Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Expected Scott Bacon Recount

Resigning MP: Scott Bacon (ALP, Clark)
Recount from 2018 state election for remainder of 2018-22 term 
Expected contest between Madeleine Ogilvie and Tim Cox
Ogilvie likely, but not certain, to win if she contests
Ogilvie could sit as independent and share effective balance of power with Sue Hickey




(Graph above - if the rate of decline since 2017 continues - not that I expect it to - then by the 2026 election there will be no blokes left in the Tasmanian Parliament!)

Tasmanian politics is abuzz with news that popular Clark Labor MP Scott Bacon has said he will resign from parliament for family reasons very soon, triggering a recount for his seat from the 2018 state election.  This article explains how the expected countback (confusingly officially called a "recount") works, pending confirmation that former MP Madeleine Ogilvie will contest it.  It is already known that former radio host Tim Cox will contest the recount.  A Cox win is no problem for Labor, but an Ogilvie win could be a big headache for the Opposition. 

A Hare-Clark recount is based solely on the votes that the resigning member had at the point of them being elected.  How close someone did or did not get to being elected in the original count, or how many primary votes they got in the previous election, is not directly relevant.  There are cases where being one of the last candidates excluded is a disadvantage; this isn't one of them.  This recount will be won by one of the three defeated Labor candidates from the last election - but will the winner sit as a Labor MP? 

This is one of the cases where there is the most clear information to look at, because Scott Bacon was elected with over a quota on the first count.  He had a surplus of 932 votes in the original count, but in the recount all his papers will be thrown again at a total value of a quota.  After adjusting for a small loss due to fractions in cutting his original vote down to the 932 votes, the breakdown of his second preferences is approximately as follows:

33.1% Madeleine Ogilvie (ALP)
28.4% Tim Cox (ALP)
17.3% Ella Haddad (ALP) - elected, ineligible for recount
10.5% Zelinda Sherlock (ALP)
3.9% Cassy O'Connor (Green) - elected, ineligible for recount
1.7% Elise Archer (Lib) - elected, ineligible for recount
1.5% Sue Hickey (Lib) - elected, ineligible for recount
3.6% other candidates (all non-ALP)

In the recount, all Bacon's votes are distributed to the candidate who the voter has ranked the highest among the candidates contesting the recount, so Ogilvie will get at least 33.1% if she contests (for example).  If no-one gets more than half of them initially, the lowest vote-getter is excluded and their votes distributed again, and so on, like a single-seat election.

The votes that were 1 Bacon and 2 for an eligible candidate who contests the recount become starting primaries for the recount.  Where an ineligible candidate, or someone who chooses not to contest the recount, was at 2, the vote goes on to whoever was at 3, and so on.  As Ogilvie and Cox each have nearly a third of the total with nearly a quarter to be distributed again, they will clearly be the final two if they both contest; Zelinda Sherlock will not overtake either in this scenario.

Assuming it is Ogilvie versus Cox, 38.5% of the total vote for the recount consists of votes that were 1 Bacon and 2 for somebody who is either ineligible or cannot realistically win.  The question then is simply whether Cox can get a big enough edge on these 38.5% to overhaul Ogilvie's advantage on Bacon's known second preferences.

If no votes exhausted from the recount, Cox would need just over 56% of those remaining votes to flow his way to beat Ogilvie.  A small number of votes will exhaust, so the share he will need of those that don't will be slightly higher.

It will come down mainly to how those voters who voted 1 Bacon 2 Haddad and 1 Bacon 2 Sherlock saw the relative merits of Ogilvie and Cox.  The voters who voted 1 Bacon slightly preferred Ogilvie.  The voters who voted 1 Sherlock slightly preferred Cox. The preferences of the voters who voted 1 Haddad are unknown.

