Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Newspoll Tuesday – Very Bad Things for the Libs Edition

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 9, 2008

Another Tuesday, another Newspoll – this time showing both major’s down 1 in the primary for an ALP lead of 44/37, washing into a two party preferred of 56/44 unchanged from a fortnight ago.

To start with we’ll run through a chart dump of all the polling stuff fit to print:

Next up, we’ll throw this into our Pollytrack, where we also have a new EMC and Morgan Face to Face to throw into the mix with it.

That little data graphic tells us which polls make up the current Pollytrack, the weight they have based on sample size and all the other interesting bits worth having a squiz at. If you look at the Pollytrack lines of the Primary and TPP votes, there is a definite movement back to the ALP that started around the end of July.

If we look at our All Polls series with the loess regression run through it, it becomes even more pronounced.

Rudd’s “honeymoon” ended around mid April, with the ALP primary and the TPP slowly eroding from mid April through until the end of July. Yet since that bottoming out of the ALP vote, the last 5 weeks or so have clearly shown increasing ALP vote momentum with the Coalition primary vote tanking. The Coalition have effectively wiped out 3 months of vote recovery in the last 5 weeks  – with that trend, particularly in their primary vote, this is a Very Bad Thing.

I’ve banged on about this before, where public political opinion exhibits a thing called hysteresis – where the longer a party stays at a given magnitude of vote support, the harder it becomes for that party to move away from that level of support. This hysteresis was how Crean’s leadership of the ALP had an enormous negative impact on their long term vote, requiring both Latham and Rudd to lift the ALP primary vote out of the levels Crean Labor left it in. Ignore the popular narrative on Mark Latham and just follow the data over here to see what I mean on this.

The Coalition cannot afford to go backwards in voting intention, for the larger the drop in their vote share, historically at least, the longer it will take to recover.

In an ideal world, Nelson peaked at the beginning of August and should have been removed then or sometime since. But the Coalition struggles on, frozen over the actions of Peter Costello and have been throwing away their previous gains in voteshare because of the prancing around of a man that isnt even popular with the public.

We now have the data to back up what we’ve expected for a long time on this – Essential Research ran a question in their polling released yesterday that put Rudd and Costello head-to-head on which would be the Better Prime Minister. Rudd romps it home with a two to one margin of 53/27.

That is the Liberal Party savior?  The Liberal Party are letting their voteshare gains be unwound over the petulant actions of a bloke that pulls in numbers like that, numbers that when compared to anyone but Nelson, Crean and Downer are complete shockers?

Yet to make it worse, Costello is already a known quantity – he faces the same problem Hillary Clinton faced in the US where everyone already has an opinion, mostly polarised, and it sticks a great whopping vote ceiling on top of you as a result.

The longer the Libs wait to take out Nelson, the further their vote will fall, the larger will be the hysteresis that sets in, making it a longer period it will take to get back to being competitive. Crean left the ALP taking 2 terms because the ALP dithered. How long will the Libs continue to dither – especially over a bloke that is only popular in the minds of a few hack journos and delusioned party apparatchik’s ?

Elsewhere: Pollbludger and Larvatus Prodeo


19 Responses to “Newspoll Tuesday – Very Bad Things for the Libs Edition”

  1. steve_e said

    On the basis that Costello will wimp out with a “no change” position when his book is released on 17/09 – he does not want to be leader and is happy on the back bench, then where to from here?

    The hard right Libs do not trust Turnbull that’s why they opted for Nelson knowing he was only a stop gap leader. Therefore, a stasis will occur with no change in leader and as Poss has shown a slow erosion in voter support.

    Th exodus of experienced Libs (Downer) will continue resulting in more by-elections. The Nats seats will evolve into Independent controlled seats (Lynne). The legacy of JWH’s control over his party is now to be seen.

  2. onimod said

    Ha – so all the claims that “Rudd’s honeymoon is over” were right back in April?
    Incisive lot the MSm eh?

  3. Ad astra said

    Another brilliant analysis. Thank you. But will your impeccable logic be grasped by the Liberals while they are preoccupied with leadership uncertainty and internal machinations, and distracted by talk of a split with the Nationals? They ought to take heed, but I suspect they won’t.

  4. caf said

    Do we feel a double-dissolution coming on? Presumably not over the Luxury Car tax, but maybe over the Medicare surcharge (much easier to go to an election defending a tax decrease than a tax increase)?

