Thursday, September 23, 2021

Poll Roundup: Why Is Resolve Diverging?

I last wrote a federal poll roundup in early August.  At that time I noted that the implied 2PP polling numbers of Newspoll, Morgan, Essential and Resolve this year had been more or less identical.  No new Essential voting intention polling has been seen since mid-July though another dump may appear within days.  

This is what we've seen since the last roundup:

* Newspoll (late August) 54-46 to Labor (Coalition 36 Labor 40 Green 10 PHON 3 others 11)

* Newspoll (mid-Sept) 53-47 to Labor (Coalition 37 Labor 38 Green 10 PHON 3 others 12)

* Morgan (mid-August) 54-46 to Labor (Coalition 37.5 Labor 37.5 Green 12.5 PHON 3.5 others 9)

* Morgan (late August) 54.5-45.5 to Labor (Coalition 37.5 Labor 38.5 Green 11.5 PHON 3 others 9.5)

* Morgan (mid-Sept) 52.5-47.5 to Labor (Coalition 38.5 Labor 35 Green 13 PHON 3 others 10.5)

* Resolve (mid-August) Coalition 40 Labor 32 Green 12 PHON 2 IND 10 others 3.  Last election 2PP would be very roughly 50-50 (my formula gives 50.3 to Labor) 

* Resolve (mid-Sept) Coalition 39 Labor 31 Green 10 PHON 4 IND 9 others 7.  Last election 2PP would be very roughly 51-49 to Coalition (my formula gives 51.1)

Now, it's true that Morgan's use of respondent preferences is inflating its leads for Labor (in the last three polls by an average of 0.9 points compared to last election preferences).  And it could be that the independent voters being (over-)reported by Resolve are actually much more left-leaning than the ones who split about 60-40 to Labor on preferences at the last election.  But still, one of these polls is very clearly not like the others.  Resolve has shown two consecutive Coalition primary leads of 8% while polls by other pollsters have had an average lead of minus 0.5.  Two Resolve polls in a row have come out as massive, beyond margin-of-error outliers. 

Unusual properties of Resolve

I have discussed Resolve's apparent overestimation of the Independent vote before.  Part of this would be caused by offering Independent as an option everywhere, but because the Independent vote is heavily concentrated (as noted last time) it would mostly be caused by other things.  Unless the 6% or so indicating "independent" despite not having voted that way in 2019 are all former Labor voters, however, there seems to be more than just the issue with independents going on here, because Labor is running 6.3 points lower in Resolve than the other polls.

Attention has focused on some of the other unusual properties of Resolve.  Firstly, unlike other current pollsters, Resolve does not provide an uncommitted option on voting intention.  The voter must choose an option to proceed in the survey and receive the small credit points reward that awaits them at the end of it.  This may result in undecided voters choosing "independent" by default.  The claim is that this represents the actual voting process, but it doesn't entirely, because 2-2.5% of voters will deliberately vote informal.  

Secondly it appears that Resolve asks voters to fill in a simulated ballot with full preferences:  

"A core set of political questions is asked each month, including Federal and State voting intention (of registered voters only) using ranked preferences [..]" (source)

"“While we do collect people’s full preferences in a numbered ballot paper, it is their first choice that is the most important and reliable indicator of who truly likes you and wants you to govern,” says Reed." (source)

It would be helpful to know how many options are provided on each ballot (I suspect more than actually run in most divisions), whether the ballot is rotated as opposed to, eg, the Coalition always being on top, and if there is a single ballot order what is the rate of donkey voting.  Filling out a full preferential ballot is the sort of task a busy survey recipient answering questions for meagre rewards is likely to satisfice.  It also doesn't replicate the voting experience for a fair proportion of major party voters, approaching half of whom copy their party's how-to-vote card.  

A further unresolved (or should that be un-Resolved) methods issue is how Resolve handles three-cornered contests, or Liberal voting in seats contested only by Nationals.  Its results are being presented with the Coalition primary simply showing as "LNP".

I'm still not convinced that any of these methods issues are enough to entirely explain the recent differences between Newspoll/Morgan and Resolve.  It will be interesting to see whether the next Resolve poll continues the divergence. If anyone is polled by Resolve (it is an online poll which uses a variety of panels, and it is not clear yet whether participants would know Resolve was the pollster) it would be useful to see screenshots of how it operates.

On the question of which to believe, the problem with Resolve's finding of a crash in the Labor primary vote in the last two months is that there is no obvious reason why that should occur to the extent suggested.  The heat has been largely on the government over the NSW and Victoria lockdowns and the contribution of the vaccine rollout to them.  It seems a strange time for an Opposition primary vote to crash.  

