NSW Labor may be reduced to just 26 seats at the forthcoming state election according to a new Essential Research poll.

Based on a aggregate of 4 weeks’ polling and 1247 respondents, the online poll puts Labor’s vote on 27% compared to the Coalition’s 51% and the Greens on 12%, yielding a 2 party-preferred result of 59-41% (bear in mind NSW has optional preferential voting).

Essential’s result is not as disastrous for Labor as the apocalyptic Nielsen poll earlier this week that had a 2PP outcome of 66-34%. However, Essential has worsened for Labor since September/October last year, when Labor’s primary vote was 29% and the Coalition sat on 50%.

Essential pollster Andrew Bunn suggested Labor’s vote might be understated in telephone and face-to-face polls because of a version of the “shy Tory” effect, first observed in Britain in the 1990s where polling was affected by the reluctance of voters intending to vote Conservative to disclose it to pollsters. In this case, Labor voters may be too embarrassed to tell a pollster they’ll be backing the Keneally Government, meaning an online poll, which offers greater anonymity, would yield a higher ALP vote.

The extent of the looming disaster for Labor is borne out by the fact it is polling more strongly in regional areas — 30% — than in Sydney — 26% — where the Coalition leads by 22 points on a 2PP basis. This partially mirrors Labor’s performance in NSW at the 2010 Federal election, when it suffered big swings in Sydney but actually picked up votes in regional areas. The Greens’ vote is strongest in Sydney, understandably, where they’re polling 13%; their state-wide 12% is significantly up from 9% achieved in 2007 and if replicated in the Legislative Council, would lift them to 5 seats.

The only comparative bright spot for Labor is among 18-34 year olds, where it only trails the Coalition by 8 points.

Based on Antony Green’s calculator, the Essential result if replicated next month would give the Coalition 61 seats to Labor’s 26, hand the Greens both Balmain and Marrickville and independent John Tate the seat of Newcastle.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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