stories about opinion polls are, to put it bluntly, rubbish.
Commentators fixate on tiny movements in voting intention that are well
within a poll’s margin of error. Or, even worse, they ignore the voting
intention entirely and obsess about approval ratings and meaningless
“beauty contest” numbers.

But today there’s a real story. Newspoll and ACNielsen
have new polls out, and they both show a major turnaround. One poll
could be dismissed as a statistical outlier, but two means there’s
something in the wind.

Here are the numbers:

Newspoll ACNielsen
ALP primary vote 42% 43%
Move since last poll +3% +7%
Move since election +4% +5%
ALP two-party-preferred 54% 58%
Move since last poll +3% +6%
Move since election +7% +11%

relations is the obvious culprit. The government’s strategy of a
massive ad campaign with no content seems not to have been a success;
people probably assume it has something to hide, and even if that
doesn’t worry them they still object to their own money being wasted.

there’s still two years to go to an election, and an awful lot could go
wrong for Labor in the meantime. Most probably, as with the GST, the IR
changes will turn out to be less scary in reality than in prospect.
Even if they don’t, Kim Beazley could easily find a way to turn the
focus back to his own leadership – he was doing his best yesterday.

But if this trend in the polls holds up, it will make the Liberal leadership very interesting – even though, according to The Age,
“83 per cent of Coalition voters think it would be best for Mr Howard
to stay to the election.” There’s no evidence that Howard has any
interest in a “smooth transition” for its own sake, but if he sees
defeat looming he would be only human to prefer that it happens to
Peter Costello instead of him.

On the other hand, if the Nielsen
Poll is right, it might solve a lot of the Liberals’ problems for them:
on an 11% swing, Howard, Costello, Abbott and Turnbull would all lose
their seats. And a party reduced to Alexander Downer and Brendan Nelson
for leadership prospects could well be in opposition forever.