Others surge

A modest rise in the polled vote for "others" (in this context meaning candidates other than Coalition, Labor, Greens and One Nation) has been noticeable in Newspoll and Resolve, but not Morgan, in polls taken in the last six weeks.  Across the three pollsters this category has grown by about 1.7%.  

In my view this increase is probably a result of bulk advertising by the United Australia Party, which comments from Resolve and Essential suggest is now polling a few percent, probably at the expense of the major parties.  (There is a suggestion this could be from Labor especially, though the logic behind that isn't obvious.)  This party's vote tends to die down to 1% or less between elections and flare up again close to polling day or when it is campaigning heavily.  Left-wing posters on Twitter have attributed the rise to such forces as "Voices of ..." independents, but I don't believe that there is any more buzz around independents yet than there was by the end of the previous cycle.  Media continue to run puff pieces about independent prospects, but winning new crossbench seats is hard, and mainly occurs when seats are vacant or have very tarnished incumbents.  


The current Newspoll showed Scott Morrison on his lowest net rating since March 2020 (-4, 46-50, incidentally about the same as US President Joe Biden, but Biden is newer to his position).  However Anthony Albanese also hit negative double figures for the first time (-11, 37-48).  Morrison also had his smallest lead on the skewed Better Prime Minister indicator since March 2020 (47-35).  That is still a much larger lead for a leader whose party trails 47-53 than normal.  This sort of discrepancy was even higher in the previous poll, in which Morrison's 16-point lead was the largest except for John Howard leading Kim Beazley by 21, 22 and 24 points while trailing 46-54 on two-party preferred in late 2005.

Resolve and Essential, which both seem to push undecided respondents less than Newspoll does, both have larger leads for Morrison on Better/Preferred PM (45-26 and 47-26).  Essential tends to have milder ratings for both leaders compared to Newspoll, while Resolve tends to have worse ratings for Albanese specifically - perhaps because of whatever is also causing it to register Labor with a very low primary vote.

While Morrison's positive net satisfaction Newspoll streak ended recently, another streak continues - he has had a higher net satisfaction rating than Albanese for 24 polls in a row.  I have added a section on comparative netsats to the Federal Newspoll records page but it is worth noting that the longest winning streak on this indicator was held by Kim Beazley against John Howard (51 polls), without Beazley ever winning an election.

The overall picture - does it mean anything?

While Labor still lead comfortably in two of the three polls, the lead has dropped in all of them, by an average of about 1.5 points in the current cycle.  A straight aggregate of the recent polls would have Labor's lead down to 51.5-48.5, but adding in assumptions relating to house effects, sample sizes and the questionable reliability of Morgan (historic inaccuracy) and Resolve (untested) could bump that up into the 52s.  In any case it's not a very big lead at the moment, and for now the blowout that had been taking shape has stalled.  We have not yet seen the Opposition lead move into the high 50s, from which incumbent governments have only sometimes recovered.  

Polling at this stage just isn't very predictive.  Another excellent Armarium Interrata post covers a lot of the ground here: historically the 2PP at this point (assuming a March to May 2022 election) is on average wrong by about 3 points.  Governments tend to go through bad patches between about a month and a year prior to elections.  Whoever is behind at this stage tends to gain (even when the lead is small) and at this stage the polled 2PP is historically a less accurate predictor than just assuming the result will be 50-50.  

Is this just a result of old or dodgy polls fouling the mix?  Not at all.  For instance let's assume the net election is about seven months away (late April) though it may be six or eight is more likely, and a snap election in November seems highly unlikely but isn't completely off the table.  Considering the average of the two most recent Newspoll 2PPs (derived from previous-election preferences where necessary) seven months prior to elections in the Newspoll era, incumbent governments have been behind, 48-52 or worse, in every election cycle except 1987 (tie), 1990 (tie), 2010 (ahead) and 2016 (ahead).  Yet five of the eight governments that trailed were re-elected, and four of those (1993, 2001, 2004, 2019) won the 2PP by more than both of the governments that were well ahead (2010 and 2016.) 

