Friday, March 14, 2014

Newspoll: It's All Over

Newspoll: Liberal 53 Labor 23 Green 16 PUP 4 Others 4
Seat breakdown based on this poll: Liberal majority win (approx 14-7-4 or 15-6-4)
Aggregate and forecast both 14-7-4.

Note: On election night (Saturday) I will be live-blogging for the Mercury online from c. 6-11pm.  A link will be posted here.  Anyone not working for the Mercury should not attempt to call me in this time. 

Newspoll hath spoken.  The Tasmanian state election appears over as a contest, although it could be said it has been over now for years.  What was the Labor-Green coalition government faces a combined swing against it of almost 20 points (even more than the 16.7 points in the most recent ReachTEL).  It might not be quite that bad on election day, but it will still be very, very bad indeed.

On these figures PUP would not win any seats, and that might improve Labor's expectations to seven by allowing them to save both their seats in Braddon. However, it's possible the PUP vote is underestimated in this Newspoll, as it is not clear whether PUP was read out as an option, or only post-nominated by those selecting "other" (thanks to Adrian Beaumont for reminding me of this possible issue).  Alas no Newspoll electorate breakdowns have been published, just a range of comments by Matthew Denholm about them.  It may be that 15-6-4 is possible, though we should treat that with caution since other polls haven't been showing it.

Denholm has said that the poll suggests Labor will probably win just six seats (two in Denison) with the Greens facing a "difficult fight" in Braddon; I wonder on this basis if the poll in fact points to a fair chance of a fourth seat in Braddon for the Liberals.  I don't know whether the electorate breakdowns will be made public.

What we do have already is the satisfaction ratings for the leaders, and they tell us more about why Labor won't remain in office.  Premier Lara Giddings has a netsat of -33 (satisfied 29, dissatisfied 62).  It is common for Tasmanian Premiers to go to elections with negative netsats (Bacon and Lennon exceptions) but this is the worst netsat for a Tasmanian Premier in Newspoll history, and well up on the table for the worst in any state.  There is no precedent for victory for a premier with such ratings anywhere.  (Giddings is not the most unpopular Premier in Tasmanian history though - that dishonour went to Harry Holgate, who scored -59 after rolling Doug Lowe.)

Nick McKim for his part polls a netsat of -37 (27-64) which is the worst for a Greens leader ever! (See the previous figures from various pollsters here).  Will Hodgman, meanwhile polls a solidly positive but unspectacular +17 (53-36), almost exactly the same as the +16 (53-37) he polled in 2010.  Can't fault him for consistency.  It's not quite the +27 Ray Groom surfed in with in 1992, but it may surprise readers to know that even Jim Bacon managed only -4 on election eve in '98.

The story is simple here - Labor and the Greens are fighting over the votes of the less than half of the Tasmanian voters who can still stand them; the rest will be voting for someone else.  It's not even the case that supporters of the Greens and Labor reliably support the other leader of the two either, with both leaders' approvals lagging the combined Labor/Green vote.

The poll result should be a little sobering for the Greens as concerns their chances of becoming the Opposition, since 16% is only likely to be good for four seats and does not even guarantee that should it drop off or the distribution be unlucky.  But the poor state of the Labor vote should mean that the Greens do not need anything like a quota in Bass and Lyons to retain; it is quite a different environment to 2010.

The preferred premier scores are much the same as the party scores, as they usually are in Tasmania.

In my advance report on the Newspoll, Newspoll To Deliver Final Nail I pointed out that Newspoll's past performance in Tasmanian state elections is excellent.  It will be surprising if their figures are more than a few points out.  That their figure for the Liberals is higher than in recent ReachTELs, and their figure for PUP lower, suggests that maybe the persistent Liberal attempts to expose PUP as hopelessly chaotic have finally cut through.  The alternative is that someone is underestimating, or someone overestimating, the Palmer United vote.

There were some tricky decisions in updating what I think will be my final aggregate.  Firstly I have weighted the Newspoll at 40%.  Although its sample size is relatively small (1524) it is the most recent data and comes from a company with a proven track record in Tasmanian elections.  Secondly an adjustment for expected overperformance by PUP compared to their polling (based in part on the federal election) has been removed as the trajectory for PUP through the latter stages of the election appears to be downwards, and as PUP are now such a well-known force in the state.  Thirdly I've made a small adjustment to the Denison figures (half a point off the Greens and on to Labor) based on what I can interpret about the likely Denison poll breakdowns from Denholm's comments.  Fourthly I've docked the Greens a point from the Newspoll based on Newspoll's history of overestimating the Green vote, especially last time.  Here it is:

The aggregate shows the Liberals winning fourteen seats and competitive in two others, but both of those (the third in Denison and fourth in Braddon) are a stretch.  The final Braddon seat is anybody's, but it is likely that the Liberals will lose votes to leakage and that PUP preferences (should PUP be eliminated) will favour the majors over the Greens.  Frankly on the aggregate figures, odd as it may seem, I think that Labor would be well placed to hold two.  In this case it would be in Labor's interests if Brenton Best isn't one of them, but he probably will be.  I'm giving Labor the benefit of the doubt in both seats and making the aggregate reading 14-7-4, also my revised forecast, but they will be lucky indeed to get away with that with only a quarter of the primary vote.

PUP do still have a serious chance in Braddon, where the last seat could be an all-in fight between Labor, PUP, Green and the fourth Liberal.  It's harder for the Greens because preferences are likely to not favour them, and the Liberals because unless they have quite close to four quotas then the leakage from their top candidates' surpluses will damage them.  On the current aggregate, we may need to remember that Hare-Clark is about candidates and not just parties.

