Essential Report

Nov 9, 2009

Asylum Seeker Polling – Three Pollsters

Today we have some results on the public perception of asylum seeker policy issues from both Newspoll and Nielsen. When combined with last week’s Essential Report questions on the sam

Possum Comitatus — Editor of Pollytics

Possum Comitatus

Editor of Pollytics

Today we have some results on the public perception of asylum seeker policy issues from both Newspoll and Nielsen. When combined with last week’s Essential Report questions on the same issue, all three pollsters turn out to be pretty consistent with each other, only differing by amounts we’d expect from slightly different question wording. First up, we’ll look at two Newspoll questions, which pretty much answer the debate on whether it is people looking for tougher laws that are believing the government is doing a bad job on this issue, or whether it is people that think Rudd is replicating Howard.




One quarter of those that believe the Rudd government is doing a bad job over the asylum seeker issue do so on the basis of seeing Rudd being too hard on boat people.

On the other hand, nearly two thirds of those that believe Rudd is doing a bad job on asylum seekers do so from a position of believing that Rudd is too soft on asylum seekers. That fairly convincingly ends that particular sub-debate on who is believing what and the magnitudes involved.

Next up, we have Nielsen and Essential Report on the question of the  government’s handling of the asylum seeker issue.


This is probably the question where two of the pollsters diverged the most in terms of the responses they received – although these are pretty different questions. Moving on to a Newspoll/Nielsen head to head on Too Hard/Too Soft perceptions.


These responses are pretty consistent between pollsters with a large plurality of the population believing that the Rudd government’s asylum seeker policies are too soft. Quite a small uncommitted result there for each pollster as well, suggesting people have long made their mind up on this.

Finally, a set of questions from Newspoll and Essential Report over which party would handle this issue best.


The Coalition leads the ALP by a point when the public is given the option of None or Someone Else as alternatives, while the Labor Party leads the Coalition when the choice of both parties being “Much the same” is offered. While I’m sure Rudd would like the whole thing to disappear and is no doubt looking forward to the wet season causing asylum seekers to drop out of the news cycle, it isn’t the killer issue for the Coalition that it once was – like many things, incumbency sets if not the agenda, than certainly the tone.


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21 thoughts on “Asylum Seeker Polling – Three Pollsters

  1. Tamil Justice » Blog Archive » What are the polls saying?

    […] From November 2009  – Asylum Seeker Polling – Three Pollsters […]

  2. austega

    I think most of the hype about asylum seekers is really missing the underlying point – one that will be much more obvious to our children and their children when they look back at us and our hypocrisy. Most of those who argue on either side of the asylum seeker fence would agree with equal treatment of Australian citizens before the law, or in politics etc. Most would be happy with some form of safety net for Australian citizens who are unemployed or suffer from some natural or personal disaster. The real point is where does the moral argument for this national boundary distinction come from? Are the human lives of non Australian citizens really able to be treated differently? There are some good points on this on

  3. Possum Comitatus

    DMX – Oh boy, will you regret asking that! 😀


    “This is despite a massive full-court press by the Left-liberal media-academia complex ”

    What in the dickens is a “Left-liberal media-academia complex”?

  5. Jack Strocchi

    Possum Pollytics says:

    These responses are pretty consistent between pollsters with a large plurality of the population believing that the Rudd government’s asylum seeker policies are too soft. Quite a small uncommitted result there for each pollster as well, suggesting people have long made their mind up on this.

    There has been no significant secular shift in public opinion on the general question of who “will decide who comes here and the manner in which they come”. The fundamental hostility of the mainstream electorate to maritime people-smuggling remains more or less unchanged throughout the noughties.

    The results of Essential Research poll, released a week or so ago, more or less agree with polling done around the time of the Tampa in 2001. Morgan Poll, dated 19 SEP 2001, asked:

    “Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the refugees arriving in Australia by boat. Do you feel the Australian Government should accept those refugees arriving in Australia by boat, or put those boats back to sea?” Put them back to sea 68% Accept them 20%

    The ER poll, dated 02 NOV 2009, suggested:

    The Federal Government is doing the right thing in discouraging people-smuggling and turning back the boats Agree 66% Disagree 14%

    Virtually no change in public opinion on this question over the whole decade.

