Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Poll Roundup: Bad Start For The Second Turnbull Government

It's early days, but here we go again ...
2PP Aggregate: 51.5 to Labor (+0.6)
Labor has led since aggregate resumed

Welcome back to Poll Roundup, a series which looks at the aggregated state of the federal polls, leadership ratings and polling snippets of interest.  Nearly three months after a narrow victory in the 2016 federal election, the Turnbull government's progress has now been measured in three Newspolls and eleven weekly Essential Research readings.  It's not a great start for the returned regime.  It hasn't been ahead in even one of those, and is now clearly behind.  Indeed, when the primaries from the early polls are converted using 2016 preferences, a case can be made that Labor has been leading in the lot.

If we look at the two-party-preferred votes for the newly returned government, the Newspoll sequence of 50-50-48 is exactly the same as what the Gillard government received in 2010, in its first three polls after an even narrower escape, on its way to three years of generally wretched polling and, eventually, a heavy defeat.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Field Guide To Opinion Pollsters: 45th Parliament Edition

This is an outdated guide version which has been superceded by the 46th Parliament Edition.

Just before the 2013 election I posted a Field Guide to Opinion Pollsters, which has become one of the more enduringly accessed pieces on this site.  However, over time parts of its content have become dated or specific to that election, and with more and more pollsters emerging as others disappear, the thing has got too long.  I've decided therefore from now that I will post a new edition shortly into the life of each parliament, editing it through that parliament as the need arises.  Pollsters not expected to be active in the life of the current parliament will be removed, but the old edition text will remain on the previous page.

There are a lot of polls about in Australia these days.  But how do they all work, which ones have runs on the board and which ones can you trust the most? This article describes what is known about each pollster and its strengths and weaknesses and includes coverage of general polling issues.

The gold standard for success for an opinion pollster is seen to be that its polls at election time get the result as close to right as possible.  However, some pollsters are little-tested against actual elections, and getting a specific election right is a combination of skill and luck.  In elections where there is a swing on the last day or two of the campaign, a pollster that is actually not polling correctly may have its errors cancelled out by the swing, and hence record a lucky hit.  There is more to being a good pollster than just getting it right at election time - a good pollster should also provide useful data between elections and do so using well-designed questions that are easy to interpret.  And a pollster should also present their data in a way that makes sense and isn't misleading or confusing.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal 2PP Aggregate Methods (45th Parliament)

This is the methods post for the 45th Parliament edition of the aggregate (sometimes nicknamed "Aggedor") that I post in the sidebar of this site, and which will form the basis for Poll Roundup posts and, later, my attempts to forecast the next election.

The current version is essentially the same as the version running at the end of the 44th parliament, with some minor changes to the weightings and the interpretation of Newspoll.  One substantial methods change was made half-way through the 44th parliament, which was to switch from just using the 2PP figure supplied by pollsters using previous-election preferences, to using a hybrid of the supplied figure and a figure calculated from their primaries.

A simpler version ran before the 2013 election and fluked getting the 2PP exactly right as a result of a preference shift cancelling out a possible late swing to the Coalition.  The 2013-6 version had a final error of 0.4 points, almost half of which resulted from slight shifts in preference flow patterns.

The aggregate is mostly a weighted average of two-party preferred polling derived from all recent polls of sufficient standard.  The 2PP figure assigned to each poll is multiplied by various weightings based on the poll's recency, accuracy and other issues, and the sum of the multiplied poll scores is divided by the sum of the weightings.

The aggregate is designed to be transparently checkable in theory and to use basic mathematics only.  However, it is not entirely codified in advance.  Decisions will be made on issues of pollster weighting and house effects, and possibly other matters, and will be updated to this page at the bottom when made.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Federal Election 2016: Best And Worst Pollsters

It's been a long time coming but the recent finalisation of the 2016 House of Reps election results means it's time to present my in-depth review of how the various pollsters did.  At the 2013 election there was a widespread belief that the polls might be totally wrong, but it turned out they were accurate.  Since that election there has been a massive turnover in Australian polling methods and companies (such that only two pollsters went to this election doing the same thing as last time) and there were more reasons for concern, but the miracle has continued.  Australian national opinion polls have again proved highly accurate.  However, the picture in individual seat polling was not such a pretty story.

As usual I will present my awards in three categories.  This article is quite numbery of course, and is rated 3/5 on the Wonk Factor scale.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Proposed Anti-Discrimination Changes And "Don't Mess With Marriage"

The Tasmanian Government has introduced the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016.  This differs little from a draft version that was circulated for public comment, but a notable change is that the proposed addition of a reasonableness clause has been dropped.

This is the second consecutive government to try to amend the fabric of free speech in the state.  The previous Labor/Green government introduced particularly extreme changes which were fortunately thrown out by the Legislative Council.  The latest proposals are nowhere near as concerning but they still raise some serious issues about the fair and clear application of the law to a range of differing beliefs.

There are two main backgrounds to the proposed changes.  The first is the complaint by Martine Delaney against the Catholic Church over the circulation of a booklet entitled Don't Mess With Marriage, a modestly worded but in places highly insulting defence of supposed church creed against same-sex marriage.  The complaint attracted high-profile attention and at times was frothed about in the opinion sections of the Australian on a more or less daily basis.  In fact, all that happened was the complaint was sent to conciliation as quite clearly required by the law, and we never found out whether the booklet actually breached the law because the complaint was dropped after the conciliation stage.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 House Of Reps Figures Finalised

I'm not sure exactly when this happened, but sometime in the last two weeks while I have been away overseas, the AEC has released the final detailed set of federal election results.  Although all House of Representatives seat results were already known, the release of final information on two-party preference flows and preference distributions is very useful for many things, including assessing the performance of polls.  Final results are here.  This article is a general roundup of various details, and soon I will be using the figures to conduct an in-depth review of polling accuracy at the election, and after that to start a new polling aggregate model.  There is quite a backlog of other articles that I want to write, so I hope I can get through as many of these as possible in the next three weeks before another round of fieldwork.

The final two-party preferred result is 50.36% to the Coalition to 49.64% to the ALP.  This represented a clear success for the last-election method of preference prediction, which would have predicted a 2PP of 50.53% for the Coalition based on the primaries actually cast.  The respondent-preferences method (on average across polls using it) expected a shift in preferencing large enough to shift the 2PP result by at least 0.6 points (ie Labor would have won the 2PP).  This continues the superior track record of last-election preferences, and I will continue to treat respondent preferences with caution. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

EMRS: Liberals Rebound, But Still Shaky

EMRS August 2016: Liberal 41 Labor 31 Green 15 "Independent" 11 Others 2
Intepretation: Liberal 42.5 Labor 33.5 Green 12 Others 12
Seat projection on this poll: Liberals would be slightly favoured to just retain majority (approx 13-10-2, with 12-10-3 next most likely)
No seats are projected to fourth parties/independents as no prominent fourth parties/independents are yet known to be running

Aggregate of all recent polling 12-10-3 (no majority)

Another EMRS poll of state voting intentions is out.  Also see the useful trend tracker.  After dipping to its lowest level for many years in the July poll, the Hodgman Liberal government has rebounded to a position similar to that in the May poll.  This is consistent with the July poll result having been contaminated by the Liberals' woeful performance in Tasmania at the federal election, and not too much should be read into the four-point shift in this poll for that reason.