Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mayhem in the Marginals? JWS and Early Seat Betting

UPDATE (March): Many have found this article while looking for information on the second JWS Research poll.  The article below is still relevant in many ways but my comments on the more recent poll can be found here:

Marginals Mayhem 2: Labor Losing The Lot?

Advance Summary

1. A recently released JWS Research poll of 54 marginal seats has been reported as projecting a loss of 18 Labor marginal seats.

2. The poll results should be treated with caution because the poll is commissioned by a source with links to the Liberal Party, and because it is unlikely that the Coalition would have such a large lead in all "marginal" seats while holding only a modest lead nationwide.

3. Even assuming the poll results are extremely accurate, it is not correct to interpret them as projecting a loss of that many marginal seats.

4. The reason it is not correct is that there is variation between states in the polled fate of marginal seats, which would enable Labor to better withstand the swing than if it was uniform.

5. On this basis, the poll does not show Labor as being likely to lose more marginal seats than would be expected based on national swings or other state swing data.

This article also includes brief comments about the Sportsbet seat betting odds released this week.

Oh, and pictures of wirrahs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

LegCo: Pembroke, Nelson and Montgomery Candidates

(Most recent updates:  9 April Nelson ReachTEL comments removed and new link added, 11 April Willink added, 19 April Willink update.)

Legislative Council nominations close noon, 11 April.  Election day is Saturday 4 May. 

The field is set: Apart from the last-day nomination of Hans Willink there were no surprises and the eleven candidates below are all who are contesting.  I will post in detail on my views of the chances of the candidates during the campaign.

Additional articles: I have other articles on the LegCo elections:
Nelson polling
LegCo Spending Limits Create Confusion
The Nelson LegCo Debate (Wilkinson/Richardson/Baxter)
What is an independent liberal? (Liberal Party attacks Willink)

ABC survey: The ABC has surveyed the social-issue views of candidates here.

I also have LegCo related articles about the forestry peace deal, LegCo voting patterns and same-sex marriage.

 Advance summary

1. This article initially discussed the early Legislative Council candidacy announcements of Allison Ritchie (Pembroke, Ind) and Tom Baxter (Nelson, Green), and has since been updated to include all Legislative Council candidates.

2. The Mercury's coverage of Allison Ritchie's past, either following the lead of or coincidentally resembling an error on Wikipedia,  has oversimplified official findings about past nepotism claims against her.  The Auditor-General's report on the matter was actually quite unfavourable.

3. Attempts by the Liberal Party to attack the Labor Party over the Ritchie candidacy are unsurprising but also unconvincing.

4. Tom Baxter is one of the better Legislative Council candidates the Greens have fielded for some time, but the Greens are currently experiencing a slump in polled support that will make it difficult for him to poll a high vote. 

5. While Nelson is probably the more interesting seat, neither challenger is likely to win.

6. The seat of Montgomery is an open seat which at the last state election had a slight lean to Labor and a comparatively low Green vote. The Liberals and various independents are contesting the seat.  There is no clear favorite.

This article will be updated as more candidate news comes to hand.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Federal Labor Getting Smashed In Bass

NOTE ADDED 12/7/13: This is an old article as should be clear from the absence of the word "Rudd".  Conclusions in it no longer apply because of the change of Prime Ministership, and while it is likely Labor is still behind in the seat, fresh polling is needed.


Just some quick notes about the ReachTEL poll of Bass (federal) that appeared in the Examiner today.

The findings are rather dramatic, with  the Liberals' Andrew Nikolic supposedly leading Labor's Geoff Lyons 60.3-39.7 two-party preferred (based on preferences distributed as per the 2010 election), for a neat 17-point swing from the 2010 results.  The Liberals are on 54.7%, otherwise known as an outright majority, Labor is on 26.7, the Greens are on 8.7, and about ten respondents believe Bob Katter's hat has been washed more recently than mine.

