Newspoll Tasmania state (first 1000 respondents) Liberals 53%
Outcome if correct: Liberal majority government (14+ seats)
In the face of over three years of high-volume polling pointing in every single case to Liberal majority government at the upcoming Tasmanian state election, Tasmanian Labor has been able to hold out one small hope. That hope is that the polls are wrong.
That hope has been not without sustenance. All the polls in Tasmania in that time have been conducted by EMRS and ReachTEL. EMRS has a clear track record of underestimating the Labor vote and overestimating the Greens, and greatly misread the 2006 election until very close to the poll. ReachTEL is a new player, untested at this level, and which overstated the Liberal vote in Tasmanian seats at the federal election. That said, there is strong evidence (see ReachTEL house effect section) that this was due to a method issue specific to the options list in polls commissioned by newspapers, and since fixed.
For some time it has been possible for Labor to ask, what if those 48-24 leads shown in polling were really, say, 44-29? Might not the Liberals then get only 11-12 seats, and the battered regime stagger on in a still further depleted and inevitably chaotic form for at least some part of another four years?
It looks like that little candle will be snuffed out tomorrow. The Australian has reported that the half-time score in Newspoll, based on the first 1000 respondents, is 53% to the Liberals. No other interim figures are available, just some very rubbery seat projections.
Of course, that sounds a little high compared to other polling results seen lately, and given that a sample of 1000 has a margin of error of 3%, it wouldn't be too surprising if it came down to, say, 51. But it might not. And even if it does, it's overwhelmingly likely that the full Newspoll sample will be a result at least as good for the Liberals as the run of recent combined EMRS and ReachTEL surveys.
It is well worth examining the form guide of Newspoll in Tasmanian state elections at this point, and there is a lot of it to examine. This table presents the results of pre-election Newspolls compared to the actual results:
(I count the Green Independents as Others in 1989 for comparability purposes, as the Newspoll that year did not explicitly name them as an option. Average figures for Greens include only the years they were listed as an option.)
As polling at state level goes, this is an excellent record. Newspoll's results display negligible skew with an average error for major party votes of around 1.5 points. It's not completely perfect - note that at the last three elections the Liberal vote has been underestimated by 3.4, 2.8 and 2.5 points, and that the Green vote was overestimated in the previous five elections including a 3.9 point overestimate in 2010. (The latter was the result of a methods change that came in after the 2007 federal election.) But it's not looking even remotely likely that Newspoll are about to get the Liberal vote too high by, say, five points.
And assuming the final campaign Newspoll for Tasmania is indeed 50-ish for the Liberals or higher, it is hard to see what argument can still be offered that the result will be anything but a Liberal majority win. The argument that there's a real chance of a hung parliament is running out of legs to stand on. It can't be discounted entirely (in the absence of absolute advance proof) but there is no credible line of polling-based argument to support it. Doubt about the outcome is drifting from the level "credible" (however small the chance of something else) towards the level "token". No surprise the bookies are only offering $1.02 on a Liberal win.
The Australian reports electorate breakdowns as indicating at least 13 seats for the Liberals, 6 for Labor, 4 for the Greens with PUP struggling to get a seat anywhere. In the absence of precise figures, this should be largely ignored for now. The seat breakdowns of 200 electors are too small for meaningful interpretation, even assuming that they have been interpreted correctly. However while my forecast currently gives the fifth seat in Braddon to PUP, it does not do so by much, and a disappointing result in the Newspoll could remove it. On account of Newspoll's track record, I intend to weight Newspoll heavily in tomorrow's aggregate, provided that PUP are explicitly named as an option in the poll. A concern I have with the PUP vote in Braddon after visiting the electorate is that it may be dispersed between their different candidates rather than concentrated enough with Kevin Morgan, leaving the party at serious risk of leakage.
A fresh article covering the final Newspoll result should be posted early tomorrow.