Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Did A Late Switch-Off From Shorten Cause Labor To Lose?

(Note for Tas readers and anyone else interested: Scott Bacon recount thread is here)

Nearly four months after the election, Labor and its supporters are still having great trouble working out what happened.  Ahead in the (faulty) polls for an entire term, well ahead in them for much of it, Labor managed to lose to a government that had seemingly imploded nine months earlier.  There are basically three possible explanations.  The first is that Labor should have won the election, but that at least some central parts of its policy platform were wrong.  The second is that Labor should have won the election and that its policies were sound, but it was let down largely by tactical issues.  The third, about which little has been said, is that Labor could not have won anyway.  (The idea here is that voters no longer care about governance scandals or internal party turmoil so long as they like the PM and the basic way that he is leading.)

A version of the second theory - and by the way, I don't subscribe to any version of the second theory - says that Labor's policy mix was OK but Labor was undone by spurious "death tax" scare campaigns and a massive advertising spend by Clive Palmer against Bill Shorten.  (Those arguing this tend to oversimplify things as if the United Australia Party did little in the campaign but attack Shorten.)  Adherents of this theory seem to have taken succour from findings of a recent ANU study that has been reported as finding that Labor lost because the Coalition made net primary vote gains in a volatile environment during the campaign, and also that a big part of Labor's failure to do likewise was voters switching from Labor to other parties because they became more negative towards Bill Shorten.

Bill Shorten was not a popular Opposition Leader and may well have been electoral lead in Labor's saddlebags all along, although it's not that easy to test that.  But how strong is the evidence that voters deserted Labor in droves during the campaign because their view of Bill Shorten became more negative, whether because of attacks on Bill Shorten or otherwise?  Well actually, looking closely at this study, it's much weaker than the media reports are making it sound.  That's not to say Shorten himself wasn't a major factor in Labor's defeat, just that the evidence that he only became a problem at the end does not stand up.


The survey, among other things, resampled 1692 voters who had given a voting intention (which in a few percent of cases was uncommitted) at some stage during April 2019.  In June 2019 it asked these voters whether they had voted and if so who for.

Some general limitations of such studies should be mentioned.  Firstly, studies involving voters saying how they voted can be unreliable.  There's a vast literature on this going back decades (example summary here).  While recall errors can be linked to memory, especially for voters whose votes jump about a lot, they can also be linked to the voter's present opinions or to voters over-reporting that they voted for the winner.

Secondly, the sample is, after all, another poll at a time when polls have been in trouble.  While its sample size is decent, it is still smaller than some of the major polls that failed.  Its final results (scaled) for voters who did vote were Coalition 42.2 (actual 41.4), Labor 35.4 (33.3), Greens 13.7 (10.4), Others 8.7 (14.8).  This places it way outside the theoretical margin of error for both Greens and Others, and while that's not necessarily a major problem, over-representation of Greens voters is always a worry in terms of potential over-sampling of politically engaged or educated voters generally.

I also want to discuss closely where the Bill Shorten finding comes from.  Voters were asked (Fig 2 p 14) to choose "all that apply from a list of eight pre-specified options, and an ‘Other (please specify)’ category" (my bolding) as reasons why their vote changed.  The following were the pre-specified options:

* Your view on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison changed
* Your view on the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten changed
* Your view on your local candidates changed
* Pressure or advice from your family or friends
* A policy announcement or announcements by the Government
* A policy announcement or announcements by the Opposition
* Your individual circumstances changed
* You moved electorates

My concern about this wording is that limiting the policy aspect to "a policy announcement or announcements" is quite narrow.  It might well focus the respondent's thinking on announcements made during the campaign rather than encouraging them to consider policy more broadly.  For instance if a voter's reason to switch was that they became convinced a policy Labor had announced some time ago was bad, would they necessarily pick this answer?  Or what about if during the campaign they became convinced that Labor could not manage a particular issue area?  I suspect the question design results in an underestimate of the impact of policy on vote-switching.  Given that it's an all-that-apply question, that might not necessarily affect how often voters cited views of the leaders as a factor, but it could well affect the prominence of issues as a factor in vote-switching, including in the subsequent media reporting.