In this time the government on average gained 1.5 points by election day, but in five of the twelve cycles the government gained more than 4 points.  (In the 2019 case, mostly through polling error.)  The side trailing on average gained 3.3 points and only went backwards (slightly) once.  The average shift to the final 2PP was 2.9%.  Assuming the final 2PP would be 50-50 had an average error of only 1.6%.    There's a slight average tendency for governments to do better if they're ahead at this stage and worse if they're behind, but it isn't remotely statistically significant and the slope line is weak, because of the narrowing effect.  (It was mockingly called the Narrowing in the 2007 leadup, but it's actually clearly a thing.) Finally, you may as well have flipped a coin as assumed that the party ahead on 2PP at this point was going to win the election - half the time they did, and half the time they didn't.  

At the moment I think the polling only shows Labor to be competitive.  Being ahead by a modest margin does not mean an especially large chance of winning.  It is still better than not being ahead though, because oppositions that are level or behind this close to an election or closer almost always lose.  Even there there are exceptions - the Chifley government in 1949 was ahead until July (at which point a coal mining strike appears to have damaged it). Also while the McMahon government in 1972 is usually portrayed as long-doomed it was actually ahead on a 2PP basis between July and September, losing the lead only in the last two months.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

EMRS: Old Poll Could Have Been Worse For Labor

EMRS Tasmania (state) August: Liberal 49 Labor 28 Green 13 Others 10
Results more or less identical to 2021 election (seat result 13 Liberal 9 Labor 2 Green 1 IND)

A new EMRS poll has been released today, and it shows ... er no, strike that and start again.

For whatever reason Tasmanian pollster EMRS has just released a state voting intentions poll that came out of field 23 days ago.  EMRS has often not released polls close to the time they were taken in recent years, in some cases hanging on to results for 3-6 months before back-releasing them with other results.  I'm not a pollster but it seems to me that one of the advantages of polling for publicity for a company is releasing it at a time when it is topical and fresh rather than only unveiling it when it looks like something from the antique store.  In the meantime there have been significant developments with David O'Byrne leaving the Parliamentary Labor Party after leader Rebecca White said he should quit parliament, and Huon MLC Bastian Seidel announcing he would quit Caucus and would also resign his seat at the end of the year, citing disgust and demoralisation over Labor's ongoing infighting.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Record Begging To Be Broken: Labor's Low Winning 1990 Primary

One of the most tedious aspects of Australian polling commentary from time to time is obsessive focus on Labor's primary vote.  Somehow the Labor primary vote gets more attention than the Coalition's when the Coalition is more dependent on its primary vote than Labor is.  In current aggregated polling, Labor has a primary vote in the high 30s (BludgerTrack has it at 37.7%) but there will always be people who say this isn't high enough and that the party needs very near 40% or it can't win a majority. 

There may well be truth in this in terms of projecting from the present day to an election (because oppositions tend to fade and therefore have usually needed big leads at some stage of the term to win) but in that case the primary vote is not telling us anything we couldn't have determined from 2PP polling and its history alone.  The idea that Labor needs a primary vote with a 4 in front of it to win a majority on election day, premised on it only once having won a majority with slightly less, is incorrect.  The fact is we haven't seen a lot about what primary votes Labor wins a majority with these days, because it has only once done so since the rise of the Greens.  This article shows that at recent elections, Labor has missed four in-theory chances to win a majority with a lower primary vote than its record low 1990 majority-winning score of 39.4%.  While total minor party votes remain relatively high, it is very likely that if Labor ever wins federal elections again, it will someday break that record.  The primary-vote-to-win history - based overwhelmingly on elections either run in different minor party environments, or else lost heavily - is meaningless. What matters is whether Labor can assemble a decent enough 2PP result and a good enough vote distribution to win a majority of seats.  

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Party Registration Crackdown Tracker

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021 has passed the Senate without amendments and will shortly receive Royal Assent.  The Bill (i) increases the party membership number requirement for non-parliamentary parties to 1500 members (ii) requires that a person can only be counted as a member of one party (iii) prevents parties from registering names that use words already used by pre-existing parties without consent, with some exceptions.

My view on these changes was expressed in a previous article (The Trolls That Got There First).  I think the membership changes are in principle good and will not disadvantage minor parties with any real chance of ever winning seats - on the contrary they should reduce ballot paper clutter and encourage micro-parties to merge into units more likely to be competitive with bigger parties.  However I believe this should have been accompanied by reform to the current unfair and confusing treatment of non-party groups, which could become more common and cause increased confusion and unsightly ballot papers following this change. Also, the change disadvantages parties with their support based in the NT, ACT or Tasmania and there should probably be a one-jurisdiction registration option with the old 500 member limit.  

