Sunday, December 8, 2019

In Search Of Australia's Most Ratioed Political Tweets

Following the 2019 federal election defeat, Labor is having a hard time reappraising its relationship with coal.  The party was smacked senseless in mining towns in Queensland and copped a 9.5% swing against it in Hunter (NSW), where Labor voters deserted to One Nation in droves.  At the same time, mixed messages on Adani probably saw it lose votes in the other direction to the Greens in the Queensland Senate race.  Labor MHR for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon, has been particularly keen to reconnect with the coal industry following his own somewhere-near-death experience, but when he tried this on Twitter this week, it mostly did not go down well with the natives:


Fitzgibbon's tweet attracted far more replies than likes.  On Twitter this (with varying definitions, eg including or not including retweets as well as or instead of likes, where to set the cutoff etc) is known as being ratioed. The formula I use is simply (number of replies)/(number of likes), counting anything over 1 as an instance.  While there are cases where tweets attract more replies than likes because they provoke a genuinely long discussion or outpourings of sympathy, these exceptions are very rare indeed (especially in politics).  As a general rule, a tweet that is ratioed is so because it has been piled onto by opponents.  Frequently there is a very good reason for that, but in politics the response can be affected by partisan bias.

Twitter ratios tend to fluctuate, and often a ratio that starts out enormous will modify a little as the initial wave of angry responses slows and more casual followers of the author of the tweet see it and like it.  There are also some other aspects that affect the ratio for a tweet that gets an angry response:

1. Australian political Twitter is heavily left-wing.  Thus ratioed tweets by Coalition politicians are very common, by Labor politicians uncommon, and by Greens politicians ... I couldn't actually find one.  A similar pattern is seen with Republicans and Democrats in the US.  Media tweets are quite often ratioed, and this doesn't seem to have much to do with whether the media source is seen as right-wing or not.  ABC tweets are often ratioed by the left if they are seen as letting the side down.

2. Prominent Coalition figures tend to get less severely ratioed than less prominent ones.  This is because the less prominent ones may attract much the same chorus of opposition from left-wing opponents, but the more prominent ones have more likes from their followers to balance it out.

3. Replies can get more severely ratioed than original tweets (here's an example from Alexander Downer with a 24.4 ratio).  A reply, especially a quick one, will be seen by many people in the debate, but followers of the politician may only see it and like it if they are also following the person the politician is replying to.

Here's a good example of point 2.  This tasteless Tony Abbott tweet claiming Bob Hawke as having "a Liberal head" almost as soon as Hawke had died has among the most replies of any ratioed Australian politics tweet I have seen, but its reply-to-likes ratio is "only" 4.11.  (The most replied-to ratioed tweet I have found is one by Pauline Hanson with over 7,000 replies.)



Having established that the ratio is a very skewed metric, the following are, at the time of writing, all Australian political tweets with ratios exceeding 5 to 1 that I have found.  They were found mostly using a range of search terms involving "ratio".  More sophisticated Twitter analytics searching could well unearth many more.  I have applied the following limitations: (i) significant political figures (as decided by me) only (ii) must have at least 100 replies (iii) must not be a reply (including any tweet that opens with a handle) (iv) deleted tweets or accounts excluded.  It is harder to find ratio cases before 2017 because the term "ratio" was less in vogue.  The article may be edited from time to time to update the list, but in general I will allow new entries at least a few days to settle before adding them.  This is an opening offer only!

As a general comment, the massive abundance of Coalition tweets in this list just shows how Twitter doesn't reflect political reality.  These people did, after all, win the election.

1. Mitch Fifield 24.90


Can such a ratio be real?

2. Mary Wooldridge 19.14



3. Stuart Robert 14.28



4. Melissa Price 14.16

5. Melissa Price 14.10



Price's time as Environment Minister did not attract rave reviews ...

6. Caleb Bond 13.10



7. Stuart Robert 11.92


This should have been a reply to a previous tweet by Robert, but he stuffed up the threading of it, making what was already a jargon-heavy offering of word salad even more perplexing as a standalone.  The actual context was a seminar presentation about "the Morrison Government’s vision for, and progress in delivering, Services Australia."  The tweets above it in the stream attracted almost no attention whatsoever.  

