Wednesday, December 6, 2017

EMRS Says The Wheels Are Falling Off

EMRS (Tas State) December: Lib 34 ALP 34 Green 17 JLN 8 IND/Other 7
Appears to be lowest Liberal primary for 11 years
Interpretation (based on historic skew) Lib 35.5 ALP 37.5 Green 14 JLN 8 Others 5

Modelled seat results based on this poll if election "held now": hung parliament with 10-10-4-1 (Liberal, Labor, Green, JLN) with next most likely outcome 9-11-4-1
Rolling aggregate of all state polls 12-10-3-0 
Rebecca White increases Preferred Premier lead over Will Hodgman to 13 points

If the December EMRS poll is to be believed (see also the helpful trend tracker), the Hodgman Government is currently headed for a Campbell Newman-like reversal of fortune at the 2018 Tasmanian state election.  Having won a massive victory from Opposition at the 2014 state election, the current poll suggests Hodgman's government, much like Newman's, could be going straight back where it came from and that election night could be carnage with incumbents losing all over the place - to Labor, the Greens, the Lambie Network and their own party.  On a like for like basis (which is rather difficult to follow through old EMRS poll reports) this seems to be the Liberals' lowest primary in an EMRS poll since August 2006.

It's only one poll, so we shouldn't get carried away (and it would not be surprising to see reports of different figures in Liberal internals, as has been the case in the past).  It's also by a pollster that only really gets tested once every four years (apart from an average performance on the same-sex marriage survey) so perhaps it's all a load of nonsense.  But if the government is looking at anything near this in its internals then it would be very concerned.  To make matters worse on a headline which shows Labor on level terms for the first time since mid-2009, EMRS has a history of underestimating the Labor vote at elections.  There's not a lot of time left before the state election and probably won't be any more parliamentary sittings, so it's all down to the skill of the party machine in convincing voters not to vote Labor.  Oh wait, Pembroke, moving right along then ...

The poll is the second recent EMRS poll to include the Jacqui Lambie Network, who are now clearly running in at least Braddon, albeit with a rather low profile set of candidates.  For this reason I have had to play about with assumptions regarding the Others vote to separate out JLN (just as I did with One Nation before it turned out they were iffy about running - it seems they might be again now, but who knows.)  At this stage, I am assuming the distribution of the Lambie vote will follow the Senate election vote, although it's possible JLN won't even run in Franklin or Denison.

After applying historic adjustments for EMRS' tendency to overestimate Others and the Greens and underestimate Labor, my model of the current poll looks something like this.  The JLN factor makes it very rubbery, as does the lack of recent electorate breakdowns:

In this model, the Liberals lose a seat to Labor in Bass; the concentration of their vote with Michael Ferguson and Peter Gutwein prevents them from exploiting Andrea Dawkins being a long way short of quota.  In Braddon, the Liberals lose two seats (to Labor and the Lambie Network); although the JLN ticket will leak a lot, that sort of lead would be too much.

In Denison, the Liberals are well short of a second quota.  One risk is that the high share of that electorate that says "independent" to the pollster are mostly lefties who actually vote for Labor and the Greens in the absence of a Wilkie-endorsed candidate.  A second (lower) risk is that after Scott Bacon bolts in, Labor's #2 and #3 end up with a fairly evenly split vote and are able to stay ahead of the second Liberal with the assistance of Green preferences.  (Having Sue Hickey on board may hope reduce the risk of these calamities, though it could in theory contribute to the second.)

In Franklin, we have the long-mooted loss of one seat to Labor, and in Lyons the Green vote in this model is too high to prevent them from gaining a seat.  Of course, any of these things might not pan out like that off a certain level of vote, but what goes down in one electorate would probably come up somewhere else.  I therefore have 10-10-4-1 as the most likely distribution if votes were cast according to this poll, with 9-11-4-1 the next most likely.  On these numbers, neither major party gets anywhere near a majority.

