The NSW Coalition is headed for a strong win in Saturday’s state election, according to polling by Essential Research, with voters still distrustful of Labor’s capacity to manage key issues.

From polling over the last fortnight, Essential has a (relatively small) sample of 659, which shows the Coalition primary vote on 44%, down seven points from its landslide performance in 2011. Labor is on 36%, up more than ten points from the 2011 debacle, while the Greens are on 9% (they recorded 10.3% in 2011) and others are at 11%. Calculating a 2PP outcome given the unpredictability of preference flows is difficult; Essential’s conservative estimate using several previous elections is a 2PP result of 53%-47% to the Coalition. On a uniform state-wide outcome that would deliver Labor around 20 seats, but preference flows and regional differences make that more a guess than a prediction.

More damning for Labor is just how badly it lags the Coalition on virtually every significant issue in the eyes of voters. Forty five per cent of voters trust the Coalition on economic management compared to 25% who trust Labor (that is, not even some people intending to vote Labor trust the party to manage the economy as well as the Coalition). The Coalition leads Labor by 14 points on police and public safety, 12 points on roads and freeways, 11 points on public transport and eight points on NSW’s future energy needs.

The only issues on which Labor leads the Coalition are its two traditionally strong issues of health and education (on which, for example, Labor leads the Coalition federally by ten points at the moment). However, Labor only leads the Coalition by four and three points.

The Coalition also leads Labor by 14 points on “planning for the future”, suggesting that while Mike Baird’s commitment to electricity privatisation has given Labor a scare campaign to run, it has also communicated to voters that the Coalition is engaged in addressing long-term challenges. And that is more likely to bolster the Coalition’s electoral fortunes when a relatively more normal and competitive political environment is re-established in NSW in its second term.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey