Opinion polls seem to be coming thick and fast. Last week it was Newspoll, followed by Morgan. Today there’s two in one day: ACNielsen, after a six-week interval, in the Fairfax papers, and Galaxy, with its first federal poll for the year, in the Murdoch tabloids.
Again, the big story is the consistency. Both new polls report the same two-party-preferred vote, 58%-42% in Labor’s favor. All the polls have put Labor’s vote in similarly stratospheric territory for more than two months. The various “beauty contest” and approval rating figures convey much the same message.
The one ray of hope for the Coalition today is that Nielsen’s figure represents a swing its way of 3% since the last poll. Overlaying that movement on the corresponding figures from 2001, as Bryan Palmer has done, shows that it could be the beginning of a downward trend. But that would be a big call from just one poll.
And even in 2001, Labor ended up coming very close; without the extraneous shocks of Tampa and 11 September, which are not likely to be repeated, it almost certainly would have won.
Nielsen has also polled people on the effect of a hypothetical change of Liberal leadership, and they’ve given it the thumbs down. With Peter Costello as prime minister, the government would be even further behind, 61% to 39%, and Kevin Rudd leads Costello as preferred prime minister by a decisive 60% to 32%.
The more hypothetical the question, the less reliable the results, so Costello’s supporters shouldn’t be too distressed – conversely, Michelle Grattan is probably overstating it when she says “the Liberals don’t have to eat their hearts out about whether the leadership guard should have changed.”
But any move to wheel out yet again the example of Steve Bracks, poster child for last-minute leadership change, will now have that much less traction. Like it or not, the Coalition has to sink or swim with John Howard.
So far, the polls are still firmly indicating the “sink” option.