The latest result from Roy Morgan combines its last two weekends of face-to-face polling from a sample of 1776, and finds the Labor primary vote recovering slightly to 35 per cent (up 1.5 per cent on the weekend of June 4-5), the Coalition steady on 46.5 per cent and the Greens down half a point to 11.5 per cent. On the two-party preferred measure that allocates preferences as per the result of the previous election (my favourite), the Coalition’s lead has gone from 54-46 to 53.5-46.5; it’s down more substantially on the respondent-allocated measure favoured by Morgan (lately), from 56.5-43.5 to 54.5-45.5.

Now it’s time for PB Chart of the Week, a feature that may or may not live up to its name over the long term. With Labor polling disastrously in every jurisdiction, I thought it might be instructive to plot the party’s federal and state voting performance since the inception of Newspoll in late 1985 (I’ve started at the beginning of 1986 for the sake of neatness). The chart below shows combined quarterly measures for Labor’s two-party vote, both federally (which is quite straightforward) and at state level (a population-weighted result with the larger states accounting for proportionally greater shares of the result, and Tasmania excluded because Newspoll doesn’t do them regularly).

What we see is that the party’s federal and state fortunes do seem to be quite closely related. While Labor was travelling better at federal than state level from 1986 to 1990 and again since 2008, they tended to move up and down (actually just down more recently) in tandem within those periods. However, this may be because the respondents for Newspoll’s federal and state surveys are usually the same people. The two lines sat very closely together throughout the 1990s, but decoupled as Labor achieved state-level dominance in the Howard years. The impression more recently is of the federal line chasing the tail of the states, although recent form suggests the downward federal trend wouldn’t have bottomed out yet.

If the results don’t quite bear out talk of Labor being in record-breaking dire straits at present – at least to the extent that they do not appear in a worse position than in the twilight of the Keating years – it should be noted that the picture would look worse for them if I was using the primary vote rather than two-party preferred.

UPDATE (27/6/11): Essential Research: 55-45 (steady). Coalition 48% (+1), Labor 32% (-1), Greens 11% (-1). “If Kevin Rudd was Labor leader”, 45 per cent say they would vote Labor against 42 per cent for the Coalition, with Labor leading 53-47 on two-party. Similarly, the Coalition leads 59-41 if Malcolm Turnbull was leader. In both cases I suggest you have to account for mischief-making by supporters of the other party.

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