Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Site Review

 This post presents site data for 2020.  The activity graph tells the story of the year (the units are unique pageviews per week):

Nothing much happened in the first half of the year except for a bad Newspoll for the government in mid-January.  However there were significant spikes of interest for the Eden-Monaro by-election, the Tasmanian Legislative Council elections, the NT election, the ACT election and the Queensland election.  The ACT election is the largest of the spikes above.

With it being neither a federal election year nor a Tasmanian state election year, traffic was well down on 2018 and 2019 (down 47% on 2019) and only exceeded the traffic for one other year so far, 2015 (this site started in 2012).  I also felt early in the year that COVID was swamping all other news consumption, leading to low interest levels in anything else.  

In 2020 I released 59 articles including this one.  This is the smallest number for a completed year so far (the previous lowest was 77) and a major cause of that has been the decline in both federal and state polling.  The most common subjects were federal polling (8 articles), the Queensland election (7), and the NT, ACT and Tasmanian Legislative Council elections (4 each).

The cutting room floor

Articles I started but never finished this year and don't expect to release soon were to have covered such subjects as:

* the false view, prevalent on Twitter again following an Amanda Palmer concert in January, that almost half of all Tasmanians are illiterate.  (It was actually "functionally illiterate", which doesn't mean even nearly the same thing.)

* the false view that platypus are on the brink of extinction, which spread in international media in January as a result of some silly science-media reporting.  

* infection sources for Tasmanian cases of COVID-19; this became a display in the sidebar instead  (it's still running)

* psephological themes in the Palace Letters

* misuse of the term "push polling" in Australia

* a new bio/About This Site page

* a list of disclaimers to accompany my tweets about Newspoll (because there are people on Twitter who will assume that if one tweets a poll one must believe it's correct!)

There were also, as usual, some others that appeared in reshaped form as parts of later articles or that I have not listed above because I think I will use the ideas in them in future.

Top of the pops

As measured by unique pageviews, these were the ten most visited articles in 2020:

1. 2020 ACT Election Live And Post-Count

A surprise winner for the year, ranking eleventh by unique page views and fifth by total page views in the history of the site so far.  This followed the count on the night and over the next week for the 2020 ACT Election, a Hare-Clark contest with a number of close seats and a remarkable final result of 10 Labor, 9 Liberal and 6 Green.  The post-count was fairly difficult to model because of the need to use two different incomplete data sources to try to assess where the counts were going.

2. 2020 Northern Territory Election Live and Post-Count

Followed the count for the 2020 NT election which saw Michael Gunner's Labor government returned with a reduced majority, the opposition CLP rebuild and the Territory Alliance challenge fail.  Attracted about five times as much interest as my coverage of the 2016 contest.

3. Eden-Monaro Late Live Comments And Post-Count

I had to go out to dinner on the first night of the Eden-Monaro count which led to a late start, but as the contest remained close over coming days interest persisted.  The by-election for the famous former bellwether seat was called for Labor late on the night, but a counting error correction gave the Liberals some appearance of a chance for a few days thereafter.  

4. Legislative Council 2020: Huon and Rosevears Live And Post-Count

The delayed 2020 Legislative Council elections in Tasmania saw an upset win for Labor in Huon, decisively unseating conservative independent and former Huon mayor Robert Armstrong, and a nailbiter in Launceston where the Liberals' star candidate Jo Palmer just held off a preference surge to long-time local councillor and former mayor Janie Finlay (IND).  

5. Legislative Council 2020: Huon

Guide to the above-mentioned Huon contest, which placed too much stock in the history of Legislative Council incumbents and to little in the importance of being endorsed by an owl.  (Seriously, the voters of Huon were probably mad as hell over services issues.)

6. Queensland 2020 Postcount

Followed the post-count of the 2020 Queensland election, but there were only three seats in real doubt (two of which ultimately went to recounts) and as a result total pageviews for the postcount and live pages were lower than for the single threads for the NT or ACT elections.

7. Queensland 2020 Live

Election night for Queensland 2020 was a slower affair than 2019 but easier because of a disappointing shortage of messy seats.   A lack of swing except away from One Nation was evident early in the night and over the night it became clear Labor had won easily.

8. Divergent Polling In The Northern Territory

This article discussed two polls in the NT election leadup - a loudly splashed internal poll for the Territory Alliance that had them performing very strongly and a small-sample uComms of Greater Darwin that had a conventional two-party contest.  The uComms was extremely accurate and the Territory Alliance poll was way off.  

9. Legislative Council 2020: Rosevears

Guide to the other Tasmanian Legislative Council seat, which correctly saw it as a contest between Jo Palmer and Janie Finlay. 

10. White Goes First, Right Goes Beatup: The ABC Did Not Attempt To Cancel Chess

Article that followed a beatup by right-wing media sources after an ABC everyday trivia program decided to explore whether white moving first in the game of chess had racial connotations.  They made the mistake of calling a former chess administrator who was also a published commentator, leading to widespread misreporting by the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sky News (especially them) and others.  John Adams, the ex-administrator in question, has more recently taken to boosting claims that seek to cast doubt on the 2020 US Presidential Election result.

Some other stats

The ten biggest days of the year for this site were Nov 1 (Qld), July 5 (Eden-Monaro), Oct 31 (Qld), Aug 1 (LegCo), Aug 23 (NT), July 31 (LegCo), Oct 18, Oct 21, Oct 17 (ACT), Aug 22 (NT), Oct 23 (ACT).  There's a pattern of often getting more visitors on the Sunday of an election count weekend than the Saturday.

The most popular pieces written/started in any previous year were In Search Of Australia's Most Ratioed Political Tweets,  the bio pageGetting Ginninderraed, Federal Newspoll Records Page, and the current edition of the field guide

The ten most clicked tags were Legislative Council, 2014 state, 2019 federal, Tasmania, EMRS tied with poll accuracy tied with silly greens, Rebecca White tied with silly lefties, and debunkings. The inclusion of 2014 state in this list is quite odd.

The top ten visiting countries this year were Australia, USA, UK, NZ, Canada, Germany (+2), Singapore (+1), France (+2), India and Netherlands (new entry).  99 "Google countries" visited this year and 170 have now visited in total.  Apparently new visits were recorded from South Sudan, Turkmenistan (!!), Guernsey and Kosovo, but there again seems to be something that causes some previously recorded "countries" to drop off the list.  

The top ten cities this year were the same as last year in a slightly different order: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane (+1), Hobart (-1), Canberra, Adelaide (+1), Launceston (+1), Perth (-2), London and Gold Coast.

Among the more unusual queries to reach this site (a pretty weak list this year compared to previous years) were:

anita bligh and mark mcgowan (Probably looking for this)

+the quirk in tghe system that got lambie elected

call Eden do Qdoba adjusted should I even had one for a party go

kaylee campradt my children called

There were very few misspellings of my name this year, though one lost soul did call me "Professor".

The top ten hit sources were as per 2019 but in a different order: Google, Twitter, Facebook, pollbludger, Tally Room (+1), duckduckgo (+1), Reddit (+1), Bing (-3), The Conversation, and Chesschat.  Ignoring the three search engines the next three were Blogger, feedburner and Wikipedia.

Orders of the year

2021 could be an extremely quiet year for this site, but it also might not be.  If only scheduled elections are held there will be just Western Australia in March, but my postcount coverage is likely to be constrained beyond the first few days by fieldwork.  Tasmanian Legislative Council elections are expected in May for Derwent, Mersey and Windermere.  Barring unexpected retirements, Windermere (either a vacancy or a 76 year old incumbent running for a fourth term) looks the most interesting of these, with the other two attracting only token contests in 2015.

The second half of the year will become much more active if either the Tasmanian election or the federal election, both scheduled for the first half of 2022, are held early.  Should neither of these happen there may be not that much to write about in the second half of the year.  Heck, I might even start taking requests!  

I'll be back soon with the 2020 Ehrlich Awards for Wrong Predictions and Grand Gerry (which will also include a roundup of 2019's best failed predictions, though there was no award as such for 2019) and probably also with some further comments on the recent JSCEM report on the 2019 electionThanks to all readers for your interest in and support of this site, and especially to those of you who have thrown a few dollars my way in these uncertain times. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Federal Polling Year In Review

 At this time I normally release a review of the year in federal polling that, among other things, states the number of federal polls released that year.  See the 2019 review here. Things have got so weird in Essentialville and Morganland that for 2020 I can only report on how many have been released so far (since others with 2020 data are likely to belatedly appear next year), and in both cases, "released" becomes a stretch in the case of 2PP readings that have no public existence beyond a dot point on a badly labelled graph.  Such is life in the days after the 2019 polling failure.

