Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Poll Roundup: Behind Longer Than Howard

2PP Aggregate: 53.1 to ALP (-0.3 in a week) 
Labor would comfortably win election held "right now"

Time for another federal polling roundup, with three polls out this week.  This week Morgan (which leans to Labor) moved from 54.5% 2PP in Labor's favour by last-election preferences to 53.5, Newspoll stayed at 54 and Essential curiously moved to 51.

This was the first time Essential has had a reading other than 52 or 53 since a cluster of 54s in January through March.  It's the first time it's made it down to 51 in one year and two weeks.  The reason is that last week's half of the sample was very poor for Labor, most likely as a result of random sample noise.  As a result of this, it's possible my aggregate is behind a few tenths of a point unkind to Labor at the moment; the picture should be clearer after next week's data.

After considering the primary votes and house effects I aggregated the Morgan at 52.7 to Labor, the Newspoll at 54.3 and Essential at 51.1.  With two polls saying things are getting better for the Coalition versus one influential one saying they are getting slightly worse, the net impact of all this is a 0.3 point recovery for the government, but one that I would not read anything into yet.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Strange Times In Queensland Polling

Galaxy Queensland: 52:48 to ALP based on composite preferences
Based on last election preferences 54:46 to ALP
Result based on this poll if election "held now": Easy Labor win (approx 54 ALP, 32 LNP, 2 KAP, 1 Ind)
However, most other polling so far has suggested little change since 2015 election


A new state government has won a remarkable victory, ousting the regime that had thrashed it three years earlier after just one term despite having been almost wiped off the political map.  Six months into its term, and despite a significant scandal that has endangered its already fragile hold on power, its primary vote has been polled at two and a half points above its election result, the Opposition is down a similar amount and the most supportive minor party's share of the third-party vote has improved.  Not the greatest honeymoon in polling history but still, all things considered, pretty good?

Well, supposedly not.  According to reporting (?) of a newly released Galaxy of Queensland state voting intention, the Palaszczuk Government has "stalled", "stagnated", "received no bounce from handing down last month's state budget".  Apparently it "hasn't been much of a honeymoon period [..] in stark contrast to the burgeoning support being enjoyed by governments in southern states".  The Premier's popularity has "failed to prompt any new love for Labor".  Her government "could scrape over the line" but "would rely heavily on votes flowing strongly from preferences".  The government apparently should be concerned that it's been "unable to convince more Queenslanders they're a competent administration" and unless it can prove it is doing something then "the patience voters have shown will run out".

What is going on here?  What's going on is what happens when you take the Courier-Mail's oft-noted love of curious poll-spinning and combine it with an understandable, but nonetheless unusual, preferencing practice.  This article looks at how the Palaszczuk government is really going in terms of known public polling.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Canning By-Election: Prospects and Polls

Seat: Canning (WA, Lib, 11.8%)
By-Election 19 Sep 2015
2PP Contest: Andrew Hastie (Lib) vs Matt Keogh (ALP)
Current outlook (19 August): Liberal win slightly favoured

Advance Summary

1. This article attempts to model the upcoming Canning by-election, taking into account the current state of federal and state polling, the personal vote of Don Randall and any other factors that might be relevant.

2. Historically (since 1950) there has been a rather strong relationship between the state of federal polling at the time of by-elections, and the swing recorded at that by-election.  

3. On the basis of that relationship alone, a swing of about 8.7 points would be expected based on current federal polling.

4. The balance of other relevant issues - none of which can be modelled precisely - suggests the expected swing should be slightly larger than that.

5. However, factors that might counter the expectation of a near-winning swing include the qualities of the candidates and any improvement in how the Coalition is travelling generally. State factors might push in the opposite direction, but may already be partly factored into WA federal polling.

6. While great uncertainties exist in predicting by-elections, this article therefore agrees with the widespread view that a large but not quite sufficient swing to Labor is the median expected outcome.

