Saturday, November 28, 2020

Groom By-Election Live And Postcount

Groom (LNP 20.5%) - CALLED, Garth Hamilton (LNP) will be elected.  

Swing likely to finish in range 3-4%, 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: The swing on postals is now down to 7% and the overall swing to 3.5%.  

Tuesday: Around another 3000 postals counted, and the swing on postals has come down to 7.5% bringing the overall swing down to 3.6%.  It will be mildly interesting to see if this trend continues and pushes the overall swing down towards 3%.  

Monday: Around another 2000 postals counted and the swing is now down to 3.8%.  Nearly all of the remaining votes to be counted will be postals but later postals will probably weaken slightly in their flow to LNP.  

Sunday 4 pm: Around another 2000 postals have been counted, very slightly improving the LNP 2PP.  In theory there might be over 16,000 to come but in practice a few to several thousand won't show up.  

Sunday: Around 5000 postals were added sometime last night or this morning and these split only 68-32 to the LNP, compared with 77-23 in 2019.  As a result the swing to Labor has come up to 4%, which is squarely in the "nothing to see here" range.  It will probably change little on further counting.  Note also that the Sustainable Australia vote is down a point to 8.01% and will probably fall below the Greens' 7.96% from 2019. 

9:35 End of night wrap: I'm going to assume we're not getting postals tonight and wrap this up here, though I'll add in if anything more does arrive.  What we've seen so far is a 3.1% 2PP swing, which William Bowe notes is 2.8% in the booths and 4.0% in prepolls.  The postal figure might be more like the latter, so the swing may rise a little, but it will land well below the historic average for a government vacancy.  It's likely to land at the solid-for-Coalition end of the not much to see here range, but it might get into the good for Coalition, mediocre for Labor range (which I set the boundary for at 3%).  Anyway the Coalition will be happy with this one, since there is nothing to see here by way of evidence of Labor's vote recovering in any real sense from the 2019 Queensland federal malaise.  As with the competitive Eden-Monaro result, it is consistent with the idea that the government is travelling fairly well, as suggested by the federal polling.  The low profile and low combativeness of the Groom campaign, though, mean that not too much should be read into this one.  

9:00 I initially posted that another prepoll had put the swing up to 3.5% but both PB and AEC now project just 3%.  One more big prepoll and hopefully some postals to come.  

8:35 A couple of big prepolls have reported primary votes and this has pushed the projected swing up to over 3% (PB) again.  What I've found with the SA vote:

* The SA vote is high where Labor did best in 2019, but that doesn't mean SA are taking votes from Labor disproportionately as Labor also has higher primary vote swings in such booths.  

* The SA vote is higher in booths that were best for the Greens in 2019, suggesting that about a third of the SA vote probably came from Greens voters.  

* The SA vote has no relationship with the size of the One Nation vote in 2019.  

* There's some negative corellation between the size of the SA vote and the primary vote swing to the LNP, suggesting some level of competition between the two for votes leaving other parties.

Not easy to read a great deal into all this.  

8:00 The high Sustainable Australia vote is of some interest; I'll have a go at working out where those are coming from during the lull while waiting for the prepolls.

7:49 Labor have failed to win any booths, subject to confirmation.

7:16 Labor doesn't look like winning Toowoomba Taylor St or Newtown off those primary votes either.  Not sure where they're going to win a booth from here.   

7:06 Swing projections converging around 3%, which is solid for the Coalition if it stays that way.  

7:00 The LDP have done well at the Darling Heights booth, putting them up to 5.4% now and with a much better chance of retaining their deposit.  

6:55 It's notable that Sustainable Australia is doing well and the LDP badly in the big booths - which is a hazard for the LDP's deposit.  In some of these Sustainable Australia is polling over 10%.  

6:47 The AEC-projected 2PP swing has crept up to a more reasonable 4% swing to Labor, but Poll Bludger projects that to come down to 2.4%.