8. Gladys Berejiklian 11.31


The most common reply said simply "#koalakiller", apparently a reference to fire service funding claims, some of which have been given the raspberry by RMIT ABC Fact Check.

9. Tim Wilson 10.04


10. ABC Q+A 9.56


Outside the top ten

Tweets outside my top ten list are not numbered and ratios will not be rechecked, except if they move into the top ten.


Joel Fitzgibbon 8.82


By far the highest scoring Labor tweet I have encountered.

Michaelia Cash 8.56


Josh Frydenberg 8.46



Alex Hawke 8.05



Christian Porter 7.79



Jason Falinski 7.11



ABC News 6.96



Nobody likes false equivalence.

Angus Taylor 6.92



Sydney Morning Herald 6.85



Sydney Morning Herald 6.72



Mathias Cormann on Sky News 6.56


Gladys Berejiklian 6.53



Michaelia Cash 6.35



Sunrise re Tony Abbott 6.27



Ben English (Daily Telegraph) 6.18


Attacking Bill Shorten's mother was rightly seen as a low blow but ALP strategists have since suggested that when he was explaining, they were losing.

Stuart Robert 6.12


Michael Sukkar 6.10



Ah if only Labor had lost some by-elections, they might not have lost the poll that matters ...

Matthew Canavan 6.04


Angus Taylor 6.00


Sky News featuring Steven Ciobo 5.92



Business Council of Australia 5.72


Nicole Chettle (ABC) 5.30




Hamish Macdonald for featuring David Leyonhjelm 5.21




Barnaby Joyce 5.09



Barnaby has a large following so it takes quite an effort for him to get his ratio above about two or three.  Here he does it by correcting a factual error and misspelling the corrector's name.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Voting Patterns In The Tasmanian House Of Assembly (2014-2019)

Advance Summary

1. In the previous Tasmanian Lower House term, the most common voting pattern was Labor and the Greens voting together against the Liberal government. Cases of the Liberals and Greens voting together against Labor were very rare.

2. Between the last state election and September, the Government had significant defeats caused by renegade Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey sometimes voting against it, but Sue Hickey still voted with the Government more than 80% of the time.

3. Since ex-Labor Independent Madeleine Ogilvie rejoined the parliament, the government has not lost any votes, with Ogilvie almost always voting alongside it, and only voting against it so far on symbolic motions.

4. Since Ogilvie rejoined the parliament, Hickey's voting behaviour has become still more independent, to the point that she no longer strongly votes for or against any of the parties or Ogilvie.

5. Votes with the Liberals and Greens voting together against Labor have been significantly more common in this parliament than the previous two.  

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Friday, November 29, 2019

The New Newspoll And The 2019 Polling Failure

This week has seen an important development in the Australian polling industry's response to the polling failure with the release of the new-format Newspoll.  Two months ago YouGov Australia announced that it would soon abandon the mixed robocall/online format that it (including under its former name Galaxy) has used to conduct Newspoll since mid-2015, and switch to exclusively online polling.  Not only that, but the new online polling methods were to use additional weighting methods and "the synthetic sampling procedures we use globally so that our samples are as representative as possible before analysis."

Following that announcement, a further three Newspolls were released using the same method mix that succeeded spectacularly in 2016 but failed badly in 2019. This appeared to be an exercise in going through the motions while the new poll was set up and there was no reason to take those polls all that seriously.  Now the new version is out, together with some new comments about the poll's direction.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Commissioned uComms Tasmanian State Poll

uComms (commissioned by Australia Institute): Liberal 39.0 Labor 29.4 Green 16.8 Ind 11.7 Other 3.1. 
Tasmanian state polling overstates votes for Greens and this poll is likely to overstate "independent" vote
After adjusting for likely skews, poll would be borderline in majority/minority terms for government in an election "held now" (seats c. 13-9-3 or 12-9-4)
Poll is difficult to interpret because of high "independent" vote, inadequate transparency and lack of uComms track record
Poll taken on October 22

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“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
- Douglas Adams

I often feel like Arthur Dent when it comes to finding the most very basic details of Australian commissioned polling.  The Australia Institute Tasmania's uComms poll from nearly a month ago first surfaced in the form of a uselessly skewed result about support for a Tarkine National Park.  Voting intention results were withheld from publication at the time, apparently because releasing them would have diverted media attention away from the supposed Tarkine findings, and it is only this week, 27 days after the poll was conducted, that they have finally been released.  Not prominently though - after seeing more uncritical media reporting of another issues question (regarding the proposed repeal of medevac legislation), I was finally able to find the voting intention results lurking unheralded in a PDF linked off a release of the medevac findings on the TAI website.

