The politics of water #2

Curiously, while an ACNielsen poll 10 days ago had Labor leading as the best party to handle water resources by 48% to 34%, today’s Newspoll reported in The Australian on which party would best handle water planning has the parties almost even, with the Liberals on 33% and Labor on 34%. The Liberal Newspoll number is almost the same as ACNielsen’s, while Labor’s is signficantly lower.

I doubt it is the slight change in wording, ‘water resources’ versus ‘water planning’. Unfortunately the ACNielsen poll details were not well reported in The Age, but I’d guess the difference is less due to the question than how the pollsters drew answers from their respondents.

Newspoll has a big 20% classed as ‘uncommitted’ – which given the limited record of either party federally on this issue is a reasonable response. Newspoll doesn’t usually give an ‘uncommitted’ option when reading out questions, but as they recorded both ‘uncommitted’ and ‘none’ they don’t seem to have been pushing people to give a party even if they seemed unsure. I’m not sure of the wording of ACNielsen’s question, but possibly they asked a version of the ‘which party are you leaning towards’ question of the uncommitted respondents. For the various reasons given in my last post on this – Labor being in fashion, Labor better on the related issue of the environment – the uncommitteds could have gone for Labor over the Coalition.

Even so, there is still quite a big difference between the polls, consistent with the public not really having made its mind up on this issue. This will be a relief for the Coalition, because on its first appearance in the Newspoll survey ‘water planning’ has gone straight to the top, being cited as a very important issue by 82% of respondents. It’s the first time since the first half of 2003 that the top issue is not health and Medicare.