6:37 Several more booths are in and the projected swing is down to 1%, though that might not be entirely accurate because of changing postal vote patterns.  For what it's worth, CALLED.  Hamilton will clearly win.

6:27 Divisional Prepoll has returned a 2PP with a 2.7% swing to Labor.   

6:24 Several more booths have reported and so far the LNP has a 12% primary vote swing to it; Labor has a 4.5% primary vote swing to it.  That would see the parties finish somewhere around 65-23 on primaries, and we still have to see what the preferences do but that isn't looking like a 2PP swing against the LNP of any size at this stage.  

6:21 We're off, with a first preference from Bowenville where the LNP leads 78.2% to 11.3% (cf 68.1 to 18.4).  Sustainable Australia lead the Lib Dems by 1 vote and both are tracking to get their deposit back!

6:05 Polls have closed.  Another fun thing to watch for tonight: will Labor win a regular booth on 2PP?  The closest in 2019 was 55.86% to LNP at Newtown.  Mount Lofty (58.8) could be an interesting one and others that were under 60-40 were Harlaxton North, Harristown, Toowoomba City, Toowoomba South and Toowoomba Taylor St . 

Intro (4:55 Qld time)

Welcome to my coverage of tonight's Groom by-election, in which I will keep an eye on such riveting issues as who will finish last and whether the Liberal Democrats and/or Sustainable Australia will get their deposits back!  There is also the overall question of the two-party preferred swing - a modest swing to Labor is the normal result for a government vacancy, so there might be implications if the swing is absent or in the LNP's favour, or if there is an unusually large swing to Labor.  My preview was here and so little has happened during the campaign I've barely even edited the thing since writing it.  Some surprise has been expressed that Labor is even contesting the thing, but as my preview notes, Oppositions nearly always contest Government by-elections.

Antony Green's post here re postals is worth a read, and you will get a swishier results display at Poll Bludger.

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.

2PP and swing

There are many different approaches to estimating the 2PP for this election because of the incomplete information provided by the ECQ.  For the 2017 election the method I used was what I call the "actual distribution method" - attribute as many votes as possible to 2PP based on the actual distributions and then use the average preference flows when those other parties still holding votes were excluded in other seats to estimate preference flows for those parties.  I could do that again, but the ECQ has made it difficult by not including party names on the same page as the preference distributions.  

The method I have used instead is:

* Add the exact totals for the 85 seats that finished as 2PP contests.

* For the remaining eight seats, distribute primaries to 2PP using the sampled distributions, which were done by ECQ in 70 2PP divisions and posted by Antony Green.  For parties not included in Antony's tallies, I use the sampled distributions published by Poll Bludger.  

This gives a result of 53.13% to Labor (+1.9 swing from my 2017 estimate.) (1523953 votes to 1344371).  Antony Green's estimate is 53.2% to Labor (1524766-1343558, which comes out to 53.16)  In any case, Antony and I agree that there was a 1.9% swing, as Antony's estimate for 2017 was 51.3%. In 2020, it is unlikely the treatment of the non-classic seats matters too much as their overall effect on the 2PP is very small.

Few seats changed hands (again)

After the bloodbaths of 2012 and 2015 the next two Queensland elections have been quiet in seat transfer terms, and this one was the quietest since 1980.  Only nine seats changed hands on a notional basis in 2017, and this time only six did, excluding the LNP's recovery of Whitsunday from Jason Costigan after kicking him out of the party.  The LNP lost Pumicestone (0.8%), Caloundra (3.4%), Bundaberg (4.2%), Nicklin (5.3%) and, on a monster swing by the standards of a low-swing election, Hervey Bay (9.1%).  Labor lost South Brisbane (3.6% vs Green) to the Greens, but had an average 3.5% swing in its favour in its 14 most marginal two-party seats, with only one very small swing against.