How many polls?

This year saw 16 federal Newspolls released, the fewest since 1991.  Essential released 13 "2PP+" results (see my comments on this method here) as figures, and a further sixteen as dots on a graph. Morgan provided this mess:

* five polls for which it issued polling reports

* two further polls on its voting intention table

* at least one further poll result where the poll was not published but the 2PP can be inferred based on the stated poll to poll changes

* fourteen graph dot points (giving the impression of being weekly breakdowns from fortnightly polls) that include:

- eight readings that align exactly in time with four polls for which fortnightly 2PPs were public

- two consecutive readings that are out of whack with one of the public 2PPs by a week

- four readings that don't align with any of the otherwise public polls. 

Thus the total number of Morgan 2PP readings of which some kind of evidence was available publicly is at least 22 (to date) but this includes at least four double-counts.  

Applying a minimum standard that a pollster must publish a 2PP (and not just by reference to changes from a previous poll) to be included, there were 16 Newspolls, 13 Essentials and seven Morgans, for a total of 36 polls.  If this figure is used it continues the downward trend in the number of published polls per year.  However the number of 2PP readings compiled by the pollsters but not published other than as dot points is considerably higher; there might be as many as 63 independent readings, with others still to be (maybe) retro-released.

The mess created by Morgan in particular does no favours for the image of polling and I hope the new Australian Polling Council will recommend to its members standards that will avoid and discourage ad hoc decisions about when to retro-release polling data.  If a pollster wants to release voting intention polls in batches, as Essential are doing, that is one thing, but the pollster should then at least be transparent about when they will poll and ensure that all the readings are retro-released, not just some.

2PP voting intention

Although it is not possible to determine exact 2PPs from most of the graphed Morgan and Essential dot points, it is possible to say who was in front.  The government won ten, tied two and lost four Newspoll 2PPs.  Essential had it winning 15, losing 12 and (I think) tying two, and Morgan had it losing five graphed dot points and one retro-published 2PP and winning the other 16 readings of various kinds.  

The Coalition's largest published 2PP lead was 54% in an August Morgan.  Its worst published-poll 2PP was a 47% in a Feb-March Morgan though the Morgan graph refers to a 45% result attributed to "Jan-Feb 2020", presumably a one-week breakdown.  

A national ANU poll of dubious quality was also released (with incomplete primary breakdowns, no 2PP and a strong appearance of overestimating the Green vote).  

Because of the mess created by Essential's retro-releasing and Morgan's ad-hoc partial retro-releasing I have not attempted to conduct a running aggregate during 2020.  However the following is a simple unweighted aggregate of released 2PPs (polls that include data across two months are split between those months):

The year splits into two parts - the "bushfire" polls of January through March in which Labor generally led, and the "pandemic" polls of April through November in which the Coalition nearly always led, but usually not by much.  The Coalition's average result per month was a 50.4-49.6 lead, which makes 2020 the first year since 2010 (Rudd/Gillard) in which the government has led on average through the year without a mid-year change of government.  Previous years in the Newspoll era in which I have the government on average winning the 2PP are 1986-1989 (Hawke), 1997, 1999, 2002-3 and 2005 (Howard, also that part of 1996 he was in office for) and 2008-9 (Rudd). So overall this happens a bit over a third of the time.  It isn't a feat to be sneezed at given that seven governments have been re-elected, mostly comfortably, in years in which they didn't win the average, but that might also raise the question of how much it actually means.  

Following on from the 2019 polling failure in which all active pollsters overestimated Labor's 2PP by around 3%, it may well be asked whether this picture is accurate.  Both Newspoll and Morgan underestimated Labor at the 2020 Queensland election, but not grievously so, and this isn't much use because the history of state election polling errors is that most polls err on the same side for any given election, but that side changes from election to election.  Also, that history isn't much use in predicting federal errors.  There's a lot of room for scepticism about whether the pollsters have really cleaned up the mess, and only one of the three pollsters (Newspoll) appears to have made major targeted changes of a logical and promising variety.

A disconnect between sky-high leadership ratings for Scott Morrison and lukewarm voting intention leads for his Coalition has been present most of the time since April.  This disconnect was also seen in Queensland, and there the leadership ratings proved the better portent of Labor's convincing win. The Eden-Monaro and Groom by-election results, in which the government outperformed the historic average 2PP swings in Opposition and Government seats respectively, were both consistent with the government being in front (it would be a long bow though to conclude that they showed the polls to be wrong and the government to have a bigger lead).  


The year in Newspoll leadership polling statistics also falls neatly in two parts - the bushfire phase up to mid-March, and the COVID pandemic phase thereafter.  In the bushfire phase, Scott Morrison was unpopular, reaching a net satisfaction minimum of -22, and Anthony Albanese won the first three out of four Better PM polls, a relatively rare feat for an Opposition Leader.  In the COVID phase, Scott Morrison polled netsats in the range +26 to +41 and led as Better PM by between 24 and 35 points (noting that around 15 points of this lead is the incumbent's house advantage).  Morrison has been above net +30 now for longer consecutively than any other PM in Newspoll history.  Overall the averages for the year were:

Morrison netsat +22, the highest for a PM who lasted the whole year since Kevin Rudd (+34) in 2009

Albanese netsat +3, the highest for an Opposition Leader who lasted more or less the whole year since Rudd in 2007, or if Rudd is disqualified because he was elected PM after the final Newspoll for the year, Mark Latham in 2004

Morrison Better PM lead 22.1, also the highest for a PM who lasted the whole year since Rudd (+44) in 2009.

Morrison set all-time records for the largest poll-to-poll net satisfaction increase and Better PM lead increase early in the pandemic, but this was partly because he was coming off a low, bushfire-singed, base.

Albanese: the consensus and the data

There is a consensus among commentators that the Government has Labor's measure and Labor's leader's measure in particular.  Anthony Albanese is often seen as lacking cut-through, as having failed to remedy the Opposition's difficulties in connecting to its traditional base, and at the same time as being both a captive of the left and a captive of the Government.  It's hard intuitively to disagree with any of this or to see that Albanese has any kind of plan with any promise of success.  He is even being compared to Simon Crean by prospective knife-sharpeners, but at the same stage of the cycle Crean was polling -35 netsats, losing Better PM by almost 50 points and usually losing the 2PP 47-53 or worse.  Albanese is so far, mostly, holding up much better in polling, in the context of a pandemic that has seen many Opposition Leaders polling appallingly, with some oppositions (as in NZ and WA) ending up in a shambolic condition.  The Labor primary vote is about as low as during the comparable Crean phase, but this is offset by a higher Green vote and smaller Coalition lead, leading to a more competitive 2PP. 

The problem for those who want to make poll-based arguments for ditching Albanese and replacing him is that the data-based arguments are not that strong.  Yes the government is ahead mid-term, which is normally not a good sign for Oppositions, but then again almost everything in polling is a bad sign for federal Oppositions for the simple reason that they usually lose.  Even the kind of polling seen from governments that have lost was seen in the last cycle for a government that won.  It's not clear that there are any polling indicators that would identify a mid-term government as more likely to lose than win with any sort of reliability (because the sample of losing governments is so tiny).  So if an opposition leader is not polling appallingly, can any assessment of them as a probable loser - even if sound - tell us anything?  It seems that those using poll-based arguments for disposing of Albanese have made the judgement that he should be rolled first, and then started seeing the data as supporting that claim.  


Betting is not a reliable predictor, representing mainly the collective opinions of people who are losing money (or, early in the term, the judgements of bookmakers).  Odds I could find had implied chances for the government between 54.5% and 64.5% with an average of 61%.  This isn't overwhelmingly high, but note that these odds price in the possibility of Labor changing leaders.  As to whether they will do that, one market has Jim Chalmers as a slightly better than even favourite to be the next Labor leader, but I haven't seen betting on whether or not Albanese lasts til the next election.  Markets on when the election will be held still see about a two-thirds chance of it being in 2022.

