Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Site Review

That's another calendar year done for a site that's now a little over three years old.  Federal elections and Tasmanian state elections are this site's biggest events, so with neither of these in 2015 it's no surprise traffic here was down 43% on 2014 and down about 10% on 2013.  Still, with two state elections and the dumping of a sitting Prime Minister, the year was not exactly quiet.

The pattern for the year (the units are sessions per week) looks like this:

The two big spikes on the left are the Queensland and the New South Wales elections, and the Queensland one would have been bigger had my efforts not been limited by a major field trip.  On the right, interest fell sharply once the Canning by-election was out of the way.  The major difference between the Turnbull readings and even the quietest Abbott readings suggests to me that a lot of left-wing readers are more interested in reading about good polling for their side than bad.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Polling And Penalty Rates

(Note: this piece now has a follow-up.  See What Scientists Do)

Penalty rates have been on the political radar lately. A poll on the subject released by The Australia Institute on Sunday has attracted a fair amount of interest.  Many Coalition MPs support cuts to current penalty rates (which are required extra loadings on pay for certain occupations for weekend, evening or public holiday work) and the Labor Opposition is currently campaigning against such cuts.  This will probably be a significant philosophical divide between the parties at the 2016 election.

If we are to believe the poll's sponsor and reporting of the poll by the SMH yesterday, the government will face a massive backlash, including from its own voters, if Sunday penalty rates in the retail sector are reduced as recommended by the Productivity Commission.  The reality is that the views of Coalition supporters on the proposed change are rather less clear.

Friday, December 25, 2015

2015 Ehrlich Awards For Wrong Predictions

Secular seasons' greetings and best wishes for 2016 to all.  Since this site started a few years ago, I've developed a strange habit of posting something every Christmas Day. As I may be too busy playing chess badly in early January to post all that much around then, I've taken the risk of going early with this year's prize for the unwise, the Ehrlich Awards for the wrongest predictions in a field of interest to this site made in or concerning the year 2015.  The Ehrlichs are named for Paul Ehrlich, the ecological don of doom whose failed resources bet with Julian Simon and poor excuses for losing it (and litany of other false "scenarios") have given heart to those who snort derisively at the claim the world is rooned ever since.  For previous instalments, and to see the groundrules, just click on the Ehrlich Awards tab at the bottom.

As usual we briefly glaze over hard-to-quantify bogus puffery from politicians of all varieties, spearheaded this year by Bill Shorten's commitment to the National Press Club "that Labor will be defined in 2015 by the power of our ideas." In fact, Labor was largely defined as a mirror of the government it opposed: popular by default while Tony Abbott clung to power then deeply unfashionable once he was given the boot.  A few Labor policies attracted public attention (emissions targets, voting age, smoking excise) but it was not always the right kind of attention, and some of these were pilfered from the Greens.  Labor has been releasing policies but none are especially original and so far hardly anyone has noticed.  Mostly they smack of a strategy tried without success against John Howard: when you have nothing just trot out the usual, cover it with a sudden interest in technology and science and say you've discovered something new.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Poll Roundup: 2015 Year In Review

2PP Aggregate: 53.5 to Coalition (+0.1)
Coalition would win election held now with unchanged to slightly increased majority

It's just about the end of another year in federal polling; should any unexpected late polls appear I will edit this article to add them in.  After an update for this week's polling I'll launch into an annual review along similar lines to last year's.  From here on in the pollsters tend to go into summer recess with Morgan and Essential returning in mid-January and the heavy hitters coming back in late January and early February.

This week's polls

This week we have had readings from Morgan and Essential, which continue to sit at opposite ends of the Turnbull-era spectrum, this week returning 56-44 and 52-48 respectively.  The former was Morgan's highest reading for the Coalition this term, and the respondent-preferences reading was even higher (57.5%).  Essential has had the Labor primary at 35-36 in the last four weeks while Morgan has had it at 28.5 then 27.  Either both are wrong or one is very, very wrong.

Although both pollsters showed an uptick to the Coalition, this was tempered by the Ipsos from a few weeks ago falling out of sample, so the net result is just a 0.1 point gain, for the Coalition, after everything, to finish the year in exactly their 2013 election result position.  At least, that's my take; as usual recently, others may well be higher.  (Edit: Yep; Bludgertrack 54.1 Mark the Ballot 55 and Phantom Trend 55.2.  MtB assumes zero-sum and includes Morgan but not Essential, and Phantom Trend treats Morgan as having the same sorts of house effects it's had for decades, so those points explain why the latter two are so high.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mackerras Piece Misleading On Senate Reform

As noted in the last part of my multi-volume series about people being Wrong On The Internet about Senate reform, nothing has happened publicly on this issue for some time.  But erroneous op-eds attacking the JSCEM-proposed model continue to appear in the media now and then, and the latest to muddy the waters (again) is Malcolm Mackerras in the Canberra Times.

While the consensus of psephologists Australia-wide favours scrapping the current Group Ticket preferencing system that has been gamed to death by preference-harvesters and other exploiters of confusing ballot papers (while retaining above-the-line voting for one or more parties), Mackerras has held out against this from the start.  Initially he argued that it would be acceptable to allow voters to stop after filling in 15 boxes below the line.  As the debate has progressed he has shifted to supporting a requirement for a minimum of six boxes below the line, which he now describes as "the easy and right thing" to do.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Poll Roundup: Turnbull Bounce Finally Peaks

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Coalition (-0.5 in a week)
Coalition would win election "held now" with similar majority to 2013

Almost three months since Malcolm Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, the massive surge in Coalition polling has finally hit its first speedbump.  The odd behaviour of a couple of pollsters compared to the rest has made it hard to say exactly when this happened, but my figures now have the Coalition peaking at a revised 54.0% two-party preferred at the end of the week before last.  On that basis I estimate that the Coalition gained 7.6 points over ten weeks.  I have this as the second largest polling surge in such a period in Australian polling history (the largest being at least ten points in a couple of months for the doomed Whitlam government during the lead-up to the 1975 dismissal).

Saturday, December 5, 2015

North Sydney Votes Live Comments (and postcount if needed)

North Sydney (Lib 15.9% vs ALP)
Trent Zimmerman (Lib) vs Stephen Ruff (Ind) and Arthur Chesterfield-Evans (Green)
Assessment: CALLED: Zimmerman (Lib) will be elected after preferences. 
Estimated final margin 60:40 if Ruff finishes second, more otherwise.

This is a rather hastily posted North Sydney live comments thread (refresh now and then for new comments) as the count in progress has so far been a bit more interesting than expected, and after seven booths the contest for the seat was still alive!  If it's still alive at the end of the night that won't be a good result for the Liberals (and if they lose it will be a shocker) but let's see if it is or not.  My apologies for not doing more advance coverage of this one; I have simply been too busy with work.

Here are some important things about this count:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Poll Roundup: Turnbull Surge Alone Can't Explain Shorten's Problems

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Coalition (-0.2 in a week)
Coalition would easily win election "held now", probably with increased majority

(Updated on Friday to 53.8 to Coalition, then went to 54.0 to Coalition on weekly reset)

There are only two new federal polls and one state poll of federal voting intention to add so far this week, but there is still quite a lot to discuss.

Last week there was a sign of a possible Paris-attacks surge to the government in the 56:44 result from Ipsos, but this wasn't repeated by either Morgan or Essential.  The lack of replication from those two didn't mean a lot because Essential doesn't do dynamism and Morgan's behaviour under Turnbull has been strange, but this week Newspoll didn't play ball with Ipsos either.  I'm still inclined to wait to see what ReachTEL says before completely discounting it, but it looks likely that there wasn't really a Paris attack bounce in 2PP polling, and the Ipsos sample just had a couple of extra points of sample noise for the Coalition.  This week's Newspoll at 53:47 (which I aggregated as exactly that) and Essential at 52:48 (which I counted as 51.7 considering the primaries) have so far knocked two-tenths of a point off last week's result.  The smoothed tracking graph, however, does not yet show the surge as having peaked.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wonk Central: Reverse Engineering Special Newspolls

Welcome back to Wonk Central, the occasional series of excursions into psephological arcanity that ... well, if you got past those big words and have some sort of head for maths, you'll probably be right at home here.  This one's not as hard as some, probably just a Wonk Factor 4/5.

