Following on from last weekend’s “50-50” result for Brand, The West Australian has produced another of its small-sample Westpoll surveys, conducted by Patterson Market Research. This one is statewide, and it does not bode well for the state’s already meagre Labor contingent. The poll has Labor’s primary vote at just 26 per cent, compared with the 36.8 per cent that won them four of the state’s 15 seats in 2007. The Coalition is on 52 per cent (including 5 per cent for the Nationals), against 47.1 per cent at the election. The Greens are only on 9 per cent, no different from the election and certainly not what they’re used to from polling recently. This pans out to 62-38 on two-party preferred, a swing of almost 9 per cent – enough to take out Stephen Smith in Perth, leaving just Melissa Parke in Fremantle. The poll also has just 19 per cent agreeing the RSPT will be positive to the state’s economy, against 63 per cent who say negative. Forty-three per cent say it will have a strong (quite or very) influence on their vote, 22 per cent say “no real influence” and 32 per cent say a “minor influence”.
The catch is that with a sample of just 400, the poll has a margin of error of about 5 per cent. However, it accords with the 63-37 result from WA in the most recent Nielsen poll, which would have involved a sample of about 150. If you add the two polls together, the margin of error comes down to about 4 per cent. At the lower end of that range is a swing against Labor of 4 or 5 per cent, which is what last week’s Brand poll pointed to if you distributed preferences as per the 2007 election. Even if that’s nearer the mark, it still suggests a distribution of primary votes that would leave Labor-plus-the-Greens short of a third Senate quota (and taken at face value, this poll shows Labor short of a second). With the Nationals in the hunt for the last seat, and likely to be boosted by preferences from WA First and right-wing micro-parties, this could lead to a Queensland 2004-style Senate result of three Liberal, one Nationals and two Labor. If the other states were to follow their usual three left-three right pattern, that could produce a Senate that differed from the current one in only one important respect: Steve Fielding’s Victorian seat would be taken by Labor, another fluke micro-party winner or, most probably, the Greens. Labor and the Greens would thus have 38 seats against 37 for the Coalition and one for Nick Xenophon. Instead of the Greens holding the balance of power, as most have been taking for granted, the Coalition plus Xenophon would have a blocking majority.
UPDATE: The latter sentence, of course, makes the unsafe assumption of Labor winning the election. I should also point out that the Liberals have a big hurdle to clear if they are to win three seats in Tasmania, where the result in 2010 was three Labor, two Liberal and one Greens. A three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens result would require a solid 5 per cent swing to the Liberals, which would probably win them Bass and Braddon.