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Poll Bludger has an excellent summary of all the insta-polls conducted just after Gillard won the leadership.

Basically, a lot of dubious polls have been released all showing a strong bounce to Labor after the Gillard ascension, but of these only three can be said to be methodologically competent (Nielsen, Galaxy and a Morgan poll).

These are all eminent pollsters, so I’m sure the proper forms were followed – unbiased questions, etc etc. But at the end of the day, you cannot eliminate behavioural responses. In this case, I’m not sure how reliable these polls can be given that they were conducted on the day of an event. Lay observers who weren’t watching the coverage non-stop would not have picked up on the nuances. For example, the news coverage didn’t really pick up on the opposition’s line that “this is not a way to treat a Prime Minister” and that Gillard was a puppet of the factions. All they saw was the smh.com.au headline, which was “First Female Prime Minister!” So of course there’ll be a huge bump for Gillard.

I also wonder how thoroughly the poll can be conducted on a weekday at short notice. Aren’t polls usually conducted on weekends? If you poll on a weekday, aren’t you overwhelmingly be likely to get stay-at-home mothers and the unemployed? That sounds to me like the doctor’s wives electorate which is always more pro-Labor.

The wide variation in swings between Galaxy, Neilsen and Morgan evinces this point well. There’s a 55:45 thrashing in the Nielsen and a mere 52:48 win in the Galaxy. Morgan’s state poll in Victoria shows a slight win for the Coalition. All the polls show a swing to Labor but such a huge variation within the space of a day shows deep methodological flaws.

Nonetheless, I think we can extract from these numbers a few principles:

1) Gillard herself is not on the nose. People don’t instantly remember the education revolution and Naplan testng controversies associated with her former ministry. People don’t instantly associate her with the Rudd governments failings (even though she was in the thick of it).

2) The major increase in the Labor primary vote has been stolen from the Greens vote. As I’ve always said, people don’t vote for the Greens because they like their policies. Greens don’t have concrete policies, they have waffly values that you sort of feel from their campaign. They gain votes through deft manipulation of those emotions – and policies and actual action only gets in the way of that.

The implication of this is that swing voters who vote for the Greens have nothing particularly strong to link them to the Greens. It’s just this ephemeral feeling combined with a more concrete distaste for the major parties. Gillard’s ascension severs this weak link.

That link would always have been severed for many (but not all) of those swing voters on polling day, just as for the Liberal Democrats in the UK.

3) There is a strong, but not certain, implication that voters do not dislike the Rudd government’s policies per se but merely their style of government or a fear that they’ve run out of inertia.

But once these implications have been made, no more can be said. The Opposition’s arguments have yet to sink in. Those unused to the subtleties of politics probably haven’t quite grasped the full consequences of Rudd being overthrown by the factions. I think, after the week is through, the Opposition’s arguments may sink in further, and the numbers will drop substantially (though there will still be a strong bump towards Labor).

Personally, I don’t think the argument that “we didn’t vote for Gillard” isn’t a strong one. The argument that Gillard is a factional tool is a potentially potent one, but one that Gillard can dispell with the independent streak that she has shown so far, and with the inner strength we always knew she had.

Edit: Andrew Norton provides empirical evidence suggesting that women may not necessarily vote for Gillard more than men (in fact, quite the contrary).

And here’s firmer statistical data, which (in my opinion) backs up my assertion that Green voters do not side with the Greens because of Greens policy but because of a broad notion of values or as a protest vote: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2010/06/08/labor_green_preferences/

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2 Comments

  1. The argument that she’s a pawn of the factions is a difficult one. One of the appealing things about Rudd was that he was not of the factions, and for the past two and a half years I thought that finally the factions were smashed. Alas not.

    You’re right about Gillards independent streak though. She was in charge of executing the most anti union IR regime in Labor history and the unions had to eat the shit sandwich and like it. I. Wonder though how long this will continue.

    Her Sunday morning charm offensive has laid the groundwork for a typical dog whistling campaign to shore up the redneck vote. And Tony Burke, who Ive never liked (such a good judge of character I am given his role in the assassination) is proud of the “name change” of his portfolio to “sustainable population” instead of just population — and it’s not even satire!

  2. I don’t disagree that the argument is a difficult one to make, but if made properly it can be potent, as I said. If anyone can make that argument, it’s Abbott.


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