Today saw the release of extensive results of a special Newspoll on various national security issues. These included:

* support for ground troops to fight the so-called Islamic so-called State
* how many Syrian refugees Australia should be taking
* whether priority should be given to Christian refugees over others
* the chance the so-called Islamic so-called State will carry out a large scale terror attack in Australia
* whether the Muslim community in Australia is doing enough to condemn attacks like the Paris attacks
* whether Muslims living in Australia are doing enough to integrate into something Newspoll calls "the Australian community"

I will comment on the results in the next Poll Roundup.  What I want to discuss now is whether or not we can use the results to guess at the voting intentions in this Newspoll.  My working will likely assist anyone seeking to do so in similar cases in the future.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Poll Roundup: Terror Bounce Kicking Labor When They're Down?

2PP Aggregate: 53.6 to Coalition (+0.8 in a week, +7.2 since Abbott was PM)
Coalition would win election "held now" with increased majority

Another three federal polls are out this week and the Coalition's aggregated polling lead just keeps on growing.  The relentless rise of the Turnbull regime has to peak sometime, but for another week the answer to the question "when?" is "not just yet."  There's now no sign on the smoothed tracking graph that it is even slowing down:

How Bad Is Bryan Green's Rating?

Last week I reported on the EMRS poll which has shown a probably Turnbull-led resurgence for Tasmania's Hodgman Liberal state government.  One figure has dominated discussion of the poll in the subsequent week:


19% is the preferred premier rating of Labor Opposition Leader Bryan Green (compared with Will Hodgman's 56).  I often rail here against the media overuse of preferred-leader stats to spin a yarn, and against polls that poll preferred-leader scores but don't also poll and release approval ratings.  I even have a piece here declaring such scores to be rubbish.  They're not totally meaningless, but they're messy indicators that are often biased to incumbents, they lag behind changes in approval rating, and they don't have a very good predictive record.

Part of the problem is that a preferred-leader score is a comparative indicator, so it's impossible to discuss what it says about one leader without thinking about what it says about another.  Does a big lead for an incumbent Premier say that voters really like the Premier and don't mind the Opposition Leader, or does it say that voters mildly like the Premier and can't stand his opponent?  EMRS have been polling the answers to these questions, but unfortunately they haven't been releasing the results.

As Matt Smith observes (in a notable piece that suggests Labor are disheartened and just going through the motions) numbers like this can spell a lot of trouble for a leader, and can ignite leadership speculation.  We shouldn't overstate the "trouble" angle; some state leaders have dragged on for years with miserable polling, but there have also been cases interstate where just one poll like this has been game over.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Another Unsound Attack On Proposed Senate Reforms

Advance Summary

1. A recent article by a former NSW politician argues that proposed Senate reforms will create an effectively first-past-the-post system that advantages the Coalition and eliminates minor party candidates and independents.

2. The article exaggerates the impact of the proposed system on minor party candidates, since minor party candidates would have won at least three seats in 2013 under the proposed system.

3. While parties polling very low vote shares would not win without group ticket preferencing, this is not specifically because many votes would exhaust.  Rather, it is because strong preference flows between obscure parties would not exist even if all voters assigned their own preferences.

4. The article's claims about the impact of exhausting votes on preference transfers from Green to Labor and vice versa are undermined by those transfers being much less often important in Senate than in House elections.

5. The article's assumption that it would always be an advantage to run joint tickets rather than split tickets (eg for the Liberals and Nationals, or for Labor and the Greens) is incorrect.  Whether it would be better to run joint or split tickets would vary depending on party vote levels.

6. There is simply no reliable evidence that proposed reforms disadvantage any of the Coalition, Labor or the Greens, or any other force with serious support in any given state.  They disadvantage who they are designed to disadvantage: preference-harvesters.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poll Roundup: Coalition Equals Term High

2PP Aggregate: 52.8 to Coalition (+0.1 in a week, +0.4 in two weeks)
Coalition would easily win election "held now"
(Article also includes comments on the voting age)

Eight weeks into the Turnbull Prime Ministership, we're still yet to see any lasting reversal in the polling trend towards the Coalition.  This week Newspoll, which in its new Galaxy-run incarnation has displayed a slight Labor lean, came out with a headline 53:47 in the Coalition's favour, the Coalition's best Newspoll 2PP since November 2013.  We also had a 53 last week and a 52 this week from Essential and a 55 last week from Morgan (56.5 by respondent preferences).

After considering the primary votes and Morgan's current house effect, I counted the Newspoll as 52.9 to Coalition, last week's Essential at 52.8, this week's Essential at 51.9 and last week's Morgan at 53.1.  This took my aggregate from 52.4 ("Newspoll Smells The Coffee") to 52.7 by the end of last week, and then to 52.8 now. On the assumption that no more polls are released this week, that will be the equal high for this term.  (Early in the Abbott era I did release a figure of 53.1 at one stage, but it was later revised after more accurate preferences were available).  The figure after Newspoll, 52.9, was also the equal highest point the aggregate has reached partway through a week in this term.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

Monday, November 9, 2015

EMRS: Liberals Rebound With Abbott Dead Weight Gone

EMRS: Liberal 48 Labor 25 Green 20 Ind 7
Interpretation: Liberal 49 Labor 29 Green 17 Other 5
Result of poll if election held now: Liberal Majority Government (probably 14-7-4)
Aggregate of all state polling: Lib 13 ALP 8 Green 4 (next most likely is 13-9-3)

A new EMRS poll of Tasmanian state voting intentions has been released and this one shows a massive eight-point shift to the Hodgman Liberal government since the previous poll in August. (Also see the trend tracker.) Really not a great deal has happened at state level since the August poll and I would interpret as much of that shift as isn't just random sample noise as being mainly down to federal factors.  The removal of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister has led to a general improvement in what little state Coalition polling has been seen around the country since the switch.  In the case of Tasmania, this is the Hodgman Government's best result from this pollster since a very similar result just after its election, and suggests it would retain its majority with one or maybe two seat losses.

EMRS polling tends to skew to the Greens and "Independent" and against Labor, so I interpret the poll as a little less dire to Labor than it seems.  All the same, the state swing is on paper only enough for Labor to pick up one seat in Braddon and one in Franklin.  In the case of the one in Franklin, a 1.3% swing is required, and while this poll points to about a 2% statewide swing, the Liberals would go into the election with three Franklin incumbents to Labor's one (compared with two each last time).  Thus I don't think Labor would regain that seat based on this poll.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Poll Roundup: Newspoll Smells The Coffee

2PP Aggregate: 52.4 to Coalition (-0.1 since last week, +6 since Abbott was PM)
Coalition would easily win election "held now"

There are only two polls to deal with this week so far (for last week's including Friday's ReachTEL see Investments Attack On PM Fails) but one of them is a rare and special case. This week's Newspoll has set not one but two new all-time records!  One of these records is bad for the Shorten-led Labor Opposition (but not as bad as the many comments on Shorten's dire ratings are making out), while the other can be spun almost any way you like.

Over the past few weeks there has been debate about whether the Coalition has a meaningful 2PP lead or whether its lead is barely over 50:50.  With results from Newspoll, Essential, and the very early Galaxy and ReachTEL results falling in the latter category, the sceptics still held out after Ipsos joined Morgan in the former.  Then ReachTEL late last week joined Ipsos on 53:47.  This week Newspoll, which in its new incarnation has been somewhat Labor-friendly, came out at 52:48 to Coalition, meaning that for now at least this debate is over and the Coalition has a solid lead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Poll Roundup: Investments Attack On PM Fails

2PP Aggregate: 52.5 to Coalition (+1.4 in a week*, +6.1 since Abbott)
(Highest value since Turnbull became PM*)
Coalition would comfortably win election held now

(* Changes based on revised figures for previous weeks)

This week we've seen three new regular polls plus a partial result from another, and I've made some new decisions on how to deal with the recent behaviour of Morgan polling, so it's time to update my assessment of how the Turnbull bounce is going again.  This was a week in which new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was attacked over the failure of his large financial investments collection to entirely avoid connection to the Cayman Islands.  It was pointed out (among the fine details of the Cayman situation) that this was also true of investments held by Labor politicians, leaving it unclear what exactly Labor was saying other than that the PM is rich.

