Friday, August 31, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Best State Premiers Of The Last 40 Years

This evening I've cluttered up the sidebar with a new round of Not-A-Poll voting for this site's choice of Best State Premier in every state, and eventually, from the whole country!

Quite early in this site's history I ran one of these for Tasmania, and following the fun had with the recent Best PM, Worst PM and Worst Opposition Leader Not-A-Polls I thought it might be worth running something similar for all states.

But before that, time to declare the result of the previous Not-A-Poll exercise:

Monday, August 27, 2018

Rolling Poll Roundup: Early Morrison Polls

2PP Aggregate: 56.1 to Labor (+3.3 since last week) by last-election preferences
55.5 with One Nation adjusted preferences
Labor would win an election "held now" in a landslide with a seat count around the high nineties.

This post will follow polls released with Scott Morrison as PM for at least two weeks.  I would have called this post "Early Morrison Era Polls" but I'm not sure he'll be there long enough (this time anyway) to qualify as an "era". My commentary during the spill can be found in the amazingly titled Spill! thread, and my post-spill comments can be found in Australia - So What The Bloody Hell Was That?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Australia - So What The Bloody Hell Was That?

For the fourth term in a row, the Australian Prime Minister following the previous election has failed to survive the term without being removed by their own party.  This is quite a streak given that in the previous 41 terms only two PMs have been deposed in the same way.   However this week's removal of Malcolm Turnbull has had a novel outcome, with the PM replaced not by his initial challenger Peter Dutton, but by a supporter, Scott Morrison.

Among the many takes that I think needs more careful analysis is the claim that Dutton failed to become Prime Minister just because that side of his coup attempt was tactically botched.  For sure, the Dutton camp frequently seemed to have a bad grasp of both numbers and tactics, whinged when faced with a reasonable request to prove support for another meeting so soon after the first, and were not helped by their man's recycled 17-year-old ALP thought-bubble of removing the GST from electricity.  Dutton's erratic demeanour didn't help either.  But I think there has been too much attention on how badly the Dutton plotters played their hand and too little on it being a weak hand to begin with.  It was a weak hand on two fronts: parliamentary stability and potential electoral impact.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


(This article will serve as rolling coverage of spill-related polling and other items.)

Tuesday morning

It's on! Turnbull vs Dutton.  Unfortunately because they are already in the party room, we don't get the wonderful drama of retinues of supporters walking the corridors behind their leader and so on.

Turnbull has defeated Dutton 48-35 but generally a margin that small is not sufficient to ward off a future challenge, which in this case could well happen soon.

Julie Bishop has been retained unopposed as Deputy Leader.

It is worth bearing in mind that with the exception of Malcolm Fraser (who was unsuccessfully challenged by Andrew Peacock) no Prime Minister who has faced a spill has remained in the job until the next election.  (Fraser lost).  Other PMs who have been challenged have all failed to make it to the next election: Gorton, Hawke, Rudd, Gillard and Abbott.  In four of these five cases it took two goes to get rid of the incumbent (it is little-known that Gorton was unsuccessfully challenged after winning the 1969 election with a disappointing margin).

Monday, August 20, 2018

Poll Roundup: Here We Go Again?

2PP Aggregate: 52.8 to Labor (+1.2 since last week) by last election preferences
52.2 to Labor with One Nation adjustment
Labor would comfortably win election held "right now"
That escalated quickly ...
Last night's Ipsos poll has produced a big blowout in my polling aggregate, wiping out all the Coalition's gains since June. However, Labor had already made modest gains in the wake of the Super Saturday results even before that.

