Wednesday, May 29, 2024

EMRS: The Election Chaos Hasn't Moved The Dial

EMRS Tas(state) LIB 35 (-1.7 since election) ALP 28 (-1) Greens 15 (+1.1) JLN 7 (+0.3) IND 12 (+2.4 but probably overstated) others 3 (-1.1)
Seat estimate for these primaries unchanged from election (14-10-5-3-3-0)
Better Premier Rockliff leads Winter 40-32 (lead up 5) but new leaders usually underperform on this score

The 2024 Tasmanian election had a remarkable outcome, one which polls in broad terms saw coming.  The Rockliff Liberal government was sent deep into minority while the Labor opposition gained only two of the ten expansion seats and was outnumbered by the crossbench.  Following this, Labor controversially decided not to attempt to form government, with leader Rebecca White resigning and being replaced unopposed by Dean Winter, who soon announced that Labor now supported the proposed Macquarie Point AFL stadium.  

The Liberals formed a controversial (but not for them) arrangement with the Jacqui Lambie Network, who attracted criticism for giving away too much without any need to do so, and over secrecy surrounding the minor party's internal structures.  Later the Liberals formed a more standard confidence and supply agreement with independent David O'Byrne, and released something that they claimed to be the same with independent Kristie Johnston.  (On my reading Johnston has guaranteed supply but has said all confidence matters would be considered on their merits, and has outlined an approach to confidence questions including commitment to pre-discussion.  In any case the Liberals don't strictly need Johnston's vote.)  The Parliament resumed with the unusual touch of an Opposition Speaker, the first since the 1950s.  

One would think there might be some sort of voter reaction to all that but there isn't.  The much awaited first post-election EMRS poll shows no significant changes for anybody!  The biggest shift is for independents, but it's common for polls that offer a standalone independent option and a generic others option to overestimate the former at the expense of the latter.  Polls generally overestimated the Independent vote - EMRS had independents at 14% in February yet despite many more of them running than were known at that time - 29 in all - they still did not together make it into double figures.  

(I should here correct a widespread error surrounding the 2024 election results, which is repeated in the EMRS report.  The Independent vote at the election was 9.6% not 8.0%.  The ABC website  inexplicably counted only those independents who ran under their own column as Independent, and counted ungrouped independents to Other.  UPDATE 30/5: The error has now been corrected.)

Neither major party has got any kind of honeymoon, but nor should they, as neither performed well.  Polling honeymoons are generally reserved for first term governments elected from opposition, and sometimes governments re-elected more strongly than expected.  

On these numbers, in an election "held now" no seats would be expected to change hands based on the state figures and assuming uniform swing, although the Liberals would come perilously close to dropping a seat in Franklin to the Greens.  The final margin there was 2.3%, and it may look like with a 1.7% swing away from Liberals and 1.1% to the Greens it should fall, but the Liberals had two candidates below quota at the end, meaning the swing away from them is halved for margin purposes.   The EMRS dashboard coming later today may be used for modelling specific seats, but the seat samples are so small that uniform swing is a much more reliable model, until we have more sub-samples to aggregate.

The most relieved grouping here should be the Lambie Network.  It's been a rough baptism, in a partly self-inflicted way, for their three newly elected MPs but in this poll at least their support has held firm rather than the Labory end of it immediately collapsing over support for the Liberal Government.  That could ease the pressure on them; the challenge will be for the party to stay together.  Eponymous parties in Australia have a dire stability record and some differences in approach (between Andrew Jenner and the other two) and policy views (eg on forestry between Miriam Beswick and Rebekah Pentland) have already been apparent.  The party was recently targeted by Labor with a symbolic wedge motion concerning support for the resource industries, which JLN tried to amend to drop references to aquaculture and the proposed Robbins Island windfarm then voted against.  No one not glued to parliament seems to have paid this any attention at this stage.  

Dean Winter's debut rating as leader, trailing Jeremy Rockliff by a seemingly unflattering 32-40, is being lapped up by those unimpressed with his jobs-focused rebrand that comes with a Bacon/Lennon style approach to resource politics and green concerns.  However, new opposition leaders across the country often underwhelm on head to head comparisons, and Better Premier scores often favour incumbents anyway.   For this reason, best to check back how it's going after a few polls, and ditto for Labor as it tries to forge a new (or reforge an old) direction. Unlike at the election, Labor now has a recognisable focus but from some of those who called for it to stand for something the call will be "not that!" 

Again I would much prefer to see direct leader approval ratings ahead of preferred premier, a messy indicator that often skews to incumbents  and generally raises more questions than it answers.   In the case of Better Premier in Tasmania the historic record is spotty because it used to be a three-way question, so we only really have comparable ratings for a few Labor leaders.  Winter has not started as strongly as Rebecca White who in 2017 was down 39-42  in her first poll (and then ahead a stunning 48-37 in her second) but White was extremely popular early in her leadership.  Except for the pandemic phase, she tended to be competitive on Better Premier even when her party wasn't.  

The combined major party vote in this poll (63) is the lowest ever; it was 65 in the February poll and 65.7 at the election.  

I may add further comments later.  

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