Friday, 16 March 2012

Campbell Newman hits the lead again despite 'dirt' campaign

Kate JonesCampbell Newman hurt, but still in line to win seat of Ashgrove

CampbellNewman has taken a hit on his once commanding position in the must-win seat of Ashgrove but remains on track to win a tightening contest with Labor incumbent Kate Jones.

The latest Newspoll, exclusive to The Australian, shows Mr Newman's primary vote in Ashgrove is steady on 49 per cent, but Kate Jones has closed the gap after luring away Greens support.

The poll sets up a dramatic final week of the struggle in Ashgrove, where Mr Newman is vying to make history by leading the Liberal National Party to victory from outside parliament at tomorrow week's state election.

When likely preferences are factored in, Mr Newman's two-party-preferred vote is four points clear of Ms Jones, 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

However, the one-time Bligh minister has momentum going her way, having cut Mr Newman's two-party-preferred lead by six points since the last Newspoll in the seat nine months ago. At that time, he was leading Ms Jones by 55 per cent to 45 per cent in the two-party-preferred, and would have won the seat outright without resorting to preferences.

The race is now set for a photo finish, with Mr Newman likely to have to rely on preferences in the face of Labor's grassroots "Keep Kate" campaign. Her primary vote has increased by 7 per cent since the last survey of the electorate in July.

It comes as the Bligh government today faces the final report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, to be handed down by judge Cate Holmes. The Ashgrove results will serve to vindicate the decision of Ms Jones - who holds the seat with a 7.1 per cent margin - to relinquish her position in the ministry last year and fuel Labor attacks on Mr Newman's business dealings.

Despite the gains, Ms Jones's personal satisfaction ratings have dropped 5 per cent to 65 per cent.

Mr Newman's satisfaction levels as leader of the LNP have also fallen, by six points to 57 per cent. Crucially, however, dis-satisfaction with Mr Newman's performance as LNP leader has spiked - increasing 10 points from 27 per cent to 37 per cent. Labor will take heart from this as it continues to pursue Mr Newman on integrity questions as the campaign enters its decisive phase.

In the latest statewide Newspoll, Labor's base vote is pegged at 30 per cent; when preferences are factored in, it trails the LNP 42 per cent to 58 per cent. On those numbers, Labor would lose more than half its 51 seats, including ministers touted as future leaders, in the 89-seat parliament.

Greens preferences may now determine the outcome of the battle for Ashgrove, with Sandra Bayley previously saying she was inclined to support Ms Jones over Mr Newman. This week, Ms Jones released a how-to-vote card directing her preferences to the Greens. While most of her preferences will flow to Labor - whether or not a deal is struck with the Greens - Queensland's optional preferential voting system at the state level will cause many of them to exhaust.

The encouraging news for Ms Jones is Ashgrove voters have a propensity to number the ballot paper and not "just vote 1", lowering the exhaustion rate of preferences to the benefit of Labor.

During the campaign, the voters of Ashgrove have been bombarded with campaign propaganda from both sides as well as interest groups representing mining companies, conservation and indigenous groups.

The survey poll of 504 voters was taken between last Friday and Wednesday night.
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