Overall Cox's task is pretty difficult here and it won't help him that virtually every 1 Bacon vote that wasn't 2 for him was 2 for a female candidate (all else being equal, voters who put males 1 and 2 would be more likely to also put a male 3).  However, it's close enough and Ogilvie was controversial enough that unless Labor have detailed scrutineering data on the contest, I can't be sure that Ogilvie would win.  She is however the favourite.

If Ogilvie Doesn't Run

If Ogilvie doesn't run, then Sherlock would need to be ahead of Cox on at least 64.6% of the votes that were 1 Bacon and 2 for neither Cox nor Sherlock. In this case, gender factors would assist Sherlock but given her low profile compared to Cox it would be very surprising if she beat him.  Sherlock has said she will contest.

Ogilvie - Labor Or Independent?

Madeleine Ogilvie's sole term in parliament from 2014-2018 was now and then marked by severe friction with elements of the left and pro-LGBTI forces within the party, chiefly over Ogilvie's conservative positions on social issues of Catholic concern.  Following her loss to fellow Labor candidate Ella Haddad, Ogilvie left the Labor Party.  She ran unsuccessfully as an independent for the Legislative Council seat of Nelson.  (She finished fourth by a narrow margin, and may have won had she managed to overtake eventual winner Meg Webb). 

If Ogilvie contests the recount, wins, and chooses to sit as an independent, then there is nothing Labor can do about it.  Section 232 of the Electoral Act allows a party to order a single-seat by-election if it has run out of candidates willing to contest a recount, but the test is "none of the candidates who were included in the same registered party group as the vacating Member are available to contest the vacancy".  Ogilvie was included in the same registered party group so Labor could not activate this clause by getting Cox and Sherlock to sit this one out and then claiming they had run out of candidates.

Ogilvie as an independent would further unsettle the already messy dynamics of the House of Assembly, in which the government in theory has a majority but frequently loses votes on the floor because of its rebel Speaker Sue Hickey.  However Ogilvie as an independent would be a bonus for the government, which would have a second route to pass social issues legislation opposed by Hickey.  (Note that this would be no help on issues on which Ogilvie sided with the left - indeed she was one of the early movers on Labor's now abandoned anti-pokies policy.)

Ogilvie as a Labor MP would also be a bonus for the government.  On some social issues conscience votes Ogilvie might still vote with the government, and the fact that Labor had accepted her back into the party after she resigned from it would provide the government with ammunition.  Ogilvie's Nelson run would look like a cynical case of fake independence and Ogilvie would have a lot of explaining to do concerning how she had run for election on a platform of helping the Hodgman government pass its bills (oh yes she actually sorta said that) but was now opposed to them.

Perhaps Ogilvie's presence and some conspicuous public fence-mending with her would help Labor with its current attempts to pivot back to the centre but even that would be embarrassing and the kinds of within-party conflicts involving her as an MP have run deeper than just ideology.  All up, Labor's best scenario here is that Ogilvie would prefer to spend the next 30 months studying space law and posting Youtube music videos on Facebook.

And whoever wins, being rid of such a star performer as Bacon from Labor's Clark lineup is a bonus for the government at the next election, making it harder for Labor to win three Clark seats.

News and other snippets will be added.

Update Thursday 2:40: Re contesting the recount, Ogilvie has said " I’m going to just take little time to consider, and discuss with my family, so I’ll get back to you hopefully in a few days."

Added: Timeline

There is a two-week period for nominations to be received, which means that the earliest possible date for the recount is September 6.  This gives the government an extra bonus because Labor will be down one for the first three days (at least) of the September sitting.  There is no pairing convention for casual vacancies (see my article on Rene Hidding's departure re this) and so it appears that the Government will enjoy a 12-11 floor majority in the first week of September and be able to pass legislation without relying on the casting vote of Speaker Sue Hickey.  It will be interesting to see what use the government makes of this.

Added: Changes of Numbers after Recounts

This recount is unusual in having the potential to change the party numbers on the floor of the Parliament.  As best I can determine recounts started from the 1922 election (replacing by-elections) and there have been 85 of them.  Nearly all have been like-for-like replacements at party level.