Although this poll suggests the Lambie Network has enough for a seat, I'd treat that with caution still.  We may soon see Lambie herself replaced as a Senator, and unless she manages to be her own replacement (which is possible) this could be a destabilising event for her brand.

Aggregate Of All Polling

In this business we do not rely on just one poll, especially not when it is an outlying result.  I've been maintaining an aggregate of all Tasmanian poll results available to me.  This is what it looks like when I mix in the current poll, which I've given a weighting of 40% since it is so long since the last one.

The cross-poll aggregate shows what an unpredictable system Hare-Clark can be, because of it being about candidates and not just parties.  In this aggregate the Liberals have only a two-point primary lead, which would seem completely hopeless.  However, after giving away two seats in each electorate to each major party and Denison and Franklin for the Greens, in this model there are three left in play:

* Bass, where it would be very close between the Liberals and Greens for the final seat but I believe preferences would be slightly better for the Liberals.
* Braddon, where it would be the Liberals vs JLN for the final seat but the JLN vote would probably leak enough to allow the Liberals to survive.
* Lyons, where an even enough distribution between two or three candidates within any party could result in either major party beating the Greens, although this isn't very likely.

On balance I'm giving Bass and Braddon to the Liberals and Lyons to the Greens in this aggregate projection, but it does show that there is a freak-save scenario for the Liberals that might work off really small primary vote gaps, if they can keep the swing down in the right seats.  It probably won't happen, though.


Rebecca White is way ahead of Will Hodgman as Preferred Premier, an indicator that normally favours incumbents, 48-35.  It's not rubbing off on her party's primary vote much, but all that really says is that voters for minor parties prefer her to Hodgman.  We don't have any direct measure of White's personal popularity yet but it is probably very high.  Nothing the government has come up with so far to attempt to damage her has worked.  See previous article for history from other states.

What Is The Hodgman Government Doing Wrong?

Lots of little things and the odd medium-big thing?  I haven't found explaining this government's steadily worsening polling easy over the last year or so.  The state's economy seems to be a lot better than it was and there is a lot of development going on, and the tourism sector seems to be doing well too.  On the other hand, Tasmania is historically a Labor state a lot of the time, the federal government's poor standing is a drag on the state government, and the health sector is a continual source of voter concern.  The government also has some pretty average performers on board, and a strange fondness for pushing culture-war politics on issues where the Legislative Council isn't interested.  If I was writing a big-picture story of how the last Liberal majority government lost its majority, it would be a simple one: it picked big fights with the unions and voted itself a 40% pay rise.  With the current government, if it goes the same way it seems like we will need a very long list of mostly little reasons.  Lately for instance we've seen the government's age-attack on an opponent in a by-election, its troubled attempt to take over TasWater, some small-scale public service scandals and so on.  I can't see any one thing over the past four years that goes close to being easy to pick out and say that it was by itself an election loser - if the election is indeed lost.

In the event of a hung parliament, my suspicion is that Labor and the Greens will find some way for Labor to govern.  While White recently ruled out governing with Green support at a Property Council event, there is a history of governments finding some way around these pre-election comments.  The indications are that if the Liberals fail to win a majority and attempt to keep governing, they will be removed on the floor of the House quickly.  Things might be different should the balance of power holder be someone other than the Greens.

If You Don't Like This Poll ...

...Just wait a few days, there might be another one.  ReachTEL have been active in Tasmania over the past fortnight although I have no idea who has commissioned their poll.  Their poll is blighted by the inclusion of the Nationals (who are not known to be running, though a since-disbanded rogue version scored nothing to speak of last time), a forced-answer two-party preferred question (aaargh!) and a seemingly inescapable, not to mention interminable, charity-question nightmare at the end.  Still, it may be of some use as a second opinion if its results see the light of day.

PS Actual Netsats!