  5. onimod said

    I can’t see anyone doing anything too rash – there’s evidently plenty of support for the status quo, and when you’re newly in the business of getting middle Australia to trust you long term (putting your hysteresis foundations in place) I can’t see anyone in Labor wanting to do anything confrontational.
    While the long term demographics and short term past look good for Labor, (and the msm continues to play pin the poll movement on the conservative event) the over-riding poll factor still seems to be stability, both present and future.
    We’re not a nation of ideologists, we don’t seem to believe governments really change the way we live (otherwise the LP figures would be a LOT lower), and we don’t really want things to change either.
    A small percentage of the population is still responsible for deciding the governance of us all and as far as I’m concerned it’s the wrong chunk of the population.
    Ticking the boxes on the last election’s promises to form the foundation for the campaign for the next one is about all I’d expect in the next 2 years.
    …unless the polls change dramatically, and there’s not much evidence for that happening.

  6. AlanJae said

    Nice one, Poss.

    You may have covered this already (and apologies if so), but what would you suggest are the influences of the minor parties upon recent polling and their effects on recent elections?

    With the apparent lack of interest/confidence in state-level incumbents and the parlous state of opposition parties, it seems that protest voting is anecdotally becoming more commonplace. Is there any evidence of this and if so, who is benefiting? Could this explain the mild ‘resurgence’ of the Nats or a real boost to the Greens? Or is there a trend toward ex-Lib/Lab independents (which wouldn’t be unrealistic considering the conservative nature of the Australian voter)?

    Or am I thinking too far outside the square…?


  7. onimod said


    I’ve also had a few thoughts on protest voting.
    Is electioneering becoming more vocussed on voting ‘against’ rather than ‘for’? sure – it’s always been a choice, but it’s hard to point to a good list of things to vote for these days that aren’t framed comparatively to the ‘other’ lot.
    ‘We’re not as bad as them…’ type of thing.
    Is it any wonder we think most of them are bad?

  8. madk said

    I still believe that brenda will lead the libs to the next election. Cossie will quit for sure, the only way he wanted to become pm. was for it to be handed to him from howard mid-term to give him a chance to build a public profile other than just the money man. That time has passed and there is no way his ego would let him get into the position of being thoughly spanked on the ass by rudd in the next election.Turnball i think will sit out this one and strike after the defeat of the libs at the next election hoping that kev’s honeymoon may soon becoming to a end. Also i think there are still too many fibs who hate him still. Abott has no hope and bishop other, than appealing to upper class tarts is also a no go. I really fail to see what the libs have to lose by sticking with brenda & go through a rebuilding phase, at the very least it would show some stabilty.
    PS. forgot poor old big joe who is tainted by workchoices and is probably too big a teddy bear anyway.

  9. Thomas Paine said

    I wonder if by association this also harms the NATS. The junior liberal party in the coalition. The longer they stick with an off Opposition the less relevance and credibility they have. And it doesn’t look good for the future – oblivion awaits if they follow the present course.

    You can understand the thinking of Truss and Joyce. They need to not be seen as the Liberal’s servants and not just a negative/ anti-government party.

    To become truly independent and relevant again they could make themselves seen as the party of the solution/government program by not automatically voting down every bill in the Senate.

    Leaving Nelson in for so long may have done more damage than just to the Liberals primary.

    Will the WA NATS lead the rejuvenation?

  10. Harmless Cud Chewer said

    But is the hysteresis about the leader per se, or about the ideological weather going on behind the leader, or about the tendency of the media to at times get sucked down into the black hole of its own negative narrative?

  11. Possum Comitatus said


    On the influence of the minor parties on polling, the size of the Greens primary vote above about 7% (over the last few years) generally hits the size of the ALP primary vote as there seems to be a pretty big chunk of people, about 5 or 6 percentage points that regularly swap between the two. But the ALP two party preferred generally gets those votes back as preferences.

    With the Coalition, there isn’t any large minor party group that supports them strongly, so most of the change in the Coalition primary tends to float over to the the ALP.

    On the non-major party vote at Federal elections, it’s actually been shrinking since 1998. In 1998 it was just over 20%, in 2001 just under 19%, in 2004 it was just over 15% and in 2007 it was just under 15%.

    Yet, within that non-major vote, the Greens have also been growing – but not necessarily at the expense of the ALP vote.
    In 98 the Greens got just over 2%, in 2001 just under 5%, in 04 it was 7.2% and last year it was 7.8%.

