Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SA's Voter Choice Bill Could Be Better

Earlier this year, the Australian federal parliament successfully passed Senate voting reform, which abolished the Group Voting Tickets that had trashed the 2013 election, and returned control over preferences to the voters.  I've had plenty to say already about how successful that was (performance review part 1, part 2, JSCEM sub (PDF) etc).  However, while Group Ticket Voting has been put in the bin at federal level, hopefully to remain there for good, it remains in place in the upper houses of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. (For completeness, NSW fixed its system after the 1999 debacle, Tasmania has a single-member-per-seat Upper House and Queensland has no Upper House at all).

I'm not going to expend a huge amount of energy on trying to get state upper house systems reformed in states other than my own.  But with South Australia the first state where a move away from GVTs is the subject of legislation since the 2016 Senate outcome, I think it's interesting to have a look at what is being proposed.  In attempting to get rid of Group Ticket Voting, the SA Labor government has come up with a near-polar opposite.  The proposed alternative, while still much better than keeping GVTs (as is just about anything really) is so inferior to the Senate and NSW systems that I wondered for a moment if it was built to be voted down.  It appears this isn't the case, so hopefully parties in the SA Upper House (where the Government holds just eight out of 22 seats) will be able to amend the legislation to improve it.  An interview with the Attorney-General in July did suggest he was open to different models provided that preference harvesting got the chop, which is commendable.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Poll Roundup: Are Australian Voters Grumps?

2PP Aggregate: 52.1 to Labor (-0.3) - updated after Ipsos
Labor would win election "held now"

Another four weeks on since my last update on national polling and not much has changed.  We still have only two regularly active pollsters and their results continue to show a very gradual shift away from the returned Turnbull Government since the July election.  I'm expecting some improvement on the former front shortly, and may update this article should that occur.  As for the smoothed 2PP tracking, it looks like this:

Since last time there's been little variation in the released polls, all from pollsters that don't do a lot of variation anyway: two 53-47s to Labor from Newspoll, two 53s and two 52s from Essential.  I consider these two polls between them to have had a bit of form in skewing to Labor during the Turnbull phase of the previous parliament and so the current aggregate comes out at 52.4 to ALP. Before house effect adjustments, I've aggregated the recent polls at 52.7 and 53.0 from Newspoll and 52.5, 53, 53.4 and 52.6 from Essential.  However, the 53.4 currently isn't in the mix, because of the way I use only alternate Essentials at any one time.  Those who also follow BludgerTrack, which should be everyone reading this, may have noticed my aggregate is about 0.4 of a point more Coalition-friendly at the moment.  A fair slab of this is because I assume that all the pollsters know what they are doing with their 2PP calculations, though a lot of the time I have my doubts.

Since Essential started using the 2016 preference distributions for its 2PP figures, I have its average published 2PP as 52.2 for Labor, but the average 2PP derived from the published figures without any knowledge of decimals or state breakdowns would be 52.72.  So the Coalition has done better on the published 2PPs than would be expected from its primary votes, by about half a point.  In contrast, Newspoll has had a published average of 51.72 for Labor but its derived average would be effectively identical to the published figures at 51.84.  The differences in Essential's case could be caused by rounding, but rounding differences should be randomly distributed.  If this continues for another, say, ten polls it will be strong evidence that something unusual is going on - not necessarily an error, as state breakdown factors could be at play.

We're still not seeing any panic-stations 2PP polling, and the rate of change is slower than the last time the Coalition lost support in a more or less steady fashion over a few months (in late 2014).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Tasmanian State Poll: Rolling Comments

ReachTEL Liberal 45.6 Labor 30.9 Green 15.1 Other 8.4 (Undecided removed)
On raw numbers, it is a tossup whether Liberals would just retain majority (c. 13-10-2) or just lose it (c. 12-10-3)
Adjusted for house effects, Liberals would be likely to retain majority (13-10-2)

Introduction (15 Nov)

A new Tasmanian ReachTEL poll of state voting intention, with a large sample size, is about to be released by The Mercury.  As noted in the teaser, the poll points to the probable loss of two or three seats if the government were to face the music today.  A loss of two seats would leave the government with a majority of one while a loss of three would create a hung parliament.  This will be familiar territory for those who have followed my state polling coverage in the term, as my aggregated polling model has pointed to either 12 or 13 Liberal seats for a long time now.

Polling in Tasmania was inaccurate at the federal election, and has shown large pro-Liberal house effects at both the last two federal elections (but not at the 2014 state election) so there will always be some room for doubt about it.  Another important factor is the potential for a tactical bandwagon effect as seen in the 2006 election - if one party has a realistic chance of majority government and the other does not, voters may gravitate to that party.  While polling says the government's majority would be touch and go if an election were "held now", that assessment has very little predictive value because of this kind of strategic voting.

I have seen some of the results for the purposes of expert comment, but a recent business model change by The Mercury means I will be going about posting analysis of this poll in a slightly different manner.  As I understand it, many of the results will be released behind a paywall in the first instance and then published in the print edition the next day.  I won't be posting analysis of the results until they have appeared in the print edition, at least in basic form, or been freely reported.

