Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Site Review

 This post presents site data for 2020.  The activity graph tells the story of the year (the units are unique pageviews per week):

Nothing much happened in the first half of the year except for a bad Newspoll for the government in mid-January.  However there were significant spikes of interest for the Eden-Monaro by-election, the Tasmanian Legislative Council elections, the NT election, the ACT election and the Queensland election.  The ACT election is the largest of the spikes above.

With it being neither a federal election year nor a Tasmanian state election year, traffic was well down on 2018 and 2019 (down 47% on 2019) and only exceeded the traffic for one other year so far, 2015 (this site started in 2012).  I also felt early in the year that COVID was swamping all other news consumption, leading to low interest levels in anything else.  

In 2020 I released 59 articles including this one.  This is the smallest number for a completed year so far (the previous lowest was 77) and a major cause of that has been the decline in both federal and state polling.  The most common subjects were federal polling (8 articles), the Queensland election (7), and the NT, ACT and Tasmanian Legislative Council elections (4 each).

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Federal Polling Year In Review

 At this time I normally release a review of the year in federal polling that, among other things, states the number of federal polls released that year.  See the 2019 review here. Things have got so weird in Essentialville and Morganland that for 2020 I can only report on how many have been released so far (since others with 2020 data are likely to belatedly appear next year), and in both cases, "released" becomes a stretch in the case of 2PP readings that have no public existence beyond a dot point on a badly labelled graph.  Such is life in the days after the 2019 polling failure.

How many polls?

This year saw 16 federal Newspolls released, the fewest since 1991.  Essential released 13 "2PP+" results (see my comments on this method here) as figures, and a further sixteen as dots on a graph. Morgan provided this mess:

* five polls for which it issued polling reports

* two further polls on its voting intention table

* at least one further poll result where the poll was not published but the 2PP can be inferred based on the stated poll to poll changes

* fourteen graph dot points (giving the impression of being weekly breakdowns from fortnightly polls) that include:

- eight readings that align exactly in time with four polls for which fortnightly 2PPs were public

- two consecutive readings that are out of whack with one of the public 2PPs by a week

- four readings that don't align with any of the otherwise public polls. 

Thus the total number of Morgan 2PP readings of which some kind of evidence was available publicly is at least 22 (to date) but this includes at least four double-counts.  

Applying a minimum standard that a pollster must publish a 2PP (and not just by reference to changes from a previous poll) to be included, there were 16 Newspolls, 13 Essentials and seven Morgans, for a total of 36 polls.  If this figure is used it continues the downward trend in the number of published polls per year.  However the number of 2PP readings compiled by the pollsters but not published other than as dot points is considerably higher; there might be as many as 63 independent readings, with others still to be (maybe) retro-released.

The mess created by Morgan in particular does no favours for the image of polling and I hope the new Australian Polling Council will recommend to its members standards that will avoid and discourage ad hoc decisions about when to retro-release polling data.  If a pollster wants to release voting intention polls in batches, as Essential are doing, that is one thing, but the pollster should then at least be transparent about when they will poll and ensure that all the readings are retro-released, not just some.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Do Green Preferences Matter At Tasmanian State Elections?

Quick note added 9 Mar 2024: I believe that a Labor page linking to this article has been the subject of an SMS campaign.  I should note that this article analyses the actual impact of Green preferences, which is not the same thing as analysing every way a Green voter might use their preferences (eg if someone votes Greens and then preferences Labor, then the point about votes exhausting becomes irrelevant for that voter.)

Beyond that the reason Green or independent prefs don't have as much impact in our system is that they are more likely to be used electing Greens and independents, unlike federal where the vast majority of Greens votes go to Greens who are excluded.  If voting out the Liberals is all-important to you and you're considering voting for a Green or Independent, you might consider how committed that candidate is to voting out the Liberals if they win.  

Secular seasons greetings to all, except the IPA, who get a great big HAPPY HOLIDAYS for the grinchy effort on the crosstabs in their latest scientifically unsound poll-shaped object.  It is a nearly annual tradition on this site to release something every Christmas Day.   I've now added a "Xmas" tag to all the Christmas Day articles so anyone sufficiently bored can see how varied these offerings have been.  

This year's Christmas Day article idea arose in mid-November following reactions to Tasmanian Labor's decision to letterbox fliers attacking the Greens and promising never to work with them in government again, a promise that I expect to expire immediately the next time Labor gets a majority then loses it.  Whatever might be said of the authenticity of Labor's messaging, I can't help thinking of the whole thing as something that you might see in a vintage British comedy skit:

"The Greens!  They're holding Tasmania back!  They're leaving people behind!"
"That's very unfortunate.  How many of these, er,  Greens are there?"

In online commentary about this, a theme sprang up that Labor was biting the hand that feeds it preferences, and that this (perhaps together with Labor's junking of its 2018 poker machines policy) could very easily backfire.  However, my own experience is that Greens preferences are not as big a deal in Hare-Clark as they are in other elections.  I thought it might be worthwhile to examine the history of Green preferences in Tasmanian state elections since the rise of the Greens in the late 1980s, and look at how much difference they have actually made and might make, or not make, in the future.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

JSCEM's Recommendation For Optional Preferential Voting

Advance Summary

1. Coalition members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters have recently recommended Optional Preferential Voting (OPV), but have provided very little discussion of that recommendation.

2. It is likely the government would have the numbers to pass OPV if both Coalition parties wanted to do so, but unclear as yet if they actually want to proceed.

3. Evidence from NSW state elections under OPV strongly suggests that it would significantly to severely disadvantage Labor if adopted federally. Evidence from Queensland is more confused.

4. The level of likely disadvantage to Labor under OPV could often result in a few federal seats having different results, but could be more severe when Labor holds majority government.   

5.Compulsory preferential voting leads to votes being disallowed because of irrelevant errors.  Reform to reduce or remove this problem is necessary.

6. Optional Preferential Voting has been defended on the grounds of allowing greater voter freedom, but it can also result in misleading campaigns to discourage preferencing and in cases where parties are disadvantaged because voters make incorrect assumptions.

7. Having OPV as a savings provision rather than a direct instruction to voters would solve most of the problems that OPV addresses with less disadvantages.

8. Labor's arguments against OPV in the report are weak.  

Monday, December 7, 2020

Tasmania: Secrecy Concerns Or Just Secretive Polling?

EMRS Tasmania (state): Liberal 52 Labor 25 Greens 13 Others 11

If accurate Liberals would increase their majority (14-16 Lib 7-8 ALP 2-3 Green)

 uComms (commissioned by Australia Institute) Tasmania (state): Liberal 50.3 Labor 31.8 Greens 10.7 Ind/Other 7.2

If accurate Liberals would retain majority but probably not increase seat numbers (13 Lib 9-10 ALP 2-3 Green)

New seat aggregate of all polls: Liberal 14 Labor 8 Green 3

"Sir Humprey: How are things at the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, by the way?

Sir Arnold: Sorry, I can't talk about that."

- Yes Minister, Party Games