Whether it was seen as grubby class warfare as has been widely alleged, whether it was actually paying the PM's economic skills a backhanded compliment, whether no-one can actually follow it all or cares, whether maybe even Labor had some kind of point buried somewhere but the commentariat weren't interested - for whatever reasons the attack has done no immediate polling damage, with no net change in two polls and what looks like an extremely good result in a third.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Poll Roundup: Turnbull Popular, Size Of Lead Less Clear

2PP Aggregate: 51.3 to Coalition (-1 in a week, +4.9 since final under Abbott)
Coalition would easily win election "held now"
(Aggregate updated from 51.5 to 51.3 following Essential)

Four weeks since Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott, it is clear that the change is being well received.  Polls continue to show strong approval for the change, strong personal ratings for Turnbull and massive leads for Turnbull over Shorten as preferred or better Prime Minister.  What is less clear is how voting intention is travelling, and the uncertainty is coming mainly from the strange behaviour of a single pollster (Morgan), together with a shortage of data from others.

Polls over last three weeks

Since the previous roundup (Turnbull Shift Puts Coalition Back In Front) we've seen two weekly Essentials, one Morgan and one Newspoll.  A third Essential will be out tomorrow but because of work commitments I've decided to release the roundup now and update it for Essential sometime tomorrow night.

The two Essentials both had headline rates of 52:48, but for the first one a weekly 2PP of 53.5:46.5 was released, suggesting that last week's sample was probably around 50:50.  The Newspoll this week is at 50:50.  Last week's fortnightly Morgan, however, came out with an off-the-scale result of 55:45 to Coalition by last-election preferences (56:44 respondent-allocated).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Slow Crawl On The Senate Reform Front

Advance Summary

1. This article discusses various aspects of the Senate reform debate, which currently appears to be progressing slowly and badly.

2. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's claim that Ricky Muir is as democratically elected as he is is false, because had enough voters wanted to ensure Senator Muir was not elected, it would have been unreasonably hard for them to do so.

3. Micro-party threats to run candidates against the Coalition and Greens in key seats are toothless.

4. Claims that the performance of the current crossbench in blocking Coalition policies vindicates the current system are wrong, because the crossbench elected under any alternative system would also have done so.

5. Senator Sam Dastyari continues to claim the proposed reforms are a recipe for Coalition control of the Senate but has presented no detailed evidence for this claim. 

6. Attempts by Senator Bob Day to claim that left and right parties preferencing each other is not a problem are disproven, among other things, by the preferences that flowed to him.

7. While many crossbenchers support the current system because it elected them, that does not mean they would have a high chance of re-election under it; indeed, crossbenchers who develop a stronger primary vote following should support reform.

8. This article suggests a minimum acceptable model for Senate reform (which is not the author's preferred option).  At minimum, even if group ticket preferencing is retained, below-the-line voting must be liberalised so that voters have a reasonable alternative to following party preferences.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Poll Roundup: Turnbull Shift Puts Coalition Back In Front

2PP Aggregate: 51.3 to Coalition (+4.9 in a week)
Coalition would easily win election "held now"

It's one of those weeks where we start things off with the graph (and especially notice the far right side of it):

So far we've had five voting intention polls since former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull neatly disposed of Tony Abbott and became Australia's 29th Prime Minister.  ReachTEL came out with a 50:50 2PP immediately after the change.  Galaxy last week and the Galaxy-run Newspoll this week came out with 51:49 to Coalition.  Morgan in its usual fashion when something happens, threw an outlier, 53.5:46.5 by last-election preferences (though given the primaries, that was generous to Labor), and Essential put out a one-week sample at 50-50.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Canning: The Anticlimax Live (Plus Post-Count)

CANNING (Lib 11.8%) - called, Hastie (Lib) retain.


On-the-day votes and most prepolls counted.  Current 2PP 55.3% (-6.5% swing) to Liberal. Unlikely to change greatly after remaining postals and other votes.


Thursday 1st Oct: There has been very little movement in the 2PP as remaining votes are added (I believe there are now only a few hundred left).  The major interest now is in the internal polling claims mentioned below.

We finally have more detail of these in a report from The West Australian, that says not only that the Liberal Party had Hastie on 57% the weekend before Tony Abbott was rolled, but also that Liberal tracking throughout never dipped below "about 53-47".  However, if the internal poll series really included both a 53 and a 57 then the most likely explanation is random noise, rather than voting intention actually changing that much.  Usually internal polling is less reliable than public polling, but public seatpolling has been so bad in recent years that it's hard to dismiss competing internal poll reports entirely.

Thursday: There hasn't been a lot to add here, but 755 prepolls split 58.4% to Liberal (a 7.5% swing). Although this is a point larger than the overall swing, it's not especially meaningful as the number of non-PPVC prepolls is much smaller than at the general election.

Tuesday:  Not much extra progress to report in the postcount.  However an article in The Guardian incorrectly reports that postal votes are showing only a 2.3% swing to Labor.  This figure is derived by calculating the swing on postals from the 2013 overall result for the electorate, and ignores the well-known trend that postals favour the conservatives.  The correct baseline for calculating the swing on postals is the result on postals last time, ie 65.1%.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the postals added so far will mostly include the early postals, and while these are more likely to have been cast in the Abbott era, they are also more likely to have been cast by slightly more conservative voters. All the same by whatever measure the impact of the leadership change on the by-election was small: my reading of the polls is that they were pointing to it being only a couple of points overall, and such an impact (if it happened) can easily be lost in the noise of shifting voting method patterns or strengths of postal campaigns in an actual election.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Turnbull Challenges Abbott

This post should have a very short shelf-life indeed, so I'll try to make it short!  Communications Minister and former party leader Malcolm Turnbull has today resigned and challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the party leadership, and by implication his position as PM.  Many reports are suggesting the Turnbull camp believes they easily have the numbers although I have seen one contrary report that they are less confident than a few hours ago.  There may be a fair amount of foxing going on.  Julie Bishop is believed to be running with Turnbull, and Scott Morrison to be supporting Abbott and doing his numbers (but not running for deputy).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wonk Central: The Track Record Of Last-Election Preferences

NOTE: Updates for elections from 2016 on appear at the bottom of this article


Advance Summary

1. This article uses historic data to examine how good preference flows from the previous election are at predicting preference flows at any given federal election.

2. Last-election preferences have been an industry standard following various failures by and problems with the respondent-preference method, especially its total failure at the 2004 election.

3. Using a model of minor-party breakdowns similar to that used by most pollsters, this article looks at expected versus actual preference flows at all federal elections since 1955.

4. The quality of data available on preference flows is better for elections from 1983 onwards.

5.  Since 1983, last-election preferences have predicted preference flows remarkably well at most elections.

6. However, last-election preferences substantially understated the flow to Labor at two elections in this time: 1990 and 2013.

7. The historical record of last-election federal preferences is so strong that claims that last-election preferences in polling are wrong should generally be treated with great caution (including now).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Poll Roundup: The Dog Ate My Recovery

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to ALP (+0.3 since last week)
ALP would easily win election "held now"

It's over a month now since Bronwyn Bishop resigned as Speaker, more or less ending an entitlements scandal that had provoked a polling blowout of about one and a half points against the Abbott Government.  It might have been expected (and indeed I rather did expect) that this was a blip and that once all the shouting had died down the government's polling would improve.  However this week's results show that it hasn't improved at all, and again we see bad, but not quite panic-station, results for the government continue to hang around. Ahead of the Canning by-election (which is covered on a separate rolling thread) this is not what the government wants to see.

A significant debacle for the government in the last fortnight was the Border Force press release which stated that Border Force intended to stop people more or less randomly for visa checks.  This was apparently never the actual intention but social media outcry resulted in the intended joint operation with Victoria Police having to be cancelled.  This epic stuffup can't have helped the government's latest attempts to repair its image.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Poll Roundup: Behind Longer Than Howard

2PP Aggregate: 53.1 to ALP (-0.3 in a week) 
Labor would comfortably win election held "right now"

Time for another federal polling roundup, with three polls out this week.  This week Morgan (which leans to Labor) moved from 54.5% 2PP in Labor's favour by last-election preferences to 53.5, Newspoll stayed at 54 and Essential curiously moved to 51.

