Flat White

Everything you need to know about the Coalition’s Newspoll “setback”

15 March 2021

11:09 AM

15 March 2021

11:09 AM

“A dose of Newspoll reality for Coalition”, the front page of The Australian reads today.

Let’s take the figures that matter. The Coalition’s primary vote is down three points to 39 per cent, while Labor’s is up two to also sit on 39. The two-party preferred vote has Labor in the lead, 52 to 48 per cent.

Rule number one of looking at polls is to never take one in isolation. It reflects a moment in time — when it was taken — that is already past. You compare it to other polls, like the one that Essential should have out tomorrow and, more importantly, look at the trend line and see if it’s a significant departure.

There’s a decline for the Coalition there, but go onto the fine print. See that bit about the margin of error — plus or minus 2.5 percentage points? Let’s apply it to the parties; add 2.5 per cent to the Coalition vote and take 2.5 from Labor. See what we end up with? The Coalition’s winning margin for the 2019 election.

In other words, things are close — just as they have been for the past six months. Play with that 2.5 per cent margin of error and either Labour or the Coalition could have “won” on any of the dates shown.

Polls are expensive, however, which is why The Australian is one of the few papers that carries them regularly. Given the investment, you need to milk them for all they’re worth to maximise any changes in key figures to grab the most publicity, and if that involves taking some journalistic license, so be it.

The “dose of reality” in today’s poll?

It really doesn’t show anything new or different.

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