Poor polls and tax policy leaks

Chris Sheil won’t be happy about this Newspoll showing Labor doing badly in the Queensland marginals it must win to form government.

And it looks like Latham has leaked significant aspects of his tax policy to George Megalogenis in the Weekend Oz. Two sandwiches and two milkshakes, George says. That’s bound to impress the punters.

But it does seem as if Latham plans to do something (though probably fairly minimal) about low-income “poverty traps” by changing the family payments system. It sounds constructive but fairly unimaginative, and still complicated enough that I wonder how many voters will really absorb the detail amidst all the campaign hoopla. In any event, the kicker will be what Costello is waiting gleefully to exploit: how will they pay for it? What programs will be cut to achieve the needed $8 billion plus in savings?

Sunday Update – A further Newspoll published this morning mirrors the Queensland marginals one released yesterday. Today’s poll covers the 12 most marginal seats across the whole nation (including Solomon, the most marginal of all, where I live). Like yesterday’s Queensland marginals poll, it shows the Coalition leading Labor by 52 to 48% on a two party preferred basis. The sample size was 1600, a bit larger than the Queensland one (which was just over 1000), but that still leaves a biggish margin for error. Psephologist blogger Mumble puts the Queensland marginals poll in context:

Those seats, after adjusting for subsequent redistributions, voted about 53 to 47 in 2001. So that’s a one percent swing to Labor in the Queensland marginals, which, if taken literally, would yield .. no seat gains for Labor. …

Anyway, those numbers are much too small to say anything meaningful about an individual seat. In aggregate, yes. But we don’t know what they say. But no sign of a big swing to Labor.

On today’s poll, Mumble says “Good numbers for the government. At this stage the lemming remains more likely than the goose.” Mumble agrees that polling at this stage suggests Howard is more likely to win, and is labelling himself as a goose for consistently predicting a Labor victory (as he had previously done). In other words, it’s beginning to look very much like Lazarus might rise from the dead yet again.

BTW Why some commenters are labelling these Newspoll efforts as “push-polling” I have no idea. Presumably they don’t have a clue what push-polling actually is. I guess they’re using it as a synonym for dodgy and illegitimate, designed to influence rather than measure. But even then, how can one dismiss polling marginal seats as illegitimate? It’s precisely what the major parties concentrate on, and it’s what we need to know to have any chance of predicting the outcome. Why shouldn’t Newspoll undertake such polling? I’d wager the ALP shills wouldn’t be labelling it “push-polling” or dismissing Lebovic’s record for accuracy (which is actually better than just about anyone) if his marginal polling was showing Labor in front. It’s a classic case of shooting the messenger.

These two polls also throw new light on Howard’s decision of a week ago to call the election now. He would have had marginal seat polling showing the early part of this apparent trend when he made the decision. It’s beginning to look like a smart, calculated call rather than a desperate last throw of the dice by a PM who’d lost the plot (as some left-leaning bloggers have been painting it until now).

(original primary post – cont.)Michael Costello published a reasonably persuasive defence of Labor’s “leave policy releases until very late” strategy in yesterday’s Australian. But I remain to be convinced of the wisdom of this strategy with complex tax and family payment reforms, where people need space and time to absorb what it will mean for them. Even more generally, I’m not sure that I accept Costello’s premise. He takes as his masterpiece model John Howard’s successful 1996 campaign strategy. But there are many differences between then and now, not least that most voters simply don’t hate Howard the way they did with Keating.

Costello asserts that there’s no point in releasing policies until swinging voters are paying attention:

Fifth, you need to put policies out when people are listening. Swinging voters only start paying detailed attention to an opposition during the election campaign. Until then they don’t see what the Opposition says as having much impact on their lives.

But surely that only applies where the policies are stodgy, predictable and not very different from those of the incumbent government. Another piddling tax cut and some tinkering around the edges of family payments. Wow! I’m excited! What about indexing marginal rates, something that should have been done years ago, and that really would give the tax system some integrity and make governments fiscally accountable? What about sorely-needed education and health policies to restore the badly run-down public systems? That would need major funding boosts that simply aren’t going to be realisable given tax cuts and Latham’s promises to keep tax and spending constant or lower as a proportion of GDP. What about at least some of the excellent policies contained in Barry Jones’ ridiculed but visionary Knowledge Nation document? And so on. Latham and his colleagues are colourless technocrats unwilling to “think outside the square” or dare to challenge neoliberal orthodoxy. I suspect that’s why the policies they’ll be trying to sell won’t capture voters’ attention for more than a few days. They’re boring, boring, boring and essentially indistinguishable from Howard, despite all the sound and fury.

