Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Polls Goes By’.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on July 16, 2007

Yes, it’s another poll and another cheesy movie headline, but this time it’s best summed up by the famous misquote of this line from Casablanca:

“Play it again Sam”.

The latest ACNielson poll in the Fairfax papers is the same old song that’s been playing over and over again since December.

ALP primary vote stuck somewhere around 49, the Coalition primary vote stuck somewhere around 39 and the TPP stuck somewhere around the 58/42 mark.

The polls for the last 7 months are really starting to resemble that Goodies episode “Radio Goodies”, where the Goodies pirate radio station only had one song to play.

“And now, it’s ‘A Walk in a Black Forest’”

And now, its ALP 49, Coalition 39 and a TPP of 58/42.

This ACNielson poll like the stream Morgans before it, has simply verified the data that came out of the two big whopping Newspolls last week. The ACNielson voting intention by age cohort is consistent with the Newspoll quarterly data as is the ACNielson “city vs. rural” breakdown consistent with the Newspoll “capital city vs. non capital city” breakdown.

All of these polls suggest that the primary vote splits are no longer a trend, but a level and probably have been for quite some time.

But the interesting thing that came out of this ACNielson poll was on the issue of housing affordability.

Longer term readers here (if by longer you mean “have been reading for the last 2 months” since this blog is still wearing nappies) would know that I’ve been carping on about Interest Payments to Disposable Income having a long term relationship with the Oppositions primary vote. You can see the graphs and commentary about this HERE and HERE if you haven’t already.

One of the key arguments I’ve been making about how this arcane little figure is impacting upon Howards electoral prospects is that its not only the housing stress created by greater debt servicing burdens that is causing grief. I’d even argue that housing stress is the smallest of the electoral effects that IPDI is creating for the government.

The big one, the big elephant in the IPDI room is how higher debt servicing burdens (and higher rents trickling down from that) are reducing household discretionary income.

That discretionary income is what households use to fund the conspicuous parts of their standard of living. It’s not only the oft cited Plasma TVs, home electronics and new cars – but other types of consumption that frame the narrative for household living standards.

“How many kids can we send to that entry level private school this year? “

“Can we go on holidays to the Sunshine Coast in that unit like we usually do, or will we have to go camping instead?”

“I know all your friends have a new Playstation but we can’t afford one at the moment and you’ll just have to make do with your X-Box.”

“I know we usually order Pizza on a Friday night – but not this week”.

These aren’t profound issues when ranked against world poverty or the spread of HIV/AIDS in developing countries, and nor are they as trendy as global warming and climate change.

But they are important to many households because it is, to put it simply, their life.

Discretionary spending creates the visual yardstick by which large parts of households standard of living is judged against their neighbours, or against media archetypes of “what their standard of living should be”, or even against their own personal experience of the recent past.

The ACNielson poll asked “Which of the following statements best describes how you personally have been affected by the decline in housing affordability?”

20% of respondents agreed that “you have cut spending in other areas a lot” while a further 17% agreed that “You have cut spending in other areas a little”.

1 in 3 Australians are saying they have reduced their discretionary spending. “Housing Stress” might grab the headlines because its one of those sexy crisis things that sells copy, but it’s the little things that sometimes have the bigger effects.

When we add into this mix the policy formerly known as Workchoices , and the apprehension (real or imagined) that the policy itself and the campaigns against it have created over earnings, job security and working conditions – the behaviour in the suburban marginals does not surprise me at all. The Workchoices apprehension feeds into household discretionary spending by creating uncertainty over future discretionary spending budgets, which compounds the way housing affordability is impacting upon current discretionary spending budgets.

The IPDI/Housing stress/discretionary spending/Workchoices nexus is powerful, and for me it explains a very large chunk of the electorates behaviour in the polls.

On another note, three big cheers to Phillip Coorey over in the SMH.

In his article on this poll he stated at the end, “Mr Rudd’s approval rating fell two points, which is within the margin of error, but is still high at 61 per cent, while his disapproval rating stayed steady at 23 per cent.”

How refreshing it is to see some proper reporting of polls. “margin of error”… wow, there’s hope for the fourth estate yet.

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14 Responses to “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Polls Goes By’.”

  1. […] Possum’s latest take regarding Casablanca on the Molonglo is here and the Poll Bludger rounds up the usual suspects in his Nielsen commentary. Does the Bludger have […]

  2. Rob said

    I thought the same thing about the SMH article. Wow, balanced analysis? Are they trying to put the blogs out of business? Have been watching the new Oz website, but haven’t seen much. I like the new look, but it feels wrong not to have Dennis’s morose clock staring back in it’s usual place.

  3. codger said

    “I’ll be seeing you in all those old familiar places…” Good stuff, Possum.

  4. Stig said

    The flatline trend on voting intentions this far into the electoral year is a big story in itself, and full marks to the SMH for reporting it as such. A pity for the GG that they feel their readers need dramatic rollercoaster action to make polls interesting.

    Each successive poll makes it more likely that the government is on the way out. If the voting intentions stay solid past the election, expect the double-dissolution in 2008. Given the primary vote levels, I don’t see the solidity changing by then.

    While I’ve got the crystal ball out, the succession planning for the coalition is looking pretty shaky at the moment too. We have a historical precedent of Maggie Thatcher kneecapping her rivals and leaving her party in disarray for at least a decade after she stepped down – perhaps we’ll see that happen here too.

