There’s something odd about the Nielson Poll

The results of the latest Nielson Poll are devastating for both Julia Gillard and Labor. In summary, the poll:

. . . shows Labor’s primary vote has dropped five points since December to 30 per cent, while the Coalition’s has risen four points to 47 per cent.

After preferences, the Coalition has a thumping election-winning lead of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

The figures also reveal a dramatic reversal in who voters would prefer as prime minister.

Support for Mr Abbott has jumped nine points to 49 per cent, while Ms Gillard’s support has dropped five points to 45 per cent.

There’s something odd about this. Not the poll itself as the figures don’t lie, but it’s the reasons for the massive drop in support for the Government which I find odd.

To throw some light on this, let’s look at what has happened in politics since December to ascertain where this dissatisfaction may have been generated.

January 5: The Federal Government announced that arrangements were being made to ensure that natural disaster assistance was available to help communities in south eastern Tasmania recover from the devastating bushfires that had hit the region.

January 8: Tony Abbott puts himself on standby with his local fire brigade as NSW awaits the outbreak of new bushfires.

January 11: The International Monetary Fund reports that Australia’s most needlessly wasteful spending took place under the John Howard-led Coalition Government.

January 22: School Education Minister Peter Garrett announced that the Government is investing a further $29.6 million in a new agreement with the Western Australian Government to help boost literacy and numeracy results in the state’s schools.

January 23: The Prime Minister launched Australia’s first National Security Strategy.

January 25: Tony Abbott let’s us all know that he’s a ‘grog monster‘.

January 25: The Westpac Australia Day Report showed that more than two thirds of Australians (67 per cent) are positive about the national economy, while two thirds of those (66 per cent) expected this to continue.

January 24: Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles announced that the Government will provide $2 million to help the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) feed 575,000 refugees in Kenya that have fled war and drought in the region.

January 27: The LNP goes into a ‘mini election mode” with the release of its booklet titled Our plan: real solutions for all Australians. It does not provide any policy details, just plans.

January 29: Nova Peris was been officially pre-selected as Labor’s top Senate candidate for the Northern Territory.

January 29: The first Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments (AGDRP) have been made available to QLD flood victims. Ten Local Govt Areas affected by flooding in Northern NSW also had access to joint-funded national disaster assistance.

January 30: The Prime Minister announced the election date; September 14.

January 31: To allay concerns about the limitation of freedom of speech, Attorney General Nicola Roxon wants the most controversial element of her proposed anti-discrimination laws to be stripped from the bill. Ms Roxon asked her department to draft alternative proposals to sections of the bill that raise freedom of speech concerns, including the removal of section 19(2)(b), which extends the definition of discrimination to include behaviour that might “offend”.

January 31: Members of the NSW fraud squad on Thursday executed an arrest warrant on Craig Thomson on behalf of the Victorian Fraud.

January 31: Tony Abbott addresses the National Press Club and announces/confirms his intentions that in Government the LNP the carbon tax will be gone, the mining tax will be gone, the boats will be stopped and the budget will be back in the black.

January 31: A leaked email from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s inner circle has put pressure on him to come clean about planned budget savings.

February 1: Tony Abbott reiterated a pledge to take the $1.2 billion school kids’ bonus away from families. Introduced last year, the bonus provides eligible families with $410 a year for each child in primary school and $820 for each in high school. This would leave 1.3 million families worse off.

February 1: Tony Abbott has confirmed that the Liberals will cut vital tax breaks for Australia’s more than two million small business men and women if elected in September. Mr Abbott has pledged to scrap the instant asset tax write-off, which allows small businesses to claim a deduction for the full value of each new asset costing up to $6,500 after one year.

February 1: Tony Abbott refused to explain how he will balance the budget while again promising (if elected) to do whatever he can to scrap the ‘carbon tax’, even if it means another election if the Senate is uncooperative.

February 2: Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a major Cabinet reshuffle following the resignations of two senior ministers; Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Senate Leader Chris Evans are stepping down from their portfolios and will quit politics later this year.

February 5: The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Communications and Media Authority signed an agreement to help combat the flow of child abuse materials on the internet.

February 5: Australia recorded a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of $427 million in December 2012, an 85 per cent improvement on the revised $2.8 billion November deficit.

February 5: The Government announced it is investing a further $6.8 million in a new agreement with the Tasmanian Government to help boost literacy and numeracy results in the state’s schools.

February 5: The RBA leaves interest rates on hold.

