My colleague the Poll Bludger drew attention this morning to the latest Newspoll on state voting intention in New South Wales, which shows premier Kristina Keneally with strong personal ratings but still trailing badly on voting intention.

The Australian‘s coverage, however, is interesting in its own right. Before even telling the reader what the poll numbers are, it proclaims that “In NSW, the Keneally government is dead in the water.”

Now, I can’t object to someone reporting an opinion poll with that phrase, because I’ve done so myself. In a blog post on 18 June 2007 (let me know if you can find it in the Crikey archive, because I couldn’t) I reviewed the Howard government’s poll results under the heading “Is the government dead in the water?”, answering the question with a guarded “yes”:

Things could change; nothing is impossible. But there is simply no precedent in modern Australian history for a government coming back from such a dire position.

But that was only five months out from an election, not eleven; the quantity of polling evidence was much greater; the Howard government was trailing 57-43, not 55-45; and the electoral boundaries were not weighted in its favor the way they are for the NSW government.

The Keneally government would have a reasonable chance of winning an election on a 52-48 deficit, a movement of only 3% from its current standing. Anyone who thinks they can write off the chance of a 3% movement over almost a year has got no business writing about politics.

For the record, I don’t think such a movement is likely; a Coalition victory is much the more probable result. But it’s some distance away from the certainty that the Australian would have you believe.