Normally I put out a Poll Roundup every second Newspoll.  Last week's Newspoll had some points well worthy of comment so I was considering bringing this one forward (but got distracted by another issue).  Now with this extreme Ipsos result hitting the stands, I think it's worthwhile going one week early - especially with the noises being made in media and a feeling about that leadership problems could blow up into a challenge quickly.  Whether or not that happens, at the least we have another round of serious leadership speculation, and even if the Ipsos was twaddle it will probably turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Events have developed quickly, with the PM shelving emissions targets in the National Energy Guarantee on Monday followed by news of possible Section 44 issues for Peter Dutton, which it seems the Dutton backers are intent on ignoring.  As I write the word is that Dutton backers think they have enough support and are deciding whether to go right away or wait until September.  In the past these things have often come to a head very quickly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Threatened-Listed Species And The Proposed Cable Car

The debate about the proposed cable car on kunanyi/Mt Wellington has already been a dismal spectacle of false claims and questionable standards on both sides.  On this site I have already dealt with claims that concern polling or other poll-shaped objects that claim to mention public opinion (see the rolling Polling on the Mt Wellington Cable Car Proposal article and the earlier Public Opinion and the Mt Wellington Cable Car.) 

Now it is time for me to post a new article covering the already suspect claims in the area of threatened species impacts, in the hope of deterring any more threatened species nonsense and encouraging everybody involved to actually do some research.  While this is mainly a psephology site, most of my professional income comes from working on invertebrates of the non-political kind, and I am Tasmania's only living expert on native land snails.  I also have a keen amateur interest in native orchids, and have worked on or surveyed for a range of threatened species of various kinds.

The catalyst for the current burst of threatened species claims is a proposal by the cable car proponent, the Mt Wellington Cableway Co, to have its proposed cable car depart from a site on Main Fire Trail.  This proposal includes a new road from McRobies Gully (see route maps here and here) in an area of bushland that includes extensive areas of a state-listed threatened vegetation community (Eucalyptus tenuiramis on sediments.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hobart City Council Voting Patterns 2014-8

Advance Summary

1. Traditionally, the Hobart City Council  loosely divided between "pro-development" councillors and councillors who stress environmental issues and/or the interests of impacted residents. 

2. This term of Council has continued a trend from late in the previous term in which voting clusters have weakened and the voting of individual councillors has become much less predictable.  

3. Despite this most councillors can at least be classifying as leaning towards the "pro-development" ("blue") mindset or its opponent ("green").  

4. The results of votes on this council have been very unpredictable because of the weakness of the voting patterns observed, the narrow advantage in numbers for the "blue" side over the "green" side and the frequent absence of various councillors from meetings.

5. A possible ordering of councillors from "greenest" to "bluest" in this term is: Cocker, Burnet, Reynolds, Cooper (no longer on Council), Harvey, Ruzicka, Sexton, Briscoe, Thomas, Christie, Hickey (no longer on Council), Denison, Zucco.

6. Possible causes of the weakening of vote clusters include personality clashes within the "blue" side, a lack of solidarity or a common approach to most council issues among endorsed Greens, and genuine changes in the views of some councillors over time.   

(Note: This article is long and in places very mathsy, but I've cut out some of the really arcane stuff from past editions, mainly because the data entry was such a massive job by itself!)


In the leadup to each set of Hobart City Council elections I post a detailed account of voting patterns on the Council in the previous term.  My findings for the 2011-14 term can be seen here, and that piece includes links back to older pieces.  Now that terms are four years long, this is a much bigger job than it used to be, but at least it only needs doing every four years.  Entering in the data from something like 84 meetings, every single one of them with at least one contested motion, took me much of the last few days.  But it was worth it; the results are rather interesting.

Friday, August 3, 2018

"Margin Of Error" Polling Myths

A lot is said about "margin of error" in public discussion of opinion polls, and nearly all of it is wrong.

This is another piece I've been meaning to write for quite a while.  There are many other articles about this on the web, but I'm not aware of any that make all the points I'd like to make and make them in an Australian context.

The concept of "margin of error" is one that is commonly talked about in discussion of polls.  It is often used to (rightly) deflate breathless media babble about movements in polls that are supposedly caused by whatever the media pundit wants to see as the cause, but in practice are often nothing more than random variation from sample to sample.  Possum's Trends, The Horserace and Random Numbers (2012) was a classic debunking of that sort of commentariat nonsense, written in the days of the older, much bouncier Newspoll.

Unfortunately, of all the things that get talked about in polling, margin of error is probably the concept that best shows that "a little learning is a dangerous thing".  People grasp the basic principle and misapply it constantly - and are assisted by pollsters, the media and even the Australian Press Council's otherwise good (and too often disregarded) poll-reporting guidelines in doing so.