    The Greens now make up roughly half of the non-major party vote – which helps the ALP in two party preferred terms if the ALP primary can stay above 40%. In fact, if the ALP primary stays above 40% and the Greens continue to grow in the way they have been, getting the demographics they’ve been getting (especially young voters), it would be almost impossible for the Coalition to win government.

    So the Coalition really have to drag the ALP vote below 40% to win an election – but as time goes on, that minimum primary vote level will probably grow at around 1% per election (assuming elections are every three years). So next election (assuming the Greens growth continues), the Coalition will have to drag the ALP primary below 39% in 2010, then 38% in 2013.

    That all hooks in with the Coalition’s demographic train wreck we talk about every now and then.

    So while we get a few rural independents knocking over the Nats, and the occasional Green doing well in a by-election – when you look at all 150 seats, there doesn’t really seem to be much of a surge in the protest vote Federally.

    With the States there might well be, probably is to a certain extent – but Federally it doesn’t seem to be the case.

  12. Possum Comitatus said

    Cud Chewer – that’s a good question.

    Leadership undoubtedly plays a role in terms of being credible with the public or not. If your leadership ratings are in a big ditch, it probably isn’t your party’s fault or that of the media. You very rarely see a leader with poor satisfaction ratings leading in the voteshare. But so saying, the media and party games would surely have to have something to do with it, or at least a strong hand in perpetuating it. Since most of the public are politically switched off most of the time, the polling numbers will be based largely on gut feel of the survey respondents and their consumption of media snippets caught often accidentally on the television news, on the radio or in the Sunday paper. Yet last year, those same snippets were running pretty hard against Rudd and the public completely ignored them and made Rudd PM.

    Whatever is behind the hysteresis may even change from time to time – but the hysteresis effect itself seems to remain the same.

  13. Chatswood Statsman said

    Across Australia there appears little difference on economic matters between the ALP and Libs. The Greens are essentially the old Labor left and regard the two majors as much the same on most issues. They still dislike the Libs more, which gets the ALP over the line when preferencing is compulsory. Turnball might just be able to woo middle-class Green voters – he’s a republican, socially liberal and accepts global warming! (though these positions might preclude him from Lib leadership!)

  14. Mike Cusack said

    Nelson has become toxic to the Libs, but the problem he represents is salutory for the Libs at large. At lunch time today I had a committed conservative voter in my car whilst the ABC news was on the radio. Two topics were discused that sent my companion into a rage, old age pensions and Naval/Defence strength. Nelson criticised the Govt for not doing enough in both cases, and my companion frothed at the mouth at the hypocrisy after not doing anything/enough over the previous 11 years.
    I realise that to the Libs the most important immediate task at hand is the defence of the Howard “legacy”, and most political effort is spent on that front. However the vast majority of punters, even among supporters of the conservatives, don’t give a rats arse about the “legacy”. The constant harping that the Govt isn’t doing enough/ anything on matters that have now come to a head are just a reminder of the many reasons the polls for the conservatives were so bad all last year, and that those who changed their minds at the last moment, thus making the election result closer than expected, got it wrong.
    If Nelson and his “legacy” backers can turn my companion into a potential ALP voter, they face a demolition at the next election.

  15. David Richards said

    Mike – all this grandstanding by the Libs on the various issues that they ignored (and in some cases encouraged, like ridiculously rising house prices), is simply driving voters like your passenger right into the arms of the ALP. As Possum has highlighted above, they face the very real prospect of not winning a Federal election ever again. They need to distance themselves from Rattus’ Legacy and repudiate nearly everything that they did in their last turn at the helm, but I don’t see that happening while the extreme right is still there. Their only hope is to purge the extreme right, leaving them to form a breakaway party (the Democratic Liberal Party :p?).

  16. Mike Cusack said

    Dave R
    Yes, there seems to be two mutually exclusive missions being undertaken by the Libs at the moment. One is to win office back asap, and some of them are deluded enough to believe, at least publicly that they can do this at the next election. The other and seemingly more important mission is to carve in stone the greatness of the “legacy” of Howard. This is a perverted carryover from the so called culture wars which has turned into a mutual masturbation society for remnant Howard lovers and others of the more ultra-conservative wing of the Libs.
    To pursue the second mission is to condemn the first to oblivion.

  17. The corporate media, and ALP and Liberal politicians, rushed to celebrate the “end” of the Greens. But in their inner-city strongholds, the Greens still won a third or more of the primary vote, while losing a few councillors.

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