The problem is that there really isn't any other way to know, as a party, whether the message you are putting out there is gaining any traction at all. I suppose you can monitor the press (as any politician does) and you can keep track of what is discussed on talkback radio, but that can only gets you so far.
Even once you know the numbers, it's hard to know whether there is any effect on the election that is still over three years away.
My view is that there is practically nothing that any party can do that is going to sink them next election. It's no coincidence that O'Farrell has made a lot of very unpopular changes recently - capping salary growth for public sector workers and making changes to the police disability scheme being the most traumatic.
|Police marching on Parliament. Photo from here|
So, I don't think that yesterday's Newspoll numbers say anything important about O'Farrell's changes:
|Leaked with the usual efficiency by @ghostwhovotes|
Now, I don't really want to get stuck into the details of the numbers, for those reasons. What I do want to do is note that they have barely moved an inch since the election date.
In circumstances where O'Farrell has done plenty to give the public reason to shift their allegiance, that is something that will give him comfort.
I've had a look through the old Newspoll first preference figures, and interestingly this has not been the rule previously. After coming to power in 1995, the Labor numbers went up over 4% in the first poll 4 months later, but then plummeted 8% in the next poll 2 months later.
This government was plagued by problems in it's first year relating to the delivery on some promises. The contrast to O'Farrell is worth noting - whilst he has annoyed a lot of people, the hand he was dealt in the lead-up to the election meant that he didn't in fact have to break any promises - so people are annoyed only because of what he is doing, not because he is doing something he promised not to do.
In 1999, after retaining power, the first poll 4 months later had Labor 4 points up, but then back down 2 in the following poll.
Following the 2003 election (also won by Labor), they dropped 3 points in the first poll and then remained steady, whilst in 2007 they dropped 5 points and then pulled 1 back.
|From Anthony Green's blog. Obviously doesn't include 2011 result|
So, why has the Coalition managed to retain this huge lead over Labor? Is it because they haven't actually broken any promises? Could it be that the public are happy to give you a free hit once in power as long as you don't break any promises?
I think so - although I'm not certain that we have the precise cause right.
It could be the fact that no promises were broken. On the other hand, it could be the fact that Labor were so reviled that only the most heinous conduct by O'Farrell would be punished. Whilst his changes have annoyed a lot of people, I fancy Joe Citizen is pretty content with how things are going at the moment, which would accord with a +21 satisfaction rating.
Either way, it bodes well for the remainder of the Coalition's term. O'Farrell may well now be encouraged to make as many unpopular changes as he wants as long as he does it soon - this will mean that he can save all the popular stuff for the 2 years leading up to the 2015 election when he will want to limit the amount of ground Labor is able to claw back.
Labor made a lot of noise in the lead-up to the election about the "blank cheque" that O'Farrell was being given. It seems that he is hard at work cashing that cheque right now.