    This is despite a massive full-court press by the Left-liberal media-academia complex over the past few years, with Fairfax press completely abandoning any pretentions to objectivity or impartiality over the past few months.

    To be sure, by about 2005 public hysteria about boat people had somewhat subsided from 2001 levels. Nowadays, border protection issue is no longer a big vote changer (although in 2001 election it was 911 that won the election for Howard, not Tampa). I made this point back on 13 JUL 2006 when I argued that there had been an “attenuation of national security and cultural identity issues” which normally favour the L/NP.

    Its also true that the public wants a more humanitarian treatment of asylum-seekers once they make it on-shore. As I argued back in 26 AUG 2004 legitimate reffos deserve a fair go, as TPVs and “Pacific Solution” were unnecessarily harsh, expensive and ineffective. In July 2005 Vanstone abolished the “children behind razor wire policy” instituted by the sainted Keating.

    Since there has been no softening in underlying public opinion towards asylum-seeking boat people I predict that Rudd will continue to maintain a hard line by disrupting and deflecting people smuggling, maintain and probably up-grade Christmas Island detention centre and certainly not cave in to the asylum-seeker protest on the Oceanic Viking.

  6. Bushfire Bill

    Well Possum, it’s Tuesday, and no voting intention figures from Newspoll.

    It’s clear they have them, but they aren’t giving them out. Newspoll has been nobbled.

    “When it comes to a conspiracy or a stuff-up, if it’s got “News” in its logo, go for the conspiracy every time.”

    I dunno why you bother to defend them. The corporate distinction between “News Ltd.” and “Newspoll” is becoming increasingly blurred.

    They ran a bootstrapper off the back of a set of dodgy numbers (any fool could see they were wrong by comparing them to the other polls and the trend), called on the Sun King and “Old Fossil” Howard himself to stiffen backbones and give plenary commentary, and then got the ABC and the commercials marching to their tune on the basis of Newspoll being, as Milne calls it “The Benchmark”. If it’s Newspoll or reality, pick Newspoll every time, he told us on Sunday.

    The aim? To cause a bandwagon effect, to give permission to the punters to change their minds. This would hopefully filter through to the other polls and hey presto, Rupert’s running things again, just like old times. Normality is restored. Honeymoon’s over. The wet dream of a Liberal resurgence reinstated. A classic News scam, straight out of the bootstrapper textbook, Chapter 1.

    Put it alongside Grech’s fake email (and their further faking of it), Children Overboard, Ipswich Inc., “Rudd’s Recession” or “The Recession We Never Had” (take your pick), The “Schools Stimulus Fiasco”, right back to Khemlani. Rupert was in town and the boys put on a special show for him.

    If Martin O’Shannessy doesn’t come out and announce the figures off his own bat, then that’s because those are the instructions from the people who “own” Newspoll. If he doesn’t resign in protest at this, then he’s been nobbled, as has his poll.

  7. GhostWhoVotes

    Sorry, I was comparing the results you have listed for male respondents with Newspoll’s overall results.

  8. GhostWhoVotes

    Possum, the official results listed on Newspoll’s website for the ‘good job/bad job’ question differ from yours.

  9. Cuppa

    I’m having problems accessing Mumble’s site at the moment. It was fine earlier in the day.

    [The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.]

  10. Cat

    Oh my god I am trapped in Possum’s land. I tried to go to Mumble and the link both here and on the main page just lead back to Pollytics. Really Poss is that necessary?

    Thank god for Bookmarks – I will have to aim for The Onion to find my way out.

