Five months after its post-budget collapse, polling indicates the Abbott government has fought back to the position it was in earlier this year. It has achieved this on the back of strong improvements in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia — but remains stalled in the crucial state of Queensland, home to the nation’s largest concentration of marginal seats.

These are the main indications to emerge from the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, which has been updated with the Newspoll state breakdowns published in The Australian this week.

Whereas the Newspoll results are aggregated from the entirety of the July-to-September quarter — and have thus been overtaken by events to some extent, as the Coalition has been on an upward trend for most of that period — BludgerTrack determines a current measure using further published results from Morgan, together with unpublished breakdowns from Essential Research and ReachTEL. It also provides results for Tasmania, which is excluded from the Newspoll breakdowns.

 

In the stronger states for the Coalition, swings that had earlier blown out to as much as 7% are now more in the order of 3%. That would leave them well placed to defend the seats won from Labor at last year’s election, namely Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe in Victoria, and Hindmarsh in South Australia.

In New South Wales, the BludgerTrack model rates Labor a better-than-50% chance to recover the seats of Barton, Dobell and Reid, but has the Liberal Party with its nose in front in Eden-Monaro and Banks. Importantly, the model factors in the impact in each of these seats of “sophomore surge”, namely the boost MPs tend to enjoy when they defend their seats as sitting members for the first time.

However, big swings continue to register in Queensland and Western Australia, which have been the strongest states for the Coalition at each election since 2004. The poll trend suggests the unpopularity of Premier Campbell Newman’s government may be putting Queensland’s distinction under threat, with a 6.3% swing leaving the Coalition’s two-party vote there below that of New South Wales.

 

As well as having troubling implications for Newman as he prepares for an election early next year, it is also of concern for Tony Abbott given the number of Queensland seats the Coalition stands to lose in the event of a substantial swing. Based on the present numbers, there are seven Coalition-held seats where the model rates Labor’s chances above 50%: the two seats it lost last year, Petrie and Capricornia; four of its seven losses from 2010, namely Bonner, Brisbane, Forde and Leichhardt; and the Townsville seat of Herbert, which was last won by Labor in 1993.

The swing in Western Australia is only slightly lower, although it remains the Coalition’s strongest state. Of the state’s 15 seats, 12 are currently held by the Liberals, but only Hasluck is rated as likely to fall to Labor — although the position is complicated by the likelihood that the state will have acquired a 16th seat by the time the next election is held.

Equally notable in Western Australia is that the 5.3% two-party swing had done nothing for Labor on the primary vote, which hasn’t budged from its historic low last September. Rather, it seems that any shift in support from the Coalition to Labor has been cancelled out by the sharp lift for the Greens that precisely coincided with the Senate election in April.

There was also a spike at that time for the Palmer United Party, which polled 12.3% after a massive television advertising campaign to secure a Senate seat for Dio Wang. But whereas the Palmer bounce has since faded away entirely, the Greens continue to track at around 15%, placing their support in the state ahead of Victoria and Tasmania (where the party appears to have recovered after poor showings at both the federal and state elections). It would thus seem that the controversy surrounding Labor’s preselection of Joe Bullock ahead of Louise Pratt has done the party lasting damage among the state’s left-leaning voters, leaving the Greens well placed to retain Rachel Siewert’s Senate seat at the next election.

Tasmania has followed a distinctive pattern throughout this year, with the Liberal landslide at the March state election clearly spilling over into federal polling. The resulting Liberal lead promptly vanished amid the budget backlash, and the state appears not to have joined in with the trend back to the Coalition since. Nonetheless, the swing currently recorded is a fairly modest 3.1%, and sophomore surge effects mean that each of the Liberals’ 2013 gains of Bass, Braddon and Lyons will be tough nuts for Labor to crack.

Peter Fray

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