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.

The poll is the largest lead for the Liberals since February 2013, when they led Labor 53-22 on their way to the 2014 landslide win.  However the Greens were on an unrealistic 18% at that poll.  The combined Labor and Green primary of 36% in the current poll is the lowest in EMRS history, though EMRS methods changes that appear to have addressed their history of overstating the Green vote may have something to do with that.  If Tasmania had a 2PP system, on these numbers the government would be leading by something around 60-40.  

Unsurprisingly, with Gutwein polling high personal ratings and his party getting a massive COVID-19 bounce according to this poll, Gutwein's preferred premier lead is huge; he now leads Rebecca White 70-23.  This is not a Tasmanian record; Jim Bacon led Bob Cheek 70-13 in a Newspoll prior to the 2002 election debacle for the Liberals in which Cheek lost his seat.  But it is a strong result given that White has had (until now) a remarkable history of being competitive in Preferred Premier polling even while her party was not competitive electorally.  White herself has polled very high personal ratings in the past (as high as net ratings around +40) in the rare cases where her personal rating has been polled.  It would be interesting to see what she was polling personally now.  

Seat Breakdown

The following is a model of how seats might pan out if this poll is assumed to be accurate, based on swings from the last election.

In this model, Labor would lose their second seat in Bass to the Liberals or the Greens, their second seat in Braddon to the Liberals, their second seat in Franklin to the Liberals and they might lose their second seat in Lyons to the Greens.  In Bass the Liberals might lose enough on leakage for the Greens to beat them, but there is a history there of Others preferences being nasty to the Greens so I would have the Liberals as slight favourites.  In Lyons I would also have Labor as slight favourites for much the same reason, and because Labor has two incumbents in that seat.  

I am sceptical of some points in this model.  I think the Liberals would actually be more of a threat to win four in Bass (headed by a very high-profile team of Peter Gutwein/Michael Ferguson/Sarah Courtney) than in Braddon where their lineup is Jeremy Rockliff (who may retire), Roger Jaensch (a solid but unspectacular vote getter) and Felix Ellis (only just elected on a recount and with lots of profile-building work ahead of him).  Probably in Braddon we would not see so high an Others vote relatively as in 2018.  

The Liberal team is also weak in Franklin with the departure of Will Hodgman, though on these state votes it would be hard to see that making enough difference for Labor to get two seats and drop the Liberals back into a fight with the Greens for the last.  

Sue Hickey and Madeleine Ogilvie continue to create complications in Clark, where either might plausibly run as an independent, as a Liberal or not at all, though on these numbers it probably wouldn't matter to the Liberals having enough vote to win two seats.  There is also the question of whether Janie Finlay, if interested, would have any chance as an indie in Bass.  Legislative Council success for independents often does not translate to the House of Assembly but if some of it did for once, there could be enough partial quotas floating around there for an indie to win off, say, 8-9% of the vote.   

No matter how you slice it though, this poll suggests a Liberal majority if an election were to happen now, and suggests an absolute lack of Opposition cut-through against what the government is doing, particularly as concerns Tasmania's borders.  It is more of the same lopsided polling we saw at times in the dying days of previous Labor-Green arrangements, but also for Labor under Jim Bacon at his peak.  From time to time there is really only one party in town in Tasmania, and one would not want to be fighting an election campaign from a position with no hope of outright victory at the moment, and trying to convince voters that a potentially unstable hung parliament is a good idea. 


  1. Hi Kevin,
    Have you seen the latest polling for this year's QLD state election? I just saw it, and the 2pp estimate they got was...so unbelievable I thought you might be interested in doing a piece on the matter:


    Basically, they have the primary votes for Labor at 32%, LNP at 38%, Greens at 12% and Other (including One Nation) at 18%, and they somehow derive a 56-44 to LNP out of this. For this to be remotely possible, if one assumes a Green-to-Labor flow of about 80% (pretty constant throughout state and federal elections in QLD), the LNP has to win ~87% of Others preferences, a group which includes Independents (whose preferences tend to split about 50-50 at state elections). Even if, as the article claims, right-wing minor voters (One Nation, UAP, KAP) are preferencing the LNP, we've never seen a preference flow to the Coalition/LNP of more than ~65% from such parties' voters before, making a preference flow stronger than the typical Green-to-Labor preference flow...highly unlikely to say the least.

    Do you think this represents a failure of respondent-allocated 2pp estimates, or might some other factor be responsible for this?

    1. Probably the latter but there is insufficient information to say whether it would be just a small sample of minor party voters causing it (a common issue with respondent preferencing) or something else. The source of this poll is rather weird, a right-wing think tank that has conducted some polling of its own but is not especially well known as a current pollster. The AiP was involved in a court case against the Electoral Commission of Queensland, which it lost: https://www.queenslandjudgments.com.au/case/id/343874 The body has LNP connections.

      For the poll to be accurate the LNP's share of all preferences would have to rise from about 49% last time to 60%; that seems very unlikely.