Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Poll Roundup: Shorten's Latest Shocker - Or Was It?

2PP Aggregate: 53.8 to Coalition (updated to 53.4 on 1 February)
Coalition would win election "held now", probably with increased majority.
(Newspoll update added at bottom 1 February)

Pollsters are gradually emerging from their summer hibernation and over the next few weeks we will get a clearer picture of how the Turnbull Coalition government is placed as it kicks off the election year.  I am not sure exactly when Newspoll will emerge but enough data have come out in the last few weeks to make some quick comments about the overall state of play.  The 2PP estimate above will be updated and any further comments added tomorrow night following Essential, but it never alters the picture all that much.

So far this year we've had two Morgans, one Essential and one ReachTEL.  Morgan and Essential were the most strangely behaving polls late last year, with Morgan showing a massive swing to the Coalition immediately following the replacement of Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull, but Essential showing a much more modest change that other posters soon stopped replicating.  Anyway the first Morgan was 55.5% two-party preferred to the Coalition by last-election preferences while the second was 54% (the closest since just after Turnbull was installed - and this off primaries that would normally have been good for only 53%).  Last week's Essential reading was just 51% to Coalition.  The Morgan had a 15% primary for the Greens, which I'm certainly not taking seriously.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lapoinya Scrapes The Barrel Of Tasmania's Forests Conflict

Tasmania has seen some big environmental contests down the years.  Lake Pedder, the Franklin dam, Farmhouse Creek, Wesley Vale, the Bell Bay pulp mirage, Ralphs Bay.  The latest flashpoint, Lapoinya, isn't one of them.  To many veterans on either side it must be astonishing that we now have a barney over the logging of forty-nine hectares of regrowth - that anyone would bother protesting it, let alone getting arrested over it, or on the other hand that anyone would bother with the logging or arresting.  To put it into perspective, bushfires in Tasmania have burnt almost 900 Lapoinya-coupes worth of native vegetation in the past fortnight alone.

The Lapoinya argument seems like nothing more than a vintage example of Sayre's Law (the contest is so bitter precisely because the stakes are so small).  Behind what has become a comically petty contest in the context of the battles of the past, however, are some players with a bigger game to play.  But before I get onto specifics of Lapoinya (then all that), I'd like to look at how we got here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Scientists Do: More On That Penalty Rates Poll

In Monday's Crikey subscriber email, Ben Oquist of The Australia Institute (paywalled) took issue with some comments I made about TAI's recent polling in a piece entitled Polling And Penalty Rates.  While I could have just added my reply as an update to the original article, some of Oquist's comments are too cheeky by half - in a way that typifies the general rottenness of commissioned-poll-spruiking in Australia - and I think that dealing with these issues deserves a fresh article.  Peter Brent has also replied and my reply is quite similar.

Oquist's comments concern objections I raised about the use of forced-answer methods in an issue poll conducted by robopolling rather than allowing a don't-know option.   That said, of the two statements he says that I "confidently state", one (“a ‘don’t know’ option would certainly have changed the numbers considerably’’.) was in fact stated by Brent!

It is true that my initial response (on Twitter) that most voters who went for the "stay the same" option would actually have no opinion was overconfident and probably incorrect, but I'd already said that in my article which Oquist links to, so here Oquist is flogging a horse that has already run away, which must be convenient for him. Oh, except that anyone with enough attention span to read my article that he links to will see that this is so!  The problem remains that some substantial number of respondents would have had no actual view, and that these were forced to give an answer (or hang up) and then claimed (by TAI) as supporters of the existing system.  I add that when questions like this have an available "meh!" option ("stay the same"), it is likely some voters would take it when they really had no clue, even with an undecided option included.