(Peter Brent has reminded me of another point I meant to include in this article but forgot: voters' claimed reasons about why their vote changed could well have been coloured by the aftermath of the election - a point especially applicable to Shorten since he is being widely held responsible for the defeat. After all it's much easier to say your view on Shorten changed than that you were sucked in by a death tax scare campaign.)

Effect sizes

Even ignoring all the above potential issues, the major problem with the media and social media claims about changed views of Shorten blowing the election is that the effect sizes do not bear it out.

32.1% of the April sample intended to vote Labor at that time.  Of these 20.8% said they didn't actually vote Labor, so that's 6.7% who switched away from Labor.  The breakdown of switchers away from Labor was 39.6% Coalition, 27.4% Greens, 7.6% other and 25.4% didn't vote.  At the election 82% of Greens voters preferenced Labor anyway, and if a voter shifted from Labor to Greens then they are probably even more likely to have preferenced Labor, so those switching to Greens would have had very little impact on the 2PP outcome.  44% of Others voters preferenced Labor, but possibly those who switched from Labor during the campaign would have been more likely to do so than those who never intended to vote Labor at all?  Also, a Labor voter not voting only has half the 2PP impact of one defecting to the Coalition.  All up, in this particular sample Labor's total 2PP loss caused by vote-switching was probably not more than 3.9 points.  That's still a lot, but in this particular sample there is a lot of volatility, and all parties are losing points to someone.

We also have a percentage of previous-Labor-intenders citing Shorten as one of their reasons for shifting: 27.7%.  We don't have crosstabs to show whether these were more likely (compared to other switchers from Labor) to switch to the Coalition, the Greens or not voting.  If they were typical, then Labor's net 2PP loss to which perceptions of Shorten contributed drops to about 1.1 points.  This is already not enough to swing the election as only two Coalition seats (Bass and Chisholm) were won by less than this.  But furthermore, it's a multiple-answer question, so some of these voters may have switched for other reasons even without the Shorten factor.

Furthermore it was not only Labor voters who reported switching because their view of Shorten changed.  This was also reported by 14.8% of intending Coalition voters.  Coalition voters who switched (16.5% of an initial 36.9%, so 6.1% of the initial total) reported switching to: Labor 37.2% Greens 16.8%, others 21.2%, didn't vote 24.8%.  But - and this is one of the most crucial issues with this whole thing - while a Labor supporter citing Shorten as a reason to switch from a Labor primary vote could well have still preferenced Labor, it would make no sense for a Coalition supporter citing a changed view of Shorten as a reason for switching their vote to still preference the Coalition.  It wouldn't make that much sense for them to not vote either, although this is still vaguely possible especially if the respondent is giving dishonest reasons for not voting.

Most likely, nearly all the 0.9% 2PP worth of former Coalition voters who cited a changed view of Shorten as a reason for switching from the Coalition, would have either voted Labor or preferenced Labor.  At this point the likely maximum negative impact of Shorten-caused switching on Labor's 2PP vote is dropping still further, to perhaps a few tenths of a point.  And, in a survey of this size, a few tenths of a point is statistical noise.  It's something like five voters.  And that's before we get into any 2PP gains Labor might have made from voters for the Greens or Others who were initially intending not to even preference Labor but were impressed by Shorten during the campaign.  (That's not as silly as it sounds - for instance, Shorten did try to show much more character during the debates than his previous wooden performances.)

This asymmetry applies to Scott Morrison too.  The survey suggests changing views of Scott Morrison were cited in very similar proportions by Labor defectors and Coalition defectors.  Labor defectors were very slightly more likely to cite changed views of Morrison, and as noted above there were also slightly more Labor defectors.  But the important point again is that a Coalition defector who went cold on Scott Morrison may well have not voted, or if defecting to Greens or Others may well have preferenced the Coalition anyway.  But a Labor defector who warmed to Morrison has no reason not to vote, and no reason to defect to Greens or Others while still preferencing Labor.  On this basis, it's unlikely that changed perceptions of Shorten were a major 2PP drain for Labor - it's much more likely that changing perceptions of Morrison were a handy 2PP asset for the Coalition.