This was the first time Essential has had a reading other than 52 or 53 since a cluster of 54s in January through March.  It's the first time it's made it down to 51 in one year and two weeks.  The reason is that last week's half of the sample was very poor for Labor, most likely as a result of random sample noise.  As a result of this, it's possible my aggregate is behind a few tenths of a point unkind to Labor at the moment; the picture should be clearer after next week's data.

After considering the primary votes and house effects I aggregated the Morgan at 52.7 to Labor, the Newspoll at 54.3 and Essential at 51.1.  With two polls saying things are getting better for the Coalition versus one influential one saying they are getting slightly worse, the net impact of all this is a 0.3 point recovery for the government, but one that I would not read anything into yet.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Strange Times In Queensland Polling

Galaxy Queensland: 52:48 to ALP based on composite preferences
Based on last election preferences 54:46 to ALP
Result based on this poll if election "held now": Easy Labor win (approx 54 ALP, 32 LNP, 2 KAP, 1 Ind)
However, most other polling so far has suggested little change since 2015 election

Update added for Aug-Sep Newspoll (53:47/55:45)


A new state government has won a remarkable victory, ousting the regime that had thrashed it three years earlier after just one term despite having been almost wiped off the political map.  Six months into its term, and despite a significant scandal that has endangered its already fragile hold on power, its primary vote has been polled at two and a half points above its election result, the Opposition is down a similar amount and the most supportive minor party's share of the third-party vote has improved.  Not the greatest honeymoon in polling history but still, all things considered, pretty good?

Well, supposedly not.  According to reporting (?) of a newly released Galaxy of Queensland state voting intention, the Palaszczuk Government has "stalled", "stagnated", "received no bounce from handing down last month's state budget".  Apparently it "hasn't been much of a honeymoon period [..] in stark contrast to the burgeoning support being enjoyed by governments in southern states".  The Premier's popularity has "failed to prompt any new love for Labor".  Her government "could scrape over the line" but "would rely heavily on votes flowing strongly from preferences".  The government apparently should be concerned that it's been "unable to convince more Queenslanders they're a competent administration" and unless it can prove it is doing something then "the patience voters have shown will run out".

What is going on here?  What's going on is what happens when you take the Courier-Mail's oft-noted love of curious poll-spinning and combine it with an understandable, but nonetheless unusual, preferencing practice.  This article looks at how the Palaszczuk government is really going in terms of known public polling.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Canning By-Election: Prospects and Polls

Seat: Canning (WA, Lib, 11.8%)
By-Election 19 Sep 2015
2PP Contest: Andrew Hastie (Lib) vs Matt Keogh (ALP)
Current outlook (15 Sep): Liberal retain expected with modest swing against.

Note: Turnbull-era updates appear at the top of the article; the rest is archived below the break.

As of 19 Sep, Coverage has switched to Canning: The Anticlimax Live.

Turnbull PM: What Does This Mean For Canning?

Most of this article was written while Tony Abbott was still Prime Minister, and the surprise removal of Abbott prior to the by-election has made quite a mess of the analysis.  Abbott's Prime Ministership was the major risk factor to an expected Coalition victory because the bad polling endemic to it was likely to cause the swing to be larger than normal for a by-election caused by the death of a government MP.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poll Roundup: No Instant Damage After Shocking Week

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (unchanged)
Labor would win election "held now" comfortably

Last week the Coalition had an extremely messy six-hour party room meeting on the issue of same-sex marriage.  The meeting led to open infighting between Coalition MPs and a general perception of a shambles.  The end result was a decision (by a roughly two-to-one vote of the joint partyroom) that the Coalition would not allow a "free vote" on a cross-party same-sex marriage bill introduced by Warren Entsch.  (Backbenchers can still exercise a conscience vote, but any frontbencher who does can expect to join them there.)

At a Prime Ministerial press conference, Tony Abbott stated afterwards that it was his "strong disposition" that a plebiscite be held after the next election.  Malcolm Turnbull has since said that the party room has not yet made a specific decision to adopt the plebiscite as policy, and suggested it be held before the next election.  Scott Morrison has instead called for a referendum.

The week ended with the Coalition, still reeling from the dumping of Bronwyn Bishop, facing a fresh scandal over the neutrality or otherwise of Trade Unions Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, who accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party event while serving in that role.  Combined with Heydon's attack on Bill Shorten as a witness, there is a perception about that Heydon is too politically biased, or at least too readily seen to be biased, to continue in his role.  The email trail has been dominating Question Time in the first days of this week.

EMRS: Surprise Slide For Liberals

EMRS: Liberal 40 Labor 29 Green 21 Ind 9
Interpretation (provisional): Liberal 42 Labor 33 Green 18 Other 7
Seat distribution based on poll: Hung parliament (Liberal 11-12 Labor 9-10 Green 4)
Aggregate of all recent state polling: Liberal majority (13-9-3) slightly more likely than not

A new EMRS poll of state voting intentions has been released (also see the tracker) showing a surprising six-point slide for the Hodgman Liberal government from the May sample.  The poll result is surprising mainly because, unlike last year's indifferent polling, the government does not seem to be in any particular trouble.  It is also against the run of play given a very strong result for the government in the large ReachTEL in June and also strengthening results in the small Morgan state samples.  Therefore, the result should be treated with a fair bit of caution for now.

The poll features a surge in voters stating they will vote "Independent" to an EMRS record nine points, and also a very high Green vote.  Overestimates of both these categories have long been a feature of this pollster's results, but I am wondering whether the pollster has become even more prone to overestimate Greens and Others votes, as the old landline-only Newspoll did in its final months.  That said, the Greens are presently on a national surge and this may be rubbing off in Tasmanian polling.

The poll does not show any lift in support for Labor at the government's expense, and suggests that soft supporters of the government may be parking their vote with third parties, something which could well be driven partly by federal as well as state factors.  However there is absolutely no reason to believe that federal factors are responsible for all or even most of the change.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Poll Roundup: More Trouble For Coalition

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (+0.6 in one week, +1.6 in four weeks, highest since start of March)
Labor would win election "held now" comfortably

After four and a half months in which voting intention hardly moved, we've finally got some real action. In the last week we saw expense claims by all sides of politics come under scrutiny following the scandal that brought down former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop.  Although Labor (and especially Tony Burke) looks far from spotless in this, the government seems to be taking all the heat.

Not too much else happened in the issue mix except that Australia's men's cricket team was dismissed for a ludicrous 60 runs and soon after that surrendered The Ashes.  As there is ample evidence that sporting results can affect electoral outcomes, it stands to reason that extremely bad sporting results that are harmful to national pride might slightly impair government polling.  Especially if they undermine this sort of thing:

(More likely, Australia actually started winning at cricket in Nov 2013 mainly because they were playing at home.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wonk Central: How Should Parties Count Member Ballots For Senate Tickets?


Advance Summary:

1. A recent Tasmanian ALP member/delegate ballot for Senate ticket preselections has raised the question of how member ballots for Senate tickets should be best conducted.

2. The use of standardised Hare-Clark (or other similar STV systems) for these ballots should be avoided, because such systems are designed to conduct elections in which all positions won have roughly equal value.

3. The use of standardised Hare-Clark can therefore mean that a minority-faction candidate gets either an easily winnable or an unwinnable (without a high below the line vote) position, depending on the way votes split up between other candidates.

4. Such a system therefore creates a big risk of tactical voting.

5. This article suggests an alternative, which is to set the quota off the number of positions on the ticket that are expected to be automatic wins, rather than off the number of candidates to be preselected from the cutup.