I think the 17-point swing is overcooking it just a little bit, which is not to say the swing won't be that big come election day.  There is a very high vote for "Other" (7.9%), and in the absence of any known, specific force that would receive those "Other" votes, I believe those "Other" votes would include a number of soft Labor voters and possibly also some ultra-Green splitters.  Thus I believe the preferences of these "Others" would actually favour Labor more than would be determined by using the 2010 election results, and that a more realistic reading of the swing might be, say, 15 points.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Silly Lilleys: Is Wayne Swan Losing His Seat? - Updated

Note: this is an older article that has been updated a number of times.  Everything below the line is not very relevant to the upcoming election following the change in Prime Minister, and with Swan now on the backbench, the answer for many will be "who cares?"

Update: 31 August: The great poetic irony that was supposed to occur if Kevin Rudd's resurrection as PM saved Swan's seat is again in danger, with the seat jittery based on seat margin polling, reports of internal polling and now a public poll.  A JWS Research robopoll reports a 53.8:46.2 result in this seat in favour of the Coalition, although it should be noted that seat polls have been delivering generally nasty stuff for Labor compared to national polling.  By no means a surefire indicator of defeat for Swan, but it is better not to poll such numbers than to poll them.


Advance summary of original article:

1. An opinion poll has been reported as showing the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, headed for defeat in his seat of Lilley.

2. While this finding may yet prove correct, there are many reasons to treat the finding cautiously.

3. These reasons include the likely closeness of the poll once preferences are considered, the poll's small sample size, the non-naming of the key candidates, and the poll being commissioned by an interest group.

4. With all these reasons considered, the poll provides no clear insight into the likely fate of Swan's seat, which is already known to be marginal and at substantial risk.

5. Polls commissioned by interest groups should be treated with much caution, because even if they are impeccably designed, groups may decide whether or not to release such polls depending on whether they like the results.

March Update: (More details at bottom of article.) Some similar comments apply to a second Lilley poll in early March, except that the key candidates are named, the sample size is larger, and this is the second released poll now claiming this result, so the level of overall doubt about the findings is lower.

The primary figures provided would produce a closer 2PP result than claimed.  The second poll's finding that a change to Rudd would result in an increase of about eight points is unreliable as polls in which voters anticipate how they would respond to hypothetical situations are generally not to be trusted.  Nonetheless a return to Kevin Rudd is capable of making a big difference to the chances of this seat being held. 

June 3 Update: Things are looking dodgier for the Treasurer now, considering the dire state of the national 2PP and the recent Galaxy Queensland poll which showed a state swing large enough (but only just) for the Treasurer to lose if uniformly applied.  An "internal poll" has been reported as showing him on a primary of just 28%, however the usual caveats apply to internal polling that has not been released in full detail and that may be being released selectively or be methodically suspect.

June 11 Update: However we now (see here) see the first publicly released polling result (Fairfax-commissioned ReachTEL) in which the Treasurer has been in front (53:47), although the lead in this sample is within its margin of error based on a sample size of 600.  This does not necessarily mean Swan has turned anything around; it is quite possible that all the published polls are within the neighbourhood of an actual picture in which the fight for the seat is very close.  Full details of the poll are yet to be released.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Morgan And The Myth Of Excessive Bouncing /The 1993 Analogy

Note added later: This article refers to a Morgan polling method that is no longer in use.

Advance Summary:

1. Face-to-face polls conducted by Roy Morgan Research are no more volatile than Newspoll.

2. In the case of both Morgan Face-to-Face polls and Newspoll, the level of bouncing from poll to poll is unsurprising, unsuspicious, and mostly explained by random variation.

3. Morgan Face-to-Face polls do however favour Labor, and this is especially true of their figures which allocate preferences according to results of the last election.  Morgan phone polls do not seem to favour one side or the other very much.

4. The current polling position and history of the Gillard Government is similar to that of both Keating governments.  Both became competitive about a year from the election, but continued to trail modestly for several months.

5. The first Keating government took the lead suddenly four and a half months from the election, while the second Keating government never managed to close down the Opposition's modest lead.