The overall 2PP seat tallies are exactly as predicted by the simpler version of my 2PP model, given the 2PP vote that actually occurred.  Labor overperformed by one seat compared to the Mackerras pendulum method and underperformed by two seats compared to the regional swing version of my 2PP model (the difference in swings between the Gold/Sunshine coasts and the rest of the state was not as large as polling predicted, mainly because a predicted small swing against Labor outside the southern coasts did not occur).  However, seat losses were quite widely strewn across the pendulum, with the LNP losing its 3rd, 8th, 12th, 16th and 23rd (!) "safest" seats on paper out of 39.

Personal votes: oddities, but the theory holds

This election was a strange one from the perspective of personal votes in seat results, because the LNP lost all their seats where a sitting member was retiring, but also the only two seats which they gained in 2017 and where a new sitting member was recontesting.  However, on overall averages the election provided extremely strong support for 2PP personal votes (which I should remind the sceptics are a theory and a fact).  

By my calculations in six "double sophomore" seats (where the party has a new incumbent who defeated the opposite party's incumbent at the previous election) the party holding the seat on average outperformed its 2PP state swing by 2.0%.  In eleven "single sophomore" seats (where the sitting member was first elected in 2017, either because the seat was new or replacing a retiring member) the party on average outperformed its state swing by 0.6%.  In five cases where a sitting MP who had been re-elected at the previous election retired, the party on average underperformed its state swing by 3.3%. It can be argued that LNP retirements happened to be focused in an at-risk area of the coast, but speculation that the LNP would lose marginals on the Gold Coast where it had no retirements came to nothing. There was also one seat (Currumbin) that was almost a vacancy because the new incumbent had had only half a year to establish herself, and the LNP underperformed by 0.9% in this seat.  (ABC estimates have been used for 2PP swings for seats that had no official 2PP in 2017.)

It was just the LNP's bad luck that in their sole "double sophomore" seat of Bundaberg, the 2017 result had been artificially bolstered by One Nation preferencing them and polling a very high primary vote, and therefore the seat was more at risk than it appeared.  

There were some very strong cases of new MPs building a personal vote in divisions created in 2017, such as the LNP's Sam O'Connor in Bonney (+8.4%) and Labor's Charis Mullen in Jordan (ABC estimate +7.1%).

Almost no seats were decided by preferences

This was also a section last time, but even more so this time! There were only two seats where the primary vote leader did not win on preferences, these being Nicklin (where the LNP started 3.51% ahead and ended up 0.28% behind Labor) and Mirani (where Labor started 0.31% behind Stephen Andrew (PHON) but Andrew got 59% 2PP after an 83.4% two-candidate preference flow from the LNP).  The LNP also very nearly overtook Labor in Bundaberg.  

Of course, there were, as usual, seats where an even split of preferences from a specific party would have altered the result had it happened, but in the case of Greens to Labor it was never likely to.  It's worth mentioning that the UAP (Anna Palmer) preference flow in Currumbin was not among those cases - the LNP would still have won the seat.  The LNP would however have lost Currumbin had both the UAP and Tracy Takacs-Thorne's preferences done so.  (Takacs-Thorne was notionally an independent but in fact a candidate for the unregistered Australia One party, a right-wing conspiracy theory outfit.) 

I get that the LNP won four seats that it would not have won had the split from One Nation been even: Currumbin, Coomera, Burleigh and Glass House (these are based on the ECQ preference samples, not the distributions).  I get that Labor would not have won with an even 2PP split of Greens preferences in any of Bundaberg, Nicklin, Barron River or Cooper.  (In Cooper, despite Labor's massive final margin, Labor was actually overtaken during the preference count prior to the exclusion of the Greens).  Had optional preferential voting been used, the only seat that I think would have had a different result is Nicklin.  

The overall preference flow was about 55% to Labor, up from about 51% in 2017, with the increase being mainly caused by the One Nation vote collapsing.  Greens preferences appear stronger than last time in the ECQ estimates, but this is probably only because the 2017 Green preferencing rates were extracted from the preference distributions and included votes received by the Greens from other candidates.  Katters Australian Party preferences were more pro-LNP this time.  