6. This article also discusses (scroll way down) the Tasmanian Greens' Senate preselection system.

This one's hugely technical, and is not aimed at a general audience.  Please don't say I didn't warn you.  There is just no other way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Poll Roundup: Bad Bishop Off The Board

2PP Aggregate: 52.8 to ALP (+0.2 since last week, highest for 14 weeks)
Labor would win election "held now" with small to modest majority

It's been a week for obvious chess analogies.  In the wake of the richly deserved end of a dreadful appointment, commenters have been scrambling to decide whether Bronwyn Bishop was "captured", "sacrificed" or "gambited".  However, I'm here to do more justice to this theme.  Chess players are well aware of the concept of a Bad Bishop - a piece that is unable to develop and interact with the opposition properly, stuck behind its own lines mingling with its own pieces all game.  Heck. I've had some that have spent the first 28 moves chatting to their king and queen in the party room, and now, every time this happens to me again, I'll be unable to look at the damn thing stuck there on c8 without thinking "Bronwyn".   Some bishops are even so bad that we just call them big pawns.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite Is A Terrible Idea

At its National Conference on the weekend, the Australian Labor Party appears to have resolved its internal differences over whether to have a conscience vote on same sex marriage.  The solution pleased nobody, but from a purely political standpoint it makes some sense.  The few reactionary MPs remaining in the ALP have a few years left to either get used to the party's decision or leave, and this should avert the disruption that might have been caused by a very small number of MPs crossing the floor had a binding vote been held now.

In my view that disruption was an overstated risk anyway (the number willing to be kicked out of the party for it would have been quite small) but Labor now has a position members should be able to unite behind and which promises that regressive opposition to a no-brainer reform will be phased out of the party.  It's craven that the party is putting up with the attitudes of Joe de Bruyn and co for four minutes let alone four years, but the unhappiness he demonstrated when the measure was passed said it all.  Time will soon be up for the ALP's dwindling anti-SSM brigade.

The Labor resolution also means that Labor can continue for a few years to tell the Coalition that it has a conscience vote and the Coalition should allow one too.  That aspect of the weekend's outcome has ramped up pressure on the Coalition to resolve the issue.  Unfortunately, it's been widely reported that there is pressure within the Coalition to "resolve" it by agreeing to hold a plebiscite within the next parliamentary term, and on this basis to avoid a vote in the Parliament.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Poll Roundup: Chopper Plus TURC Equals Zero

2PP Aggregate 52.4 to ALP (+0.5 in a week, -0.1 since two weeks ago)
Labor would very probably win election "held now" with small majority

This fortnight's polling has reflected a mixed news cycle for the major parties.  The first half was dominated by Bill Shorten's mildly embarrassing appearance at the Royal Commission into trade unions, and a leak of internal ALP discussions about carbon pricing.  The second half was dominated by an expenses scandal involving speaker Bronwyn Bishop, initially covering her unnecessary helicopter trip to a golf course for a party event, and also extending into aspects of her overseas travel and other expenses.

None of these things are anywhere near as large movers of voting intention as some people might expect, but that doesn't mean they have no impact at all.  While the various moves in the polls over the last week might just have been random fluctuations, they are fully consistent with the Coalition having made small gains with Labor in the spotlight but then lost them all as the Bishop scandal extended to messy recriminations between Bishop and Joe Hockey.  Hockey's misfortune was to be the first frontbencher to say what the Coalition generally including PM Abbott are now admitting: that the Speaker's behaviour has hurt them.  Bishop's response of dredging up Hockey's past gaffes was a remarkably dumb case of shooting the messenger.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why Was A Press Release About Peter Slipper Deleted From The Liberal Party Website?

Advance Summary

1. This post examines claims that a 2012 press release about former Speaker Peter Slipper was deleted from the Liberal Party website "overnight" on the night of 17 July.

2. This post finds that all press releases from July 2010 to December 2012, not just those mentioning Peter Slipper, were recently deleted.

3. Google cache evidence suggests that while the mass deletion of press releases clearly occurred in the last 11 days, it probably predates the Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal.


A topic of discussion today on Twitter has been a claim that a press release about Peter Slipper was deleted.  This forms a minor part of the ongoing Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal, which in recent days has significantly deprived the government of the friendly media cycle they enjoyed when news was dominated by Bill Shorten's TURC appearance and a leak of internal Labor carbon pricing discussions.

The topic appears to have first arisen in this tweet by a sparsely active but well-established (ie it didn't just spring up overnight, and appears genuine) Twitter account:

Click here for link to original tweet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

If Ordering Dinner Was Like Senate Voting

Another instalment in the Senate reform debate is overdue, following a Richard Denniss op ed published by the Canberra Times a week ago.  I've been extremely busy with work recently and fortunately Ben Raue at the Tally Room has dealt with most aspects of the Denniss article.  (Anyone who hasn't done so already should read Ben's article before reading this one).  There is one main point I want to deal with at some length here, and that is the article's analogy about buying dinner.  I want to repair this analogy and explain what real-life decisions about something as simple as obtaining a takeaway meal would really be like if ordering dinner via a friend was as silly as our current Senate voting system.

In the process, I hope to demonstrate that the way we (and only we) select Senators is so utterly bizarre that if we tried to do anything else at all by such a method we would find it completely ridiculous.  Click the "Senate reform" tab at the bottom for more of my writings on the subject.  (I am sometimes accused of using sledgehammers to crack nuts, and this article is probably a prime example of that, but while unsound claims continue to be given media coverage I will continue doing so.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

ReachTEL: Liberals Narrowly Holding In Bass And Lyons

ReachTEL: Bass Liberal 51% 2PP (-3 since election) Lyons Liberal 53.2% 2PP (+2) (2PP estimates mine)

Analysis: Poll consistent with other polls showing small net swing to Labor in Tasmania, but not clearly sufficient for seat gains

The Examiner has commissioned a ReachTEL of the marginal Tasmanian federal seats of Bass (LIB, 4%) and Lyons (LIB, 1.2%) (see report here).  At this time the full data are not available online but they are present in the paper edition, albeit in a slightly garbled form.  The format of the polling is also unusual and requires some further discussion.  The poll has been reported as showing that Andrew Nikolic (Bass) and Eric Hutchinson (Lyons) would have been "comfortably returned" in an election held on Thursday.  My analysis agrees with the "returned" but disagrees about the "comfortably".

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Poll Roundup: Abbott, Shorten Racing To The Bottom

2PP Aggregate: 52.5 to Labor (+0.2 in a week, highest for ten weeks)
Labor would almost certainly win election "held now" with small to modest majority

This week has seen the debut of the new Galaxy-run Newspoll, a hybrid robopoll and online poll with a sample size of over 1600.  There's also been another Fairfax-Ipsos, the usual Essential and far too many dodgy skew-polls, so there's more than enough for another poll roundup.

Not much changed in as week in the media issues mix, with the government sinking further into the mire of internal confusion on both same-sex marriage and, of all things, Q+A.  The week has seen an open clash between frontbenchers Abetz and Pyne over Abetz's controversial same-sex marriage comments (for my own, entirely critical, view of which see here).  

Same-sex marriage is not an issue that normally drives voting intention, but it may be one that discourages people from changing their vote when they otherwise would have done so (for "Republicans" there read "Liberals" here in Harry Enten's take on the US situation)  . It's also one that can cause damaging public schisms on both sides of the chamber.  The PM's own tactics on the issue are mysterious - it seems he will at least go through the motions of opposing it, but opinions vary wildly as to whether he is doing his utmost to prevent it from passing, or trying to secretly engineer its passage.  Some within the Coalition are totally fuming about the latter possibility, but as Paula Matthewson points out, if it is true, what can they do?  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Abetz, Mushrooms And Shaky Same-Sex Marriage Polling

Advance Summary

1. Recent comments by Senator Eric Abetz opposing marriage equality should be taken in the context of Abetz's historic opposition to repealing "anti-gay" sex laws, and his use of much the same thin-end-of-the-wedge argument style then as now.

2. The anti-equality group Australian Marriage Forum is receiving substantial publicity but media have not examined whether this group has a formal membership structure or substantial membership.

3. Claims by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty that support for same-sex marriage drops when respondents are asked to support changing the Marriage Act ignore the likelihood that some respondents would support achieving it through distinct legislation.

4. Many other findings in the Ambrose Centre's study are unreliable because of the extent to which respondents have been primed through the emphasis on one side of the story.