  11. Dave55

    Arrgh – just tried to do it with a third dummy co-efficient for the minors* and realised it won’t work because I’m missing the political support figures for them – Damn Newspoll – not revealing important stuff like that. Guess I have to wait until Lateline tonight … If it isn’t released tomorrow – I’m going into conspiracy mode 😀

    *yes, I did get that bored with other stuff I had on that I thought I’d give it a crack (is there an emoticon for a nerd? )

  12. imacca

    I am somewhat miffed at Newspoll after seeing these results

    Surely if they were ringing around they would have asked the question on federal voting intention??

    After all you would think that they would want their own info on whether the last one, with the sudden 7 point change TPP for both the majors, was an outlier or not?

    With all the hoo hah from the usual suspects over that poll I would really think Newspoll would be looking to shore up their credibility by making obvious moves to validate (or not) that result.

    The only problem i can think of with that is whether or not someone thought that asking voting intention in the same questioning session where you are asking about asylum seeker attitudes would have biased the results in some way?? Is there any generally accepted way of getting around that issue Poss?

    It wont surprise me at all to see that the next voting intention numbers are roughly where they have been all year regardless of what people think about asylum seekers, but I am a annoyed at having to wait longer to see what the next Newspoll voting intentions numbers are. GRRRR 🙁

    If i was a conspiracy theorist i’d probably say that Newspoll are waiting as long as possible before gathering voting intention numbers in the hope that Rudd will do something drastic that the punters really dont like about the OV’s passengers in the hope that will make their last poll look like less off of an outlier.

  13. rossco

    As far as I can see, none of the polls ask the question “Will you change your voting intentions over the handling of this issue . If so, how will your vote change?”
    In other words, people might not agree with the Govt, but is it a vote changer which will damage the Govt?

  14. fredex

    I have an opinion on coffee, I like it, and tea, I don’t like it, whereas my wife is exactly the opposite.
    Strangely enough in neither case does our opinion on tea or coffee effect which political party we support.

    And it seems this is much the same effect that the boat people media-hyped issue has on the Australian public.

    We now have about 5 polls taken during the period of the media hysterics on boat people [I’m ignoring the Newspoll rogue] which despite those hysterics all give the ALP govt very high, mid 50s plus, 2PP support. An increase of several percent on the election. Lots of extra seats worth if an election were held now.

    Rudd’s approval and preferred PM ratings, have barely moved from his stratospheric support [in stark contrast to those of the Leader of the Opposition] and the Greens are polling at or above their election numbers.

    “Boat people”?

    It’s a non-issue.
    Time to move on, well past time.
    To matters more important.

  15. Dave55


    Something is wrong with (either my maths or) the Newspoll party breakdowns. The split for the ‘Too hard or Too soft on asylum seekers works out at a ratio of about 44-45 Labor to 30-31 Coalition (rounding plays around with this a bit) but the results for the ‘Managing Asylum-seekers’ is all over the place but running at pretty close to even pegging. Also, I’m not sure how 34% of the total (in the better manager question) can be Uncommitted and yet Labor and coalition is only 30 and 29% – surely the amount of ‘Uncommitteds’ in the minor parties can’t throw the figures out this much.

    Maybe it’s just my maths after all (If it works off primaries, I probably need to add in a 3rd variable for the others and I really can’t be bothered doing that at the moment)

  16. Nipper Quigley

    The last Newspoll table “Who do you think would best handle…” reveals a lot.
    Prima facie it looks like Coalition on top (politically) – but this is not what the response really shows.
    The Coalition can muster support of only 22% of the population on an issue it (thinks it) “owns”.
    Labor’s 21% is backed up, after a fashion, by “Someone else” (Greens) at 10%.
    Both non-Coalition options, with a total of 31%, are across the political divide from the LNP.
    The 47% of Uncommitted + None don’t hurt the Govt at all.

  17. Aristotle

    Thanks, furry man.

  18. Aristotle

    You have been a busy possum, Possum.

    Thanks for the consolidation of the results.

    Could you also table the results from questions asked by Newspoll in April for a comparison? I can’t remember if they were identical, but it might be worth a look.

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