February 6: The federal government announced that it would upgrade satellite and wireless services for the 7 per cent of the nation’s population who live in regional and remote areas that will not get access to the national broadband network’s highest-speed “fibre to the home”. Communications and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said the upgrade would double the speeds of the NBN’s fixed wireless and satellite internet.

February 7: The Federal Government’s plan to restore the Murray-Darling Basin river system to health is on track after key funding laws were passed by the Senate. MPs approved securing an extra $1.77 billion to pump up to 450 billion litres of additional water back into the basin.

February 7: A story is leaked that Tony Abbott will take to the election a radical plan to reshape Australia by splitting it into different personal tax zones and forcibly shifting tens of thousands of jobs to the Top End. The secret draft economic policy document, entitled Vision 2030, also proposes to carve $800 million from the foreign aid budget to be diverted to a mega-project in northern Australia.

February 8: The average cost of a three-year fixed home loan has fallen to its lowest level in 23 years.

February 9: It is reported that more than 3.6 million people would face tax increases under a Tony Abbott-led government, thanks to his pledge to close off the low-income superannuation concession, which reduces to zero the normal 15 per cent rate applied to super contributions.

February 9: Tony Abbott vetoed his rival Malcolm Turnbull from replacing him on Channel Nine’s Today Show after Abbott dumped his regular spot.

February 9: The Opposition comes under fire for not releasing their costed election policies.

February 9: Treasurer Wayne Swan revealed the mining tax raised just $126 million during its first six months of operation.

February 10: Julia Gillard announced plans to extend Australia’s flexible work laws to mums and dads returning from parental leave. The workplace relations changes also include an extension of the right to request flexible and part time work for mothers returning from maternity leave and protection for workers from rostering changes.

February 10: Julia Gillard announced a deal that will see 150 refugees from Australia resettled in New Zealand each year.

February 10: Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says if she were to become Foreign Minister, former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would be considered for any role with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, citing that his talents and experience that could land him a diplomatic appointment under a Coalition Government.

February 12: Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation Bill Shorten announced that Australians who are bullied at work will be able to get help quickly with a focus on early intervention through the Fair Work Commission. The Government’s response supports measures to adopt a national definition of workplace bullying, to promote education and awareness of what constitutes workplace bullying and to lead the development of national training standards to improve responses to bullying complaints.

February 12: Tony Abbott tells colleagues that overseas travel will be ‘banned’ until after the election.“Be ready, be visible and be in Australia”.

February 13: Tony Abbott comes under attack for lying about how large the Public Service had grown since 2007. His number of 20,000 appears to be something ‘placed out there’ in order to get support for his plan to axe 17,000 Public Service jobs. The number is way off the mark. Since 2007 the number of people employed in the PS increased by a little over 13,000. I have been informed by the CPSU that since 2010 the increase has bee a mere 2,747. A big difference than the 20,000 as claimed by Tony Abbott.

February 14: Minister for School Education Peter Garrett announced that Students and teachers in 1700 schools will benefit from an extra $240 million in funding, aimed at boosting teaching standards, improving literacy and numeracy results and providing extra resources for disadvantaged schools.

February 14: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is reportedly considering building as many as 100 dams across the country as part of a plan to prevent floods, fuel power stations and irrigate food bowls at a cost of $30 billion.

I don’t know what period of time the Neilson Poll was conducted, hence I’ve only included political news up to and including February 14. I’m prepared to accept too that I might have missed a number of announcements from both the major political parties during January and the first half of February. There have also been some major initiatives launched by the Government over the last few days, such as spending more than $70 million on three new centres to research cell therapy, autism, eye care in remote communities and workplace safety, and the $1 billion jobs plan. We’ll know by the next poll whether or not the voters warm to these.

Now, why do I find the poll odd? Well, apart from the Craig Thomson arrest there has been nothing (from the above) to encourage a giant swing against both the Prime Minister and her party. Quite the contrary. If we relied on nothing but press releases or policy announcements it is safe to say that Labor has had a better start to the year than the Opposition, who have offered or achieved close to nothing, apart from a healthy boost in the polls.

I would speculate that there have been two issues to factor in to these results. Firstly, the constant media hype of a Rudd challenge to Julia Gillard may be creating some uncertainty in the electorate. Secondly, and I find this one hard to accept, some people have such a low disregard for the Prime Minister that they’d vote for the LNP no matter what the consequences.

What’s your opinion?