The Abbott government’s mediocre post-election polling record takes a considerable turn for the worse today with the publication of the first Fairfax/Nielsen poll since the election, which is the Coalition’s worst result from Nielsen since the 2010 election campaign, or from any poll at all since the months immediately following. The poll has Labor with a two-party lead of 52-48, from primary votes of 41% for the Coalition, 37% for Labor, 11% for the Greens, 5% for “independents” (an unorthodox inclusion) and 6% for others. Bill Shorten scores remarkably strongly on his debut personal ratings, with approval at 51% and disapproval at 30%, while Tony Abbott manages a tepid 47% approval and 46% disapproval. However, Abbott holds a 49-41 lead as preferred prime minister.
Full tables including state breakdowns are available courtesy of GhostWhoVotes, and they offer at least some ammunition for those of a mind to be skeptical about the result. With due consideration to the fact that an element of wonkiness can be expected from small state-level samples, there are approximate two-party preferred swings to Labor of 2% in New South Wales, 4% in Victoria and 1.5% in South Australia, all of which are easy enough to believe. However, in both Queensland and Western Australia the swings are 11%, the former result coming less than two weeks after an 800-sample poll by Galaxy showed no swing at all. It’s tempting to infer that Nielsen struck Labor-heavy samples in these states, and that had it been otherwise the result would have been more like 50-50.
A more technical observation to be made about the result is that the two-party preferred figures are based on respondent-allocated preferences, whereas Nielsen’s topline numbers are usually based on preference flows from the previous election. This no doubt is because the Australian Electoral Commission still hasn’t published Coalition-versus-Labor two-party results from the 11 seats where other candidates made the final count (I’m told they are likely to do so later this week). However, I have one model for allocating preferences based on the information available from the election, which gets Labor’s two-party vote to 51.7%, and Kevin Bonham has two, which get it to 51.2% and 51.4%.
The Nielsen poll also probed into the hot topics of asylum seekers and abolition of the carbon and mining taxes. Only 42% expressed approval for the government’s handling of asylum seekers versus 50% disapproval – though as Psephos notes in comments, this fails to disentangle those who support their objectives from those who don’t (a ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday night asked whether the policies were working, and found only 28% thought they were compared with 49% who thought they weren’t). The results on the mining tax were evenly balanced, with 46% saying Labor should support its repeal in parliament versus 47% opposed. The carbon tax at least remains a winner for the government, with 57% saying Labor should vote for its abolition and 38% saying it should oppose it.
In other news, Christian Kerr of The Australian reports on Newspoll analysis of the effect on polling of households without landlines. This was determined through online polling between March and August of nearly 10,000 respondents who were also asked about the state of their household telecommunications. In households without landlines, Coalition support was found to be 1.4% lower, Labor 0.2% lower, the Greens 1.3% higher and “others” 0.2% higher. However, Newspoll’s online polling itself seemed to be skewed to Labor, who came in 4.7% higher than in Newspoll’s landline polling over the same period. This was mostly at the expense of others, which was 4.7% lower, while the Coalition was 0.6% higher and the Greens 1.0% lower. By way of comparison, the online polling of Essential Research over the same period compared with Newspoll’s phone polling as follows: Labor 2.1% higher, the Coalition 3.2% higher, Greens 2.8% lower and others 2.5% lower.
UPDATE: Channel Seven reports that long-awaited ReachTEL result has the Coalition leading 51-49, but unfortunately no further detail is provided. Results earlier released by Seven from the poll include the aforementioned finding that only 28% believe the government’s new policies to stop boat arrivals were working versus 49% who don’t; that 56% say the government should announce boat arrivals when they happenl that 53% think the Prime Minister should deliver the explanation for spying activities demanded by Indonesia, while 34% say he shouldn’t; and that 38% support Australia’s bugging activities with 39% opposed. The poll is an automated phone poll conducted on Thursday evening, presumably from a sample of about 3000.
UPDATE 2: And now Generic Leftist relates on Twitter that Peter Lewis of Essential Research relates on The Drum that tomorrow’s Essential poll will have Labor up a point on the primary vote to 36%, but with two-party preferred steady at 53-47 to the Coalition.