Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Mid-Term Queensland Polling, And The Misreporting Thereof

Just a reminder before I start this one that tomorrow is Button Press Day in Victoria and the action can be followed on the thread below this one.  It's not really democracy but it can still be fun!  I am working on some wrap-up material for the Victorian lower house too, but am being held up by some unclarities regarding 2PP issues (mainly an apparent error in the seat of Pascoe Vale.)

Yesterday Queensland was treated to not one but two state voting intention polls, but also, alas, to some of the worst poll reporting I have seen.  In the recent Victorian state election the Herald-Sun engaged in absurd poll-spinning and stairs-fall-truthing only to embarrass itself completely as the eight-year old Andrews government returned with a slightly increased majority (the oldest state government to do so since 1986).  The Courier-Mail, which has kept playing the same silly game although the side it barracks for has won just one and a half of the last twelve elections, also seems determined not to learn. 

Voting intention

To start with the useful bit, which is the voting intention numbers:

The YouGov poll taken Dec 1-8 has a 50-50 two-party preferred result, the same as in late June, and off primary votes that are nearly identical to late June (Labor 34 LNP 38 Green 13 One Nation 11 others 4).  My estimate of the 2PP off these primaries concurs with YouGov (I get about 50.1.) The first ever Queensland Resolve sample, taken from August 21 to December 4, has primary votes of Labor 37 LNP 35 Green 11 One Nation 6 KAP 1 IND 7 others 3.  We know from both the federal and Victorian elections that Resolve overestimates Independents until such time as it starts offering actual lists of candidates (at which point its estimates of the Independent vote have been very good so far) and so it's hard to say who these 7% "Independent" voters would really all vote for.  My estimate of the 2PP off this poll is 53.2% to Labor (basically no change on the last election, which I had at 53.13.)

At this stage it is yet to be seen whether there will be a redistribution in Queensland before the 2024 election and if so whether its impacts will be widespread or local.   Working off the 2020 post-election pendulum, which is all we can do for now, a swing of just over 3% as in the YouGov poll lands around the Barron River/Thuringowa/Townsville part of the pendulum, such that depending on what one uses as the exact 2PP for this poll and what one uses as the baseline 2PP, uniform swing would claim between four and seven seats.  The Palaszczuk Government currently needs a net loss of six to fall into minority.  On the current pendulum if the Government could manage to avoid further losses to the Greens then I think it is touch and go whether they would even lose their majority based on the YouGov poll.  The reason for this is that Labor has personal vote advantages in the five marginal seats that they won from the LNP in 2020, making these seats harder to shift.  My estimate for the YouGov poll is a net change of 5.5 2PP seats, but it could be a lot more or less than that depending on swing management.

Based on the Greens' strong polling the Greens would be a chance to pick up McConnel and Cooper, though Cooper would be harder as it was vacant in 2020 and both would be contingent on LNP preference decisions.  However with the polls also showing a swing to the LNP there's no basis for projecting either as Green gains on these numbers.  So a mid-term poll that has Labor touch and go to remain in majority if an election was held "right now" - almost two years out from the election that is hardly panic station stuff.

The Resolve poll is more positive for Labor but there are reasons to weight the YouGov poll a fair bit higher.  The Resolve poll was taken over three and a half months, so I expect it is a state component taken along Resolve's federal polling series.  Asking both federal and state voting intention in the same online survey might result in the former affecting the latter (as online respondents can be prone to speeding and don't always pay perfect attention), but even if this isn't the case, the average age of the data is greater. There have been a lot of unusually favourable state level polls for Labor from Resolve since the federal election but not all of those were tied to federal samples.

An aggregated assessment of the two polls is that Labor would be returned with a small 2PP swing against it but would probably remain in majority.  We should be on the lookout for any evidence of Labor struggling later in the term, as federal drag or general wear and tear kick in, but for the time being, this aint it.


The leadership figures from the two polls show nothing for either party to be much concerned about.  In YouGov, Annastacia Palaszczuk has a respectable net -1 satisfaction rating (40-41) though as with all state leaders this is way down on her pandemic highs. (Daniel Andrews just had an enormous election win at net -2).  LNP leader David Crisafulli is reasonably popular on net +4 (31-27).  Palaszczuk leads 39-28 as Better Premier, which is respectable for both leaders in view of this being a close poll and the natural advantage to incumbents on this question.  At Resolve, both leaders are net +8 and Palaszczuk leads 42-30, but these numbers should be taken in the context of the better result for Labor in this poll overall.

Courier-Mail Trash Reporting

Unfortunately the Courier-Mail's reporting of this poll (which I refuse to sully this site with a link to) was mostly garbage.  How many times did I hate it? Let me count the ways ...

1. The reporting claimed "Queenslanders are now less satisfied with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s performance than they were with her deeply unpopular predecessor Campbell Newman’s on the eve of his disastrous 2015 election loss."  The basis for this turns out to be Palaszczuk having a 40% satisfaction rating compared to Newman having a 41% satisfaction rating during an election campaign, but comparing positive satisfaction ratings between the two is not comparing like with like given that undecided ratings drop during campaigns.  (Newman was at net -11, which the article does mention).  Furthermore, the poll being compared with appears to have been the Galaxy released January 9 2015, which was certainly not "the eve" of the election.  I can find no published evidence that the final Galaxy in 2015 polled leader satisfaction ratings, but the final old Newspoll most certainly did, finding Newman way underwater at -23 (35-58).

