March 12, 2004 | Graham

Who’s in poll position?

Gary Morgan complains with some justification that this week’s Newspoll figures and last week’s AC Neilsen ones showing Labor in the lead are not new news at all. His figures were showing it as early as December.
In my view Morgan has been unfairly criticized for being the least accurate of the pollsters. He uses a face to face method while the other organizations use the telephone. There are weaknesses to both forms of polling, but in the end polling with the sample sizes being used only ends up with the right answer more or less by luck.
Morgan also makes the point that “Any astute political commentator or “poll watcher” must realise that Polls do go up and down, and in some cases can be very wrong, such as predicting the result of the recent Wisconsin Democrat Primary vote in the US.” Indeed. They are also not a very good way of predicting the result of elections this far out. I remember reporting on Morgan’s findings of the Liberals at an all time low in October, 2000 of 30%. We all know what happened in the subsequent election.
These opinion polls put John Howard just where he wants and needs to be. The risk of an unintended protest vote has disappeared and as the expectations of a Labor win grow attention will move from Howard to Latham. Voters vote against politicians more than they vote for them. If voters expect Latham to win then Howard is in a position to play Oppositional politics, try to become a small target and aim at Latham for the things that Latham intends to do.
There is certainly a groundswell of opposition to the Howard government out there in all of the polling at the moment, particularly on the issue of health. The equation in voters minds next election is likely to be one that balances the wish to punish or chastise Howard against the fears of what a Latham government will do and we have yet to see any polling that addresses those issues.

Posted by Graham at 10:33 am | Comments Off on Who’s in poll position? |
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