More pointless mixing of polling issues

A Newspoll reported in The Australian today asked another of its ‘does X make you more likely to vote for Y’ questions, and like its Budget version last week really only showed what little value these results have.

In a question about the government’s change to WorkChoices (or whatever it is called these days) to introduce a fairness test for AWAs, 12% said that it was more likely to make them vote for the Coalition and 15% less likely. The people most likely to be aggrieved by this change are small-business owning Liberal voters, but only 2% of Coalition voters said that it made them less likely to vote Liberal or National. By contrast 26% of Labor voters declared themselves less likely to vote for the Coalition. As Labor voters are the group most opposed to WorkChoices this backdown by the government should go some way to easing their concerns, but a quarter of them claim that it has made them even less inclined to vote Coalition.

Given that in net terms Newspoll would have us believe that both the Budget and the WorkChoices have made a Coalition vote less likely, we should be seeing the Liberal primary vote falling even more. Yet according to these same Newspolls, that is not happening. Since mid-April, Liberal primary support in the Newspoll series has been 35%, 37%, 36%, and 39%, the last two polls being conducted after the WorkChoices backdown and the Budget. Genuine vote changers, if any, are so mixed in with poll respondents playing the pollster that we cannot identify them and so the question is pointless.

It would have been far more interesting to directly ask people what they thought of the WorkChoices changes. As it is, we learn nothing at all about attitudes towards fairness tests and nothing about partisan preferences that isn’t more accurately recorded in the question about which party the respondent plans to support.

8 thoughts on “More pointless mixing of polling issues

  1. I actually think the polls are meaningless, Andrew. The betting shops carry a far better ‘analysis” of the real picture.

    I got turned on to the betting markets after the US 2000 prez election showing Bush to be a tiny fraction ahead of Gore.

    The US betting markets have never been wrong as far as I understand it.

    In any event they have both sides neck and neck with Rudd just a tiny fraction ahead.

    Let’s see

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  2. JC – It’s true that the polls measure what people think now, not what they will think in 4-6 months time. Given that past research suggests that result-changing numbers of voters make up their minds late, caution is always warranted in extrapolating forward recent results.

    The betting markets build on existing knowledge, partly derived from polls, and factor in things the better believes will influence people later on. Labor’s lead is so huge at this point that the polls are telling us a meaningful thing: that a largish majority either wants or is seriously considering a change in government.

    If the polls were tight, then allowing for margin for error and factoring in some effects of increasing negative scrutiny of Labor as they announce policies, and the benefits of incumbency when campaigning, then it would be reasonable to conclude that the Coalition is likely to win.

    But given how big Labor’s lead is, those factors aren’t likely to be enough to save the government. From your report, the betting markets are predicting this. But I doubt they would be if they had not observed a long series of strong polls for Labor. Without the polls, most pundits would assume that in a period of better economic conditions than most people can remember the government would hold on.

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  3. As you are an expert in reading polls, what do you make of the June Readers Digest? It has the results of a survey “who do you trust”? The magazine lists 100 ‘well-known” personalities in Australia and asks them who they trust most. There are 8 politiicans among the 100.

    Peter Costello i- the man Tuckey wants to see replace Howard – is close to the bottom, not far behind the least trusted person, al Hilali.

    Is the poll worth anything? If it is, the Liberals would be mad to switch.

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  4. Fred – It is a very silly survey. What on earth does trust mean in this context? How many people would trust Bindi Irwin (no.6) to bring down the federal Budget over Peter Costello (no.94). And how many people would leave their teenage kids with Keith Urban (no.74) over Malcolm Turnbull (no. 92)?

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  5. I agree Andrew but if one just focuses on the nine politiicans and we ignore the others, can’t one get some idea of relative trust of politicians? Howard and Rudd are both way ahead of Costello and that fits well with other opinion surveys. It just adds to the impression that the Liberal Party should be looking for another leader after Howard e.g. Malcolm Turnbull (when he gains a little more experience and political acumen) and forget about Costello.

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  6. Fred – Can you name any Liberal who was the Deputy Leader (State or Federal) when the Liberal Party lost power who then went on to become Premier or Prime Minister? History is against Costello becoming Prime Minister, if the Liberals lose the next election.

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  7. I haven’t checked but I’d guess Sir Charles Court was deputy when the Libs lost in 1971? and then came back as Premier in ’74

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  8. Fred – The only poll that considers possibilities other than Costello, from July last year, still puts him ahead of the Liberal alternatives.

    And people’s views change. As recently as last November, Rudd was the preferred Labor leader of only 28% of voters in a Newspoll.

    But I haven’t been arguing for a leadership change or Costello; just that the Readers Digest poll is junk.

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