Fitting the pattern

There are also good reasons why we should regard the theory that Labor was sunk by voters turning away from Shorten (a theory that I should make clear is not promoted by the study itself, but rather in interpretations of it) as unlikely on the face of it.  Firstly, Shorten was not new; he was a known commodity who had been leader of the party for almost six years including a previous election.  Secondly Opposition Leader personal ratings have historically shown a very weak relationship if any to voter intention (and that applies through the times when Newspoll was accurate, so let's not dismiss that too lightly on account of the 2019 polling failure.)  Elections are usually referendums on governments and Prime Ministers.  The 1993 election was a clear exception and in that case a relationship did develop between the Opposition Leader's personal rating and voting intentions.  This one is not so clear.  Polls underestimated support for the Coalition, but did capture around 1.5 points of movement towards it during April.  However, through this time Bill Shorten's ratings didn't change and basically hadn't changed since October 2018.

Vote shifting and poll failure

It's not relevant to the Shorten narrative, but I should also mention the study in relation to the polling failure.  The study has been used to support a narrative that the polls failed because of a high degree of voter volatility that may have contributed to the ancient enemy of pollsters, late swing.  But what the sample actually shows is not a big deal in 2PP terms:

In the figures above I have redistributed Don't know (April) and Didn't vote (May) and found an expected 2PP based on the actual election preferences.  The actual results are also shown for comparison.

The Coalition made greater primary vote gains than Labor in the sample.  However, Labor also gained - it is just that the raw table disguises this because there are more "Didn't vote" respondents in May than "Don't know"s in April.  Both majors supposedly gained at the expense of Others.  In 2PP terms Others (including UAP and One Nation) were favourable to the Coalition, so this only washes through to about a one-point 2PP shift over the sample period - which is about what the mainstream pollsters got.  The only new thing here then is the idea that the Coalition picked up votes from Others.  But because the results are so weird (with the very low Others vote in the May sample meaning that the ANU's "after" result is even less accurate on an average-error basis than it's "before") that looks a lot more likely to be a peculiarity of this specific study or its sample.  This is backed up by pollsters having been in general wrong not about the Others primary vote, but about the Coalition and Labor primary votes (except for Ipsos who were wrong about the Coalition and the Greens).

The study also cannot demonstrate late swing (eg in the last few days of the campaign after polls had left the field) because its baseline is in April.  And late swing is a theory that is up against the evidence anyway.

I hope this article shows that media narratives about elections based on single studies need to be treated with a great degree of caution.  I considered doing this article as part of a Poll Roundup but was long enough by itself and stood better alone.  A new Poll Roundup may or may not follow in coming days.

See also

Excellent article also drawing sceptical conclusions about the late-swing narrative by Murray Goot here.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Not-A-Poll: Best State Premiers Of The Last 40-ish Years - Final Stage 2

A very long year ago today I started a new series of Not-A-Poll voting for this site's choice of Best State Premier in every state and, eventually, the whole country.  It's been going so long that some of the original contestants, including the current leader, are no longer in the original 40 year window, but I'm going to just retitle it and ignore that.

The votes are in for part 1 of the final for the state winners and the Coalition winner (the latter being an open-primary consolation prize on account of the roughly 80-20 left-right bias in readers on psephology websites).  And here they are:

Total Votes: 201

Why I Don't Prefer Abolishing Above The Line Voting

This week I sent a submission (not yet posted) to the Victorian Electoral Matters committee, concerning the 2018 Victorian election.  Primarily, my submission called for the abolition of Group Ticket Voting in the Victorian Legislative Council and its replacement with a Senate-style system or similar.  This follows a farcical, gamed-to-death 2018 election in which ten micro-party MLCs were elected from primary vote shares eight of them would not have won from under any other system, including two from less than 1% of the vote.