5. The Ambrose Centre study does, however, reveal that most voters who oppose same-sex marriage would still do so even if it did not cause significant social change and even if studies showed there was no impact on the wellbeing of children.  

6. Australian Marriage Forum's own report on polling is awash with unsound conclusions, and the amount of priming involved in their question designs means that little of use can be drawn from it.


This very long and in places rambling article covers some dodgy polling by opponents of same-sex marriage, but also some dubious recent comments by fellow Tasmanians on the issue.  There's also an irrelevant diversion about mushrooms.  Feel very free to just read whatever bits of it, if any, interest you.    As stated before I completely support allowing federal same-sex marriage and regard the arguments against it as lacking even the slightest shred of merit.  This then will not read like an unbiased article, but when it comes to polling I am careful to criticise bad (and praise good) polling practice by both sides of any debate, whatever I think of the views of those involved.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Poll Roundup: Shorten's Struggles Aren't Shifting Votes

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to Labor (unchanged since end of last week)
Labor would probably win election "held now" with small majority

It's been another fortnight of sound and fury, dominated by speculation over Bill Shorten's leadership (amid worsening personal polls, unflattering reflections from The Killing Season, and concerns about aspects of his union background), still more anti-terror laws and another overheated culture war about some goose let loose on QandA.  Yet in this week's voting intention polls, very little has changed.

A ReachTEL late last week came out with a 52:48 to Labor headline, followed by a 53:47 by last-election preferences (53.5:46.5 respondent-allocated) from Morgan and a 53:47 from Essential.  The latter broke the run of seven consecutive 52s, as Essential finally caught a touch of the Green surge being seen by all other pollsters.  There was no Newspoll as the brand is in transition to operation by Galaxy.  (Meanwhile former Newspoll staff have started Omnipoll, which doesn't look like it will be doing regular voting intention polling, but which will continue many of Newspoll's other operations in an online format.)

After adjustments for the primaries and Morgan's house effect, I aggregated the ReachTEL as 48.2 to Coalition, the Morgan as 48 and Essential as 47.3, and the net impact is diddly-squat: a 0.1 point improvement for the Coalition on two weeks ago:

I should note that while the different aggregators have been pretty close together in recent weeks, PhantomTrend now has it at just 51.5, from which the "model's best guess" is an Abbott-Katter coalition. Mark The Ballot has 52.2 and I'll add in BludgerTrack when it's updated (update: it's 52.0, with a projection of 77 seats for Labor).  Labor's lead might look pretty solid but when translated into seat terms, it's a sliver.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Singh Dumped To Fourth On Senate Ticket

Summary Of Where We Stand (As Of 30 August)

With more figures coming through from this ballot I thought I should put a summary of some of the claims that have been made and their status:

CLAIM 1: That a factional deal caused Lisa Singh to lose preselection for a winnable spot. 
STATUS: False.  (Whether a deal existed or could have caused Singh to lose is beside the point. Factions voting for their own preferred candidates, and Singh not having enough primary votes, explain the outcome without any such deal being taken into account).

CLAIM 2: That had only the rank and file voted, Singh would have been preselected third instead of fourth, meaning that Singh was effectively demoted by union delegate and state conference voters against the will of the rank and file.
STATUS: Apparently true.

CLAIM 3: The outcome was determined by the preferences of rank-and-file voters.
STATUS: Misleading, since it was only the presence of other votes in the ballot that caused rank-and-file preferences to be distributed before Lisa Singh could win the third place.  

Also, this article maintains that the choice of quota for the ballot was incorrect.

Today Labor in Tasmania announced the remainder of its federal preselections.  None of these came as any surprise, but the one attracting by far the most attention is the dumping of sitting Senator Lisa Singh to the stereotypically "unwinnable" fourth position on the party's ticket.

While there was grassroots party involvement in the preselection via a state vote of members, it did not shift a long-expected outcome: the other sitting Senators Anne Urquhart and Helen Polley retained the first two positions and the Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary John Short was placed in the third position occupied by Singh at the 2010 election.  While it was widely claimed Singh was the victim of a left-right factional deal in which in return for Short being supported for the third position, the Left agreed to encourage its members to support Polley, the real cause of Singh's demise seems to be the Left supporting Short ahead of Singh, and Singh basically just not having enough primary support to withstand a preference flow from Anne Urquhart to Short as a result of that.  (See the detailed comments by Adam Clarke below, although I am not currently as of 30 August convinced that the result would have been the same based only on the rank-and-file votes.  I have also made some comments about the voting system.)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Could A UK-Style Mass Pollster Fail Happen In Australia?

Advance Summary

1. Recently all major final polls and the vast majority of analysts failed to predict the UK election correctly.

2. Random sampling error, "shy Tory effect" and late swing probably did not make major contributions to this outcome.

3. More likely causes include herding (although this has not been conclusively shown to have happened), the difficulty of estimating turnout, and the abundance of essentially non-random "panel polling" methods.

4. Australian elections are easier to poll for because almost everyone votes and because there is very little tactical voting in the Lower House.

5. Despite this there is a greater risk of high average polling errors at the next federal election because of a rapid turnover of polling ownership and methods, which will make it more difficult for pollsters to detect issues with their methods.

6. Potential for Labor support to be soft even in very late polling also appears at this very early stage to be likely to be higher than normal.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Poll Roundup: Hockey Gaffe Breaks The Monotony

2PP Aggregate: 52.4 to Labor (+0.6 in a week)
Labor would probably win election "held now" with small majority

Finally we have some movement at the station.  After four consecutive weeks of 51.8% to Labor my polling aggregate has finally moved on, with a modest step in Labor's direction.  The move is not large enough to be completely certain it is real, and there is enough going on to be unsure what is causing it if so, but it's most likely Treasurer Hockey's remarks on housing affordability (and some faltering and ill-judged attempts by his colleagues to put that genie back in its bottle) have contributed to a small-scale revival of perception that the government is out of touch.

This week's polls

Four polls have come out so far this week.  Fairfax-Ipsos opened procedings with a 53:47 to ALP (by 2013-election preferences, 54:46 respondent-allocated), which was interesting because Ipsos has usually thus far leaned to the Coalition by about a point.  There was some scepticism about it based on a premature perception that Ipsos is very bouncy (see below).  However the Ipsos result was more or less totally backed in by a 2.5 point move to Labor in Morgan, to 54.5 - bearing in mind that Morgan skews to Labor.  2-0 for the proposition that Hockey had really put his foot in it, but this was contradicted by a 51:49 Newspoll, while Essential did as Essential usually does (ie very little) and stayed at 52:48.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Would Proposed Senate Reforms Increase The Risk Of A Blocked Senate?

Advance Summary:

1. A previous article on this site showed that proposed Senate reforms to eliminate preference-harvesting disadvantage only preference-harvesters.

2. There apparently remain concerns that the proposed new system would lead to an increased chance of a blocked Senate with the Coalition (or the Coalition plus clearly right-wing crossbenchers) holding half the seats when Labor came to power.

3. Preventing the election of micro-parties off very small shares of the vote does increase the chance for either "side" to from time to time win exactly half of the seats.

4. However, if such a situation does happen, it would be very unlikely to persist beyond a new Labor government's first term.

5. Furthermore, it is only likely to arise in the first place in a case in which Labor is thrashed at one election then wins narrowly at the next (a situation that cannot apply to Labor if it wins the next election narrowly, because of the crossbenchers elected in 2013).

6. Based on the actual votes cast at elections, Labor would actually have had an easier road to passing legislation during its 2007-10 term under the proposed new system than under the current system.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

ReachTEL: Liberals Consolidate, But Who Should Lead Labor?