Friday, August 20, 2021

Not-A-Polls: Best And Worst Senator Collections

Things are somewhat quiet in Australian psephology at the moment and for a bit of general amusement I thought I'd start some Not-A-Polls in the sidebar to give readers the opportunity to rank which states have the best and worst collections of 12 Senators.  The Not-A-Polls will run for three months but I will extend them for if the number of votes received at that time for one or other is less than 100.  In each case I have allowed an option of vetoing the premise of the question by declaring that all the Senator lineups are either good or terrible (but I haven't allowed an option to rank slates equally).  

Do readers tend to like their own Senator slates, or despair of them?  

Given the number of Senators who are well known not to exist, I provide a list below of the current Senator lineups.  I've omitted the territories because two Senators is hardly a basis for an assessment, but Territorians both Northern and Australian Capital get to be neutral judges of these lineups!

New South Wales

Tim Ayres (Labor), Andrew Bragg (Liberal), Perin Davey (National), Mehreen Faruqi (Green), Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Liberal), Hollie Hughes (Liberal), Kristina Keneally (Labor), Jenny McAllister (Labor), Jim Molan (Liberal), Deborah O'Neill (Labor), Marise Payne (Liberal), Tony Sheldon (Labor)


Kim Carr (Labor), Raff Ciccone (Labor), Sarah Henderson (Liberal), Jane Hume (Liberal), Kimberley Kitching (Labor), Bridget McKenzie (National), James Paterson (Liberal), Janet Rice (Green), Scott Ryan (Liberal), Lidia Thorpe (Green), David Van (Liberal), Jess Walsh (Labor)

Scott Ryan has brought forward his retirement and will resign his seat prior to the scheduled October resumption of Parliament.  


Matt Canavan (LNP), Anthony Chisholm (Labor), Nita Green (Labor), Pauline Hanson (One Nation), Susan McDonald (LNP), James McGrath (LNP), Gerard Rennick (LNP), Malcolm Roberts (One Nation), Paul Scarr (LNP), Amanda Stoker (LNP), Larissa Waters (Green), Murray Watt (Labor)

Western Australia

Slade Brockman (Liberal), Michaelia Cash (Liberal), Dorinda Cox (Green), Pat Dodson (Labor), Sue Lines (Labor), Matt O'Sullivan (Liberal), Louise Pratt (Labor), Linda Reynolds (Liberal), , Ben Small (Liberal), Dean Smith (Liberal), Jordon Steele-John (Green), Glenn Sterle (Labor)

(Dorinda Cox replaces Rachel Siewert who has resigned having decided to retire before the end of her term.)

South Australia

Alex Antic (Liberal), Simon Birmingham (Liberal), Don Farrell (Labor), David Fawcett (Liberal), Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance), Karen Grogan (Labor), Sarah Hanson-Young (Green), Andrew McLachlan (Liberal), Rex Patrick (Rex Patrick Team), Anne Ruston (Liberal), Marielle Smith (Labor), Penny Wong (Labor)

(Karen Grogan replaces Alex Gallacher who passed away on 29 August).  


Eric Abetz (Liberal), Wendy Askew (Liberal), Catryna Bilyk (Labor), Carol Brown (Labor), Claire Chandler (Liberal), Richard Colbeck (Liberal), Jonathon Duniam (Liberal), Jacqui Lambie (Jacqui Lambie Network), Nick McKim (Green), Helen Polley (Labor), Anne Urquhart (Labor), Peter Whish-Wilson (Green) 

Enjoy! Comments welcome if non-defamatory and clean.  

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Trolls That Got There First: Proposed New Party Registration Laws

 A raft of electoral reform legislation hit parliament this week.  Included in the collection of Bills introduced by Assistant Minister for Electoral Affairs Ben Morton are:

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Counting, Scrutiny and Operational Efficiencies) Bill 2021 which, if passed, allows the AEC to commence sorting prepoll votes at 4 pm, sets the prepoll period before polling day at 12 days, increases the number of scrutineers allowed for Senate elections and makes various changes to postal vote procedures.

* The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021 which, if passed, alters requirements for disclosure by political campaigners, bringing them more into line with those for parties.

* The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Offences and Preventing Multiple Voting) Bill 2021 which, if passed, firstly allows for a voter to be required to cast a declaration vote in future if they are a suspected multiple voter.  Secondly it clarifies that offences against electoral liberty may include "Violence, obscene or discriminatory abuse, property damage and harassment or stalking" in connection with an election and increases the penalties for breaches, including up to three years' jail.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Poll Roundup: Lockdowns And Rollout Problems End Morrison's Net Rating Streak

It's been a while since my last federal polling roundup and in that time the government's troubled vaccine rollout and the challenges polled by the Delta strain of COVID-19 seem to have put paid to government optimism about rushing off to an early election this spring.  Indeed, recent weeks have seen the government record its worst 2PP polling of the term so far, though by historic standards it is not yet in severe poll-based trouble.  