The One Nation collapse meant that One Nation finished second in only one seat (Bundamba) compared to 20 last time.  In Bundamba, One Nation overtook the LNP by getting more preferences from the Animal Justice Party and Greens, especially the former.  I attribute this at least partly to gender preferencing: the AJP, Greens and One Nation candidates in Bundamba all being female while the LNP candidate was male.  

Minor parties: incumbents v the rest

Something I have noticed before is that once crossbenchers get elected they tend to do very well in subsequent elections even if their party doesn't do so well.  Thus it was again in this election:

* Stephen Andrew (PHON, Mirani), primary vote swing -0.4%, 2CP swing 4.2%

* Michael Berkman (Greens, Maiwar), primary vote swing 13.6%, 2CP swing 4.7%

* Sandy Bolton (IND, Noosa), primary vote swing 12.5%, 2CP swing 4.3%

* Nick Dametto (KAP, Hinchinbrook), primary vote swing 21.6%, 2CP swing 7.2%

Only Stephen Andrew had a primary vote swing against him, and a very small one at an election where his party lost almost half its statewide vote despite running in more seats.  (Andrew, incidentally, became only the second One Nation MP, out of 33 One Nation MPs who have served at state and federal levels, to ever complete a term and be re-elected under the One Nation banner.  The first, twice, was Rosa Lee Long.)

This election saw a decline in the overall minor party and independent vote, from 30.9% in 2017 to 25.4%.  The loss was essentially One Nation's, but none of the others did anything special overall.  The Greens had a small overall swing against them, but this was probably just because there were more parties running candidates.  Katters Australian Party did nothing special outside the footprint of the federal seat of Kennedy despite the One Nation collapse, and a much talked-up independent, Claire Richardson in Oodgeroo, couldn't get into the top two.

The Greens cut the gap to second after preferences in McConnel from 5.8% last time to 2.8% this time, but that was mainly because the LNP performed so poorly there.  They had a remarkable 9% swing to them in Cooper off the retirement of Labor's Kate Jones, and briefly threatened to win that seat, but fell 4% short in the end.  

Their sole pickup was the widely expected defeat of Jackie Trad in South Brisbane.  This has produced more gnashing and wailing from certain members of the ALP faithful (especially federally) than if Labor had won that seat but lost the election.  However it is crocodile tears mixed with cluelessness; Labor didn't reinstate Trad to Cabinet, left her to fend for herself during the campaign, and are looking for someone to deflect blame to.  As to whether Trad would have won had the LNP preferenced her, in 2017 she got 62% of the LNP distribution (which included votes from other parties).  A repeat of that flow in 2020 would have got Trad home 51-49, but any flow below 57.7% would have seen Trad defeated (it was actually 36.2% thanks to the LNP's preferencing decision.)  It's debatable whether the controversy surrounding Trad - coupled with the LNP's votes at exclusion including a slightly larger share of votes from other parties - would have reduced her share of LNP preferences by 4.3% or not, but at least plausible that it would have, so the question of whether the LNP preferencing decision caused Trad to lose is inconclusive.  It certainly robbed her of any chance she might have had.

There is no evidence of a general swing against minor parties caused by COVID-19 in other elections or polling, so the poor One Nation result seems to have been their own doing.  

Early in the count there was a lot of nonsense about One Nation votes moving to Labor, because there was a large primary vote swing against One Nation, a large swing to Labor and very little swing to the LNP.   In the end this appearance moderated anyway, with Labor finishing on a 4.1% primary vote swing to the LNP's 2.2%.  This doesn't mean the votes leaving One Nation (6.6%) went mostly to Labor.  More likely, about 4 points (net) moved from One Nation to the LNP, about two points moved from One Nation to Labor, and about 2 points moved from the LNP to Labor.  In some seats, Labor got a swing despite One Nation getting a positive swing because they had not run in 2017.  Overall, the One Nation preference flow based on actual two-party splits was about the same as the flow for One Nation exclusions in 2017.  That suggests the actual preference flow from One Nation voters to the LNP reduced slightly (because exclusion flows are watered down compared to 2PP splits), and that could have been explained by the party issuing open how to vote cards instead of tending more to preference the LNP.  

