Update on Australian Polling

After the surprise turnaround last month that resulted in Kevin Rudd replacing Julia Gillard as leader of the Australian Labor Party, and thus Prime Minister, I’ve been keeping a close eye on opinion polls.  It’s been widely assumed that Rudd is a far more popular politician than Gillard, perhaps because his as Prime Minister between 2007 – 2010 is being seen in a positive light or due to Gillard’s unpopular leadership, and it was hoped that he could save the party from the wipe-out it seemed to be spiraling towards.  Labor had only barely clung on to power in the 2010 election, winning the same number of seats as the Liberal-National coalition (and actually having one seat less now, keeping afloat only through cross-bench support), and their subsequent loss of support has not looked positive.

Yet, Rudd has improved the party’s prospects significantly.  While a month ago Labor was polling at least 10% behind the Coalition, 12 polls since have shown a distinct change.  Granted, Labor have only had a lead in 3 of these polls (4 if you’re counting two-party-preferred vote) and all from the same company, but every poll has shown a narrowing of voting intention.  The Coalition only has an average lead of 3% in the last couple of weeks of polls, which constitutes a major reduction.  Polling shows that, although it’s an uphill struggle, Australian Labor still has everything to play for.

Using this nice page to calculate seats, we can get an idea of what these votes will actually mean on election day.  If we take an average of every poll since Rudd became Prime Minister, we get a result something like:

Labor – 71 seats
Coalition – 76 seats
Other – 3 seats
(150 seats in total)

This would give the coalition the narrowest of majorities.  Using this data, we can predict the probability of various results:

Labor majority: 36% likely.
Coalition majority: 45% likely.
Hung parliament: 18% likely.

This election, the date of which has not yet been decided but must be held before the 30th November, is not predictable by any means.

(I often find maths boring, but when calculating election things I’m incredibly thankful for that Higher maths course!  I could think of many worse jobs than this…)

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The Fall of Julia Gillard

I often wish British politics could be as exciting as events I hear about in other democracies around the world.  Today began with the surprising announcement that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (2007-2010; he led Labor to victory after 11 years of Liberal-National rule) was to challenge current Prime Minister Julia Gillard as leader of the Labor Party.  There have been challenges in the past which Rudd lost, but this particular challenge bears resemblance to events in 2010 where Gillard outmaneuvered Rudd and took his position as Labor leader, ultimately winning the election.

By 57 votes to 45, Rudd won the leadership vote and has become the new leader of the Labor party.  This doesn’t mean he is now the Prime Minister – Gillard still has to submit her resignation to the Governor-General before this could happen, and with an election due to be held possibly as early as August Rudd certainly wouldn’t have much time in power.  This result certainly does spell the end of Julia Gillard’s political career, however.  She announced that she will not seek re-election later this year and is set to retire from politics.  At least one of my 2013 predictions have come true.

So why did this happen?  This seems like an act of desperation from the Labor Party, which has been performing very poorly in opinion polls and has seemed certain to be facing defeat in the next election.  I don’t know a great deal about Australian politics but Gillard does seem a very unpopular figure, perhaps partly due to Australia’s poor economic performance and her terrible record on immigration.  Throwing migrants onto an island is a really bizarre idea.  My Australian cousins have certainly spoken about her negatively various times and a quick scan of the social networks reveals far more support for Rudd than Gillard.  So is this a last-ditch attempt of the Labor Party to save itself?  I suspect many Labor MPs feel he has a better change of leading the party to victory or, failing that, avoiding total wipe-out – and therefore making their own seats more secure.   Time will tell.

Having browsed the general policies of the main Australian political parties I think I’d probably be most inclined to support the Greens, who are currently in a formal alliance with Labor and, I’m glad to see, generally poll at around 10%.  But even with Green support I don’t think Labor is likely to win the election.