The best known example of someone outside the vacating party winning a recount was Bob Brown (IND) taking Norm Sanders' (DEM) place in 1983, despite other Democrats contesting the recount.  There is one other example - in 1961 Reg Turnbull (independent who had been Labor Treasurer in the previous parliament) quit to run for the Senate.  Over 40% of Turnbull's surplus had gone to Labor candidates and only 20% to his independent running mate, so a Labor candidate won the recount.

I have not found any precedent for a member being elected on a recount for the seat of a ticketmate from the original election and then not taking their seat as a member of that party.  However, there is an unsourced Wikipedia comment suggesting that Brian Crawford had left Labor when he initially won a recount for a Labor seat in 1962.  Crawford's win of the recount was successfully challenged in the Court of Disputed Returns on residency grounds (which fortunately for Tim Cox no longer exist), preventing him from taking the seat in any case.  More recently we had Brenton Best saying he would sit as an independent if he won Bryan Green's 2017 recount, but he didn't win.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019 Federal Election: Pollster Performance Review

Welcome (belatedly) to another of my regular pieces that I do after all the election results are finalised and, um, we can't really give this one its usual title this year.  Normally it's called "Best and Worst Pollsters" (see the comparable articles for 2013 and 2016) but this year that title isn't really appropriate.  This year was the year of the great Poll Fail, and when it came to final voting intention polls at least, they all went down together.  The story for seat polling turns out to be a little less clearcut, but not that much.

For all the complaints about "too many polls", the frequency and diversity of Australian polls had been declining at state and federal level in the four years leading up to this election.  At this election there were only five poll series conducting national polls, and of these two were conducted by the same pollster (YouGov-Galaxy conducts both Galaxy and Newspoll polls).

I usually include three categories but this time I'm not going to take tracking too seriously.  As usual the first cab off the rank is ...

Least Worst Final Poll

I usually say the final poll should be the easiest one for the less accurate pollsters to get right, because pollsters can look over each others' shoulders and consider corrections if everybody else is getting something vastly different.  Thus there have been some prior cases where polls that differed from Newspoll for some time have jumped into line with it in their final poll.  This year unfortunately it seems that some pollsters may have taken this concept a little too far - either that or multiple pollsters got to around the same 2PP coincidentally and then decided to self-herd from that point.

Again, I've used root mean square error (the RM(2) column) to assess the accuracy of the polls - the lower the better.  There is also a column just for the error on the primaries (RM(P)).  Again I've included the 2PP figure, with a weighting of five so that errors in the 2PP make as much difference as errors in all the primaries put together.   Here's the ranking (click for slightly larger/clearer version):


L = landline, M = mobile.  The Oth (U) column is Others including UAP - Essential did not break UAP out of Others.  The Prefs column is the share of minor party preferences that would have been expected to go to the Coalition based on the published 2PP.  Closest readings to the pin are in bold and anything within 1 point of accurate is in blue.

As is their habit, Ipsos had the Labor vote much lower than other pollsters and the Green vote much higher.  This mainly resulted in them being right on the Labor vote and wrong on the Greens vote, whereas most of the other pollsters were the other way around.  But Ipsos were also not as wrong on the Green vote as the others were on the Labor vote.  Ipsos were also one of the closest on the Coalition vote, and had the One Nation, UAP and Others votes fairly close.  As a result Ipsos has come through as having the least worst final poll.  However, it has done so with a score worse than that of all bar one pollster in 2013 and two in 2016.  For its efforts Ipsos wins an unceremonial public dumping by Ninefax.

Galaxy and Newspoll didn't make significant errors on preferencing overall (indeed they actually had the Coalition getting slightly more minor party preferences than it did, as a result of said polls achieving the Herculean feat of having the Green vote too low).  Their main issue was simply having the major party primaries, especially Labor, wrong.  Morgan actually did better on the primaries than both the Galaxy products, but worse on the preferences, and Essential had One Nation much too high.  I suspect the latter problem resulted from failure to screen out seats Essential was not running in.