TAI claim to be in the business of research, but depriving the audience of the data needed to analyse polls closer to the time they are released suggests they are more interested in using polling to make political points than in allowing their data to be critically examined at the time at which it is current.   For an organisation that claims transparency as one of its interest areas, and makes over 100 references to transparency on its website this is, to put it mildly, hardly a consistent way to operate.

One might ask why look at Tasmanian polling at all in the wake of the national polling failure.  But the national polling failure was in a marketplace with a history of exceptional performance, and the error was one that involved having one major party a few points too high and the other a few too low.  In Tasmania, such errors have always been common, and the nature of Hare-Clark is such that they're not the difference between one side winning outright and the other doing so.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Braddon And Bass 2019: Another Rec Fishers Preferences Beatup



One of the eternal tropes of Australian media electoral reporting is the breathless expose of how the preferencing behaviour of some obscure party or candidate could swing or did swing an important contest or in cases an entire election.  And, on a day when there was quite enough going on for election buffs to look at in the Chisholm and Kooyong signs challenge (see my updated coverage of that on the link) it has unfortunately broken out again with the sensational headline "CFMMEU-funded independents helped Liberals steal two key seats".  (CFMMEU = Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union).  The article goes on:

"The CFMMEU helped the Coalition win two key seats back from Labor at the May election by funding the campaigns of two independents who sent 1757 votes between them to the Liberal Party."  It then refers to independent recreational fishers Todd Lambert (Bass) and Brett Smith (Braddon).

The piece has been widely criticised on the Twitter psephosphere, but not everyone uses Twitter, and especially as the seats in question are Tasmanian I think it's worth posting a detailed explanation here of why this piece is incorrect.  I note that no psephologist was interviewed for the article.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Not-A-Poll: Best State Premiers Of The Last 40-ish Years - Final Stage 3

Over a year ago I started a new series of Not-A-Poll voting for this site's choice of Best State Premier in every state and, eventually, the whole country.  It's been going so long that some of the original contestants, including the current leader, are no longer in the original 40 year window, but just retitled it and ignored that.

For the last round in an attempt to cull the field faster in what looks like an inexorable run to the crowning of Don Dunstan, I set a threshhold of 15%.  It turned out that for this round the threshhold was 17 votes, and the also-rans were very tightly packed around it, with Neville Wran and the last surviving current Premier Daniel Andrews just falling short.


Having been miraculously saved from elimination in the previous round, Jim Bacon came second in this one and goes through to the next stage, together with Dunstan and the Coalition run-off winner Greiner.  Voting on this stage (possibly the final stage) is open in the sidebar and goes to 6 pm New Year's Eve.  If one candidate gets an absolute majority this round that's the end, otherwise there will be a final between the top two (after any necessary tiebreaks).

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Migrants Voting For One Nation and UAP? (Plus Some Polling Comments)

A Few Pointed Words About Polling

Before I start this article, a quick four paragraphs regarding polls, in lieu of a formal roundup.  Firstly and mainly for Tasmanian readers, there has been some (disappointingly uncritical in some cases) media coverage of a poll commissioned by The Australia Institute (Tas) concerning proposals for a Tarkine National Park.  Unfortunately the poll is simply totally unsound.  It uses a loaded preamble that gives arguments for one side of the debate, quantifying a claimed total clearance area while not quantifying how much of the area included is really old growth or rainforest, and further leading the respondent with a comment about claimed community and business support for a National Park.