Polling: state

State polling at this election (which saw the first test of the new Newspoll/YouGov methods) was reasonably good, but not brilliant:

The four campaign-period polls published all underestimated Labor on a 2PP basis, but by an average of only 1.5 points, the overall miss being typical of state election polling.  However, on the primary votes, every poll underestimated Labor and Others and overestimated One Nation and the Greens.  The overestimate of One Nation is especially surprising as the party contested nearly every seat, removing a common source of polling error in the past.  Shy Hansonites?  Doesn't look like it!  

The YouGov stable polls were more accurate than Morgan, but unluckily the second-last Newspoll was a little more accurate than the final one.

A reasonable read of these polls was that Labor were very likely to govern and very slightly more likely than not to do so in majority.  As such, despite not being entirely accurate, the polls did predict the overall result correctly, and seat projections off them only underestimated Labor by a few seats.  As usual the "inevitable hung parliament" narrative misread the polling and underestimated the impact of a relatively small average polling error on the chance of majority government.

Polling: local

YouGov issued seat polls of Mundingburra, South Brisbane, Mansfield and Pumicestone, with sample sizes of just over 400 voters per poll.  The South Brisbane and Pumicestone polls were remarkably accurate, being only 0.8% and 1.3% out on the two-candidate result, with negligible errors in the primary vote.  The other two were not so good - Mundingburra had Labor 4.4% too low on 2PP and hence incorrectly had Labor losing the seat very narrowly (it had Labor 3.2 points low on primary vote and One Nation 6.3 points too high).  The Mansfield poll had the right winner but a 6.3 point miss on the margin, mainly by having Labor's primary 5.1 points too low and the LNP's 6.6 points too high.  Overall an average error of 3.4% on the 2CP vote across the four polls.  This is no worse (and in the case of 2019, better) than considerably larger federal seat polls, but given that those seat polls were themselves so far out, I don't think YouGov has found the magic bullet for completely fixing seat polling just yet.  

A combined YouGov poll of Currumbin, Redlands and Mansfield was partially released two months before the election and at that time had a 2% swing to Labor in these seats.  This (off a combined sample of 600 votes) was very portentous indeed as the actual swing in these seats was 2.9%.

Four seat polls by Omnipoll (established by staff of the old pre-2015 Newspoll) were reported in mid-September in the Australian.  These polls, part of a commissioned survey for a coal industry client, were extremely inaccurate, in a way very unlikely in my view to be explained by vote-shifting in the meantime.  The seats covered were Ipswich, Keppel,  Thuringowa and Mackay.  These seat polls overestimated the LNP's eventual primary in every seat and by an average 8.5%.  They underestimated Labor in every seat by an average 8.6%.  They underestimated One Nation in every seat by an average 6.5%.  They overestimated the Greens in every seat by an average 2.8%.  They underestimated KAP in Thuringowa by 9%.  The only remotely useful thing these seat polls did was suggest that the One Nation slump might be more severe than the state polls were suggesting, which was true, but not that true.  

Greens seat polls by Lonergan of their three big seats (Maiwar, South Brisbane and McConnel) were reported, but not in full detail, so it was unclear whether these polls overestimated the vote for parties other than Labor, LNP and Green, or had an undecided component included.  The 2CP result released for Maiwar (56-44) was correct.  Overall these polls on average and on a three-party basis overestimated the Greens by about a point and underestimated Labor by 2.5 points.  The primary votes in Maiwar and South Brisbane were very accurate on this basis, but the McConnel poll overestimated the Greens by 3.5 points on a three-party basis and underestimated Labor by 5.3, as a result wrongly putting Labor in third when they in fact led on primaries.  