The road ahead

After several months of polling stasis, things might get more bumpy in 2021.  We'll see the winding back of government assistance programs including the end of Jobkeeper after March, we'll see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines through the year, and at some point in either the second half of 2021 or the first half of 2022 comes the election.  How much economic or other turbulence is to come is one question, and another is how much voters will give the government a free pass for anything that does happen.  The difficulty for Labor in waiting for the pandemic boost to go away is that if Australia's relative success in combating COVID-19 continues, it could last all the way til the next election.

PS: BludgerTrack relaunched

William Bowe has relaunched a voting intention version of BludgerTrack, showing rhe Coalition currently 50.8-49.2 ahead (if the polls are to be broadly believed), and a very similar if naturally smoother pattern to my monthly averages above.  The data used for the two are almost entirely the same (I have used two more Morgans).

Friday, December 25, 2020

Do Green Preferences Matter At Tasmanian State Elections?

Secular seasons greetings to all, except the IPA, who get a great big HAPPY HOLIDAYS for the grinchy effort on the crosstabs in their latest scientifically unsound poll-shaped object.  It is a nearly annual tradition on this site to release something every Christmas Day.   I've now added a "Xmas" tag to all the Christmas Day articles so anyone sufficiently bored can see how varied these offerings have been.  

This year's Christmas Day article idea arose in mid-November following reactions to Tasmanian Labor's decision to letterbox fliers attacking the Greens and promising never to work with them in government again, a promise that I expect to expire immediately the next time Labor gets a majority then loses it.  Whatever might be said of the authenticity of Labor's messaging, I can't help thinking of the whole thing as something that you might see in a vintage British comedy skit:

"The Greens!  They're holding Tasmania back!  They're leaving people behind!"
"That's very unfortunate.  How many of these, er,  Greens are there?"

In online commentary about this, a theme sprang up that Labor was biting the hand that feeds it preferences, and that this (perhaps together with Labor's junking of its 2018 poker machines policy) could very easily backfire.  However, my own experience is that Greens preferences are not as big a deal in Hare-Clark as they are in other elections.  I thought it might be worthwhile to examine the history of Green preferences in Tasmanian state elections since the rise of the Greens in the late 1980s, and look at how much difference they have actually made and might make, or not make, in the future.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

JSCEM's Recommendation For Optional Preferential Voting

Advance Summary

1. Coalition members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters have recently recommended Optional Preferential Voting (OPV), but have provided very little discussion of that recommendation.

2. It is likely the government would have the numbers to pass OPV if both Coalition parties wanted to do so, but unclear as yet if they actually want to proceed.

3. Evidence from NSW state elections under OPV strongly suggests that it would significantly to severely disadvantage Labor if adopted federally. Evidence from Queensland is more confused.

4. The level of likely disadvantage to Labor under OPV could often result in a few federal seats having different results, but could be more severe when Labor holds majority government.   

5.Compulsory preferential voting leads to votes being disallowed because of irrelevant errors.  Reform to reduce or remove this problem is necessary.

6. Optional Preferential Voting has been defended on the grounds of allowing greater voter freedom, but it can also result in misleading campaigns to discourage preferencing and in cases where parties are disadvantaged because voters make incorrect assumptions.

7. Having OPV as a savings provision rather than a direct instruction to voters would solve most of the problems that OPV addresses with less disadvantages.

8. Labor's arguments against OPV in the report are weak.  

Monday, December 7, 2020

Tasmania: Secrecy Concerns Or Just Secretive Polling?

EMRS Tasmania (state): Liberal 52 Labor 25 Greens 13 Others 12

If accurate Liberals would increase their majority (14-16 Lib 7-8 ALP 2-3 Green)

 uComms (commissioned by Australia Institute) Tasmania (state): Liberal 50.3 Labor 31.8 Greens 10.7 Ind/Other 7.2

If accurate Liberals would retain majority but probably not increase seat numbers (13 Lib 9-10 ALP 2-3 Green)

New seat aggregate of all polls: Liberal 14 Labor 8 Green 3

"Sir Humprey: How are things at the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, by the way?

Sir Arnold: Sorry, I can't talk about that."

- Yes Minister, Party Games

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Groom By-Election Live And Postcount

Groom (LNP 20.5%) - CALLED (6:37 pm), Garth Hamilton (LNP) elected.  

Swing 3.29%, compared to historic average 6% for government seat by-election vacancies.

Updates will appear below the dotted line, scrolling to the top.  Once counting is underway refresh every now and then for new comments.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Queensland 2020: Final Results And Poll Accuracy

 Queensland: ALP 52 LNP 34 KAP 3 GREEN 2 PHON 1 IND 1

2PP Estimate 53.13% to Labor (+1.9% from 2017)

Another Queensland election is over.  In 2017 I wrote that the 2017 election had been "one where a great many dramatic things could have happened, but virtually none of them did", and in some ways this one has been similar.  Nonetheless, the Queensland election has again thrown up more than its fair share of electoral curiosities.  

Historic patterns

This election yet again showed that state and federal politics are fundamentally different and that projecting state elections from federal elections (just because it's easy) is false consciousness.  The 2PP result was over eleven points different from the 2019 federal election in Queensland.

In the leadup to the election I was curious about whether not being in government federally should provide an ongoing boost to the Palaszczuk Government so I wrote this.  Based on the age of this Queensland government and the fact that Labor is in opposition federally, the average expected result was a net gain of 2.5 seats.  The actual result, after two very close seat wins and one close loss, was a four-seat gain, so very close to the historic expectation.  The government was helped, perhaps decisively, by the pro-incumbency mood during COVID-19, but had also had some wear and tear during the term.  By election day the government was polling very well in terms of personal approvals of Annastacia Palaszczuk and which party was best to handle the economy, and it seems these polls were telling us something the voting intention polls were not.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Recent State Election Polling Does Not Skew To Labor

Advance Summary

1. A major polling failure in the 2019 Australian federal election has been attributed to unrepresentative sampling, coupled with inadequate reweighting, that produced a large skew in primary vote and 2PP estimates in Labor's favour.   

2. A recent report argues that a skew in federal 2PP polling was present throughout the period 2010-2019 and was not specific to 2019.  

3. If this was the case, and was so for the same reason, then a skew to the ALP should also be expected from the much larger sample of state-level final polls taken over the same period.

4. However, state level polls in Australia from 2010-2020 do not display any overall two-party skew to the ALP.

5. Also, while federal polling for 2010 overestimated Labor, final 2PP polling at the 2013 and 2016 federal elections was mostly very accurate.

6. While federal polls overall (not all specific polls) do have a record through recent decades of on average overestimating the Labor 2PP, this record is much inflated by a single pollster (Morgan).


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Groom: Australia's Most Boring By-Election?

Where time permits I aim to do a preview post for any federal by-election, but in the case of Groom (Qld, LNP, 20.5%) I'm not expecting to be hanging on the edge of my seat on November 28, and nor am I expecting any flurry of polls.  The major purpose in writing this guide is to point to some unusual features of this by-election in terms of its lack of competitiveness.  However, it is still an electoral indicator of some kind, and the swing will be watched with some interest in view of events affecting both major parties this week.

Groom History

Groom is mostly (in population terms) the city of Toowoomba, plus surrounding rural areas radiating to the west.  Groom is the successor to the Federation division of Darling Downs, the name being changed when the division was redrawn for the 1984 expansion.  The seat has had only nine incumbents, all of them male, since Federation (one of whom, Sir Littleton Groom, served two disjunct spells in the seat.)  

The seat has invariably been won by conservative MPs, with the slight complication of Sir Littleton Groom serving as an independent briefly in 1929 and 1931-3. He was expelled from the Nationalists after not using his casting vote as Speaker to save them from a no-confidence motion, and lost his seat in 1929, but won it back in 1931 and eventually joined the United Australia Party.  The seat has, however, gone back and forth between the Liberal/proto-Liberal side and the Nationals/Country side of the Coalition, with four changes of ownership in cases where it became vacant.  Three of these involved three-cornered contests.  The last of these came at the Groom by-election 1988, where the seat switched from National hands to Liberal hands after ousted Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen endorsed the Liberal candidate.  In this way, the ghost of Joh hangs over the question of whether the winner should sit in the Liberal or National party rooms.  