As one of Paul Watson’s execrated baby boomers, I can’t help hearking back wistfully to Labor’s It’s Time campaign in 1972. Like now, that was an era of prosperity, with an economically successful but tired government led by a discredited but not hated PM in Billy McMahon, and the residual bitterness and division of an earlier US-led war from which we hadn’t quite managed to extricate ourselves. Labor’s exciting campaign and early release and marketing of a huge range of progressive even visionary policies, most of which have stood the test of time, changed Australia’s political landscape and produced an irresistable momentum for victory that I just don’t feel in 2004. I know there’s a long way to go in this campaign, but right now Labor’s strategy doesn’t fill me with confidence or hope. But with any luck I’ll be proved wrong.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Politics - national. Bookmark the permalink.
21 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
cs
cs
2022 years ago

It’s a surprising poll Ken, which I’ve temporarily filed in the ‘I don’t believe it, but wait and see’ column, meanwhile regarding it with a ‘good, this will ensure no complacency’ attitude. I did notice this story creep:

The results in the Queensland marginals run counter to the national Newspoll figures, with the Coalition in front on primary votes 43 to 40 per cent and the ALP in front 51 to 49 per cent on second preferences.

In fact, the Newspoll national figures have the ALP ahead at 52/48. Newspoll reports the same margin in its national marginal poll. Is this push reporting?

In all, the poll’s an odd one at this stage, and Murdoch’s reporting of it characteristic.

BTW re “most voters simply don’t hate Howard the way they did with Keating”. I must have missed that poll. Was it a ParishPoll, another new boy on the election polling block?

Tony.T
2022 years ago

I’ve always doubted Latham will actually release his tax package in full. Certainly he will stress the feelgood issues, and there will be enough superficial points of difference to keep the pundits enthused and mark him as the working slob’s pal, but he may never release the flesh and bones. He’ll instead keep hinting at general “below 52 grand initiatives”.

All in all, though, I reckon he’s a cunning fucker and whatever he does release will be generally well enough received to provide the necessary momentum for Labor to get over theline.

But then, maybe that’s because I’m in Melbourne, which over the course of the last 15 years (since I’ve been back from WA) has become more and more like the early eighties Pilbara in it’s leftist dominated day-to-day agenda. This may sound stupid, but Melbourne now FEELS left. It’s almost a relief to get up to Sydney and hear some hard core rightwingers.

Got a bit off track there. Labor’s tax package will do OK.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

if this is right we have seen an six point turnaround in three weeks.

this could only be explained by people now voting as they will. This would be highly unusual but could occur. This would mean goddnifgt ALP!

The margin of error is 4.7% or 5 if rounded. This makes the poll more realistic. A friend has pointed out to me that Newspoll has not been at its best in QLD. the highlight being being unable to get within a bullsroar of the ryan by-election.

Most people I have talked to don’t expect to see the next polls to be all that different to the last as nothing has happened to change people’s minds so unfortunately I appear to be in agreeance with CS.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Yeah but Tony – don’t you enjoy wrapping yourself in a nice comfy coat and arguing with people over coffee in the street?

Instead of sprawling in the sun nodding agreement and checking how buffed everyone is? Particularly since us visitors to Sin City can’t possibly compete?

DM
DM
2022 years ago

CS, the newspolls you quote (national and marginals) were conducted last weekend before the election was called, and before Howard’s interest rate scare campaign started. The Qld marginals newspoll was conducted this week.

Expect some very ugly polls for the ALP next week.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

The marginals polls were mid-week, probably before Latham’s emotive pledge, whether this will satisfy the voting public we will see in the next lot of polls.

As Scott said it seemed strange to open with the interest rate attack, as if this is deafened or diminished to a large degree I don’t know what amo Howard has when he is gazumped on tax (if Latham’s policy adds up – or more importantly is seen to add up). And if Latham has a long string of announcements the interest rate issue (which is now nearly 25 years old) could be clouded out by the weight of other issues. Latham will want most of the last few weeks talking about health, education and even tax relief.

The first week was almost a continuation of the phony campaign, not too many blows landed. Something like two boxers circling each other and offering feint after feint, if I found it a bit of a snooze I don’t think punterland would have been affected by it either. I guess with the Russian siege and Olympics there seemed to only be two-three stories on the national broadcasts and other than the “lying rodent” claims few revelations.

Everyone I’ve talked to is underwhelmed by the performance of both sides, maybe a narrow victory to the Coalition for week one, they seem to have got children overboard out of the spotlight for now. They started with the interest rate scare, but i think as the week progressed this was wearing a little thin. Hoping we see some substantial policy announcements next week.

Keir Reeves
Keir Reeves
2022 years ago

Homer and CS’s suggestions about push polling are compelling. A single poll of a handful of marginal seats is hardly a cause to panic. Newspoll is notorious for getting it wrong and the whole idea that Howard masterfully utters a big porky about interest rates that bites and sweeps the Queensland marginals effectively ending the election as a contest by denying Labor vital gains in its weakest state seems to suggest that the push is well and truly on. This is reinforced by the fact that other polls suggesting the ALP polling well in Victorian marginals seem to have received considerably less attention. Perhaps this points to an election result that will have big regional variations much like the 1993 poll as much as it does to the tendency of News to emphasise small sample-size polls that support its editorial line. I thought Tony T was on the money with this in his salty call to arms and run down on the Melbourne and Sydney political climates. Cleary he needs to go swanning in “Sinner” more often.

