Round one of the campaign polling season is upon on us, with the Coalition starting strongly, the ALP looking mildly bewildered and the minor parties apparently having better things to do.
Firstly to the ACNielsen poll where the headline should read “Voters turn on Minor Parties”. It might not be as exciting as the “narrowing of the gap” narrative, but it has a bit more truth to it.
The primary votes of both the ALP and Coalition are up, with the ALP increasing from 47 to 48, and the Coalition increasing from 40 to 42. The minor party and others vote was down from 13 to 10, the lowest it’s been in the last six months.
This resulted in the two party preferred estimate for the ALP falling from 56 to 54 and the Coalition rising from 44 to 46. The more respectable approach here would to be say “no significant change” and move on, but there is something worth noting.
That drop in the minor party vote produced a net result of one primary point going to the ALP and 2 primary points going to the Coalition. Yet with the 2PP vote dropping for the ALP by 2 points we either have some rounding issues here giving us slightly quirky headline figures on the 2PP estimates, or those two minor party vote points that the Coalition picked up came, net, from ALP preferencing, minor party voters that made the jump back to camp conservative on a primary vote basis.
The other possibility is that the “undecided” figure decreased from the last poll and gave us a slightly different overall composition of the vote with these newly decided voters moving into the community of Coalition voters.
Next up was the Galaxy which produced similarly unusual results at the margins, and was notable for its low 4% undecided vote level. On the primaries, the Coalition vote was up 3 to 43 and the ALP was down 1 to 45, with the minor party and ‘others’ vote down 2 points from 14 to 12. Yet, in a similar compositional change to the ACN poll, the two party preferred estimates resulted in the ALP being down 3 points to 56 and the Coalition going up 3 points to 47.
In compositional terms, the net result suggests, again, that the Coalition picked up minor party voters that were previously preferencing the ALP, or that undecided voters are running to the government and slightly changing the overall composition of the vote.
Comparing the two polls, with ACNielsen showing an ALP primary improvement, and Galaxy showing a serious ALP primary vote drop, about the only real thing that can be said here is that either the minor party vote doesn’t look too solid, the undecideds are at this early stage breaking for the Coalition, or a mix of both.
After Week 1 of the campaign, the Coalition is more likely than not to have made the gains in the polling wars of public opinion, but only at the margins.
Their true test is whether, over the next 5 weeks, they can make inroads into the ALP primary vote, and not just with the Galaxy poll that is generally more favourable to the Coalition by a point or three, but with the high ALP primaries registered with Newspoll, ACN and Morgan.
The real value of this week’s polling for the Coalition isn’t the headline figures showing some movement or trend, but in providing some much needed ammunition to boost the morale of the Coalition troops. The media coverage and the “comeback” narrative it will generate are the real benefits.
Having not just one poll, but two, that no longer shows the ALP looking at three figures worth of seats in the new Parliament can’t hurt either. In campaigns, it’s often the little things that become important.
If the Coalition is to seriously generate momentum off the back of these early polling results, Sunday’s debate becomes more important than either party probably wants to admit.