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Not Again: Oppositions That Went Backwards Twice In A Row

 A rare form of failure that normally happens about once a decade has happened on the conservative side of Australian politics at two elections in the space of two weeks.  In both the Queensland and the ACT elections, the official Opposition went backwards in seat share for the second election contested as such in a row.  (To be clear about what counts here, Victoria 2018 is not the same thing, since in 2014 the Liberals had contested the Victorian election as the incumbent government - both elections must be contested from opposition to qualify.)  Such a rare event happening to two Oppositions right now might be considered as a sign of how hard life is for Oppositions during the COVID-19 pandemic, or it might also be argued that the two Oppositions in question were unusually hopeless.  In one case (Queensland) there are also some special factors at play.  Anyway, such an event is so unusual that I thought it would be interesting to list all the cases I have found since 1900 of it happening, whether at federal, state or territory level.  I have not found any case of an Opposition going backwards at three elections as the Opposition in a row.  

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Not-A-Poll: Next Leader To Go!

 Introducing a new rolling Not-A-Poll series that will appear on the sidebar (scroll down).  The aim of the game is to predict who will be the next to leave office out of:

* The Prime Minister

* The federal Opposition Leader

* The six state Premiers

* The two territory Chief Ministers

I haven't included state opposition leaders as they are too low profile outside their own states.  

Every time one of the leaders leaves office, the poll will be closed, we'll see if the plurality were right, and it will then reset and start again!  

By the way readers may have noticed an annoyance with the new Not-A-Poll format in that words do not show in full when showing votes back to voters.  I have emailed CrowdSignal about this and I hope that they will fix it soon.  

Queensland 2020 Postcount

Labor re-elected with increased majority

Seat total after recounts ALP 52 LNP 34 KAP 3 GRN 2 PHON 1 IND 1

Labor won Bundaberg and Nicklin after recounts.

LNP has won Currumbin


Donations welcome!

If you find my coverage useful please consider donating to support the large amount of time I spend working on this site.  Donations can be made by the Paypal button in the sidebar or email me via the address in my profile for my account details.  Especially in these uncertain times, please only donate if you are sure you can afford to do so.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Queensland 2020 Live


Seats expected to change hands:

Whitsunday (NQF loss, probably to LNP)
South Brisbane (ALP loss to Greens)
Caloundra (LNP trailing ALP)
Pumicestone (LNP trailing ALP)

Incumbents struggling:

Bundaberg (LNP trailing ALP)
Hervey Bay (LNP trailing ALP)
Nicklin (LNP slightly trailing ALP)

Labor appear likely to beat Greens in Cooper and McConnel as difficult for Greens to bridge gap to second, but will look at this in more detail on Sunday.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Queensland 2020: Rolling Final Days Roundup

I'll be covering the Queensland election here on election night and in detail throughout the postcount, though on some days I may be busy with other things during the day.  

Another Queensland election count is a day and a bit away and there's a distinct lack of data for the usual polling aggregation/modelling type game, so I've decided to start a rolling roundup article which will cover a number of possible themes.  When new polls appear - assuming they do - new sections covering them will be posted at the top of the article. I also have a new article in The Guardian.  I should clarify that I didn't speak to any of the nameless insiders personally, and was going off other media reports.  There were reports since I filed that one that unnamed Labor insiders were more confident yesterday because internal polls had supposedly shown an uptick following one of those debates that nobody much watches.  This narrative was gleefully and even gullibly snapped up by Sky, perhaps because it was useful for attacking Gladys Berejiklian.  The NSW Premier will doubtless be scapegoated in the event of an LNP loss even if there is nothing special in the early/late voting history to justify such a charge.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Post-Budget Federal Polling Roundup

I haven't done a federal polling roundup for a long time, because most of the time at present we are only getting Newspoll.  However, last week saw the quarterly batch release of Essential's new poll results and there is actually enough information out there to make it worth sneaking in a general if slightly dated polling review in the small window of spare time I have between the ACT and Queensland election counts.  My previous comments about federal polling (or mostly, the Australian's lousy coverage thereof) were here.

This year we saw very little of a common polling trope in previous years - fevered speculation about whether the government of the day would get a "Budget bounce".  Actual budget bounces are rare, but the extremely well-received 2019 Budget not only saw an immediate lift of about 0.6% in aggregated polling for the Coalition, but also either coincided with or kickstarted a longer recovery that continued through the campaign.  We now know that all that polling was wrong, but we don't know if it was wrong by the same amount all along.  In any case, 2019 was another example of the strongest evidence (such as it was, since it could be coincidence rather than causation) for the Budgets that most help government polling usually occurring in a Coalition government's election year.  

Newspoll recently recorded a 51% 2PP for the government before the Budget and a 52% after it, which people unfamiliar with the idea of random statistical noise may have taken as evidence of another Budget bounce.  However, the evidence from Essential weakens if not completely negates the evidence for the bounce, depending on how Essential is interpreted.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

ACT 2020 Final Results Review: How Did The Greens Win Six Seats?

The ACT election is over and the Labor-Green government has been returned.  Predictions that the Liberals would get even remotely close - based in many cases on unsound analysis - have been squelched, with the Liberal Party dropping to nine seats out of 25, the party's second-lowest seat share since Hare-Clark was adopted for the 1995 election.  

In an election that saw relatively minor vote swings (2.9% against the Liberals and 3.2% to the Greens) the most striking result was the Greens' spectacular seat haul, taking two seats apiece from the major parties to go from two to six seats out of 25.  They thereby won 24% of the seats off 13.5% of the vote, a feat that requires some explanation.  This is, by a very small margin in percentage terms, their highest seat share in ACT history.  By comparison in 2010 the party won just five seats with 21.6% of the primary vote in Tasmania's 25-seat Hare-Clark system, which also has five divisions with five seats in each.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

2020 ACT Election Live And Post-Count

ACT Election 2020

Labor-Green government has been returned

Final result Labor 10 Liberal 9 Greens 6


DISCLAIMER - all assessments are provisional except where stated as definitive calls.  Hare-Clark elections are very complex.


9:30 Final distributions are up - barring any kind of challenge (which is unlikely) it's all over.

In Brindabella Davis (Green) defeats Werner-Gibbings (ALP) by 82 votes, with Wall 110 ahead of the cutoff point.

In Ginninderra Ramsay is out by 166 votes.

In Kurrajong the Greens get two by 407 votes.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Queensland Poll Drought Is Finally Over

Note added 16 Oct: The Newspoll just out is virtually identical to the YouGov poll below so I have nothing to add to this article on its behalf, save that it is not just one poll saying this now, but two by the same company, and with much less time remaining.  It should be noted though that the Greens primary is down 1% on the YouGov poll, which makes the 52-48 2PP off those primaries rather than 51-49 seem more tenuous, especially with the information that the UAP is polling something in the Others tray.  


YouGov 2PP 52-48 to Labor

Projected seat result if this poll is accurate: ALP win, but majority status touch and go (approx ALP 48-9 LNP 37 KAP 3 Green 2-3 ON 1 Ind 1 - almost no net change from 2017)

Over three months since the last, and less than four weeks til polls close, we finally have another public voting intention poll for the 2020 Queensland election.  Finally, for a week at least, I will be able to scan social media in search of polling data in some peace without the Violent Femmes singing "WHY CAN'T I GET JUST ONE POLL?" or the Angels responding "AM I EVER GONNA SEE A POLL AGAIN?" in my head.  The release of a rather large statewide YouGov sample that has Labor leading 52-48 finally gives me something to apply a statewide poll model to so I can talk about modelling and this election.  Though in comparison to 2017, there's really nowhere near as much to say.  

Friday, September 25, 2020

Could Just 2000 Shifting Votes Swing The ACT Election?

 Advance Summary


(This article is rated 5/5 on the Wonk Factor scale.  It is extremely mathsy and technical.)