  5. Stig said

    Oops – forgot my linking paragraph…

    The financial stress nexus that Possum is defining may well be the millstone hanging around the neck of the next Coalition opposition. Sort of the same way that Labor has been painted as the party of high interest rates by Howard & Costello. If the Howard government becomes synonymous with personal indebtedness and slashed spending power, that will be a difficult perception to shift over the next several electoral cycles.

  6. Tomasso said

    Another measure of financial stress (vs IPDI, etc) from RSPCA Australia President Lynne Bradshaw a couple of days ago:

    “… the number of animals accepted into shelters nationally has escalated to almost 147,000 for the same time period – that’s an increase of over 14,000 on the previous year…”.

    Walking our dog yesterday I came across two little girls and a father. The girls asked to pat the dog. They had two dogs last year, one was given away and the other went to the pound. Personalised IPDI. Anecdotal, but sad.

    Banks are facing a paradoxical median home loan (account) tenure of 3.5 to 4.5 years (really), but a lot of that is due to re-financing (and changing FS provider). ABS stats give % of households paying off, and amount per month repaid, and HH income bands. RBA’s IPDI gives a global sense of overall damage to DI, but not where the pain is (vs where it isn’t). I’d like to join the dots on this but don’t know any more sources. I guess personal bankruptcies and foreclosures would be a start… …maybe not looking in the right places.

    But sometimes it’s not as simple as IPDI. Years ago I included interest rates in a model for breakfast cereal sales (along with the usual suspects for predictor variables). Allbran and Guardian sales went down as interest rates did. Retirees living off investment and lower rates = less cashflow.


  7. Phrog said

    I see the dislike for workchoices throwing factors such as debt levels and eroding discretionary spending into sharper perspective for most people. Even if most people don’t feel that they personally will be ‘operational reasoned’ out the door, it exacerbates the unease felt, and reminds people that it is both unbalanced and was shoved down their throats. Iraq has a role to play as well, most people, however negligible their interest in the nations foreign affairs may be, can recognise a debacle when they see one.

  8. Kit said

    You are bang on Possum! Mr Abbott is ‘scratching his head’ as to why a ‘good government’ like Howard’s is being hammered. Well, it is all about the economic dividend.

    Every time the government tells us how great they are at economic management voters are looking at their financial ‘stresses’ and are rightly asking ‘is this it? … Is this all our ‘gangbusters’ economy can deliver to us – large debt and vulnerable jobs?’.

    Mr Abbott and his Coalition government do not get it and they probably never will. Good economic management is necessary for a good government, sure, but it is not sufficient … Voters will demand in a good economy that the benefits flow through and they are not seeing enough of it at the moment.

    There is nothing that this government has done over the last 11 years that cannot be taken away from us tomorrow … no improvement in infrastructure, no improvement in public schools, no improvement in hospital care, no improvement in security.

    Voters are wise enough to know that, although the states have played their part in this failure, it is a lack of leadership in the federal government that has allowed the neglect of these essential things.

  9. Hemingway said

    Thanks for the cogent analysis of poll results, Possum and other comment contributors. However, I must add my note of sober reflection that Coalition members will need to be turfed out of at least 16 seats. If the lion’s share of Labor’s vote increase turns out to emanate from their safe seats like Cunningham (Wollongong), then Howard just might repeat the minority popular vote victory he had against Beazley first time around.

    Accordingly, I have a mantra which keeps me from sinking into abject trepidation about a possible re-election of the egregious Howard government: Senate, Senate, Senate…….Senate, Senate, Senate………

  10. Monica Lynagh said

    Very much appreciate your work, Possum, particularly the statistically and politically linked analyses, which certainly makes sense to me, in terms of both getting a grip on the polls ‘stuckedness’ and local anecdotal feedback. The latter, unfortunately, not much help for Labor, as I’m in safe Labor territory, but Jeez, the poor bastards I’m dealing with! If there are significant numbers of single parent families in sensitive marginals, they will certainly be waiting, not so much with baseball bats, but with the electoral equivalent of AK47s.

  11. Richard Jones said

    There’s more common sense here than in most of the media.
    Housing stress, reduced disposable incomes, hidden inflation on essentials, Howard’s age, same old ministerial faces, 11 and a half years in office, AWAs, Iraq (especially today) and global warming all add up to a significant defeat for this tired government.
    Howard is making a big announcement tomorrow about global warming. It’s all too late, mate.
    We don’t believe you or trust you on this issue. We don’t trust you.

  12. lurker said

    I was in Qld over the weekend, and talkign to some rellies I asked if Rudd being a Qld made a difference. They didn’t think so, they just felt that it was time for a change of government,no specified reasons. As pretty conservative people, they said things like they thought Rudd was OK but were suspicious of the unions. Still didn’t stop them from thinking Labor would win.

    Phillip Coorey used to write for the Advertiser in Adelaide and I don’t remember anything noteworthy about his columns. Maybe he writes for his targeted audience?

  13. smokey said

    I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that WC’s was going to be a big issue this election. I had no idea it was part of a nexus! Now it all makes sense.

  14. […] Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Polls Goes By’. Yes, it’s another poll and another cheesy movie headline, but this time it’s best summed up by the famous misquote […] […]

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