A Queensland state poll by Galaxy, published in the Courier-Mail, tells a story that should have both major parties quite concerned. If this poll is correct and typical, it is 1998 all over again and a bit more. Perhaps the current One Nation polling bubble will burst before an election that is possibly still most of a year away. If it doesn't, then a weakened minority government facing an unpopular opposition presents a dream scenario for Australia's number one nineties nostalgia party to break through at state level and obtain some serious power there. Whether it would manage to remain remotely united this time if it did, nobody knows.
The high One Nation vote should be considered no surprise following polls showing the party at 16% in Western Australia, 16.3% in NSW and 9.4% in Victoria. Queensland always was the party's strongest state. It's possible even that the figure is an underestimate, but I am not that convinced that One Nation voters are all that shy anymore.
Sample size issues aside (and I haven't seen the sample size for this poll yet) there is one big reason to treat this poll with unusual caution. It comes during a lousy news cycle for the government following the resignation of Transport Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe in response to a damning report on the failings of Queensland Rail. I would expect that event to be deflating Labor's primary vote, and everything I say below should be taken with that caveat.
Other results of the poll show Annastacia Palaszczuk's lead as preferred premier over Tim Nicholls down from 46-28 to 39-27. It can be inferred from this that the One Nation surge is producing an increasing neither-of-the-above reaction. However, the Courier-Mail goes too far in taking the 34% uncommitted vote on the preferred-premier metric as "an unofficial vote for Senator Hanson as preferred premier" and the headline "Poll points to Pauline as people's pick" is silly. A bedrock uncommitted figure of 15% was seen in the early days of Palaszczuk's premiership and Tim Nicholls is still a relatively unknown quantity as Opposition Leader. Therefore to credit more than 15% to any One Nation figure - or even that much in my view - would not be justified.
Indeed, while the Courier-Mail claims Premier Palaszczuk's popularity has "nosedived", it is making the usual irritating mistake of confusing preferred leader scores with actual measures of leader popularity. Palaszczuk's net satisfaction is down only from +5 (44-39) to +4 (41-37), a probably meaningless change, and the leader really struggling on that measure is Tim Nicholls, who is down from -4 (31-35) to -12 (27-39).
As the One Nation vote is basically what they polled in 1998, it is useful to compare the poll figures with the 1998 result as a rough indication of what might happen in seat terms if votes like these were polled at an election now.
In 1998 Labor won from Opposition, winning 44/89 seats and forming government with the initial support of independent Peter Wellington. One Nation won eleven seats, but disintegrated to such an extent that by the next election not one of their MPs recontested as a One Nation candidate.
The following table shows comparisons between the Galaxy poll and the 1998 election result. I have also noted the current balance of seats in the parliament compared to that existing after the 1998 election.
While it may seem that the current poll result is 1998-ish after accounting for the movement of votes from Labor to the Greens, the above table shows it isn't really so. Collectively parties that might be described as left or centre-left (ALP, Greens, Democrats) are 3.9 points worse off while parties that might be described as right or centre-right (LNP, PHON, KAP) are up 5.
In a 2PP context (Labor vs LNP) this means that Labor comes out about three points worse than if the primaries were the same as in 1998 (I get 50.9% vs 54.1%). Applying this swing to the 1998 results without considering any other changes since, about five seats won by Labor would have been won by the LNP (or in those days, combined Liberals and Nationals).
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