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Poll Bludger: Sunshine State could deal Abbott govt a body blow

The federal Coalition’s standing in Queensland continues to deteriorate. One option could be to scapegoat the distressed Newman government. There’s just one problem: Queensland’s LNP is more popular (or, at least, less unpopular) than the Abbott government.

At a time when the Abbott government may have been taking heart from a modest rise in its stocks since the MH17 disaster, a little-noticed poll this week delivered what may have been its most sobering result to date.

Galaxy Research has been conducting federal and state polling for The Courier-Mail on a fairly consistent basis since the early Rudd years, a period spanning the entirety of Labor’s recent electoral dark age. Such a poll was published last weekend, and it showed federal Labor leading the Coalition for the first time since November 2009. Nor was this a rogue result — Labor’s 51-49 lead aligned with the existing reading of the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, which encompasses recent state-level data from three different pollsters.

If the government had to pick one state in which to be carrying extra lead in its saddlebags, Queensland would be its last choice. The state has fully as many competitive seats as New South Wales despite having only two-thirds of its population, and there is good reason to believe Queensland’s marginals will present the easier pickings for Labor.

The Coalition gained eight seats from Labor in New South Wales last September, which sets the Coalition up for extensive benefits from “sophomore surge” — the advantage that accrues to new members when they run as incumbents for the first time. Australian experience suggests this to be worth around 1.5%, which will make life that much harder for Labor in traditional bellwethers such as Lindsay and Eden-Monaro.

But in Queensland, the damage for Labor had already been done at the previous election, so that the Coalition only gained Petrie and Capricornia to add to its haul of seven Labor seats from 2010. Both are held by the slenderest of margins and would not survive a solid statewide swing. Swings in loseable seats held by more established members are likely to be more-or-less uniform — which, if current polling was to be borne out, would deliver Labor every seat the party lost in 2010 and 2013, and Dickson and Herbert besides. Peter Dutton, Warren Entsch, Teresa Gambaro, George Christensen and Wyatt Roy would be on the Coalition casualty list, and Bill Shorten would be on his way to The Lodge.

The federal Coalition’s deterioration in Queensland is demonstrated by the chart on the left below, which displays a polling trend measure of the Coalition’s over-performance (or, just briefly around budget time, under-performance) in Queensland relative to the nation as a whole. The inflation in the Coalition’s already strong position in early 2012 coincides with the election of the Newman government, a phenomenon that was also evident in federal polling at the time of state election landslides in New South Wales and Tasmania. Since then though, it’s all been downhill.

If the federal Coalition were looking for a scapegoat for this state of affairs, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman would seem a logical place to start. The trouble with this is that Newman’s government is travelling better than Abbott’s, both in this week’s Galaxy and in the overall trend. The same Galaxy sample that had the Coalition trailing Labor federally was three points more favourable to the state Liberal National Party, putting the LNP ahead 52-48 on two-party preferred, while the BludgerTrack aggregated result has the LNP lead at 51-49.

Nonetheless, Newman himself clearly remains unpopular. Galaxy had Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk effectively drawing level with Newman as preferred premier for the first time, and his minus 20% net approval rating was about five points worse than what Abbott has been able to manage lately. Worst of all, the LNP primary vote is still trending downwards, an unhappy state of affairs for a government little more than six months out from an election.

Ultimately, a drop in the Coalition vote of 12% at state level since the March 2012 election and 7% at federal level since the September 2013 election makes for plenty of blame to go around. The safest conclusion is that both governments have been doing few favours, either for each other or themselves.

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  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 22 August 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I reckon there’s an awful lot of pressure on Palaszczuk and Qld Labor - going to the polls before Abbott.
    If they’re elected and don’t deliver - much of that the pressure will be off Abbott, because the change, by proxy, will seem to prove to be not worth it - which could prove good for the fringe-dweller parties federally.

    If they win and look good - that will set the course for further blood letting come the “2016 r’Abbott season”.
    If they’re just pipped and Manuel takes to the hubris again - that’s good for Labor - to make sure the job’s done come “r’Abbott season”.

    But if they lose and Manuel gets some humble - that could rub off on Abbott?
    But first I think they have to bite the bullet - for Palaszczuk to accept the inevitable - she could make a good Deputy/Treasurer - that voters can do whatever they like in the privacy of their own booth and express their misogyny - because I reckon that still runs thick - especially after Bligh “proved” it to enough voters to make that difference.

  • 2
    Neutral
    Posted Friday, 22 August 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes Capricornia. My exile from Sydney. The pub talk up here doesn’t favour the Duopoly. A politic so bankrupt and inept of integrity, vision and leadership that democracy delivers us PUP’s and KAT’s in protest. Might get that statue of Joh after all…

  • 3
    AR
    Posted Monday, 25 August 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    We can but hope.

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