In the event that Victoria won't abolish Group Ticket Voting completely, I suggested the state at least clip its wings a little by:

* allowing an above-the-line preferencing option, so that votes that were just-1 above the line would still be distributed by Group Ticket, but voters could choose to distribute their own party preferences as in the Senate.

* banning preference trading and a range of related consultant activities

* bulk-excluding all parties that fail to clear a primary vote threshold of 4% at the start of the count

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Expected Scott Bacon Recount

Resigning MP: Scott Bacon (ALP, Clark)
Recount from 2018 state election for remainder of 2018-22 term 
Contest between Madeleine Ogilvie and Tim Cox
Ogilvie likely, but not certain, to win [UPDATE: Ogilvie has narrowly won.]
Ogilvie may sit as independent and share effective balance of power with Sue Hickey, or may rejoin Labor. [UPDATE: Ogilvie has said she will sit as an independent.]

Recount updates will now be added at the top

Previous Party-Hopping Cases:

As noted below Ogilvie's (under unique circumstances for Tasmania) is the first case of a Lower House MP deserting their party mid-term and sitting with a different party status in 38 years.  However prior to that, this was a more common event.  Here is a not necessarily perfect list since World War II:

* Carrol Bramich (1956) Labor to Liberal (policy tensions and internal issues).  Re-elected as a Liberal.
* Reg Turnbull (1959) Labor to IND (kicked out after refusing to resign as Minister). Re-elected with massive support, later Senator.
* Bill Hodgman (1960) Liberal to IND. Defeated.
* Tim Jackson (1960) Liberal to IND (leadership change fallout). Defeated.
* Charley Aylett (1963) Labor to IND (quit after being disendorsed). Defeated.
* Kevin Lyons (1966) Liberal to IND (preselection issues). Later formed Centre Party and was re-elected.
* Nigel Abbott (1972) Liberal to IND (policy dispute). Defeated.
* Doug Lowe (1981) Labor to IND (leadership change fallout). Re-elected.
* Mary Willey (1981) Labor to IND (leadership change fallout).  Defeated.
* Madeleine Ogilvie (on recount 2019) Labor to IND (multiple factors)

All of the Bramich, Turnbull and Lowe/Willey cases precipitated state elections. 

There is also the case of Gabriel Haros (Liberal) who lost preselection for the 1986 election and ran as an Independent, and probably other similar cases.

It is interesting to note the weak performance of some of these independents at elections.  In the 1964 election Bill Hodgman (Will's grandfather) managed only 475 votes and Charley Aylett only 102.  This didn't stop Bill Hodgman going on to become a two-term MLC for Queenborough (1971-83).

Thursday 12 Sep:

The main takeaway from Ogilvie's Fontcast interview is that Ogilvie has said that she thinks the government should be able to see out its term and that no confidence motions are generally stunts (unless someone does something pretty serious).  It's not a guarantee of confidence to the Liberal Party but it's close, and if that's the way it is then it removes Sue Hickey from the stability equation, since no-confidence motions will now generally be lost 11-13 on the floor depriving Hickey of her casting vote.  This also applies to any matter on which the Liberals and Ogilvie agree.

Wednesday 11 Sep:

Apparently the Mercury will be revealing Ogilvie's decision at midnight. (Done: see here)

UPDATE 9:06: Ogilvie will sit as an independent for the remainder of the term according to the ABC's Emily Baker.  If she does so even for a day she will be the first independent in the House since Bruce Goodluck (elected as an independent for the 1996-8 term, at the end of which he returned to retirement).  She will hence be the first independent as such in the 25-seat parliament that has existed since 1998.  As far as I know she will be the first MP to be elected on a recount but not immediately sit with the party that she stood for.  I think she will also be the first political defector in the House since Doug Lowe and Mary Willey quit the Labor Party following Lowe's removal as Premier in 1981.  (However there have been changes of party allegiance by MPs in the Upper House since, including Terry Martin's expulsion from the Parliamentary Labor Party in 2007.)