Yesterday the ABC published an article that claimed that the Liberals could win the 2020 ACT election if just 2,000 ACT voters switched their vote compared to how they voted in 2016.  The article is still up and the author continued to defend it after both Tim Colebatch and I independently pointed out on Twitter why it was incorrect, so here is an article to explain in detail why this claim is not correct.  In the process I hope to highlight that interpreting Hare-Clark spreadsheets really is rocket science and that a simple question like "how close was the election?" can have a very complex answer.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Newspoll: The Sound Of Narratives Dying

 This week's Newspoll results have included fresh approval ratings for Labor Premiers Daniel Andrews (Vic) and Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld), along with a number of issues questions regarding handling of COVID-19.  These are well worthy of comment - Victoria especially - along with some brief comments on less striking results (but strikingly if typically bad reporting) in federal Newspoll land.


A widespread narrative in Victoria has been that Premier Daniel Andrews is severely on the nose and his Premiership is in crisis, either because of the second wave of COVID-19 in the state that resulted from avoidable quarantine failures on his watch, or from the severity of lockdowns deployed in response to (so far successfully) bring new case numbers down.  

Victoria has recently seen public voting intention polling, finally, via a 51.5-48.5 lead in Roy Morgan Research's SMS polling.  I am not a fan of SMS polls as a method (I think they are too prone to motivated response), and Morgan's recent state polls have a history of volatility and being rather inaccurate, but at least this is something.  Also, ALP-linked campaigning firm Red Bridge has issued a 53.5-46.5 result for Labor.  These results followed Liberal Party MediaReach polling that had the Liberals picking up massive swings in a group of Labor-held seats (which if applied statewide would see Labor losing), but this is the same firm that, for instance, had the Territory Alliance on course to be the largest party in the NT parliament (it won a single seat very narrowly).  The internal poll also showed a rather heavy fall in the Greens vote, which seemed unlikely in the absence of anything that would cause it and given the general resilience of the Greens vote in recent elections (OK, except for Eden-Monaro.)  

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Guardian debut

Just a very quick post to put up a prominent link to my debut article for The Guardian, a general preview of the Queensland election:

Queensland 2020 elections will be a test of state's COVID response

(This is a single commissioned piece, similar to commissioned pieces I have done in the past for other outlets, most frequently The Mercury.  I thank the Guardian very much for their interest in my work.)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Tasmanian Electoral Reform and A Current Electoral Amendment Bill

There has been much discussion of the progress, or lack thereof, of electoral reform in Tasmania in recent weeks.  Most of this discussion has focused on donation law reform issues including disclosure requirements, possible donation caps and potentially public spending. These matters were addressed in the Electoral Act Reform Report, which was reportedly completed in December 2019 but remains unreleased.  Premier Gutwein has stated that the progress on electoral reform is not a priority for the government at the moment because it is occupied with coronavirus-related challenges.  

There is still (barring an early election, regarding which speculation has declined) plenty of time for reforms to House of Assembly donations processes to be passed prior to an expected March 2022 election, should the parliament choose to do so.  (My broad view is that donation reform before that election - to increase both the range and timeliness of required disclosures - would be extremely desirable as the current requirements are far too lax, but that spending caps require very careful consideration to avoid the errors of a previous attempt.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Curiouser And Curiouser: Recent Queensland Poll And Poll-Shaped Objects Roundup

The Queensland election is six weeks away and there has been no mainstream polling for it since the Newspoll in late July showed the LNP leading 51-49.  There are, however, a number of minor polls flying around and it's time to round them up and put them in a box.  In at least one case, the lid should then be taped firmly shut.

Polls "reported" recently have been:

Australian Institute for Progress (statewide)
YouGov (Currumbin, Redlands and Mansfield)
Omnipoll (Ipswich, Keppel, Mackay, Thuringowa)
Lonergan (Maiwar, McConnell, South Brisbane)

A further poll by AskAustralia Market Research has been reported in field but no results have yet been seen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Age And Canberra Are Still Killing State Governments

 Advance Summary

1. One of the most important factors in state election outcomes is the influence of whether the governing party at state level is in Government or Opposition federally.  To be the same party as the federal Government is a disadvantage.

2. Another important factor is the age of the state government, with governments tending to do worse the longer they have been in office.  

3. In the last six years, all same-party state governments that have faced elections have lost seats in significant numbers.

4. In the meantime, two of the three opposite-party governments gained seats (though one very old opposite-party government was defeated, but with a 2PP swing to it.)

4. It might seem logical that if the federal government at one state election was the same as at the previous election for that state, then this factor would not generate further swings against an incumbent state government of the same party, or further protection for one of the opposite party.

5. However, the evidence suggests otherwise.  It appears that more voters continue turning against state governments that are of the same party as the federal government, over successive elections, even when the same federal government had been in office at the state election before.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

EMRS: Tasmania Is A One-Party COVID State

EMRS August Liberal 54 (+11 since March), Labor 24 (-10), Greens 12 Others 10

EMRS May Liberal 52 Labor 28 Greens 10 Others 10

Seat projection if August poll is accurate Liberal increased majority (15-16 Lib 6-7 ALP 2-3 Green)

Seat projection if May poll is accurate Liberal increased majority (15-16 Lib 7 ALP 2-3 Green)

Lowest combined Labor/Green primary vote in EMRS history

Finally we have some new voting intention polling for Tasmania courtesy of the release of an EMRS poll for August accompanied by a back-released poll for May.

We already knew that Premier Peter Gutwein was enjoying virtually universal popularity in the state, courtesy of his Australian record 90% approval rating but it was unclear whether this was translating to anything much in voting intention terms.  It seemed especially doubtful that it was after the Liberals' very high profile candidate Jo Palmer only snuck across the line by 260 votes in the Rosevears Legislative Council contest a month ago, while Labor had a storming win in Huon (albeit without an official government candidate).  This all put to bed building speculation about an early Tasmanian election, but that speculation may return now, although an early election that could create COVID risks would be a risky idea absent of any narrative as to why it was required.  For sure, the disastrous showing by Labor in this poll will trigger leadership speculation, and when the numbers are this stark, the momentum for change sometimes quickly becomes unstoppable.

The voting intention results, if realised at an actual election, would result in an increased Liberal majority, the obvious comparison point being the 2014 state election (Liberal 51.2 Labor 27.3 Greens 13.8 and the Liberals managed 15 seats, though with some help from a lucky breakdown of individual vote shares in the seat of Braddon.)  That does not mean we can reliably assume that an election called right now would see such results, as polling bounces caused by unusual events will often deflate as voters focus on an election campaign.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Preference Flows And The Eden-Monaro Result

 The much-awaited Eden-Monaro preference flows are finally out, following some time after the distribution of preferences, and it's useful to make some comments about these.  (Also see Antony Green's comments.) 

Labor won the by-election by 735 votes (50.39% 2PP).  This means that had 368 voters who preferenced Kristy McBain instead preferenced Fiona Kotvojs, Kotvojs would have won.  This is relevant for checking various claims about preferences of particular parties deciding the result.  In my Eden-Monaro live thread I set some markers at the time for particular preference shifts causing or not causing the result.  

Did Nationals preference flows weakening cause Labor to win?

Answer: Yes - but this isn't necessarily what it looks like.  In Eden-Monaro in 2019 an unusually strong 87.16% of Nationals preferences flowed to Fiona Kotvojs.  At the 2020 by-election the flow was only 77.73%, making a difference of 571 votes to each side's total, and a difference of double that to the margin.  While it was unrealistic for the very high flow from 2019 to have been maintained, any flow above 81.08% would have resulted in the Liberals winning the seat.  That figure is almost exactly the 2019 national average in contests where the Nationals were excluded, so the switch from an above-average to a below-average Nationals to Liberals preference flow can be said to have cost the Liberals the seat.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

2020 Northern Territory Election Live And Post-Count

Election over - ALP 14 CLP 8 TAP 1 IND 2 
ALP returned with reduced majority 

2PP Estimate 54.1 to ALP (Mulka excluded; effective 3.1% swing to CLP)
Final 2PP 53.3 to ALP (Mulka excluded; effective 3.9% swing to CLP)

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Live comments will appear below the line once counting starts.  Comments scroll to the top - refresh every 10 minutes or so once the count is well underway for latest comments.  Scroll down to intro section at the bottom for links, important disclaimers etc.


Here's Your "Weaponised Narrative": The Tasmanian Greens MPs And China

Note re NT election: I have a final roundup post about the NT election below this post and there will be live coverage here from 6:00 NT time (6:30 AEST)


This week there was an incident in the Tasmanian Parliament in which Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor became involved in a very sharp exchange with Speaker Sue Hickey after Hickey intervened while O'Connor was replying to claims by Labor MP Ella Haddad.

