It’s that day of the month again, when we get two opinion polls at once: Newspoll in The Australian, and ACNielsen in The Age and SMH.

basic message in both is the same: the government has made up ground
from its low point of a month ago. Both show a two-party-preferred
swing of 3% back to the Coalition, and both show the ALP primary vote
back at 39%, just below the psychological 40% barrier.

actual forecasts of an election result, though, are different – a
difference that was masked last month by the fact that both were so
good for Labor. Newspoll has the two-party-preferred vote at 51-49 in
Labor’s favour, a statistical dead heat. Nielsen, on the other hand,
says 55-45, an 8% swing to Labor, which would produce a landslide

Part of the difference (about half of it, in fact) is
due to different ways of allocating preferences; each has its problems,
and the truth is probably somewhere in between. Those who are
interested can follow the debate in these analyses by Gary Morgan and Peter Brent.

The papers’ coverage is interestingly different as well. The Age
leads with the poll results on immigration and multiculturalism,
presenting voting intention as a secondary matter but still a positive
for the government. The Australian has it more as an
unconditional negative for Labor – “a sign Labor and Kim Beazley have
lost momentum in the wake of the industrial relations changes.”

However, at least Dennis Shanahan and The Oz
are focusing on the actual voting intentions, not, as is sometimes
their habit, on the approval ratings and “beauty contest” numbers
instead. For what it’s worth, the latter have also moved in the
government’s favour: Howard leads 51-27 as preferred prime minister,
and Kim Beazley’s disapproval rating is back up to 51%.