2. The reporting also claimed "Then Labor premier Anna Bligh’s satisfaction rating sat at 43 per cent before the 2012 election wipe-out, with a net result of -9."  However those were Bligh's ratings in the penultimate 2012 Galaxy taken more than a month before the election.  By the final Galaxy Bligh was very unpopular indeed at net -26 (35-61) and Newspoll agreed (35-58).  Also the same point above regarding not comparing like with like applies.  

3. The misrepresented statistics surrounding Newman and Bligh were combined into a header "Less popular than Bligh or Newman: Premier’s satisfaction rating plunges" though that headline since appears to have been changed.  Even allowing for the timeline issues mentioned above, popularity is best measured by net satisfaction rather than positive satisfaction.

4. The reporting said "A state election held this weekend would be too close to call, with the LNP leading Labor on primary votes but still just shy of the support usually required to win in its own right."  In fact it is Labor that would more likely be just shy of winning in its own right; even by uniform swing the LNP needs 52.5% 2PP for a majority, assuming no changes in the crossbench.  ("Usually" is irrelevant when crossbenches grow, and not very relevant when pendulums are unhelpful to oppositions.)

5. The article subheader said "The Palaszczuk government’s polling is now definitively at its lowest ebb since 2016", a distortion of the article content which preceded this with the disclaimer "Other than a brief period after former deputy premier Jackie Trad’s trainwreck of a year in 2019,"  But the period wasn't brief anyway; the government was doing this badly or worse continually in three YouGovs and a Newspoll from August 2019 to July 2020, months after which it was re-elected with a swing to it and an increased majority.   The paper edition had another false heading "Six-year low puts LNP in running".

6. The Courier-Mail continues to report YouGov polls as pointing to "shock results" if elections were held right now, and says the government should find the poll "deeply concerning".   But a nearly eight year old federally-dragged government polling 50% 2PP (and maybe just losing its majority, maybe not), if it happened, should not shock anyone.  No-one should expect it to be still doing as well as when it won an obviously pandemic-boosted victory in 2020.  If the poll was 46-54, then such hype would be justified.

7. The reporting loves to make a big deal of results of a question in which respondents are asked if Premier Palaszczuk "enjoys living the high life".  (There is nothing wrong with the polling design on this question, which rotates it together with another negative, "easily influenced", and two positives, "cares about Queensland" and "works hard").  It's arguably casual sexism that this question is even being asked about Palaszczuk - there was no shortage of glitz in the Beattie years, but I don't recall anyone polling about it or all that many daring to suggest it was a Bad Thing.  But mainly, I think this question needs further digging - if they think Palaszczuk "enjoys the high life" do they think this is a good thing, a bad thing, or irrelevant?  What do they even understand it to mean?  

8. The report said "Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s biggest electoral strength – her relatability – is in tatters, with new polling showing six in 10 Queenslanders now think she “enjoys the high life”, and just half saying she works hard."  What it does not mention is that "works hard" is unchanged from the June sample (52%, albeit with disagreement up from 27 to 29) and so is "cares about Queensland" (60%, albeit with disagreement up from 25 to 28).

Several of the Murdoch tabloids seem far more interested in telling their right-wing readerbases what they think those readerbases want to hear, rather than reporting accurately.  This actually isn't doing the right any favours - as media diversifies the ability of these outlets to determine public opinion is waning.  This is why the calls for a "Murdoch royal commission" are silly, but if there ever was one, a term of reference should be whether Murdoch tabloids are giving Labor an unfair advantage.  The attempts by these outlets to create alternative political realities in which voters care about how Dan fell down the stairs or who Annastacia was seen near at the opera are sucking conservatives - even conservative politicians - into a Sky News style alternative political reality and detracting from the need for conservative parties to pay attention to things that are salient to voters.   

Meanwhile it is always disappointing to see media outlets publishing claims about past polling that are flat-out false.  The Courier-Mail should be taking a lead from the Australian, which recently when provided with a final Victorian Newspoll showing a majority for the Andrews government, reported it straight.  I do not think Lewis Carroll's seven maids with seven mops sweeping for half a year could clean up the mess the Courier-Mail has made of reporting a quite unremakable poll result.  That's another one of these for the Courier-Mail I'm afraid.

Porcupine Fish Award For Ultra-Fishy Poll Reporting (credit)

Update (Wednesday) It's got worse!  Hard to believe this is possible but yet another terrible article credited to state political reporter Stephanie Bennett applies the primary vote swing in the YouGov poll to the 2PP margins and on this basis claims "If the swing against the party identified in the YouGov polling for The Courier-Mail was uniform across the state, the LNP would take at least nine – and as many as 15 – seats from Labor."  and that "Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party would have had no clear path to victory if an election had been held last weekend, exclusive new polling can reveal."  The article is unfortunately boosted by some comments from Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams that claim without the slightest evidence that "red carpet Premier" perceptions are biting Labor.

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