O'Connor had made a serious mistake, confusing a Hobart Buddhist monk with a Victorian property developer because they both had "Wang" in their names, and Haddad alleged the mistake was xenophobic.  The monk, Master Xin De Wang, is from time to time a subject of CCP influence claims and discussion of pro-Beijing positions, but denies any links to the CCP, and has been in the news regarding recent proposals to build a massive Buddhist temple near Campania, a proposal supported by both Hickey and Haddad and opposed by an adjacent landowner who wishes to build a quarry.

Friday, August 21, 2020

NT Election Final Roundup

Counting night approaches for the 2020 Northern Territory election, which I will be covering with live comments here in a separate post and follow-up comments on that thread through the post-count as required.   Normally here for an election I have paid a lot of attention to I would be posting a final polling roundup, but for the NT there's usually precious little to report in that department.  However there are a number of other things that can be commented on in setting the picture.  You can also check out the Tally Room podcast I appeared in today with Ben Raue and Duncan McDonnell.


Almost everything I had to say about polling and this election was said in my earlier piece Divergent Polling In The Northern Territory.  I contrasted a very detailed Territory Alliance internal poll by Mediareach with a lobby group commissioned poll by uComms and found that whereas the former predicted a chaotic parliament with no party likely to be near a majority, the latter was most consistent with a Country Liberal resurgence, Labor retaining a majority, and little joy for the Territory Alliance.  I did not asset that either poll was accurate (though uComms have a mostly good track record) - the truth could be much closer to one than the other, or somewhere in between, or more extreme in some direction than both polls.  Since the article was written, expectations and betting seem to have converged towards the uComms result, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's what's going to happen.

It would, however, be very consistent with my finding in the previous piece that "federal drag" theory (the idea that being of a different party to the one in Canberra helps) is a thing in the NT just as it is in the states.  As bad as the NT economy has been during the present term, a majority government thrown out after one term while the same party is in opposition federally would be a very unusual result from that perspective.  

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Down The Rabbit Hole: The Glamorgan-Spring Bay By-Election

An odd Tasmanian council by-election is currently going on that has caused the Tasmanian Electoral Commission to issue not just one but two explanations of the counting process and the consequences of the election.  This seems weird enough for a suitably niche look at what this fuss is about, which I will update with the results when they are known.

Glamorgan-Spring Bay municipality covers much of the east coast of Tasmania, from Bicheno in the north to Maria Island and a random looking line through the Weilangta forest in the south.  The council has a recent history of turbulence.  In 2014, high-profile former supermarket boss Michael Kent defeated flamboyant incumbent Bertrand Cadart for the top job.  Kent hence became the first and in 2014 only candidate to successfully take advantage of a rule change allowing candidates to run directly for mayor without prior council experience.  However, Kent's term as mayor saw frequent infighting and controversy and he finished last in the 2018 mayoral election.  Both Kent and Cadart have since passed away, in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Debbie Wisby was elected the new Mayor in 2018 but has since faced allegations of bullying, harassment and misuse of funds (which she denies) and has been criticised over the renting out of a short-stay property to council staff.  The council was issued with a performance improvement direction in recent months, and now Wisby has resigned the mayoralty and from the council.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Huon and Rosevears Live And Post-Count

Huon: CALLED (1 am Sunday) Seidel (ALP) gain from Robert Armstrong (IND)
Rosevears: Palmer (LIB) defeated Finlay (IND) by 260 votes.

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Live comments (scrolls to top)
All updates are unofficial, check the TEC site for official figures

Wrap: Well that was a rollercoaster with some rather weird preference flows, the independence of the Upper House dying hard in the strong flows to Finlay off Gale and (given his conservatism) Fry, but then not so much as enough Labor preferences went to Palmer to save her just when that was looking unlikely.  Another very near miss for Janie Finlay who would have beaten any other candidate.  In Huon, Bastian Seidel has enjoyed a massive victory that will boost Labor's stocks greatly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Essential's New 2PP Plus - What Is It And Does It Make Any Sense?

Following the 2019 polling failure, Essential Research has taken a very long time to return to voting intention polling.  Two weeks ago in an action that some might think was trolling the pollster (but I couldn't possibly comment) I took the unweighted voting intentions data from over a year of Essential polls and converted them to a pseudo-poll series.  I showed that this unweighted data series followed some of the patterns seen in the public polling by Newspoll and the sometimes-public-at-the-time polling by Morgan, with all these series showing ALP leads during the summer bushfire disaster, switching to Coalition leads as the COVID-19 situation came to dominate politics.

I showed that in the unweighted data Labor had had rather large leads briefly during the bushfires, switching to substantial and steady Coalition leads from late April onwards, but I suggested that there were various reasons why these large leads might not survive the application of weighting.  Nonetheless the broad patterns in the data seemed worth keeping an eye on.

It's presumably coincidence that just two weeks after I released this piece, Essential have finally returned to the voting intentions fray, but they have done so in a unique manner.  This article discusses what they've done and why, and their just-released results.  I think what they have done is interesting but I disagree with nearly all the reasons they have so far advanced for doing it.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Joan Rylah Resignation And Replacement

Another unusual casual vacancy in the Tasmanian House of Assembly with today's news that Braddon MHA Joan Rylah is resigning from parliament, 17 months after returning on a recount.  Rylah previously served in the 2014-8 parliament after being elected in the Liberals' unusual 4/5 seat result in Braddon at the 2014 election.  She was fairly narrowly defeated by fellow Liberal Roger Jaensch in the 2018 race for what was now a third seat, with Labor winning two.

This resignation is being marketed as being timed to give the remaining Liberal candidate Felix Ellis time to establish himself in the leadup to the next election.  That makes perfect sense, since MHAs elected at recounts often do struggle to build sufficient profile for re-election and need time to do it in.  However, the resignation also follows a significant gaffe in which Rylah threatened to blockade Bunnings if they didn't stock timber from native forest logging.  Aside from being not exactly respectful of business freedom, this flew in the face of her Government's persistent attempts to outlaw obstructive protesting from the other side of the forestry wars.  Indeed, she would have breached laws (albeit currently inoperative) that she had previously voted for.   Perhaps criticism of this gaffe brought forward or crystallised a decision to stand down, or perhaps the fact that it was made at all indicates that Rylah was already preparing for life after parliament.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How Should We Solve The Problem Of Unintended Informal Voting?

Advance Summary

1. In single-seat elections using compulsory preferential voting, high rates of unintended informal voting occur.

2. Informal voting is especially high where there are many candidates, where there is confusion between voting systems, and where electoral and/or English language literacy are low.

3. It is unclear whether unintended informal voting creates a significant two-party preferred advantage for one side of politics, although it appears to deflate Labor's primary vote.

4. There are many ways to reduce the number of votes that are disqualified without having to adopt Optional Preferential Voting.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Essential's Unweighted Voting Intentions Look Surprisingly Like An Actual Poll

(Note added 29 July: Essential has now returned to voting intention polling, see here.)

The Australian polling landscape following the 2019 polling failure has been very sparse on national voting intention results.  Newspoll has continued to appear regularly, but Ipsos has not reappeared following the loss of its contract.  ReachTEL is now very inactive as a pollster (and indeed was for some time before the election).  Morgan has continued polling, but only releases voting intention results close to the time they were taken when it feels like it, and has back-released a confusing mess of results with some detail and results that are just dots on graphs, with difficulty reconciling information between the two.  The subject of this article, Essential, has continued polling all the sorts of items it previously polled, except for voting intention.

Quite why Essential has stopped polling voting intention, and whether it is at their own initiative, that of their client the Guardian, or a mutual decision, remains unclear to me.  In July 2019 this sounded like a temporary thing:

"However, over the next few months we are working to improve our two-party preferred modelling. In the interim we won’t be publishing voting intentions, however we will still report on issues of contemporary political interest."

Friday, July 10, 2020

Divergent Polling In The Northern Territory

Advance Summary

1.  There have been two massively different recent polls of the Northern Territory - a MediaReach internal poll for the Territory Alliance covering all bar four seats and a uComms poll for an environmental group covering Greater Darwin.