Tracking

In the past two elections I have recognised the pollster that best seemed to track the development of voter intention towards the final result.  This election it's not really possible to do this, because not only were the voting intention polls in general wrong, but we don't know at what point they went off the rails.

As a very rubbery approximation I can assume that the polls were in general wrong by the same amount through the campaign and then measure the average voting intention error against a picture in which the Coalition starts in the mid-50 range, rising to the mid-51 range at the end.  On this basis using released 2PPs as a yardstick Newspoll (average error 2.56) comes out trivially ahead of Morgan (2.59), Galaxy (2.63), Essential (2.81) and Ipsos (3.16), with Ipsos being marked down because of strong results for Labor in the earlier stages.  The Galaxy stable polls only come out as slightly better on this indicator because of their better handling of preferences compared to Essential and Ipsos.

Seat Polls

The accuracy of seat polling has been a hot topic at this election.  Seat polls were very inaccurate in 2013 (when they skewed heavily to the Coalition, which the national polls didn't) and weren't that good in 2016 (when they skewed more modestly to the Coalition but were greatly under-dispersed compared to the actual distribution of swings.) YouGov-Galaxy's David Briggs has tried to limit the 2019 damage by pointing out that Galaxy seat polls correctly showed Labor failing to pick up seats.

I dealt with this to some degree here.   Galaxy seat polls in the final week were uncannily precise in picking the correct winner when they picked a winner at all, but they were lucky, because they were every bit as skewed on average as the national polls.  There were also several seats that Galaxy had at 50-50 that the Coalition won massively, and the seat polls in seats that were polled more than once were suspiciously under-dispersed (also the case in 2016).

Unfortunately YouGov-Galaxy was the only pollster to release significant numbers of seat polls at this election, and that applies even after scraping the barrel by including the very few polls commissioned by lobby groups that saw the light of day.  Only six non-Galaxy seat polls were released and only one of those was media-commissioned.  (There were also claims about internal polling in specific seats, but there is no evidence that those were all even genuine.)

In assessing seat poll accuracy at a two-party or two-candidate level, I've adopted a few conventions over the years.  One is that a 50-50 only counts as a hit if the result is genuinely close (52-48 or closer either way), and another is that the "easiness" of the seats being polled is estimated based on the results, so that pollsters who mainly pick easy seats don't look good just by getting those right.  The following is this year's table (I've included five lobby-group or detailed internal polls this time just because the cupboard would have been very bare without them.):

Polls are in alphabetical order.  This is not a ranking.

I've bracketed two uComms-using-ReachTEL polls (Bass, Braddon) with one ReachTEL poll that may or may not have been a uComms as well (Corangamite); unclear media reporting on this is common.  The skew column shows the average 2CP skew to Coalition on the two-party (or in cases two-candidate) figure reported; a negative figure is a skew to non-Coalition forces.  The Error column shows the average 2CP error irrespective of direction.  The Correct column shows the percentage of polls that were correct.  The Ease column measures how easy or difficult the seats polled were - a low figure indicates close seats, while if the seats are all very lopsided the figure will be 100.

Galaxy-branded polls were marked as correct for all 16 cases in which they picked a winner, but wrong for all five 50-50s as none of them were close.  For instance a truly random sample of the seat of Forde taken in the final days would have picked the Coalition as winners over 99% of the time.  The table shows that the seat polls conducted by Galaxy (whether under that name or as Newspoll) were severely skewed to Labor, as was their public polling.  The few uComms/ReachTEL seat polls did not show such skew (in fact skewing to the Coalition on average).

Lonergan's GetUp! commissioned poll of Warringah was rather accurate.  Environmental Research and Counsel's seat polls for the Greens continued the long record of released Greens internal polls being too favourable for the Greens.

