition’s favour.

And that, dear readers — 53.5% to 46.5% — is the exact average of the Coalition lead over Labor, after preferences, across the four usual polls we follow, plus Morgan.

In turn, a 53.5% result for the Coalition today would represent a 3.6% swing away from the ALP and easily elect Tony Abbott Prime Minister.

Applying a 3.6% movement to the electoral pendulum sees the Coalition win 14 additional seats from Labor (plus those of Peter Slipper in Queensland and the two independents in NSW) for a total of 89 of the 150 House of Representatives seats, and a majority of 28.

It isn’t that simple, of course, and I expect Abbott to do a bit better than that.

The polling figures we are looking at today come at the end of a campaign in which the overall trend and movement has been back to the Coalition following the end of Kevin Rudd’s “honeymoon” as a restored PM.

That movement, however, can be broken into three phases: a marked movement to the Coalition immediately after the calling of the election; a very slight drift back to Labor about two-thirds the way through the campaign; and more movement to the Coalition this week to round out the run to the polling stations.

Based on these last survey results, that movement appears to be continuing, even now; this is the first reason 53.5% probably understates the current level of Coalition support.

A second reason is that the most recent findings — Newspoll, Nielsen and Morgan — all fall closer to 54% (and in the case of Nielsen and Newspoll, may well have been rounded down to that level for publication).

It’s an especially valid point in the case of Newspoll, which in 2010 published its findings to one decimal place (which I seem to recall was a 50.3% ALP lead). It hasn’t done so this time, so it becomes a matter of speculation.

But that speculation becomes a little less…er, speculative…when it’s remembered that at most of the elections won by John Howard, conservative support as measured by election eve polls was typically understated when compared to the actual results (which, of course, are determined by actual preference allocations rather than the statistical distribution of same based on the patterns at the preceding election).

And a third factor is that no election swing is uniform: the pendulum may move x seats on y swing, but with fluctuations from seat to seat, an efficient swing can yield more seats than the pendulum suggests — and that also applies in reverse, although today I doubt it.

My guess, therefore, is that the Coalition result will look more like 54%, or even 54.5%.

(And regular readers will know that I have long expected the actual election result to come in at around 54% for the Liberals, after preferences — even when the Coalition was pulling in 57-58% numbers in the polls early this year, and again prior to that).

Simply stated, if these numbers are broadly accurate — and there is little reason to believe they are not — the Liberal win today will be on the same scale as Howard’s in 1996, and may even edge toward that gold standard of election beltings: Malcolm Fraser’s in 1975.

Whichever way you cut it, though, even the polls we are talking about are already out of date; there are factors influencing people’s voting intentions even now, and if there is a continuing drift one way or the other there is still a full day of voting for more votes to shift from one column to the other.

But with all that considered, my personal prediction is that the Liberals and Nationals will collectively win 95 seats; the ALP 52; Adam Bandt will retain the seat of Melbourne for the Greens; and there will be one Independent (Andrew Wilkie), plus Bob Katter in Kennedy.

This adds up to a 40 seat Coalition majority: the same buffer secured by Howard in 1996.

If all of this comes to pass, the ALP will have many wounds to lick; and with Kevin Rudd defeated in Griffith (yes, I see that happening), its humiliation — and its punishment for six self-indulgent, dysfunctional and chaotically misspent years — will be absolute.