In a radio interview with Leon Compton (ABC), EMRS released actual "net favourability" ratings for the three party leaders.  (This is basically the same as "net satisfaction" ratings seen in Newspoll save that voters seem to have been asked if they have a "favourable" view, a wording more common in the US or UK.)

Rebecca White scores +40, Will Hodgman +13 and Cassy O'Connor -5.  Hodgman's rating is very similar to his Newspoll scores before the 2010 and 2014 election, suggesting that the troubles of his party have not rubbed off on him personally.  O'Connor's rating is fairly typical of the few Green leader ratings available through time (in contrast to Nick McKim who had very high ratings in 2010 but very low after a term as a Minister).  White's rating is, of course, through the roof.

Historically it is fairly unusual for Premiers with positive net ratings to lose elections, but it's possible that "favourability" is a softer measure here than "satisfaction".  If it isn't, then Hodgman's moderately good rating might indicate some potential for the Liberals to improve.  Opposition Leader ratings, in contrast, don't have a huge amount to do with voting intention historically, and there is a view sometimes argued by Peter Brent that high leader ratings (federally, think Rudd or Latham) can be connected with soft voting intentions for their party.  It's very odd for an incumbent who is being thumped as preferred leader to still have their own personal rating in positive territory.

The other material added in this interview is confirmation that the Lambie Network is polling especially well in Braddon (around "12-15%"), and confirmation that as usual the government and Will Hodgman are being received better in the north of the state than in the south, while for Labor and White it's the other way around.

Thanks to the reader who supplied the audio from the interview.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

New England Washup and Bennelong By-Election Preview

I've decided to combine some post-result comments about New England with an overdue preview of the Bennelong by-election, which will be updated for any further polls that are published.  It's really not possible to talk about Bennelong now without talking about the former and whether anything seen in New England does or does not apply.

New England: Barnaby Bolts Back In

While Barnaby Joyce's re-election was always extremely likely given the lack of serious opposition, the scale of it surprised me.  Currently Joyce has 64.6% of the primary vote, a 12.3% swing to him, and a 73.6% two-party vote against Labor, a 7.2% swing to Joyce.  It seems that Labor are second, although in theory independent Rob Taber might overhaul the 4.4-point gap on the 17.2% of minor-candidate preferences.  Even if he does, his two-candidate result against Joyce won't be much better than Labor's.

My pre-election expectation was that Labor would not get much 2PP swing and that there would probably be a modest 2CP swing away from the result achieved by Tony Windsor in 2016, but that the gaggle of candidates running against Joyce might be able to take him to preferences and delay the result.  Instead Joyce has picked up a primary vote swing compared even to his 2013 result, when Tony Windsor wasn't on the ballot paper.

The main post hoc response to this result was to say that it is unsurprising given the nature of the campaign.  Once it was known that Tony Windsor was not running, and with Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and One Nation not interested either, it was generally accepted that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.  Joyce kept spending and promising money but other major players lost interest and devoted their efforts to Bennelong instead.  On this construction, the result in 2016 was abnormally close because Tony Windsor's presence in the contest created a perception that the seat was in play and resulted in major attacks against Joyce, suppressing both his primary and his two-party-preferred vote.

I am not convinced this is the whole story.  In 2013 there was also not a serious contest, but although the Coalition was riding high at that election Joyce did not do nearly so well.  Granted, at that stage he was not as prominent on the national stage as party leader.  I did question whether the idea of a sympathy vote for a member who is disqualified on a technicality would still hold up this long after the original election, but the result suggests at least a possibility that it has.

One further explanation we can scratch is that the government's acceptance of a banking Royal Commission spurred a swing to Joyce.  If this was the case there would be a much weaker swing in pre-poll voting, but this is not the case so far.

