The Newspoll in this morning’s Australian shows the Greens polling 6 per cent of the primary vote, down from 7.2 per cent in the 2004 election.
Newspolls this year have consistently had the Greens vote fluctuating around the 5 per cent mark, and this has resulted in commentary in the Oz and some other Murdoch papers about a supposed decline in Greens support.
Allow me to present some evidence in support of an alternative hypothesis: that Newspoll, for whatever reason, is underestimating the Greens vote.
In the past seven months, State elections have been held in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, and Newspoll has polled voters’ intentions in each of those elections. We can therefore compare Newspoll’s estimate of the Greens vote in the three largest Australian states with the actual Greens vote.
Queensland: Newspoll (6-7 September 2006) estimate of Greens vote in 2006 State election: 4 per cent, after fluctuating between 2 and 4 per cent in Newspolls over the previous year. Actual Greens vote in State election: 7.99 per cent.
Victoria: Newspoll (8-9 November 2006) estimate of Greens vote in 2006 State election: 8 per cent, after fluctuating between 5 and 7 per cent during the previous year. Actual Greens vote in State election: 10.04 per cent in Lower House, 10.58 per cent in Upper House.
NSW: Newspoll (21-22 March 2007) estimate of Greens vote in 2007 State election: 6 per cent, having fluctuated between 6 and 7 per cent during the previous year. Actual Greens vote in State election: 8.9 per cent in Lower House, 9.12 per cent in Upper House.
The Newspoll results at the Newspoll site carry the warning that:
Any reproduction of this material must credit both NEWSPOLL and THE AUSTRALIAN
Accordingly I hereby credit Newspoll and The Australian with the consistently and significantly inaccurate estimates of the Greens vote in the three State elections referred to. I also credit Newspoll and The Australian with persisting in a polling methodology which seriously underestimated the Greens vote in the NSW State election after it had previously underestimated the Greens vote in the Victorian and Queensland elections. It is too soon to credit Newspoll and The Australian with underestimating the Greens Federal vote, but such a possibility must be considered likely in the light of the disparity between Newspoll estimates and actual election outcomes in the most recent elections in the three largest States. And in this light one would be either a very brave or a very ideologically driven soul who would rely on the Newspoll figures as solid evidence of “declining Greens support” at Federal level, especially when the Morgan and AC Nielsen polls have the Greens currently tracking at 9 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.