ReachTEL (state) Liberal 48.5 Labor 29.9 Green 15.8 Other/Ind 5.8
Interpretation: Liberal 48.5 Labor 32.9 Green 13.8 Other/Ind 4.8
Result based on poll taken as read: Probable Liberal majority (about 13-9-3, with 12-9-4 or 13-8-4 also possible)
Result based on adjusted interpretation: Liberal Majority (13-10-2)

Not long since the last EMRS poll suggested the Hodgman Liberal government was emerging from a period of disappointing polling, The Mercury has commissioned a large-sample ReachTEL that has recorded an even stronger reading for the party.  Indeed, this ReachTEL is not very much different from the only other one taken since the last state election (see ReachTEL: Liberals With Solid Lead).  It provides some very useful electorate-by-electorate data, the first since September, and also some very revealing polling on who should be the state Labor leader.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Poll Roundup: Whole Lotta Nothing Going On

2PP Aggregate: 51.8 to Labor (unchanged for last two weeks)
Labor would probably win election held "right now", in minority or with small majority

Yep, it's a no-change fortnight!  For the first time since the Abbott government was elected, my aggregate has shown exactly the same reading three Tuesdays in a row.

This week's polls were a 52:48 Newspoll, a 52:48 Essential and a 52:48 Morgan (by last-election preferences; 53-47 respondent-allocated).  The Newspoll and Morgan had effectively identical primaries (41-37 in the Coalition's favour with 13 for the Greens) while the Essential gave Labor three more points and the Greens three fewer, making the 52% 2PP look a little stingy.  (The usual explanations doubtless apply.)  I am still adjusting Morgan by one point based on evidence of its skew throughout this term (I don't yet assume that its apparent loss of most of that skew in the past few months is permanent) and so I aggregated these polls as follows: 51.1 for Morgan, 52.1 for Newspoll and 52.3 for Essential.  None of them did much by themselves, and between them they did nothing.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

This week's results are consistent with the Budget driving a small gain to the Coalition a few weeks back, but they don't exactly prove the Budget was the cause either.

For those who follow betting markets, there's been a move to the Government in recent weeks and months, with the probabilities implied by punters moving from more or less 50-50 to about a 62% implied chance of the Coalition being re-elected.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Would Wood Waste Waste The Seat Of Franklin?

There's a law called Betteridge's Law that says any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word "no".  This article is certainly no exception.

Regrowth after logging and burning, showing burnt "wood waste" in the foreground.

It's a polling trope as old as the hills.  Some issue that virtually no-one was hitherto believed to know about or care about is suddenly the subject of startling polling revealing that Party X needs to support it or brace itself for double-digit vote losses.  It's a concept that thrives on the unhealthy symbiosis between activists/lobbyists and journalists (the journalist gets a free story complete with new polling while the activist/lobbyist gets their press release put out as news, usually with no outside scrutiny of the polling involved).  And it seldom if ever amounts to the proverbial hill of beans.

The latest in this unfortunate genre has been an article (Bill Shorten faces a Tasmania Wood Waste Wipeout - Google for article title if paywalled) declaring that polling shows Labor headed for a dire fate in Tasmania if it opposes the inclusion of wood waste in the Renewable Energy Target.  This is based on a ReachTEL poll conducted for the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EMRS: Liberals Regain Ground And Would Be Returned

EMRS: Liberal 46 Labor 29 Green 19 Ind 6
Interpretation (provisional): Liberal 47 Labor 32 Green 17 Other 4
Seat distribution based on poll: Liberal 13 Labor 9 Green 3
Aggregate of all recent state polling: Liberal 13 Labor 10 Green 2

A new EMRS poll of Tasmanian state voting intention was released earlier today.  The headline figures show the Liberals up four points since February, Labor down five, the Greens up four and the remainder down 3.  These changes are statistically significant and suggest strongly that the Liberals have recovered ground since last year's slump (see previous instalment)

They also provide further evidence that a series of Morgan samples (see Wonk Central: Morgan's Tasmanian State and Federal Sampling), that have shown the major parties roughly level, are very strongly "house-effected" in Labor's favour and are not reliable.

EMRS tends to favour the Greens at Labor's expense and as a result the 19% vote shown for the Greens is not reliable; even the 17% that I have adjusted it to as an interpretation score probably reflects a good sample compared to how the party is actually travelling.  The poll was taken from 19 to 22 May (Tuesday to Friday last week) and thus most of the sample was taken after the announcement of the resignation from parliament of Greens Leader Kim Booth.  It's possible there would be a goodwill bounce for the Greens on account of that result.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Happens In Kim Booth's Recount?

(NB added May 26: The recount will take place on June 9.)

Tasmanian Greens leader Kim Booth suddenly announced his resignation from parliament on Wednesday. This decision follows the very recent death of Booth's father, but with family time and party regeneration cited as motivating factors.  (Some have suggested he was jumping before he was pushed as leader, but if so he did well at acting happy about having decided to go.) As with Christine Milne there are now many effusive tributes to Booth's career flowing, as well as trolling from the odd party-pooper, and a few joyful if slightly unhinged celebrations of the party's (supposed) impending demise.

Booth's headkicking style has contributed many memorable moments to Tasmanian politics, most notably the "shredder" affair in which he brandished a reconstructed shredded document in Parliament shortly after its existence was denied, removing a Deputy Premier.  His bad-boy purist-rebel image was such that Greens' advertising at the last election showed Booth (who was often at risk of losing his seat) grinning with the slogan "There's only one thing worse than having Kim Booth in Parliament, and that's not having Kim Booth in Parliament".  And now, we'll find out just what that is like.  I suspect there will be many of my readers who greatly admire his contribution, and others who cannot stand him and will be pleased to see him go. For my own part, I've enjoyed the few times I've talked with Booth in person during his 13-year career in state politics.

Unlike with Milne, at the moment I don't have the time to write a long analysis of Booth's tenure as leader, and there's not that much to say anyway.  Booth is the first Tasmanian Greens leader not to actually take the party to a state election - they only contested one Upper House seat and local councils on his watch - and their popularity seems to have stayed at about the level of the 2014 state election, or maybe recovered very slightly.  (More on this from EMRS very soon).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Is Independent Australia Independent Of?

Quality control, consistency, accuracy and editorial skill.

At least, if my own encounters with its opinion-polling coverage are any guide.

According to its "About Us" page, Independent Australia is "a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the environment, Australian politics and Australian identity".

Further on:

"IA supports quality investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of voices.  It believes Australians are short-changed by the mass media - and so dedicates itself to seeking out the truth and informing the public.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future.  A country that is fair and free".

Which all sounds well and good, as troubled as the often pretentious use of the term "progressive" in the left has often been.  IA also claims to support independent candidates and oppose partisanship, though the waters here are slightly muddied by its endorsement of the curious so-called "Australian Independents" party.  But the real problem starts when we get to this:

"IA also features an exclusive weekly column by the Australian literary legend Bob Ellis".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Poll Roundup: 2015 Budget Polling

2PP Aggregate: 51.8 to Labor (-0.5 in a week, closest since last October)
Labor would probably win election held "right now", with small majority or in minority

Apologies for the boring heading.  I was going to call this piece "Poll Roundup: Budget Less Than Random Noise" but passing judgement on a week of polling with only four of the six polls released would have been risky, and thus it proved once Morgan came out.  With two polls implying a budget bounce to the Coalition and three implying no change, my aggregate moves to its best position for the government since the week of 20 October last year.

It's possible that there is really no bounce and that the two good polls are just down to sample noise, but the results are consistent with a slight Coalition gain from a budget that has been fairly well received by voters.  Still it is nothing so far as dramatic an impact as the usual storm of Budget-poll-fuelled commentary might suggest.

This isn't unusual at all; last year's shocker was the exception that proves the rule.  Budget polling is a vast source of excitable nonsense but most budgets aren't a big deal immediately to the average voter; see Mark Graph's first and second laws of budget analysis for more of this.

That's not to say that the noises surrounding the Budget are necessarily meaningless in the long term, and this week we did get some insight into possible election strategies concerning economic management.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greens Change Leaders And Replacing Milne As Senator

Christine Milne resigned last week as leader of the Australian Greens, and was replace by Richard Di Natale before anyone could blink.  Di Natale looks like the safe choice and the one most likely to push for mainstream respectability and continue the trend towards inner-city gains while also pushing for a broad policy focus.  It was all done so quickly - and as usual for the Greens, opaquely - that any public commentary on the best replacement would have been irrelevant.   In my view the most viable and perhaps the only other really viable - and more exciting but also more excitable and hence riskier - choice would have been Scott Ludlam. Others are too low-profile, at too much risk of losing their seats, or at least seen as too far along one end of the moderate/radical spectrum.