As results are revealed over the next several days, in-depth coverage will be posted below.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nats Under The Gun In The Orange Postcount

ORANGE, NSW (Nat 21.7 vs ALP)
GAINED by Donato (Shooters Fishers and Farmers) by 50 votes after recount


Key questions:

1. Will Labor overtake Shooters Fishers and Farmers for second place?  (If yes, Nationals win)
Assessment: No

2. If no to 1, will the Shooters Fishers and Farmers catch the Nationals on preferences?
Assessment: Very close, currently Shooters appear to be ahead

Three state by-elections were held in New South Wales today.  Labor very easily retained Canterbury against token opposition, and held Wollongong now that their regular Independent opposition there no longer has the Noreen Hay factor to capitalise upon.  But the third by-election, the one that was always likely to be the most interesting, has lived up to its billing, and then some.

In the by-election for Orange, held by the National Party (and its precursor the Country Party) since 1947, the Nationals have suffered a primary vote swing that is currently running at 35.4%.  Their candidate Scott Barrett leads on primaries on 30.27% with 73.6% of enrolment counted, but is closely followed by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers' Philip Donato on 24.73%, with Labor's Bernard Fitzsimon on 18.85%.  The rest of the field includes one Green, one Christian Democrat and three independents.

Even if the Nationals retain the seat, the result is still dismal.  This is best seen in the stunning booth swings.  The Nationals were down well over 20 points in all but two booths.  This is partly down to the greater number of candidates running (the SF+F and three indies have replaced only No Land Tax at the last election).  However in three booths they are down by 60 (!) points or more and in two more by over 50.   If these were tiny rural booths with small samples this might be less surprising but one has over 1200 voters!  SF+F are the main beneficiaries of the swing.

At some booths over 80% of voters who voted National last time didn't do so at the by-election.  These are staggering numbers, even by by-election standards, and will come as a very rude wake-up call to the party after a strong performance at the federal election.  The swing is thought to be driven primarily by proposed forced council amalgamations, with the now-retracted ban on greyhound racing also prominently in the mix.  Some are even seeing a Donald Trump factor at work, which seems a pretty long bow to draw, though there is little doubt the US result emboldened the Nats' opposition in the final days.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump Wins: Another Major Poll And Modelling Failure

Well here we are again.  As with the UK election, as with Brexit, as with many other voluntary voting elections we have an unexpected result with the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the USA.  Pollsters are in disrepute because most had Clinton with a modest popular-vote lead, but overconfident modellers deserve their share of the blame for the level of public surprise at the result.

A few days ago, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight was the target of a terrible Huffington Post article and an argument broke out about whether it was more accurate to say Donald Trump had about a one in three chance of becoming President, or virtually no chance at all.  HuffPo was to double down with this rather pretentious piece by a stats prof accusing Silver of overstimating Trump's chances - a piece that has proved to have an exceedingly short shelf life indeed.  Silver's model might not look crash hot in the wake of what has happened, but it still looks a great deal better than those that were saying Trump had only a 1% chance of winning.

Friday, November 4, 2016

WA: How Bad Is Barnett's Latest Polling?

I last covered Western Australian state polling in March, in an article called A New Species Of Strangeness In The West.  At that time, despite increasingly bad Newspolls for the Barnett Liberal government, there was a bizarre and very short-lived call to replace Opposition Leader Mark McGowan with former federal MP Stephen Smith.  Since then it is Barnett who has gone through the normal process of leadership speculation and challenge that strikes leaders who are actually polling badly.

It came to a head in mid-September when then Transport Minister Dean Nalder quit Cabinet and launched a leadership challenge, in which his proposal for a spill managed to get 15 votes out of 46 although there was almost no public support for him as leader (5.5% in ReachTEL) and a widespread perception that his challenge was hopeless from the start.  This would normally be the beginning of the end for an incumbent Premier, but the difference here is that if someone is going to throw Barnett under the bus, they will need to get a wriggle on.  It is just over four months til the election.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bob Day Chaos Thrills The Crowd

It's so crazy it's beyond even poetic.  Firstly now ex-Senator Bob Day takes the government to court using money that may not even exist to argue that the new Senate system has prevented his re-election.  Then he proves his own case multiply wrong by winning.  Then it turns out he might not be eligible to keep his seat and he says he'll resign, then he flags that he'll hang around a bit.  Then he resigns, and then it turns out that he might never have won in the first place - for a different reason to the one he first flagged resigning over.  And it has been cited as a factor in the blowup between George Brandis and the former Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson (though it's now emerging that that was erroneous and advice involving a different Senator, Rod Culleton, was the issue there.)

What happens now?  Firstly, while Day's seat remains vacant until we find out whether it is a recount or a casual vacancy appointment that will fill it, the Coalition benefits.  The Senate is reduced from 76 seats to 75, meaning that a majority is now 38 not 39, which is effectively the same as having Bob Day automatically voting with them on everything, with the added bonus of him not even being there to do it.  They're probably hoping the court has some really long adjournments.

(Update: The paragraph above was written before Culleton threw a spanner in the works by flagging his intention to abstain on contentious legislation while his own eligibility is sorted.  If Culleton abstains then the combined absence of Day and Culleton is very harmful to the Coalition,  meaning they need 8/9 non-Green crossbench votes instead of 9/11.)