People are bound to ask whether she should be allowed to do this, as has been the case with a number of recent insta-rats in the Senate (some of whom were considerably more provoked).  However if a rule is passed that MPs cannot leave their parties, some will stay in their parties while voting however they like, so such a rule may not make any difference.  If the party can force MPs to leave parliament by expelling them (which would be the natural result of such behaviour) then parties could use the same power to exercise absolute control over their MPs, including expelling them over minor disagreements.  So I'm not sure what the solution is.

Tuesday 10 Sep: 

Today's the day.  The recount will be on today and there is a fair chance of it finishing or at least the winner being reasonably clear by 6-7 pm, but it's also possible the TEC will have to come back tomorrow.  Candidates for the recount won't be finalised til after midday.  At this stage I am not involved in the recount but will relay any information that I get.

2:45 The TEC has posted the initial distribution from the recount.  Ogilvie has 42.1% and Cox has 37.4%.  Sherlock has 15.1% and the rest 5.4% between them.  Cox would need a rather steep 61.4% of the remaining votes to go to him to win if none exhausted, which means he must have done badly (or at best about evenly, which isn't enough) on the Bacon-Haddad votes as these have been distributed.  Even more difficult for him now.

4:10 A few minor candidates have been excluded and Cox now needs 62.1% assuming zero exhaust.  Really we are waiting for the final exclusion (Sherlock) to decide it all.

4:40 Down to the last exclusion of Sherlock and Cox now needs 64.8% assuming zero exhaust.  Extremely unlikely.

5:02 Report from Alex Johnston (WIN) that Ogilvie has won by about 200 - if confirmed, that's closer than expected but a win is a win is a win.

5:25 Ogilvie has won by 201 votes (51.0-49.0) after a strong, but not quite strong enough, 56% flow from Sherlock to Cox.  This is the closest Assembly recount for 24 years and the third closest I can find (though records of pre-1950s recounts are hard to come by online) - a Labor recount in Franklin 1995 was decided by 54 votes.  A Liberal recount in Bass 2000 was nearly as close as this one (218 votes).

6:00 Ogilvie has posted a victory video on Facebook.  It doesn't say whether she will rejoin Labor but does comment about "the stability of our important Parliament" and "good governance" - whatever that means.


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

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

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

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

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

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

The votes that were 1 Bacon and 2 for an eligible candidate who contests the recount become starting primaries for the recount.  Where an ineligible candidate, or someone who chooses not to contest the recount, was at 2, the vote goes on to whoever was at 3, and so on.  As Ogilvie and Cox each have nearly a third of the total with nearly a quarter to be distributed again, they will clearly be the final two if they both contest; Zelinda Sherlock has a theoretical chance but in practice will not overtake either.  (She would need her share in a three-way split of votes to be 47 points higher than Cox's to even get into second, let alone win.)

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

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

It will come down mainly to how those voters who voted 1 Bacon 2 Haddad and 1 Bacon 2 Sherlock saw the relative merits of Ogilvie and Cox.  The voters who voted 1 Bacon slightly preferred Ogilvie. Voters whose votes were with Sherlock when she was excluded (these are only an indicator of possible 1 Bacon 2 Sherlock votes) slightly preferred Cox. The preferences of the voters who voted 1 Haddad (again only an indicator of how 1 Bacon 2 Haddad votes might flow) between Cox and Ogilvie are unknown to me.

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

If Ogilvie Doesn't Run

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

Ogilvie - Labor Or Independent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

News and other snippets will be added.

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

Added: Timeline 

There is a two-week period for nominations to be received, which means that the earliest possible date for the recount is September 6 (update: it is actually on on September 10).  This gives the government an extra bonus because Labor will be down one for the first three days (at least) of the September sitting.  There is no pairing convention for casual vacancies (see my article on Rene Hidding's departure re this) and so it appears that the Government will enjoy a 12-11 floor majority in the first week of September and be able to pass legislation without relying on the casting vote of Speaker Sue Hickey.  It will be interesting to see what use, if any, the government makes of this.  (Probably anything all of Hickey , Labor and the Greens would vote against would not get through the Legislative Council anyway.)