Having been presented with just one side of the argument, respondents may well be led to give the answer that suits the sponsor, or may well be driven to just hang up if they don't agree with the statements made.  The poll report also provides no data whatsoever on other questions asked, disconnection rates or on the methods and extent of any weighting used to obtain the final results.  The question design also fails to establish whether any support for a National Park would be in addition to some logging activity or as an alternative to it.  Maybe voters really do support a Tarkine National Park of some kind, maybe they don't (the risible voter support for the Greens in Braddon in recent years is not the most promising sign)

I have been trying to write about polling more generally but it is very difficult to get the job done with any motivation when leading pollsters, with the sole exception of YouGov's Queensland polling, have thus far done virtually nothing about the pressing need for a major improvement in polling transparency following the 2019 Australian polling failure.  As such there is no basis for confidence that Newspoll's current picture of a close federal race is in any way accurate (the Coalition's 51-49 leads might really be 54-46 or more, or alternatively Labor might be in front, though that is much less likely.)  And since Essential keeps suppressing its voting intention figures although its unsatisfactory reason for doing so long ago expired, there is no way to benchmark any of its leadership polling, and its issues polls are often problematic.  

Media coverage of commissioned polling also continues to be as awful as before.  Some recent amusing nadirs were rival YouGov poll results being cited and uncritically reported by friendly media on both sides of the NSW abortion debate, and also the Your Right To Know campaign claiming to have Colmar Brunton polling supporting their position, but failing to publish the details of the polling.  If you want to scrutinise it, you can't - you just don't have the right to know.  Media are rightly, if in some cases hypocritically, concerned about laws that can unduly limit what public interest information they are allowed to report. But the claim of media outlets to be servants of the public in reporting public interest information is undermined when they so frequently fail to report relevant information or cautions about their stories when they could and should, largely for reasons of laziness and the back-patting of sources who have fed them material for easy articles.

On to the main course ...

There has been quite an amount of interest in an ABC article by Stephanie Dalzell that claims that migrant voters are increasingly voting for populist right outfits like One Nation and the United Australia Party. Of course, some migrants will vote for these parties, but the article is not a useful contribution to establishing how many.  

Saturday, October 26, 2019

MPs Who Do Not Have Citizesnhip Of New Zeland

Now would I misspell a title twice?  Read on and all will be revealed ...

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Scott Morrison (Liberal, Cook)

Today there was a curious development in the long-running Section 44 citizenship farce.  Margaret Simons in the Guardian reported that Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to have given incomplete/incorrect citizenship declarations that fail to address a manner in which he could in theory have become a citizen of New Zealand.  That is not to say he is a citizen of New Zealand, but that his explanation of why he is not is apparently wrong, or as Dr Anna Hood puts it in Simons' article, "problematic".

Simons has published that fine print in a change in New Zealand law, passed in 1948 and effective 1/1/1949, conferred full citizenship on then-living females (but not males) who were the offspring of British subject fathers born in New Zealand.  That full citizenship then allowed the offspring of those females to be potentially registered as New Zealand citizens by virtue of being "the minor child of a New Zealand citizen".  If so registered, they would now be ineligible to sit in the Australian parliament under Section 44, unless they had subsequently renounced.  (The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 was repealed effective 1 Jan 1978 by the Citizenship Act 1977, but those who were citizens under the former Act at that stage remained so. For this reason as well as Morrison no longer being a "minor child", there is no issue of an existing entitlement to become a citizen.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Chisholm and Kooyong Signs Challenges

Updates Nov 6-8

The case, before three judges, is now on, and expected to run for three days, after which the court may well reserve its judgement.  Tweeted coverage is being provided by Josh Taylor of the Guardian and I will link here to other reports of interest that I see.  If anything of special interest comes up I may discuss it at length here.

Nov 6 12:30: Of some interest today is discussion about the signs having said something different to what was intended (as touched on below) - Frost says that he provided an intended meaning but the actual signs when translated said something different.  According to Taylor "Frost said he made no inquiries on election day to make sure the corflutes said what he authorised them to say. Frydenberg and Liu didn't contact him to ask about them on election day" and "Frost says he doesn't know if anyone who proof-read the corflutes before election day speak/read Chinese." (It may be significant here that Liu could read the signs for herself.) However later in his evidence Frost said that the Hotham Liberal candidate, George Hua, checked the signs.  According to Taylor, Frost has also admitted that the corflute was intended to convey the impression that it was an AEC sign.

Under Section 329 (5) "it is a defence if the person proves that he or she did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the matter or thing was likely to mislead an elector in relation to the casting of a vote." however "Note: A defendant bears a legal burden in relation to the defence in subsection (5) (see section 13.4 of the Criminal Code )." It should be kept in mind that Simon Frost is not on trial for breaching Section 329 at present.