The result has been hailed as a record swing to an incumbent Government, but is not.  There are clear-cut cases of larger swings in Opposition-held seats - the Nationalists recorded a 12.6% swing in Labor-held West Sydney in 1921, but still lost, as did the Liberals in recording a 13.4% swing in Australian Capital Territory in 1970.  Also in the strange case of McPherson 1981 a 2PP swing of 16.2% in favour of the Fraser government is claimed (Labor finished third as the seat had become a three-cornered contest. An independent had directed preferences against the government in 1980).

Bennelong (Lib, 9.7%)
Assessment: Loseable, but probable Liberal retain

Bennelong was historically a safe Liberal seat but boundary and ethnic changes over time have made it less so, culminating in the 2007 defeat of Prime Minister John Howard by Labor's Maxine McKew on a swing that was basically the same as the national swing and similar to that in surrounding seats.

John Alexander, a formerly top-ten ranked tennis player and later commentator, recovered the seat in 2010 and has outperformed the national swing at all three elections he has contested, even recording a 2% swing in his favour in 2016 despite the national 3.1% swing to Labor.  On Alexander's watch, Bennelong has therefore gone from 1.3 points more favourable to the Coalition than the national average when McKew won to 9.3 points more favourable now.  However, a swing to the Coalition (worth about three points two-party preferred) was also seen in the 2016 Senate results in Bennelong, so Alexander appears to have benefited from the Turnbull government's appeal to inner-city voters in the 2016 election.  If that appeal has since worn off more than the government's standing elsewhere then it is likely Alexander's margin from the last election is a bit inflated as a starting point.

Once factoring in current polling, the expected swing for a typical by-election would be quite close to the 9.7% target.  See my findings on this pre-Canning last year, and also William Bowe's (which include state elections).  From my own findings, an 8.2% swing against the government would be expected for a generic by-election, while William has it even closer to the score required.  However, this is not a typical by-election.  Irrespective of the sympathy-vote angle that may have been present in the New England results, one difference that is certainly significant is that when an MP is disqualified and recontests, their personal vote advantage is not lost.  On that basis, Bennelong should not be expected to change hands.

Perhaps recognising this, Labor have preselected a very high-profile candidate, the former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally.  Keneally's profile might make her perform unusually well - which may be necessary to get near winning the seat - but the controversial nature of her Premiership also makes her a high-risk selection with the possibility of a bad result.

The election has seen two gaffes from the Alexander camp.  Firstly in an image of his team supposedly making phone calls to voters, the phones were not connected.  Secondly, video surfaced of him telling a dirty joke with rape and racial references at a private function in the 1990s.  The Keneally campaign has come under scrutiny with claims about Medicare office closures and waiting times being strongly challenged by opponents.  None of this is likely to have much impact.

There is reason for caution about whatever drove the New England result applying in Bennelong as well.  The New England result shouldn't be taken as a sign that the government is in good electoral health, as it is possible that the National Party is travelling OK and the Liberal Party is not.  Also, there is the obvious difference in campaign intensity to consider.  Nonetheless, even completely discounting anything we saw in New England, and completely ignoring sympathy-vote issues, the seat is still more likely than not on paper to be retained.

Among the other candidates, the greatest interest in the election is the comparative performance of the Australian Conservatives and Christian Democrats.  The Greens are also running, and the remaining seven out of twelve are cluttering up the ballot paper and are not likely to get their deposits back.  Alexander has the benefit of the donkey vote over Keneally; however this is only worth a few tenths of a point these days.

Keneally's Past Ratings

Keneally is associated with the infamously bad Labor state government that was turfed with a massive swing against it at the 2011 New South Wales election.  There have been two myths about this - firstly that Keneally herself was not unpopular and secondly that Keneally's popularity was only dragged down by her own government.

The following were Keneally's Newspoll net satisfaction ratings as NSW Premier, in order: +15, +16, +10, -5, -12, -14, -27, -24, -28.  The last three readings came in early 2011 after Keneally's controversial decision to have Parliament prorogued, which was seen as avoiding scrutiny.