Long way back for the LNP

The LNP went backwards both in seat terms and swing terms for the second election in a row, a highly unusual feat for oppositions.  The LNP has now won one and a half of the last twelve Queensland elections - one and a half out of five while Labor was in office federally and zero out of seven while the Coalition were.  The LNP has serious problems in Queensland state elections.  It struggles to attract quality leadership (partially excepting Campbell Newman who was an excellent campaigner in Opposition but a divisive Premier).  Its internal culture suffers from an excess of vested interests, domination by backroom boys (the gender reference isn't an accident) and also some remarkably immature social media personnel.  As a female leader Deb Frecklington had the opportunity to present a different style of leadership and to improve the party, but instead chose to attack another woman over her choice of clothes and her failure to have children.  The LNP now needs a uniform swing of 5.7% to take majority government at the next election.

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.  

Labor's closest approach to winning Darling Downs was 47.5% 2PP in 1943 (a landslide national win for the party during wartime).  Since then, Labor has got above 40% 2PP just twice, 43.1% in the 1961 "credit squeeze" election which the Menzies government barely survived, and 41.8% in the 2007 Rudd victory, with Labor led by a Queenslander.  

The 2019 result (70.5% to Jon McVeigh) was one of the most lopsided results in the seat's history, exceeded only on a 2PP basis by a 71.3% result in 1996.  There is a myth that Groom was the Coalition's biggest win in 2019 but in fact it was exceeded on both a 2PP and 2CP basis by Maranoa (where One Nation finished second).  

Groom And Lopsided By-Elections

Groom is remarkably uncompetitive on paper, and the by-election has attracted quite a lack of candidate interest, possibly in part because many parties have exhausted resources on the Queensland campaign.  Normally by-elections attract a plague of no-hopers, often from out of town, but Groom has attracted only four candidates.  

Groom is the most lopsided seat based on the results of the previous election to go to a by-election since Scullin (ALP, Vic, 27.6%) in 1986.

Groom is the first federal by-election not contested by the Greens since Warringah, 1994, and breaks a streak of 30 successive by-elections that the party has contested.  It's hardly the worst seat for the party, which polled 8% there in 2019, but they have said they are focusing on the long-away Queensland Senate campaign.  The party is probably still recovering from the Queensland state election campaign.  Incidentally, the Greens' Eden-Monaro result earlier this year was their second worst in swing terms at any by-election, after only the artificial case of Wentworth 2018 (where much of their usual vote went to independent Kerryn Phelps.)

The total field of four is the smallest for a by-election since four candidates contested the 1995 Wentworth by-election.  The last by-election with fewer than four was Gwydir 1989, contested by one National and two right-wing independents.  There was speculation that Labor wouldn't bother contesting Groom either, but this would have actually been very unusual.  North Sydney 2015 was a rare case of an Opposition not contesting a Government vacancy; before that the most recent one I could find was Bradfield 1952.


The most interesting thing about the Groom campaign so far was the LNP preselection contest, conducted in the lead-up to the Queensland election.  Media reports claimed that Toowoomba doctor David van Gend was a frontrunner in the seat.  This produced widespread alarm owing largely to van Gend's history of homophobic comments and his frequent and recent support for so-called "gay conversion therapy".  However, van Gend was defeated by votes pooling between other candidates through successive eliminations, especially with concerns that preselecting him would be a disaster for the state LNP campaign.  Right-wing culture warriors had flocked to van Gend's cause, but not all of them, as mining engineer Garth Hamilton received support from LNP Senators Amanda Stoker and Gerard Rennick.  