The evidence continues to grow that the Liberals will clean up in Franklin, although their margin there is far from safe and Labor may yet retain two.  In the event that the Liberals do win three seats, the best thing that can happen for Labor is that David O'Byrne defeats Lara Giddings.  The magnitude of the loss will completely discredit the Giddings leadership even if she retains her seat, and her comments about a Michael Field like role in reconstruction seem extremely optimistic. While Giddings could resign her seat thus probably allowing O'Byrne back in on countback, this would be embarrassing and damaging for the future leader.

A disappointing aspect of polling for this election so far is that no candidate-based results have been released (save for snippets from internal polling.)  In past elections, EMRS polling of individual candidates was often published, and vague as it was, it helped identify some certainties.

I have not heard of any further polling data coming out, though Labor are known to be in the field with a one-question internal poll.

Seat Scenarios:

The following are my evaluations of likely results for each seat (in order Liberal-Labor-Green and -PUP where needed).

Bass: 3-1-1 very likely.  Outside chance 3-2-0. Anything else very unlikely.
Braddon: No clear favourite.  Four significant prospects - in declining order of probability, 3-2-0, 3-1-0-1, 3-1-1, 4-1-0. Anything else very unlikely.
Denison: 2-2-1 likely. Realistic chance 3-1-1. Outside chance 2-1-2. Remote but plausible chance 2-1-1-1. Anything else very unlikely.
Franklin: 3-1-1 slightly more likely than 2-2-1.  Anything else very unlikely.
Lyons: 3-1-1 very likely. Outside chance 3-2-0. Anything else very unlikely.


  1. The ALP head to head battles will be fascinating tomorrow night. Best vs Green, O'Byrne vs Wightman, White vs Llewellyn, Giddings vs O'Byrne.

  2. on estimates above worst possible libs 13 everyone else 12
    libs best 15 all else 10
    most likely libs 14 all else 11

    1. Libs can get 16 (four Braddon three Denison). I'll hugely surprised if they tick both those boxes though. Either is difficult in isolation, but they are not even independent; success in one makes the other less likely for a given statewide vote level.

      I think 14 is most likely; I also now think 15 is more likely than 13. Labor very nearly got 15 in 2006; it can be done.

  3. You seem to be suggesting there are quite a few possible scenarios ( eventhough certain seat distributions are much more likely to happen than others )! Compared to elections gone by, is this election the most uncertain in terms of how the parties will fare ( based on what the opinion poll aggregate is suggesting ), or is this the normal state of affairs in the main, ( that there is always a high degree of uncertainty )?

    1. The uncertainty is rather higher than last time. I'd say that in 2010 there were really only two electorates in play (Denison and Braddon) and this time there are three (Denison, Braddon, Franklin). In 2006 the uncertainty was comparable to or perhaps even greater than this election (three or four electorates were in play), except that there were only three parties with chances rather than four.

  4. Best of luck with the blogging tonight. If things go well, I may catch the last bit of it.

  5. Interesting that the Greens appear to have campaigned very well - been generally very positive, tried out lots of new things, targeted new demographics that might appear to be sympathetic, and really avoided a lot of the traditional attacks from other parties (the Libs seem more intent on attacking PUP than the Greens), and yet they'll still go backwards..

    More evidence for the "it's time" factor?

    1. The Greens also tend to poll poorly in landslide-type elections where there is a big impetus to throw out the government. They get a lot of soft votes in who-cares type elections like 2010 both state and federal. I'm convinced they were always going to lose votes at this election and could do nothing about it; it was just a question of how many and whether they could keep the swing down to say 3%. Perhaps they'll still manage high teens but I think it will be mid teens much more likely.

      Also their positivity in this campaign is a double-edged sword because when a party that relies on a degree of protest vote runs on a campaign saying they've achieved things, they run the risk of voters thinking that it is no longer necessary to vote for them. The sort of person who reluctantly votes Green because they are worried about logging and the environment, but doesn't share Green values on other things, has much less reason to vote for them this time around.

  6. Dear Kevin, Further to polling/predictions .... I “like” Bob Ellis and believe IN him not because he tells [me] what [I] want to hear. I “like” you too and you should know why, given our recent discussion [one of several we’ve had] at THE pub. Ironic you are working for Murdoch tonight ... I won’t/don’t want to phone you as per your request, but would be grateful if [as per Cormac McCarthy’s words] you are/were prepared to “call it” because I know what your on and off the record predictions are about the make-up of the final 25 set to take office in the next few weeks/months. Forgive me if I am wrong, but your on and off the record “calls” suggest you have aligned yourself with the final line that ran in yesterday’s Mercury editorial. Best etc., John Andrewartha.

  7. You are wrong, and I don't feel obliged to forgive you, because that conclusion is lazy thinking and you can do better. :)

    The Mercury in its editorial endorsed a Liberal majority government - not just as a prediction but as a normative statement; they say people should vote Liberal.

    I am saying there will almost certainly be a Liberal majority government, but that does not mean I endorse it as something people should cause to happen.

    If I was making a similar statement I would say that all of Labor, Liberal, Green and PUP have at various times shown themselves to be fundamentally unworthy of the support of the Tasmanian voters. I would also say that all have at times shown some merit. I would decline to endorse any of them.

    I only wish that we had better - that we could find a moderate and sensible party that would not embrace social conservatism, bad science like that underlying the forest peace deal, dangerous remakings of the fabric of free speech or random craziness.

    Yes I am working for a distant arm of the Murdoch empire tonight but that no more makes me an advocate for a Liberal majority than accepting a commission for Nick McKim makes me a Greens supporter. In this line of work and others I work in it is normal to work on commission for people whose opinions are not mine. The same applies to pollsters - eg Galaxy publishes in the Murdoch tabloids but also accepts commissions from the likes of the Bob Brown Foundation.


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