GhostWhoVotes reports Galaxy has plugged a hole in the Newspoll and Nielsen schedules with a federal poll conducted from 1015 respondents on Wednesday and Thursday (UPDATE: Make that Thursday and Friday – The Management). The result is at the low end of Labor’s recent form, with the Coalition leading 48% to 34% on the primary vote and 54-46 on two-party preferred, compared with 47% to 35% and 53-47 in the Galaxy poll of a month ago. The Greens vote is steady on 11%.

Galaxy also grapples with the AWU matter, with what to my mind are problematic results. Poll questions are most effective when gauging basic affective responses, namely positive or negative feelings towards a person or thing, and mutually exclusive choices, such as preferences out of political parties or election candidates. On this score, the best question to emerge so far has been Morgan’s effort on approval or disapproval of the Prime Minister’s handling of the controversy. Difficulties emerge where the range of potential opinions is open-ended, as too much depends on the choices offered by the pollster.

A case in point is Galaxy’s question on whether Gillard had “lied” (31%), been “open and honest” (21%) or, as a middle course, been “economical with the truth” (31%). Particularly where complex or half-understood issues are involved, choices like this are known to activate the strategy of “satisficing” (“choosing the easiest response because it requires less thinking”, according one of the pithier definitions available). This results in a bias towards intermediate responses, in this case the “economical with the truth” option.

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I have similar doubts about Galaxy’s question as to whether respondents believed Gillard “should provide a full account of her involvement through a statement in parliament”, an over-elaborate proposition that feels tailored towards eliciting a positive response. Sixty per cent of respondents duly gave it one, although it is clear the thought would have occurred to few of them before being put to them by the interviewer. Only 26% offered that such a statement was unnecessary, with 14% undecided.

Then there is the finding that 26% of respondents said the issue had made them less likely to vote Labor. Like any such question, this would have attracted many positive responses from those whose pre-existing chance of voting Labor was zero. However, the question at least allows us to compare the results to those of similarly framed questions in the past. In July, a Galaxy poll found that 33% were less likely to vote Labor because of the budget. In January, 39% of respondents to a Westpoll survey said power price hikes had made them less likely to vote for the Barnett government. In July of last year, The Australian reported polling by UMR Research (commissioned, it must be noted, by Clubs Australia) had 23% of voters less likely to vote Labor due to mandatory pre-commitment for poker machines. And a month after Kevin Rudd was deposed as Prime Minister in June 2010, Nielsen found the proportion saying they were less likely to vote Labor as a result was similar to today’s finding: 25%.

UPDATE: GhostWhoVotes reports News Limited has published a further result from the Galaxy poll, a four-way preferred prime minister question which has Kevin Rudd on 27%, Malcolm Turnbull on 23%, Julia Gillard on 18% and Tony Abbott on 17%.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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