As you may have guessed in advance, this week's poll aggregate finds the pace of Labor's recent breakthrough quickening after a disastrous reception to the government's first budget, as Bill Shorten surges to a handy lead as preferred prime minister.
Post-budget polling has emphatically confirmed a second major shift in public opinion since the election, the first being a strikingly early dip in the new government’s fortunes in November, leaving the opposition with a narrow lead when the dust had settled. With every pollster but ReachTEL having produced results in the wake of last Tuesday’s budget, the latest landslip looks even bigger than the first, and it sends the Coalition into territory that was all too familiar to Labor during its tumultuous second term in office. The damage was done by Newspoll, Nielsen and Morgan, with a small amount of the edge taken off by more moderate results from Galaxy and Essential Research. Even so, Labor now has a lead on the primary vote for the first time since BludgerTrack opened for business in late 2012, even taking into account that the Greens have retained a healthy share of the vote, perhaps finding a new equilibrium with their head just above double figures. Also continuing to make hay out of the exodus from the Coalition is the Palmer United Party, which this week reaches a new high of 7.0%.
No less spectacular is the latest update on leadership ratings, for which near-identical sets of data have emerged this week courtesy of Newspoll and Nielsen. The slump in Tony Abbott’s standing which had become evident over the previous fortnight has continued apace, to the extent that I have had to increase the range of the y-axis on the net satisfaction chart to accommodate it. This puts Abbott at a level Julia Gillard would only have known in a particularly bad week. Even more encouragingly for Labor, Bill Shorten’s ratings are on an upward swing, putting him back into net positive territory after three months below par. What had previously been a steady narrowing trend in Tony Abbott’s lead on preferred prime minister has sharply accelerated, to the extent of putting Shorten substantially ahead an uncommon achievement for an Opposition Leader.
The state projections this week see the distinction in state swings even out, most notably in the case of Queensland where the swing to Labor got out of hand for a few weeks there. A considerable influence here was the latest Nielsen breakdown, which provided the first presentable set of figures I had seen for the Coalition in Queensland for some time. This may suggest that the budget backlash in that state was muted by the fact that Labor had less slack to take up, although there is no doubt also a large element of the statistical noise to which state breakdowns are inevitably prone. The upshot is that the Coalition’s position on the Queensland seat projection actually improves by four seats this week, testament in part to the state’s super-abundance of marginal seats. Offsetting this are bumper gains for Labor in other states four seats in New South Wales, putting Bennelong, Gilmore and Macquarie on the table in addition to all the seats lost in September; three in marginals-starved Victoria, adding Casey and Dunkley to the more familiar targets of Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe; and one each in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
In other BludgerTrack news, you now have the chance to put Labor’s poll surge in somewhat broader perspective thanks to the retrospective poll tracking displayed on the sidebar, which at present encompasses the previous three terms, with plans to go back to the start of the Howard era in due course. For this you can think the sleuth work of Kevin Bonham, who has provided me with Nielsen data going back to 1996. Taking into account the more readily accessible archives of Newspoll and Morgan, this should eventually give me three pollsters to play with over the totality of the intended period. For the time being, the display encompasses the familiar poll aggregate from the previous term; the first term of the Rudd-Gillard government, which also includes Essential Research and a smattering of Galaxy to supplement the three aforementioned pollsters; and the Howard government’s final term in office.
William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.