6. Recent articles by Peter Brent (Mumble) have repeatedly argued that a Gillard vs Abbott contest results in a certain or near-certain win for Abbott.

7. But an August 2012 article by the same writer sets criteria according to which the Keating polling situation was competitive throughout 1992, and then unfavourably compares Gillard's position then.

8. If the same criteria are applied, Labor under Gillard is competitive now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are Foxes Widespread And Established In Tasmania?

Advance Summary

1. A recent refereed paper claims that foxes are widespread and established in Tasmania and likely to become increasingly so.

2. This paper uncritically accepts some data items that, while not discredited entirely, are in some cases very dubious.

3. This raises concerns about whether the authors are familiar enough with all the data they use to be very confident that most of the data items are valid.

4. Similar concerns relate to the continued presentation of some dubious fox data items as hard evidence by the Tasmanian government.

5. On this basis, both scientists publishing on the question of foxes, and the Tasmanian government, need to present data accurately and with reservations properly discussed and explored if their claims about foxes are to be considered credible.

6. At present neither the claims that foxes are widespread in the state, nor the claims by some "sceptics" of a conspiracy to import fox evidence in order to fabricate fox presence, are convincing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bonham on the ballot - again!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.  One reason for that is that I've been in Sydney where I've actually been a candidate in a contested election (as well as being "on holidays", which is defined as getting away from Hobart's hottest ever day to go to somewhere 0.5 degrees hotter.)  The site bio here discussed the most interesting of my three previous contested elections as a candidate (also the only one I didn't win).

The election in question was a three-way race for two positions as Vice-President of the Australian Chess Federation.  Normally ACF elections are all uncontested but this year both President and Vice-President were contested while other officebearer positions were unopposed.

Chess politics is a rather curious branch of politics in general, because chessplayers tend to be quite good at strategic thinking, while also being prone to interpret the actions of other players suspiciously (What's he/she up to?  Is this a sneaky trap? etc).  Probably in 2014 I will post some stuff here about the elections for President of the world chess federation, FIDE.

The two Vice-President positions (confusingly, there is also a Deputy President) were added to the ACF executive several years ago as a compromise solution after a radical proposal to create an AFL-style Commission obtained majority support, but not a big enough majority to be enacted.  However, when the two positions were created, the question of exactly how to elect the positions when they were contested wasn't resolved.  The Constitution specified only "preferential voting".

After some discussion it was decided proportionality wasn't a big deal for a national body electing an executive and as a result the election consisted of a ballot for one vice-presidential position, followed by a ballot between the unsuccessful candidates for the first position (and anyone else who felt inclined to run) for the second.  Thus in theory a ticket of two candidates supported by just over half the meeting would both be elected.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Ehrlich Award For Wrong Predictions Goes To ...

Introducing the annual Ehrlich Award, which at the start of each year will be given to the "wrongest" published prediction I observe of or relating to the previous calendar year. (Of course, if I make a really stupid prediction of my own pertaining to this or any other year, I will happily self-nominate, and even if necessary self-award. )

There are a few groundrules - for instance the predictions need to be vaguely meaningful (in terms of being able to assess whether they have happened - this year's winner stretches that one sometimes), and secondly predictions that carry a stated assessment of chance of falsehood are not included unless that assessed chance is ludicrously low.  After all, even odds-on favourites do get beaten sometimes. 

The Ehrlich Award is named in (dis)honour of Paul Ehrlich whose lifetime achievements in the field of publishing wrong enviro-scare predictions (oh no, you're an "idiot" if you say they were "predictions"; they were actually only "scenarios") are almost as staggering as the excuses trotted out on behalf of all his false apocalypses.  Apparently, not only is it a hit predictively for Ehrlich fans if something vaguely like the prediction happened, or if it could still happen later, but even if nothing like it happened, that's a hit too, because it means people must have listened to the prophet's warnings and, for that reason alone, averted their ways from their sins.