The first federal opinion poll of the new year is from Morgan’s face-to-face surveying last weekend, covering 855 respondents. This finds Labor recovering slightly from the previous poll of December 11-12, which on the headline figure had them trailing for the first time in a Morgan face-to-face poll since June 2006. However, Morgan has been somewhat erratic in choosing which of its two-party measures to use for the headline: “preferences distributed by how electors say they will vote”, or “preferences distributed by how electors voted at the 2010 election”. Lately they have been using the former, although the latter is universally recognised as more reliable. The score on the former measure has gone from 51.5-48.5 in favour of the Coalition to 50-50, while on the latter it has shifted more modestly from 50-50 to 50.5-49.5 in favour of Labor. My policy is to ignore the Morgan headline and favour the previous election measure. However, more significant than the distinction between the two is the obvious systematic bias to Labor in Morgan face-to-face polling – once this is factored in, the poll points to a fairly solid lead for the Coalition.

The primary vote figures make clear that the Labor recovery on the headline two-party result is entirely down to a larger share of non-major party voters nominating Labor as the party to which they would direct their preference, which coming from a sample of about 150 is unlikely to be very meaningful. Labor’s primary vote is in fact up by less than the Coalition’s, by half a point to 38.5 per cent, with the Coalition up a full point to 44 per cent. The Greens are down half a point to 13 per cent.

UPDATE (16/1): The first Essential Research for the year finds no change on voting intention whatsoever since December 20: the Coalition leads 52-48 on two-party, with primary votes of 46 per cent Coalition, 38 per cent Labor and 10 per cent Greens. However, Julia Gillard has enjoyed a spike in her personal ratings: approval up eight points to 51 per cent and disapproval down four to 36 per cent (her best figures since July 19), with an increase in her lead as preferred prime minister from 45-34 to 47-32. Tony Abbott’s ratings have improved as well: approval up three to 42 per cent and disapproval down two to 37 per cent. Other questions relate to respondents’ online shopping activities.

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