It's hard to make any award based on a sample of just three polls but the performance of the uComms/ReachTEL polls does leave us with an intriguing what-if regarding the absence of the ReachTEL platform, or indeed any pure robo-poll, from the national voting intention scene.

Senate Polling

I should also mention the Senate polling released (in inadequate detail) by The Australia Institute and conducted variously by Dynata (Research Now) and Lonergan.  Unfortunately the May final model was not posted anywhere on the net that I can find, despite being reported by one of TAI's usual clearing-houses.  The March model projected the Coalition on 28% primary (actual 38), Labor 33 (28.8), Greens 12 (10.2), One Nation 8 (5.4) and UAP 2 (2.4).  It's not clear how much the primaries moved before the May polling was taken, but I do know that the overestimation of One Nation continued right until the end, with the party said to be on for a ludicrous 9.5% in Tasmania (it got just 3.45%).  Senate polling has had an even worse reputation than seat polling and these results should do nothing to repair it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

EMRS: Labor Down, But Will The Others Voters Please Stand Up?

EMRS July raw figures: Liberal 38 Labor 30 Greens 16 Others 16
Also retro-released EMRS May: Liberal 38 Labor 34 Greens 13 Others 15
Also retro-released EMRS March: Liberal 38 Labor 34 Greens 14 Others 14

Possible "interpretation" figure for July poll: Liberal 41 Labor 32 Green 13 Others 14 (maybe)

Liberals could retain majority in an election "held now" (13-9-3 or 13-10-2), but this would probably depend on what happened with Sue Hickey.

Tasmanian pollster EMRS has released a poll of Tasmanian state voting intention, and has also released the two previous polls in the series (which were not released at the time they were taken; the last released poll was in December).  The polls show a general pattern of a slim lead to the Liberal Government, support for which in the series crashed not long after the March 2018 election, but this particular poll has that gap widening to eight points, with Labor dropping four to 30%.  Labor also polled 30% just after its election loss, and prior to that we have to go back to March 2017 to find it polling worse.  The main beneficiaries are the Greens, who EMRS has long tended to have too high compared to their actual support at elections, but there is also a trend of "Others" continuing to rise, although less than 7% voted for "Others" at the last election.  Who are all these people saying they would vote for someone else, and what are they thinking?

The Labor slump would raise some concerns - as at federal level the party is currently struggling to work out what it stands for, and much of its oxygen on issues is being taken by Sue Hickey.  However, at this stage it is just one reading and we need to see the next one to see if it's a blip or a lasting loss of enthusiasm.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

2019 House of Reps Figures Finalised

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The 2019 House of Representatives results have been finalised, a joyous event that tends to arrive unheralded two to three months after every federal election.  Although all the preference throws had been completed and uploaded some time ago, the final figures importantly include the two-party preference flows by party.  Normally I say that this is very useful for assessing the performance of polls.  At this election the polls failed dismally, mainly because of failures on the Coalition and Labor primaries (except for Ipsos which failed on the Greens primary instead of Labor); nonetheless there will be a final review of them here fairly soon.  This article is a general roundup of other matters regarding the House of Reps figures.

Preference Shifting

The final 2PP result is 51.53% to the Coalition and 48.47% to Labor, a 1.16% swing to the Coalition.

There was a very large shift in the preferences of Pauline Hanson's One Nation.  One Nation preferences flowed only 50.47% to Coalition in 2016 but 65.22% to Coalition in 2019 (even more than the 60-40 split believed to have been assumed by Newspoll after considering state election results).  Overall, preferences from parties other than the Greens and One Nation also flowed more strongly to the Coalition by a few points (53.93% compared to 50.79%) but this was caused by the United Australia Party flowing 65.14% to the Coalition.  Excluding the Greens, One Nation and UAP, Others preferences (50.7% to ALP) were 1.5 points stronger for Labor than in 2016.  It is also interesting that Katters Australian Party preferences flowed 14 points more strongly to the Coalition, very similar to the shift for One Nation.