Other leaders whose doomed state governments were smashed have often, but not always, polled bad personal ratings in the leadup to that.  Some have polled somewhat worse, eg Anna Bligh at -43 and Lara Giddings at -37.  One notable exception: Carmen Lawrence was still +14 a few months prior to her party's thrashing in WA in 1993, and although there doesn't seem to be an election-eve Newspoll for her, she was fantastically popular as Opposition Leader after Labor's loss.  Another: Joan Kirner (Vic) had slipped as low as -31 but had recovered to only -8 by the time of her party's defeat in 1992. These exceptions show that being at the helm of a doomed state government does not necessarily translate to bad personal ratings.

Bennelong Polls

Two seat polls were published early in the campaign.  Seat polls in Australia are rather unreliable.

Galaxy found a 50-50 result with Alexander holding a 42-39 primary vote lead.  (That would not seem enough except that Bennelong has a very high Christian Democrat vote, 6% at the last election, and the CDP preferences are conservative).  ReachTEL had a respondent-allocated 53-47 to Alexander off raw primaries of LIB 41.6 ALP 34.5 GRN 5.9 ON 5.4 CDP 1.6 CON 1.4 Other 1.2 Undecided 8.3.  With the "undecided" splitting 33-27 to Alexander, that's 44.3-36.7 between the two leading candidates.  The religious-party scores look low and we now know there is actually no One Nation candidate.  (Thanks to the well informed reader who sent me the full primaries.)

The ReachTEL found favourable ratings for both Alexander (good 51.2 poor 15) and Keneally (good 41.6 poor 28.1).   A national YouGov found mildly favourable impressions of both Alexander (40-28) and Keneally (39-29) but this is of very little use.

In the second-last week of the campaign both sides agreed Labor was "behind" and Liberal internal polling was said to show about a 54-46 lead for Alexander.

On the last weekend, Newspoll doubled down on the earlier Galaxy result with a 50-50 2PP off primaries of Liberal and Labor 39, Green 9, Australian Conservatives 7, Christian Democrats 2 (others 4).  This close poll, contradicting the agreed narrative that the Liberals were ahead, is likely to reshape campaign coverage.  The result also highlighted a point of interest: the contest has big implications for the Christian Democrats, who might have to seriously explore merging with the Conservatives if they are thumped in this one.

I intend to have live comments on the Bennelong count on Dec 16 but this is not as yet confirmed.  See also the Poll Bludger guide.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years, Round 4

Image result for gough whitlam image
(Image: Flickr:Gostalgia licence)

"The main sufferers in Australian society — the main victims of social deprivation and restricted opportunity - have been the oldest Australians on the one hand and the newest Australians on the other. " 

Three months ago, I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  Each round, one Prime Minister (sometimes more) is given the boot until someone gets over 50% and wins.  Each round runs for about a month, so you can vote for different candidates from month to month if you want to.  Multiple voting is in theory banned, but still readily possible at low levels; adjustments may be made if required.  It is what it is, but at least it's preferential in a way, unlike, say, Australian bird of the year.

The winner of each round gets a photo and a quote on the top, except for the final round when photos of both candidates will go up together.  And there is an obscure rule that if there is a new Prime Minister voting stops for a month to give the new PM time to establish themselves as incredibly brilliant and win the contest. I mention that because there's chatter about that the incumbent (eliminated in last place in this contest with a ridiculously small vote) might not even last the coming sitting week.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 Queensland Election Postcount (Main Thread)

Labor has won the election

Final result ALP 48 LNP 39 KAP 3 ONP 1 IND 1 GREEN 1 

Pumicestone won by LNP
Cook assumed won by ALP
Rockhampton won by ALP
Gaven won by ALP
Maiwar won by Greens
Hinchinbrook won by KAP
Macalister won by ALP
Burdekin won by LNP
Townsville won by Labor

This thread will follow the 2017 Queensland election post-election-day count in those seats that remain up in the air.

