Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drawing accurate conclusions from polls

The latest NewsPoll puts the government at 45% vs 55% for the ALP. This gives comfort to the Liberals on three counts:
  • It’s 5% up on the last few polls;

  • The result is equivalent to the figure Keating clawed back to win the “unwinnable” election of 1993;

  • The commentators on the Murdoch Australian are all back to cheering the Liberals

Yet it should be making them nervous for five more salient reasons:
  • It’s anomalous compared to other poll results;

  • It comes after a damaging week of internal sparring among the Liberals;

  • Keating had a punching dummy: the Liberals’ GST policy;

  • It gives the Liberals grounds to remain indecisive on a leadership spill.

Reason number five is the fact that the same opinion poll asked how people how wedded they were to their voting intentions. Adding together the “absolutely” and the “only slight chance of change” gives the Liberals 39% and the ALP 49%. Not an election-winner, this close to.

The same day that brought ostensibly good news brought a couple more clangers. First, a large employer, Spotlight, is rolling back its industrial relations policy from the Liberals' model to a collective system, as being less distracting and more efficient for the business.

Then the Murdoch press reports the Reserve Bank's flagging of an impending interest rate rise. Not what anyone wanted to hear, but not unexpected.

Next day was no better. The headline issue, that under the Liberals, university funding had slipped to the lower rungs of the OECD, is traditionally not a vote-changer. The second item was hidden in a poll on the website for Murdoch's the Australian: 24% gave all or most credit for Australia's economic strength to the Liberals (specifically, Costello as treasurer), while 59% gave little or no credit. The bias in this poll: overall, respondents would be tech-savvy educated conservatives. Which is not where the election will be won and lost, but it gives some insight into the lack of traction the Liberals are getting on that issue.

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