When you buy The Australian like I do every day you pay your money and can take your choice. There’s always a variety of opinion and never moreso than this morning.

On page one the paper’s political editor, Dennis Shanahan, writes of the Coalition’s seat-by-seat campaign to claw back Labor’s lead. Tucked away inside his colleague Imre Saluszinsky tells journalists like Shanahan it was time “to wake up from your Rip Van Winkle-like slumbers and accept the reality that is staring you in the face. The Howard Government is gone.”

That, of course, is merely a difference of opinion. Far starker were two very different interpretations of some Newspoll research in to voting intentions in marginal seats that appeared in The Oz on Saturday.

Once again Dennis Shanahan had the star billing with his optimistic assessment for the Government of what the survey of almost 3500 voters in the most marginal seats in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia actually meant. In a piece labeled as ANALYSIS, Sol Lebovic, the founder and former chairman of Newspoll who is acting during this campaign as The Weekend Australian’s polling consultant, found little for John Howard and his team to be optimistic about at all.

The views are so startlingly different that a casual reader might mistakenly think they were commenting on completely different polls.

The poll according to Sol Lebovic, former Newspoll boss: Little for Coalition to cling to

… the latest Newspoll is not good news for the Government although there is a glimmer of hope in NSW.”

Even allowing for sampling error, and taking the best-case scenario for the Coalition, the Government would struggle to retain office on these numbers.

This latest Newspoll in the most marginal seats in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia shows the swing in these seats, 7 per cent since the last election, is virtually identical to the 6.8 per cent national swing measured in last weekend’s Newspoll.

The best case for the Coalition, 48.7 per cent, still represents a swing to Labor of 5.3 per cent, almost enough for it to win office without the other states.

If this 7 per cent swing in these four states was uniformly replicated on election day, Labor would pick up 25 seats and easily win office. Even if the Coalition did extremely well in the other states and territories not covered by this poll there are just not enough seats available to counter this massive gain.

The poll according to Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor: PM fights back in key seats

John Howard has fought back in key marginal seats in NSW and Victoria, giving the Coalition at least some new hope of winning the election …

But the survey suggests the extent of the Coalition’s losses will be between eight seats — which would allow it to easily retain government — and 22 seats, a six-seat win to Labor.

While the ALP is still in front of the Coalition in key marginal electorates, the gap is much narrower than national polling indicates — a margin of just three points on primary votes, 47 per cent to 44 per cent.

On a best-case scenario for the Coalition, it would lose only eight seats and hold government with a majority of eight seats.

On a worst-case basis for the Coalition, using the Newspoll survey of the 18 most marginal Coalition seats in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, the Howard Government would lose 22 seats, giving Mr Rudd a slim victory of six seats.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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