I'm in no real doubt now that Labor has won the election, in some form or other, but that form (majority or not, and if not with what numbers) remains to be clear.  They have 44 wins that I am regarding with some trepidation as solid, and one more ( Gaven) that I think they have probably won.  There are two more that appear to be going to "the left" in some form (Maiwar and Rockhampton), a close one in Townsville, and it is also worth noting that the indie who appears to be winning Noosa preferenced Labor. A vast amount has to go wrong from there before an LNP-ONP-KAP-indie government could be seriously considered, and even then it's not clear which way KAP would go.

This thread will follow the seats that I consider to be in significant doubt.  Where time permits and a seat greatly interests me, it may be given a breakout thread.  Seats appear in alphabetical order but when a seat is no longer considered of interest it will be moved to the bottom of the thread.  It will take me some time today to add all the seats.  Updates on specific seats will be added as time allows, but because of work commitments this is only likely to happen in the evenings, and probably not all of them.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Queensland 2017 Live

Labor appears to have won the election, but majority status is touch and go.

Approx Labor 43 LNP 38 KAP 2 ONP 1 IND 1 Unclear 8 (including one ALP vs Green)

(From base of Labor 49 LNP 42 KAP 2:)
Labor Gains from LNP: Redlands, Aspley
Very likely Labor/Green Gain from LNP: Maiwar
LNP gains from Labor: Bundaberg and probably Burdekin (notional ALP)
Very likely ONP gain from Labor: Mirani
Likely IND gain from LNP: Noosa

Complicated: Hinchinbrook (LNP), Mundingburra (ALP - Labor favoured), Thuringowa (ALP - Labor favoured), Macalister (ALP - Labor favoured), Rockhampton (ALP)

Unclear ALP vs LNP: Pumicestone (ALP leads in ALP seat), Gaven (ALP leads in LNP seat)

Queensland: The Election Polls Forgot

Queensland Aggregate: Labor 35.9 LNP 33.9 One Nation 13.3 Green 9.6 Other 7.3
2PP off this aggregate: 52.5 to Labor
Seat projection off this aggregate: Labor 51 LNP 37 PHON 3 KAP 2 
(Greens may win 1-2 seats instead, but not enough reliable evidence re Greens' chances)
Uncertainties: limited polling dominated by a single pollster, change in preferencing method and likely preferencing behaviour

Nearly three years ago an incumbent Queensland government was leading about 52-48 in the polls and polling analysts generally though that it might lose but would probably be returned.  We were wrong; it did very narrowly lose, mainly because of a radical shift in preferencing behaviour by voters for minor parties.

Three years later, some of the problems are the same.  A radical shift in preferencing behaviour is possible in theory, because Pauline Hanson's One Nation was just a minor presence last election but is now gathering a double-digit vote.  Moreover, some polls have showed One Nation voters as much more likely to preference the conservative side of politics than they used to be - a situation consistent with the party attracting a lot of ex-Coalition supporters.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Latest Senate Section 44 Cases

Time for another - and I doubt it will be the final - roundup of the issues created by ineligible Senators (or in one case, a Senator-who-never-was).  I have had many questions about the Lambie situation but today's resignation of Skye Kakoschke-Moore also requires detailed comments.

Hollie Hughes (Candidate, NSW - disallowed)

The High Court's decision that Hollie Hughes should not be seated in place of Fiona Nash (apparently because of her intermediate holding of an office of profit while the original election was still open, though reasons are yet to be released) creates a new issue.  Hughes was eligible at the time of the original election but her subsequent employment renders her ineligible to fill the position vacated by Fiona Nash.  The Commonwealth is waiting to see whether the court rules that Hughes was incapable of being chosen, or capable of chosen but incapable of sitting.  If the former, Hughes will be replaced by a special count (resulting in controversial Abbott backer Jim Molan becoming a Senator) but if the latter there is some thought (I'm not convinced) that it might be a casual vacancy.