Results And Polling Under Milne's Leadership

Christine Milne took over leadership of the Australian Greens from Bob Brown in April 2012.  As shown in this graph of the Greens primary vote by Phantom Trend, the Green's polled vote shed around three points in the first year of Milne's leadership, but the plunge started reversing a few months before the 2013 federal election.  The Greens' result in that election was very disappointing in primary vote terms (down from 11.76% in the House of Representatives to 8.65%) but acceptable in seat terms with the party retaining its House of Representatives seat and gaining one Senate seat.  Since then the party has rebuilt vote share in polling and is currently in a similar position to where it was when Milne took over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Do Proposed Senate Reforms Advantage The Coalition?

(See also Would Senate Reforms Increase The Chance Of A Blocked Senate?)

Advance Summary

1. Concerns have recently been reported that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' proposed optional-preferencing Senate system may advantage parties other than Labor, especially the Coalition parties.

2. The reality is that Labor performs poorly under the current system and sometimes loses seats it deserves to win under it.

3. There is no historical, and no convincing theoretical, evidence that the Coalition loses more seats to micro-parties under the current system than Labor.

4. If anything there is some argument that the proposed changes improve the chances of Labor and the Greens acquiring at least a blocking majority in the Senate.

5. That argument, however, assumes that parties would attract the same vote shares under the new system, when the choice of that new system would actually discourage the scattering of much of the right-wing vote among a huge number of micro-parties.

6. All up there is no evidence that the proposed reforms disadvantage anyone, other than removing chances to be elected from micro-parties that don't deserve those chances anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Poll Roundup: The End Of Newspoll (As We Know It)

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to ALP (-0.6 since last week, closest for nearly half a year)
Labor would win election held "right now" with small to moderate majority

There is major news in Australian opinion polling this week with the announcement that the joint venture company that owns Newspoll is to be wound up.  The joint venture's shareholders, News Corp and Millward Brown, are pulling the plug because the business is considered "unsustainable".

Newspoll will continue as a brand, but the surveys released under that brand will soon start being conducted by Galaxy.  This is a kind of full circle, since Galaxy's Managing Director David Briggs was General Manager of Newspoll from its inception in October 1985 until April 2004.

What we know so far is that Newspoll will continue to be released about as frequently as now, but how much the new version (which it is tempting to nickname either Galapoll or Newsaxy) will differ in survey design - if at all - is as yet unclear.  I very much hope it will continue asking the same regular questions with the same wording, for the purposes of historical comparison.  However, William Bowe in today's Crikey email has reported that the "telephone component" of the new offering will be conducted by robopolling, suggesting also that there will be a non-telephone component. [Edit: confirmed, online as per current Galaxy federal polling - see comments.] It looks like we are set for not just new management of the Newspoll brand but also fundamentally new methods, such that it should be treated as a new poll.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Legislative Council 2015: Windermere, Mersey and Derwent Live And Post-Count

Derwent: CALLED (6:45 pm): Craig Farrell (ALP) re-elected
Mersey: CALLED (6:47 pm): Mike Gaffney (IND) re-elected
Windermere: CALLED (9 pm): Ivan Dean (IND) re-elected on preferences


Tuesday night: There was quite a lot of silly spinning on election night from various political staffers and so on on Twitter, but not much has made it into wider circulation.  One example that has is this Greens' on-the-night press release, which really has me scratching my head as I try to find a single claim in it that's true.

The first problem with it is the sheer number of errors in the claimed swings, which are actually meant to be from the 2014 state election, although in one place it says 2010.  The press release claims gains in 15 booths and swings against in 1 (I make it actually 11 gains and 5 losses).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poll Roundup: Silly Lefties Oppose Senate Reform

2PP Aggregate: 52.9 to ALP (+0.2 since last week, +0.5 in three weeks)
Labor would comfortably win an election "held now"

With the release of a new ReachTEL plus regular offerings from Morgan and Essential, and also a rather striking Morgan leadership phone poll, there's enough new content for another roundup of federal polling.

The Morgan phone poll didn't include a released 2PP figure (they sometimes include them and sometimes don't) so there are three new polls to add.  The ReachTEL taken on Thursday had a rounded 2PP of 54:46 and Essential's was 53:47.  However in both cases the released primaries pointed to the rounding having been in Labor's favour, and I aggregated them at 53.6% and 52.8% respectively.  

Last week's Morgan was 54:46 by last-election preferences; after adjusting for the primaries and the lean to Labor in Morgan's multi-mode series that one went in at 52.3.   The Morgan was unusual in that respondent-allocated preferences only gave an outcome of 53:47 to Coalition.  This was the first time in this whole term that respondent preferences have been a point worse for Labor than the published 2PP; they have been half a point worse four times with the last of those just over a year ago.

In all my aggregate shows a slight, but not yet statistically meaningful, drift back to Labor over the past three weeks.  This is best shown this week on the spiky (non-smoothed) graph of aggregate readings, noting that the ReachTEL has been back-inserted into last week's reading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wonk Central: Morgan's Tasmanian State And Federal Sampling

Advance Summary:

1. Roy Morgan Research has issued five recent Tasmanian SMS state polls with small but usable sample sizes in which the Labor Opposition has small primary-vote leads over the Hodgman Liberal Government.

2. Both state and federal evidence suggests these samples have house effects in favour of Labor and the Greens and against the Liberal Party and that Labor's "lead" is therefore probably not real.

3. While pro-ALP house effects are seen in Morgan's federal polling (which partly uses a face-to-face component known to skew to Labor), they are not clearly apparent in Morgan's state SMS samples in other states.

4. Morgan's release of a two-party preferred estimate for Tasmania is misleading, since most Green preferences are never distributed in the state, and even if they were they would not flow as strongly as Morgan's model suggests.

5. If Morgan's recent state samples were actually repeated at an election, the result would be not an easy Labor win as Morgan says, but a hung parliament in which the Greens would determine who governed.

6. Given the dissenting stance of current Greens leader Kim Booth during the previous Labor/Green coalition government, it is not clear who would govern in the event of another hung parliament.

7. An aggregate of all recent Tasmanian state polling does not currently point to a hung parliament if an election was held "right now", but is extremely close to doing so.

(Warning: This piece is very "numbery" and is rated Wonk Factor 4/5.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Godless Wealthy Greens? Too Rich By Half

Advance Summary

1. A recent article claims that Greens voters are likely to be rich and to be atheists, agnostics or others who do not believe in God.

2. While the connection between Greens voting and irreligion might be sound, the connection between Greens voting and very high wealth is not.

3. Booth patterns in electorates with high Green votes tend to show that very rich booths within these electorates vote Liberal rather than Green.

4. The use of family income data for inner-city suburbs overestimates the proportion of very wealthy voters within them.

5. As income is also highly correlated with Liberal voting, it is much more likely that some high-income suburbs are attractive both to very rich voters and Greens voters, but for different reasons and without much overlap.

6. There is a tendency for higher-income voters to be more likely to vote Green overall but that tendency probably weakens among the very rich and is probably strongest among those with moderately high incomes.

7. Census data by electorate is an unreliable source of information about the reasons for minor party voting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New South Wales: Final Lower House Results And Poll Accuracy

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly election is fully counted.  The Coalition government led by Mike Baird has retained office with 54 seats to 34 for the ALP led by Luke Foley, 3 for the Greens and 2 Independents.

Many basic details of the results were covered in my day-after wrap Decisive Win For Coalition. Apart from Lismore falling back over the line on declaration votes and because the preference flow to the Greens was weaker than that to Labor, no seats have changed hands in the postcount, and in the end the swing did not increase significantly in the postcount.

Vote Share, 2PP And Preference Change

The primary votes were 45.63% Coalition, 34.08% Labor, 10.29% Green and 10.00% Others (including 3.24% Christian Democrats and 2.02% No Land Tax with most of the rest for independents).  The 2PP was 54.32% to the Coalition, a 9.9% swing.

Antony Green has posted a lot of goodies about the result including a very comprehensive new pendulum format that deals well with the three-cornered contests.