2. Although the uComms poll is much smaller, uComms has the better track record nationally so far (from limited evidence) while MediaReach is a mysterious pollster with a weaker public track record. Furthermore internal party polls that are released tend to favour their sponsor.

3. The MediaReach poll implies a probable hung parliament with Labor losing its majority and the Territory Alliance supplanting the Country Liberal Party as the largest conservative party, and possibly even forming government.

4. The uComms poll, however, implies that at least in Greater Darwin the Territory Alliance is unlikely to win many seats, and is consistent with Labor remaining in majority unless there are larger swings against it outside its survey area.  

5. Neither of these polls are necessarily reliable.  Media should not rely strongly on either in setting narratives for the upcoming election.

6. The history of "federal drag" - parties tending to perform best when in opposition federally - appears to apply to the Northern Territory very much as it does to state elections.


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Eden-Monaro Late Live Comments And Post-Count

Eden-Monaro (ALP 0.85%) McBain (ALP) retains with 50.41% 2PP (-0.44)

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Some people are speculating about a recount.  A recount is automatic if the final margin lands below 100 votes, but that is now very unlikely.  For margins above this, recount calls are typically rejected.

Nationals And Shooters Preference Factors

There is a lot of speculation about whether Nationals preferences have caused Kotvojs to lose.  Estimates of the Nationals to Liberals preference flow have varied from 70% to nearly 90%.  Scrutineering of this flow across a large electorate is extremely difficult; it's best to wait until the AEC comes out with the final preference flow.

On figures current as of Tuesday morning, McBain leads by 775 and there are 5924 Nationals votes.  This means that unless the flow from the Nationals to Kotvojs exceeds 93.5%, Kotvojs would be now leading had she got every Nationals preference.  But that's not interesting, because 100% preference flows never occur and the Nationals running is not the cause of the "leakers" preferencing Labor (most would have done so anyway).  What is interesting is whether the flow has weakened since 2019 and done so by enough that the weakening of the flow becomes the cause of Kotvojs' defeat.  At the moment this is the case if the flow from the Nationals has shifted to below 80.7%.

Another question is whether the Shooters preferences have caused the outcome.  Estimates of the Shooters flow vary with some claims as high as two to one to Labor, but Liberal scrutineers have said 50-50.  As of Tuesday morning, for Shooters preferences to have alone determined the outcome, they would have to break 57.8% to Labor.  However, the flow of Shooters preferences to Labor will be boosted by the donkey vote, meaning that if even, say, 55% of genuine Shooters voters have preferenced Labor then that will have decided the seat.  For the Shooters how to vote card to have decided the seat, it would currently have to be the case that the flow from the Shooters (whatever it is) would have been 15.7 points weaker had the Shooters preferenced the other way.  Limited evidence does not support Shooters how to vote cards making that much difference.  This number may drop with further counting, but I'm not sure that it will.

A further possibility is that some combination of Shooters preferences and weakening in the Nationals flow could account for the result, with neither factor decisive by itself.

I will analyse preference flows fully when they are available.

Count Updates - comments scroll to top below the line

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Newspoll: More Off-The-Scale Leader Ratings

Newspoll has returned with a second round of the very welcome State Premier approval ratings first seen in late April.  I thought a brief (by my standards) post about the current round of Newspolls was worth putting up overnight as the results are already sparking discussion in Tasmanian politics.

In each case I give the Premier's net rating, followed by the change from April, followed by the satisfied and dissatisfied split.

Gladys Berejiklian (NSW) is on +42 (-4) (68-26)
Daniel Andrews (Vic) is on +40 (-18) (67-27)
Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld) is on +24 (+8) (59-35)
Mark McGowan (WA) is on +79 (-4) (88-9)
Steven Marshall (SA) is on +52 (+5) (72-20)
Peter Gutwein (Tas) is on +82 (+9) (90-8)

And just for completeness, Scott Morrison (PM) is on +41 (+4) (68-27).

Thursday, June 25, 2020

White Goes First, Right Goes Beatup: The ABC Did Not Attempt To Cancel Chess

In recent days I've been involved in a media and social media flurry sparked by the ABC's decision to explore the subject of whether White moving first in a game of chess was in any way connected to race issues.  This claim was once most commonly seen as a spoof of anti-racism campaigns, but these days, a small number of people seem to be actually fearing chess might be symbolically racist.

I appeared on ABC radio and gave an interview that outlined that there is no evidence this is the case.  The host did not try to argue that there was, just mentioned that people on social media have held concerns about the issue.  The mere existence of that interview has triggered a massive backlash from right-wing culture warriors, which had already started before the interview aired.  The thing is, it is unclear that the enemy they're tilting at exists!  The ABC may be guilty of filling up its programs with offbeat fluff on the slender pretext of a few tweets, but that does not mean it was trying to have chess cancelled.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Legislative Council Voting Patterns 2016-2020

Advance summary:

1. This article presents a revised analysis of voting patterns in the Legislative Council (the upper house of Tasmanian Parliament) based on contested divisions involving the current MLCs in the last four years.

2. Although there is a degree of independence in all Legislative Council voting (except among caucusing party MLCs), the Council continues to have a clearly defined "left wing" consisting of the four Labor Party MLCs, and independents Mike Gaffney, Ruth Forrest, Kerry Finch, Rob Valentine and Meg Webb.

3. The two Liberal MLCs and independents Ivan Dean and Robert Armstrong belong to a similarly clearly defined "right" cluster.  Independents Tania Rattray and Rosemary Armitage do not belong to any cluster but currently side somewhat more with the right cluster than the left cluster.  

4. A possible left-to-right sort of the Council is Webb, Valentine, Forrest, the four Labor MLCs (Farrell, Lovell, Siejka and Willie in no particular order), Gaffney, Finch, Armitage, Rattray, the two Liberal MLCs (Hiscutt and Howlett in no particular order), Armstrong, Dean.  However Webb's placement is unreliable because of limited evidence.  

5. Going into the 2020 elections, the left holds an absolute majority in the Legislative Council, normally meaning that the government needs the support of Labor or at least two left independents to win votes.  This will remain the case, the question being the size of that majority.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Unpopular State Premiers Still Have Dire Historic Fates

It's been over a month since I posted a new article on this page, though updates to previous articles have continued, especially Eden-Monaro.  I have some vague idea where that time went (a number of distractions from psephology lately) but there hasn't been a huge amount going on lately and I tend not to write just for the sake of having something up.  There will always be something new here eventually!

This article is another piece where I update a previously published article from some time ago and see whether the pattern described in it is still holding up.  Today's target for an update is Unpopular State Premiers Have Dire Historic Fates, from 2013.  This article was inspired by a bad Newspoll for then Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett.  Barnett had been re-elected with a 57.3% 2PP nine months earlier so it probably seemed adventurous to see a single Newspoll still showing his government in a narrow lead as the first of the circling vultures.  But it was - Barnett survived a leadership challenge in 2016 but was dumped by the voters in 2017 with an enormous 12.8% swing.

He wasn't alone.  Since I released the original article, Campbell Newman was dumped by voters with a massive swing, as was Lara Giddings. Jay Weatherill also lost (albeit with a 2PP swing to him) and Mike Baird, who had been very popular in his first term, became somewhat unpopular in his second and resigned.  The four election defeats for unpopular Premiers helped beef up the evidence that it is the voters, and not just the parties, who tend to show them the door.  In the same time, Premiers who had not polled such bad ratings in their terms were re-elected twice in NSW and once each in Queensland, SA, Victoria and Tasmania, with Victoria's Dennis Napthine (worst netsat -4) the sole casualty to not poll a bad rating.  The chart below (click for larger clearer version) shows the fates of every state Premier who has polled a netsat worse than -10 in Newspoll history (which starts in 1985).  Premiers are sorted by the worst netsat they polled during the term.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Eden-Monaro By-Election 2020: How Loseable Is It?

By-election July 4th
Cause of by-election: resignation (citing health reasons) of Mike Kelly (ALP)
Outlook: It's a weird one, and so anything could happen.  For what it's worth, historical patterns slightly favour Labor.

Welcome to my pre-analysis page for the Eden-Monaro by-election.  I expect to have a live page on election night, but starting late (say 8 pm) because of a clash with something else.

