The March 2014 State election is up for grabs – and the two major party leaders have around 80 days to win it or lose it.
The latest Newspoll, published today in The Australian, shows just why the incumbent ALP government had the spring back in its step these last few weeks: it has cut the margin by which it trailed the Opposition in half.
The rolling poll – taken from October to December – shows Labor is back in the race, trailing in the two-party preferred vote 53 to 47 per cent, an improvement from the 57-43 result in the June Newspoll.
Labor won the 2010 election when Newspoll showed it trailed 52-48, close to the actual result of 51.6 to 48.4.
The governing party targeted key marginal seats in that election to overcome the electorate’s general rejection of the Rann Government.
Rann is no longer a factor, with Jay Weatherill booting him out of the Premier’s office in October 2011.
The change of leadership looked to have made little impression on voters with Newspolls in 2012 and again this year showing Weatherill still trailing.
That, however, was against the backdrop of the ALP’s federal leadership woes, a factor that has now vanished.
Today’s poll shows Weatherill hasn’t suffered a backlash from his government’s handling of child sexual abuse in schools – the issue has, however, prevented him from getting his own message across.
Political analyst Professor Clem Macintyre said today the result would disappoint the challengers.
“The Liberals will be disappointed they are no further in front, given Jay’s year battling education issues,” said Macintyre, the Head of Politics at Adelaide University.
“On the other hand Labor will be disappointed with its failure to register an increase in its own primary vote – that remains a problem for them.
“The Newspoll shows there are still lots of people to be swayed.
“(Opposition Leader Steve) Marshall can be pleased that as people make a judgement on him, its generally a positive one.
“The reality is that the Liberals need to win enough seats. This poll suggests seats will fall from government hands – but will there be enough?”
Newspoll shows voters are equally satisfied with Marshall and the Premier, with 43 per cent happy with their respective performances.
It’s the undecided voters that appear to hold the key; and that’s where Steven Marshall can take some comfort.
In the year since he took over the leadership of the State Liberals his satisfaction rating has increased as the number of uncommitted voters has decreased.
In March 37 per cent approved of his leadership, while 44 per cent remained uncommitted. In June his approval rose to 41 while uncommitted fell to 39 and today’s poll shows an approval rating of 43 against uncommitted of 36.
“As a first term MP, people have been holding off making judgement on him. Marshall can take comfort from the fact that when they’ve made that judgement, it’s generally been a positive one,” Macintyre said.
The unknown factor is the huge vote (17 per cent) for independents and other parties.
Their preferences will decide key seats and the battle to get 24 of the 47 Lower House seats could come down to a rogue candidate and a preference deal.
Candidates around the State have 80 days to get your vote. Expect to hear from them often.
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