Voting Intention

Three weeks ago, four polls came out in quick succession:

* A Newspoll Coalition 39 Labor 39 Greens 10 One Nation 3 Others 9.  The published 2PP was 53-47 to Labor but Labor probably got lucky on the rounding here.  The average last-election 2PP for these primaries would be 52.5-47.5, and indeed when exactly the same primaries came out in early March, the 2PP was 52-48.  Given that this one rounded to 53, it must have been at least 52.5 prior to rounding.

* Essential Coalition 37 Labor 36 Greens 10 One Nation 4 Others 6.  After rescaling to remove undecided and get sum to 100, Coalition 39.8 Labor 38.7 Greens 10.8 One Nation 4.3 Others 6.5.  The published 2PP is 47-45 (=51-49) to Labor under Essential's 2PP Plus method using (mostly) respondent preferences, but by last-election preferences I get 52.1 to Labor.  

* Resolve Political Monitor Coalition 38 Labor 35 Greens 12 One Nation 4 "Independents" 7 Others 5.  Resolve does not publish a 2PP.  By last-election preferences these numbers come to about 52.0 to Labor if taken as published, but Resolve overestimates independents.

* Roy Morgan Coalition 39 Labor 37 Greens 11.5 One Nation 3 Others 9.5.  Morgan's published 2PP was 52.5 (respondent preferences); I get 52.0 (last election).  

In the last week two fresher polls have arrived:

* Another Newspoll with a 53-47 2PP to Labor, but this time with the Greens on 11 and Others on 8, which all else being equal suggests the 2PP this time was probably close to 53 prior to rounding.

* A Morgan with a 53.5% 2PP to Labor off primaries of Coalition 37 Labor 37 Green 12.5 One Nation 3 others 10.5.  I get 53.3 (last election).  This is the highest 2PP poll for Labor of the term except for some bushfire-era Morgans for which only 2PPs were back-released. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The 2022 Pendulum Only Slightly Favours The Coalition

 With redistributions in Victoria and Western Australia complete, the AEC has gazetted new boundaries.  Antony Green has released an estimated pendulum for the next election, now looking most likely to be held in 2022 rather than 2021.  There were some slight differences between Antony's initial estimates and those of William Bowe and Ben Raue, and I expect many of these would still apply to the final version.  Furthermore the AEC will release its own estimates later.  But pending the AEC estimates I thought I would use Antony's estimates as a starting point for a look at the 2022 pendulum and how much it helps or harms each side based on what we know so far about candidates.  This article is fairly mathsy and has been rated 3/5 on the Wonk Factor scale.  

There are three questions I am most interested in here:

1. All else being equal, what national two-party preferred (2PP) vote does the Coalition need for a better than even chance of a majority?

2. All else being equal, what 2PP vote does each side need for a better than even chance of winning more seats than the other?

3. All else being equal, what 2PP vote does Labor need for a better than even chance of a majority?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Ipsos MyView Drink Survey Shambles

With telephone response rates falling, and people who answer polls by phone becoming less and less representative, many pollsters have turned to online panel polling.   As part of my interest in polling I have joined a number of online panels, to get some insight into the experience of respondents and ways in which their experience may shape how they respond.  Being on polling panels is also helpful because I get to see some of the polls that are in the field and how they are designed (polling disclosure being as poor as it is, and many of these pollsters still not being Australian Polling Council members).  By this method I also earn a very small amount of extra income by answering surveys on a range of topics.  It's worth mentioning that despite some misconceptions to the contrary I am not a professional pollster or market researcher, so there's nothing stopping me taking most such surveys, though now and then my honest answers to a particular screening question will see me rightly screened out.  There's also not a lot stopping the panels from kicking me off.  

One of these panels is Ipsos MyView and I thought I should share a recent experience with them that I found especially absurd and that might provide some insight into the lives of online panel poll recipients.  I may not have gone public had it been entirely a one-off, but my general experience is that this panel is very buggy compared to at least some others.  Surveys sometimes crash or screen the respondent out without providing any points, or lurk in the respondent's dashboard as awaiting completion for weeks but if you click on them you are told the survey isn't available as you may have already taken it.  There has been some improvement in this in recent months, with the panel more often referring the respondent to a different survey rather than screening them out immediately, but there are still far too many glitches.