Ken Parish’s comments about the need for a bolder strategy are really interesting. But from where I’m sitting Latham seems to be rolling out policies but holding back on the details. Surely, Ken, this is short-term electoral strategy rather than a lack of the “vision thing” that those wistful for a return to Whitlam’s great society pledges of the 1970s crave. What’s Latham supposed to do? He already does the folksy log cabin (bark hut?) routine to perfection, should he do a “John Prescott” an clock someone on the hustings to show he’s got the passion? But he’s already done something like that before…

Maybe the prosaic nature of the first week of the campaign is a reflection of the mood of the electorate and that is the ALP’s big challenge if it is to change the status quo.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Keir

I’ll happily admit error if Latham ends up trotting out big, visionary (but economically responsible) policies later in the campaign. At the moment, I fear they’ll be careful and disappointing. Too little too late, and insufficient to overcome the advantages of incumbency when the national economy is strong and most people are prosperous.

Labor can’t possibly do anything on the scale I’m talking about (and that is badly needed in relation to health and education), because of Latham’s self-imposed fiscal stringency constraints, unless Labor also announces compensating cuts to existing programs that are much more drastic and sweeping than I expect. I still hope that the more modest promises I expect, along with a strong, well-judged election campaign, can get Labor across the line, but I fear from current opinion polling that it may not be enough.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

NB I’ve updated the primary post by including references and discussion of today’s Newspoll of the twelve most marginals eats nationwide. My discussion also deals with some points made in this discussion thread.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

With Mumble, he’s been a very consistent Latham critic, and he labels the Labor MP’s that voted for him in the leadership ballot ‘lemmings’. On the other hand, if Latham wins the election, he will admit to being the goose for thinking Latham can not win.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Scott

Oh yes, I see what you mean. I didn’t read the linked comments very carefully. But it’s still true that he’s saying the Coalition is more likely to win on the current polling (which is the main point).

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

the margin of error in today”s polls is 3.73%.

Ken given my knowledge of marginal seat polling by both parties your hypothesis that howard knew of this swing is probably incorrect.

The most likely explanation of the eleaction call was to get the subject of his honesty of the front page as well as avoiding the House.

I would like people to tell me how a 6 point turnaround can occur in three weks in the absence of any significant event.

I know my ALP & Lib friends are mystified and they are paid not to be?

DM
DM
2022 years ago

Why the 6 point turnaround? Interest rates, interest rates, interest rates. Hasn’t anyone noticed the huge level of indebtedness in this country? The electorate is ultra sensitive to the slightest suggestion that interest rates will go up and Howard is playing it for all he’s worth.

The ALP is history unless Latham confronts the interest rate issue. He needs to get out there and explain why interest rates will be lower under Labor Government because they will be more fiscally responsible. I mean, even Andrew Bolt said on Insiders this morning that the Howard Government has been “spending like drunken sailors” this year. Unless Latham deals with this quickly it will be a Howard landslide.

(Yes, Bolt criticised the Coalition. I had to slap myself around a bit to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! Will Piers be next?)

Robert
2022 years ago

Ken, I think you were referring to Chris when you wrote, “some commenters are labelling these Newspoll efforts as ‘push-polling'”. He didn’t — he asked whether it is push reporting (reporting the results of polls to give maximum support for Howard).

observa
observa
2022 years ago

The next weekend polls will include the Breslan terrorist factor which I commented on at John Qiggin’s post. I will be interested in those results, to see whether they back up my anecdotal observation that Latham is vulnerable here.

DM
DM
2022 years ago

The Breslan terrorist factor will only add to Howard’s lead. The Libs didn’t need the cadaver (that grotesque figure that used to be Philip Ruddock) to draw a connection between Breslan and our election, it would have happened anyway.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

sorry but people don’t suddenly come to a conclusion that interest rates will rise under the ALP.

neither party ‘strategists’ I know buy this either.

something strange is happening of the like I have not seen.

As strange as the howard street walk in Eastwood yesterday. I never thought he would encounter such hostility here in leafy Eastwood.
Wheres ron Mead when you need him.

trackback
2022 years ago

Fear, loathing, etc #5

It’s clearly time for another open-election post, before #4 collapses under its own weight. I have a few substantive analytic posts in mind, but for now must be content with a couple of opening observations below the fold. Elsewhere: Ken…

trackback
2022 years ago

Fear, loathing, etc #5

It’s clearly time for another open-election post, before #4 collapses under its own weight. I have a few substantive analytic posts in mind, but for now must be content with a couple of opening observations below the fold. Elsewhere: Ken…

trackback
2022 years ago

Fear, loathing, etc #5

It’s clearly time for another open-election post, before #4 collapses under its own weight. I have a few substantive analytic posts in mind, but for now must be content with a couple of opening observations below the fold. Elsewhere: Ken…

trackback
2022 years ago

Fear, loathing, etc #5

It’s clearly time for another open-election post, before #4 collapses under its own weight. I have a few substantive analytic posts in mind, but for now must be content with a couple of opening observations below the fold. Elsewhere: Ken…