Newspoll opposition leader approval ratings and voting intentions

This is about a 'Lies and Statistics' piece in the Australian Financial Review on October 14 2006

Points not squeezable into 500 words:

The votes I used are of course two party preferred.

I looked at opposition leaders' satisfaction, not PMs'.

All two party preferred are my calculations from Newspoll primary data. This, and other numerical considerations, are expanded on here. If you're not in the mood for numbers you can safely skip it. (It's a bit heavy going.)

I use Newspoll because they have a great online archive and because they are the best known pollster. However, they are currently, for some reason, the least generous of all to Labor, and if you include ACNielsen and Morgan, Beazley’s average voting intention numbers increase substantially. Nielsen, in the dying days of the last two election campaigns, was closest of all to actual two party preferred, and this week they had 54 to 46 to Labor.  

We don't know what satisfaction/approval rating means. Whatever it is, its relationship with voting intentions may be weak, non-existent or opposite to what is commonly assumed. (The data points to the latter.) Voters/survey respondents are human beings, which means things aren't always linear and 'rational'. The bottom line is that the leader needs to attract votes (and - just as importantly - not repel ones that may be floating their way), and it is possible that respondents greatly admire the very things that, come election day, actually send them scurrying. For example, people might have liked John Hewson because "at least he has a plan for the country", or Mark Latham because "he's tough, knows what he stands for and isn't easily swayed" but at the ballot box these are the things that repel them. Possibly also an underdog effect helps lowly approved leaders.

Anyway, a table containing all data used in the column was posted a couple of weeks ago, while the full enchilada version is on this page below. It's big, but don't be afraid of it, just use the bits you want. 

I've thrown in opposition leaders who didn't make it to an election, PM's satisfaction rating and primary votes for readers who may have a problem with my two party preferred calculations. The primary vote 'gap' columns are Coalition primary minus Labor primary - so are positive if the Coalition is ahead - and they tell a similar story to 2pp.

Eg Howard '85-'87 had an average Newspoll primary vote deficit of 4.1 but a positive 0.2 percent lead on election day; Latham goes from trailing by 2.1 to losing by 9.1

Have split several terms up, for example Hewson between Hawke and Keating.

Newspoll historical average data up to September 2006

PM Opp
leader
Average Newspoll data

Election results

Labor
prim
Coal
prim
prim
gap
ALP
2pp
Coal
2pp
PM
sat
Oppl
Sat
ALP
prim
Coal
prim
prim
gap
alp
2pp
Coal
2pp
1 Nov '85-Jul '87 Hawke Howard 48.0 43.9 -4.1 52.9 47.1 51 31 45.8 46.0 0.2 50.8 49.2
2 Jul '87-May '89 Hawke Howard 44.4 43.7 -0.7 51.6 48.4 50 33 na na na na na
3 May '89-Mar '90 Hawke Peacock 41.4 42.2 0.8 51.3 48.7 40 26 39.4 43.5 4.1 49.9 50.1
4a Mar '90-Dec '91 Hawke Hewson 36.7 47.7 11.0 46.2 53.8 35 44 na na na na na
4 Mar '90-'Mar '93 Hk/Ktg Hewson 38.8 46.7 7.9 47.6 52.4 32 41 44.8 44.3 -0.5 51.4 48.6
4b Jan '92-Mar '93 Keating Hewson 40.1 46.0 5.9 48.5 51.5 30 39 44.8 44.3 -0.5 51.4 48.6
5 Mar '93-May '94 Keating Hewson 41.4 46.5 5.1 48.8 51.3 31 30 na na na na na
6 May '94-Jan '95 Keating Downer 43.1 45.3 2.2 50.1 49.9 37 30 na na na na na
7 Feb '95-Mar '96 Keating Howard 39.7 47.7 8.0 46.9 53.1 33 46 38.7 47.0 8.3 46.4 53.6
8 Mar '96-Oct '98 Howard Beazley 39.2 44.3 5.1 47.9 52.1 44 44 40.1 39.5 -0.6 51.2 48.8
8a Mar '96-Oct '97 Howard Beazley 37.2 47.1 9.9 45.5 54.5 49 43 na na na na na
8b Oct '97-Oct '98 Howard Beazley 42.1 40.3 -1.8 51.5 48.5 37 46 40.1 39.5 -0.6 51.2 48.8
9 Oct '98-Nov '01 Howard Beazley 42.1 43.1 1.0 50.8 49.2 45 45 37.8 43.1 5.3 49.1 50.9
10 Nov '01-Dec '03 Howard Crean 36.7 43.3 6.6 48.6 51.4 55 31 na na na na na
11 Dec '03-Oct '04 Howard Latham 41.0 43.1 2.1 50.6 49.4 52 52 37.6 46.7 9.1 47.3 52.7
12 Nov '04-Jan '05 Howard Latham 36.8 46.3 9.5 46.9 53.1 58 37 na na na na na
13 Feb '05-Sept '06 Howard Beazley 38.9 42.9 4.0 49.6 50.4 49 36 tba tba tba tba tba
13a Feb '05-Oct '05 Howard Beazley 38.1 44.6 6.5 48.3 51.7 53 41 tba tba tba tba tba
13b Oct '05-Sept '06 Howard Beazley 39.5 41.6 2.1 50.6 49.4 47 33 tba tba tba tba tba

 

Return to main page                                  Read about two party preferred calculations

Also have split the 1996-8 term into two, because while I cite Beazley in that period as evidence for the accepted view of the satisfaction-voting intentions relationship, changes over the term muddy things. For the first six months, Howard and Beazley both enjoyed high approval, and Howard a huge voting intention lead - Keating was gone and voters considered everything hunky-dory.

But gradually Howard's approval and vote went down, while Beazley's vote went up. I've split them around October '97, and if you look only at the year 'til October '98, you'll see Beazley has high approval rating of 46, voting intention of 51.5 and eventual vote of 51.2. It becomes, like Howard '95-6, somewhat neutral evidence. (Those two periods - 7 & 8b - are very similar: low PM approval, high opposition leader approval and average 2pp close to actual election result.)

Go to numbers.  Read Lies and Stats piece