Hamilton, the eventual winner, is also of the Right, but in a different way.  His views include support for "pulling apart the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to free up major infrastructure project approvals", support for IR and taxation changes, opposition to Labor's 2050 zero carbon emission target, and wariness regarding China.  He is a frequent author in Spectator Australia, though a recent piece called "Absent Fathers Matter" that criticised the Black Lives Matter movement has mysteriously disappeared.

Labor showed no clear sign of running until nominations closed, at which point it turned out they were in and their candidate was Chris Meibusch, who also contested the seat for Labor in 2007 and 2010.  In 2007 Meibusch recorded the sixth-highest 2PP swing in the country, 10.6% to Labor, but Groom was not a place where the Gillard years were likely to go down well and it nearly all returned to sender in 2010.  The Latham campaign probably didn't go down there well in 2004 either so these swings were probably not candidate related.  Meibusch, a long-term party member, is a local lawyer who is also secretary of Save Mt Lofty, a local conservation group.  

Meibusch contested the mayoralty of Toowoomba Regional Council this year but finished a very distant second to the winner, Paul Antonio, 78-22 after preferences.  Amusingly, under daft local government laws passed by the Palaszczuk Government recently, had Antonio stepped down in the first year of his term, Meibusch would now become the Mayor.  The Government is now in the process of reversing its blunder, with Meibusch's support.  

Two other parties have candidates contesting this by-election: the Liberal Democrats' Craig Farquharson and Sustainable Australia's Sandra Jephcott.


The 2019 election results suggest nothing special about the personal vote of outgoing MP Jon McVeigh, who at that time had only been in the seat for one term.  The swing to the Coalition was slightly higher than the average for Queensland, which is consistent with a typical personal vote for a new MP.  

By-elections usually result in a protest swing against the government of the day.  Since Federation, the average 2PP swing for Government seat by-elections has been around 6.1+/-4.9%.  For by-elections since 1983 it has been slightly lower, but only because of eligibility-related by-elections where the sitting member has recontested.  A Labor win in this seat would not only be around 2.9 standard deviations outside the average (an in-theory 1 in 600 chance) but it would exceed the largest 2PP by-election swing so far (20.1% in Wakefield 1938).  But furthermore, by-election swings are correlated with polling, so monster swings against governments tend to occur when those governments are polling badly - which isn't the case at the moment.  Historic patterns suggest there is no realistic statistical chance for Labor to win this by-election and the question is the margin.

On that point, the by-election looms as a test of whether Labor has yet won back any of the Queensland voters it alienated in 2019.  A greater than average swing could be taken as a sign of success on this point. However, many pandemic-era electoral events have already seen incumbent governments outperforming expectations, and on that basis I'd be more inclined to set the bar for Labor to demonstrate progress at a little lower than average.  Thus, provisionally, I'd set the bar as follows:

No swing or swing to Coalition: excellent result for Coalition, questions about Labor leadership and campaign, suggestion that Labor has not addressed causes of 2019 result
Up to 3 points to Labor: good result for Coalition, mediocre for Labor
3-6 points to Labor: solid result for Coalition if at the lower end but really not much to see here
6-9 points to Labor: good result for Labor in the circumstances
9+ points to Labor: outstanding result for Labor, suggestion Labor has successfully addressed causes of 2019 results in Queensland.

Of the four parties running, on a four-party basis the results in the Senate (including below the lines) were LNP 65.3%, ALP 28.4%, Sustainable Australia 3.6% and Liberal Democrats 2.7%.  However that excludes nearly a tenth of Senate formal votes that reached none of these parties, and those voters (often One Nation) might behave a little less predictably.  So the two minor parties may be able to get the 4% needed to get their deposits back and get public funding.  That said there are not a lot of libertarians in Toowoomba, and the selection of Meibusch as Labor candidate should discourage Greens voters from preferring Sustainable Australia.  If Sustainable Australia polls something in the high single figures and the Labor primary is lacklustre then that would raise some questions as well.

At the moment I expect to cover this count live on the night.

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


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