There are two main narratives about this by-election as the parties compete for the role of underdog and try to manage expectations in advance.  The first is that the loss of an opposition seat to an incumbent government in a federal by-election is literally a once in a century event (it happened for the only time in 1920) and that therefore a government win is unrealistic.  The second is that the seat's marginal nature combined with the high personal vote of outgoing ALP incumbent Mike Kelly makes the seat extremely difficult to defend in the current environment.  I argue here that both these narratives are wrong.   The by-election is much more loseable than the "100 years" history suggests, but all of the arguments as to why it could be lost have at times been overplayed.

If you want a go at picking the outcome yourself, there's a Not-A-Poll in the sidebar, running until polls close.  (As of 4 pm 4 July, the average forecast on this site was 50.89% to Labor, ie zero swing, with one voter predicting a non-major party winner. This site's reader base skews fairly heavily to the left.)

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Rosevears And Huon Not Live

Note added August 1: for the real live coverage go here.

In some alternative universe, the polls will close about four hours from now ...

In the normal scheme of things, today would have been the day for the Rosevears and Huon Legislative Council elections.  I think it is worth a quick post to reflect on that fact and to summarise where things are with the postponement of these elections, which I have also been covering in an article that is now well down the list.

The elections were postponed because of risks associated with the current coronavirus outbreak.  Indeed in recent weeks Tasmania has had the nation's proportionally most severe outbreak of COVID-19, but it has been almost entirely confined to the north-western health system and close contacts of individuals within it.  A very small number of cases within that outbreak have been diagnosed in the North and South rather than the North-West, but beyond that the South has had only two cases in the last month (for one of which on 6 April, no detail ever appeared to my knowledge) and the North has not had any.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Newspoll: Record Premier Ratings And A Very Strange Federal Poll

This week Newspoll polled state Premier approval ratings, but not voting intentions (perhaps because samples by state would have been too small for voting intention sampling).  It was to be expected that several state Premiers would have very high approval ratings given their handling of the coronavirus crisis, but perhaps not that the figures would be quite so spectacular:

Prev = previous poll.  *= As opposition leader.  #=YouGov poll not branded as Newspoll.
As high as Scott Morrison's current net rating of +40 is (more on that later), all the Premiers except Palaszczuk have beaten it.  None of them were coming off a particularly high base, though the most recent polling for Victoria and WA is ancient.  For Tasmania this is the first Newspoll of Premier satisfaction since the 2014 state election.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why Better Prime Minister/Premier Scores Are Still Rubbish

Advance Summary

The "better Prime Minister" or "better Premier" score in Newspoll polling is a frequent subject of media focus.  This article explores the history of Newspoll preferred leader scores at state and federal elections and during terms and finds that:

* Better Leader scores are skewed indicators that favour incumbents by around 14-17 points at both state and federal level.

* Better Leader scores add no useful predictive information to that provided by a regression based on polled voting intention.

* If anything, Prime Ministers with high Better Prime Minister leads may be more likely to underperform their polled voting intention, but this is already captured in the relationship between polled voting intention and actual results.

* At state level, leading as Better Premier is a worse predictor of election wins or losses than leading on two-party preferred and having a positive net satisfaction rating.  This is because Better Premier is a weaker predictor of vote share than polled 2PP and is also more skewed as a predictor of election outcomes than either.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Morrison Breaks Two Newspoll Records Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The Newspoll just released deserves a special post in the absence of other polling, because of a couple of historic bounces for incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison.  It should be stated from the outset that these records have fallen partly because Morrison was coming off a low base.

To give the numbers first, the government now leads 51-49 two-party preferred, a gain of two points from three weeks ago.  The primaries are Coalition 42 (+2) Labor 34 (-2) Greens 13 (+1) One Nation 5 (+1) Others 6 (-2).  (I have a concern that the new Newspoll methods may be overestimating the Greens' vote by naming only them and the majors on the initial screen).  Scott Morrison leads Anthony Albanese 53-29 as "better Prime Minister", up from 42-38 last time, noting that Better PM is an indicator that tends to skew to incumbent PMs all else being equal (so 42-38 was actually a bad result for Morrison).  Morrison has a net satisfaction rating of +26 (61 satisfied 35 dissatisfied), up 38 points from -12 (41-53) last time.  Albanese has a net satisfaction rating of +9 (45-36), up 9 points.

What is notable overall here is that the government has only registered a modest bounce on voting intention but perceptions of Morrison's leadership have been changed dramatically by the crisis. This is indicative of a bipartisan mood where many voters are willing to say that although they support an opposition party, the government leader is doing a good job with this crisis.  (One can hear similar from Victorian Liberal voters regarding Daniel Andrews.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Legislative Council 2020: Huon

This election will be held on August 1.

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Welcome to my page for the 2020 Legislative Council elections for the seat of Huon.  My Rosevears page is already up and an article on Legislative Council voting patterns is probably not far away, and will be linked here when it is written.

The election was originally slated for Saturday May 2, but was postponed to Saturday May 30 to allow more time for the TEC to prepare for a campaign with a high rate of postal and early voting. However the government then announced an indefinite deferral with an intention to hold the elections by August 25, pursuant to section 13(1) of the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (see and section 5 of the Public Health Act.  As the COVID situation eased, August 1 was announced as the date.

This piece will be edited through the campaign from time to time for updates, campaign information, added candidates and changed assessments.   Other relevant pieces will be linked here.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Queensland: Bundamba and Currumbin By-Election Counts


BUNDAMBA: McCallum (ALP) retain
CURRUMBIN: Gerber (LNP) retain

Friday: With both seats decided I am paying little attention to the counts but note that the error mentioned below is now corrected.

Tuesday night: As Antony has noted, the preference figures that have gone up for Bundamba appear to have transposed the flow of Greens preferences making them flow 2:1 to One Nation instead of a more logical 2:1 to Labor, so McCallum will get more like 59% than the 54.9% he's currently credited with.

Tuesday 4:50:  Antony Green has reported that the LNP are around 500 votes ahead with not enough left to overturn.  These numbers are still not showing on the ECQ website.  Labor has conceded and the LNP has claimed Currumbin.  There will be a swing against it which may be close to 2% but is to be determined.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

King Of Nothing For A Day: Did Terry Mills Return As NT Opposition Leader?

Brief answer: Perhaps!

Of all the things going on in the world at present probably the least important of all is the position of NT Opposition Leader (unless, perhaps, a new conservative force starts winning NT elections and then winning federal seats).  But we all need some laughs, and so long as one doesn't think at all about whether NT politicians could have found something more constructive to do with their time right now than this, this is a rather funny story.  Not as funny as the time Willem Westra van Holthe held a late night presser to announce he was "Chief Minister apparent" only for it to turn out that he wasn't (Adam Giles who he thought he had deposed as leader threatened to bring down the government and as a result Giles was restored to the CLP leadership.)  But still, not bad.

The remains of Giles' government were slaughtered at the 2016 Territory election leaving the CLP with only two seats compared to 18 for Labor and five for a range of independents (some of them ex-CLP).  One of the independents was former Chief Minister Terry Mills, who had earlier been rolled by Giles while Mills was out of the country, just seven months after Mills had led the CLP to majority government.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus And Australian Politicians And Elections

Just a post to comment on some aspects of interest regarding the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on Australian politicians and elections.  (Note added April: this article is being updated continually but no further politicians have been diagnosed for a while.)


In the last week three federal Coalition MPs (Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Senator Susan McDonald and Senator Andrew Bragg) have tested positive to COVID-19.  Dutton is believed to have caught the disease in the USA, Bragg at a wedding in Australia and McDonald via unknown community transmission.  No state politicians have been reported as testing positive, but that's surely just a matter of time.

Politicians represent a tiny percentage of the world population, yet there have been many cases of them testing positive, a fact already attracting much attention.

A rough and doubtless incomplete tally of politicians who have tested positive, culled mostly from this Wikipedia page, accepting their description of "politician" status blindly but excluding those who I could quickly and clearly see were only former politicians, is as follows:

The table shows that countries that have politicians who have tested positive usually have more than one.  Of the 13 countries with more than one known infected politician, Australia has the fourth lowest ratio of total cases to political cases, currently above only Brazil, Romania and Iran.  Some countries with high coronavirus counts have none so far (such as South Korea and Switzerland) while China has relatively few.