Added: Changes of Numbers after Recounts

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

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

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

Sunday - Monday: Ogilvie in

Ogilvie has confirmed she is contesting but has not said whether she will seek to rejoin Labor, and has suggested she will make that decision only if elected.

However, Ogilvie has also made some comments, especially a claim that she would take a "more intellectual approach" to parliamentary tactics, that will do nothing to endear her to those within Labor who do not want her back.  (Update: on Monday there is more of this stuff with Ogilvie claiming that being a "social democrat" means "that I’m allowed to be intelligent and think things through.")

Matthew Denholm has reported that the recount is on September 10, meaning that the government will have at least four days with a floor majority (possibly five as the recount may not finish until noon the following day).  He also reports Ogilvie as seeking confidence that Labor would share her priorities (including traffic congestion) and that there be an end to 'hostility' (Denholm's word, not Ogilvie's) from the Left.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019 Federal Election: Pollster Performance Review

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

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

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

Least Worst Final Poll

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

2019 House of Reps Figures Finalised

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

Preference Shifting

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

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Poll Roundup: Newspoll's Back, But Should Anyone Actually Care?

This week finally saw the long-awaited return of voting intention polling to the field following the great 2019 election opinion polling failure.  Newspoll returned ten weeks after the election, its longest break between in-field dates ever, and its longest break between releases except for two eleven-week summer recess breaks very early in its history.  The poll, which had the Coalition ahead 53-47 two-party preferred, was the first voting intention poll by anyone since the election.  The ten-week gap without any published attempt to measure voting intention by any pollster was the longest such gap since at least the early 1970s.

The first poll to poke its head over the parapet was of course pelted with eggs on social media.  The strong prior accuracy records of the Newspoll brand, Galaxy Research and Australian federal polling generally were suddenly no protection against charges that polling was no better than astrology.  Much of the pelting came from hopelessly biased Twitter entities who have always hated and distrusted Newspoll because of its Murdoch connections, who used to insist the poll was Coalition-skewed, and now hate it because it got their hopes up for an election their side lost.  So that aspect is a moveable feast of complaint.  But is there any reason for confidence yet that YouGov-Galaxy has identified and fixed whatever went wrong with its polling earlier this year?  Given that it underestimated the Coalition by three points at the election, is there any evidence for confidence that it isn't still doing so?

Well no, there isn't really (though that doesn't mean we should read this poll as really 56-44). At this stage, alas, YouGov-Galaxy and the Australian have done very little that should restore public trust or to even convince us that they care whether their poll will be trusted or not.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Hobart Building Heights Elector Poll

On Monday the Tasmanian Electoral Commission released the results of a voluntary postal elector poll about building heights in the Hobart City portion of Greater Hobart.  This non-binding elector poll has been something of an oddity with a lot of commentary making various claims about it so I thought I'd say a few things about it too.

The turnout

The elector poll attracted a response rate of 42.39%.  This compares to the response rate of 61.94% at the 2018 Hobart City Council election, however that was a record high turnout for Hobart, which had never been above 55.5% before.

I have found data for fourteen previous elector polls going back to the mid-1990s, of which six were held concurrently with council elections and eight were held separately.  Of the eight held separately, I have comparable data for six, and of these turnouts ranged from 83% to 109% of the previous election's turnout for that council (in many cases I have had to use raw turnout figures as I cannot find enrolment data at the time of the poll).  So this elector poll at 68% of the municipality's previous turnout has the lowest comparative turnout rate - and this would be so even without Hobart's 2018 turnout spike.  Issues in comparable elector polls included amalgamation, a proposed major pulp mill, whether to move a council's administration, whether to change a council's name, the location of a waste disposal site and options for a lawn cemetery.  To complete the set, other issues that have been canvassed in elector polls have included water supply and pricing options (including whether fluoride should be added), and the boundaries of a municipality.  It's notable that one of the three pulp mill polls occurred in Hobart, about 200 km away from the pulp mill site.