Poll-watch: do they mean anything when no one is paying attention?

Yesterday, Tigtog discussed polls which showed that there had been little movement since the election. Today’s Newspoll might or might not be an exception to that trend, showing Labor with a record primary low of 33% and a two party preferred advantage of 52-48 to the Coalition. [Details are at The Poll Bludger.]

Peter Brent at Mumble parses the talking point du jour – the claim that the Gillard government is the first not to enjoy something of a surge in support after re-election. As he writes, the evidence for that assertion is dicey, anyway, and I’d add that there’s a sense in which the result was an artefact of post-election maneouvring rather than the raw popular vote. If the 2010 election proved anything, it should have proved that reflexive inferences from past political history now tell us little. Anyway, Brent observes:

But it’s the ‘winner’ who receives a bounce. Who ‘won’ the August election?

The independents and Greens are enjoying some of the spoils of victory.

Possum has more on the historical comparisons in this post.

My bet would be that what is going on, if there’s anything much going on, is summed up here:

It usually takes three months or so for the public to start paying political attention again after an election, snapping the dynamics back to their usual spectrum of behaviour.

So we’ll kick back into gear on the polling side maybe the next polling cycle or so – but we shouldn’t be surprised if it’s not until next year that the polling dynamics go back to normal.

There was also a poll in the field over the last few weeks that should hopefully be published somewhere soon, which suggested that much fewer people are paying attention to Federal politics at the moment than they were at this same point after the last three elections.

I’m sure that the public had a surfeit of political drama from about the time that Kevin Rudd’s hold on the leadership started looking really shaky through the several months of the election and its inconclusive outcome. If that’s right, it raises the question of whether Tony Abbott’s highly partisan style best fits these times. However, that might be reading too much into the political tea leaves, which perhaps ought to be left alone if very few people are actually paying any attention whatever to the political game right now.

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6 responses to “Poll-watch: do they mean anything when no one is paying attention?”

  1. Ken Lovell

    Maybe there’s a general feeling of relief that nobody won and therefore nobody can spring anything nasty on us for a while. The yanks have demonstrated a preference for paralysis in government apart from foreign adventures, and even enthusiasm for the latter seems to be on the wane. Perhaps Australians, relaxed and comfortable, are following down the same path of believing the only good government is an enfeebled government.

  2. Chris

    The less Labor looks at the polls now the better it will turn out. Time for some long(er) term decision making – the decision to put asylum seeker families in the community is one of those. And hopefully it should pay off in the longer term when once people start having face to face contact with asylum seekers and personally hear the stories that they have to tell that they’re not as scary as the Liberals like to portray.

  3. Fran Barlow

    Really though this is the first election I can recall where the loser didn’t for a short while affirm the legitimacy of the winner — quite the opposite — the loser insisted he was robbed by eveil dealings conducted behind closed doors to affirm in office someone who had first got there on June 23 by foul means — a subject which had throught the agency of the Murdochracy been allowed to dominate the election period.

    Equally, the default story since at least April has been that government is ipso facto illegitimate. Authenticity is to be found in those complaining about government, regardless of how baseless their complaints might be. It is enough that they are loud in their complaints and seem to be against elites, especially urban ones.

    Much of this was fuelled under Rudd of course, who for reasons one can only speculate about, abandoned even the appearance of favouring emissions trading and who plead that his government would “get a whacking” over issues like home insulation and the BER, thus affirming that this would be fair. When the elite fell out and he not only got a “whacking in the polls” (not enough of a whacking it seems) he got a knifing from the elite, which was all the average Australian with his toolkit of “common sense” needed.

    So little wonder then that there’s ambivalence. Now that anyone can have their own opinion but their reality to live in too, if the government, taking forward what the Liberals started in February 2007, says that allocations to the MDB must be reduced, then when someone stands up at a meeting and says to some bureaucrat you’ve hurt my business, my family and me you sons-of bitches large swathes of the populace are supposed to cheer, even though the bulk of these folk have no case against the allocation proposals and are running shotgun for those who have even less claim.

    But it’s the colour and movement that counts and the Murdochracy and its various electronic orifices are good at venting it for our common amusement.

    Rational public policy? That’s boring. It’s as if one went out for food and decided to dump it and just hang on to the cheap wrapping it came in. That’s what the Murdochracy and its polling nonsense it.

  4. Mark Bahnisch

    @2 – Agreed, Chris.

  5. The Low Spark of high heeled boys

    the Troppoites have it right.

    The Present government is absolutely hopeless at selling anything.

    Gillard is still in transition from being the Opposition Leader during the election ( wow weren’t Arbib and Bitar absolutely brilliant at dreaming that strategy up) to being the incumbent Prime Minister.

    The bit on preferences is interesting though

  6. John D

    MUMBLE says that both Nielsen and Newspoll are not publishing their figures on preference intentions. Once these figures are used labor is actually further ahead of the coalition than they were on election day. Mumble also says:

    Actually, Newspoll has also been asking respondents for preferences for a few months but not publishing the results. From the bits of entrails I’ve seen, it’s showing something similar.

    Green supporters are indicating very high preference flows to the ALP – well into the 90s. There’s also increased support for independents, and their preferences are favouring Labor more than they used to.

    What’s happening? The most obvious explanation is that when the Greens helped Labor form government their Liberal-leaning supporters deserted them. And others took their place. Nearly all of what’s there now, 14 percent (in both this week’s polls) are Labor supporters voting Greens first.

    And the increased independent support also seems to come from voters who approve of current government arrangements.

    Could it be possible of course that Greens voters are actually greens voters?
    Interestingly the swing in the published Newspoll was explained in terms of a 6% swing in the regions as a consequence of the publishing of the Murray Darling draft. So Labor could actually be doing quite well in most parts of Australia.