7.  Because of those uncertainties, there is a realistic chance on paper that Labor will win the seat.


With the date for the Canning by-election announced, it's time for some analysis of this event. You can find more detailed guides at The Tally Room,  ABC Elections and doubtless other places.  This piece is concerned with factors relevant to trying to project the outcome.  It is likely to be updated until the by-election night, when I may or may not do a live or postcount thread.  The by-election is seen as a major test of how the Abbott Government is really travelling, and whether its presently poor polling is entirely real.  A loss would be a disaster and would evoke comparisons with other famous by-election losses that have been portents for changes of government, and would certainly fuel increased leadership speculation.

A comfortable win will obviously be a triumph for the Coalition, and one which might raise questions about how real Labor's national polling lead is.  Of more interest is a narrow win.  A win by any margin will come as some relief, but a win with a large but not quite sufficient swing will be spun by both sides as a victory.  This piece considers what the goalposts for this by-election should be, and will also cover polling and, when I see any, betting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poll Roundup: No Instant Damage After Shocking Week

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (unchanged)
Labor would win election "held now" comfortably

Last week the Coalition had an extremely messy six-hour party room meeting on the issue of same-sex marriage.  The meeting led to open infighting between Coalition MPs and a general perception of a shambles.  The end result was a decision (by a roughly two-to-one vote of the joint partyroom) that the Coalition would not allow a "free vote" on a cross-party same-sex marriage bill introduced by Warren Entsch.  (Backbenchers can still exercise a conscience vote, but any frontbencher who does can expect to join them there.)

At a Prime Ministerial press conference, Tony Abbott stated afterwards that it was his "strong disposition" that a plebiscite be held after the next election.  Malcolm Turnbull has since said that the party room has not yet made a specific decision to adopt the plebiscite as policy, and suggested it be held before the next election.  Scott Morrison has instead called for a referendum.

The week ended with the Coalition, still reeling from the dumping of Bronwyn Bishop, facing a fresh scandal over the neutrality or otherwise of Trade Unions Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, who accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party event while serving in that role.  Combined with Heydon's attack on Bill Shorten as a witness, there is a perception about that Heydon is too politically biased, or at least too readily seen to be biased, to continue in his role.  The email trail has been dominating Question Time in the first days of this week.

EMRS: Surprise Slide For Liberals

EMRS: Liberal 40 Labor 29 Green 21 Ind 9
Interpretation (provisional): Liberal 42 Labor 33 Green 18 Other 7
Seat distribution based on poll: Hung parliament (Liberal 11-12 Labor 9-10 Green 4)
Aggregate of all recent state polling: Liberal majority (13-9-3) slightly more likely than not

A new EMRS poll of state voting intentions has been released (also see the tracker) showing a surprising six-point slide for the Hodgman Liberal government from the May sample.  The poll result is surprising mainly because, unlike last year's indifferent polling, the government does not seem to be in any particular trouble.  It is also against the run of play given a very strong result for the government in the large ReachTEL in June and also strengthening results in the small Morgan state samples.  Therefore, the result should be treated with a fair bit of caution for now.

The poll features a surge in voters stating they will vote "Independent" to an EMRS record nine points, and also a very high Green vote.  Overestimates of both these categories have long been a feature of this pollster's results, but I am wondering whether the pollster has become even more prone to overestimate Greens and Others votes, as the old landline-only Newspoll did in its final months.  That said, the Greens are presently on a national surge and this may be rubbing off in Tasmanian polling.

The poll does not show any lift in support for Labor at the government's expense, and suggests that soft supporters of the government may be parking their vote with third parties, something which could well be driven partly by federal as well as state factors.  However there is absolutely no reason to believe that federal factors are responsible for all or even most of the change.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Poll Roundup: More Trouble For Coalition

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (+0.6 in one week, +1.6 in four weeks, highest since start of March)
Labor would win election "held now" comfortably

After four and a half months in which voting intention hardly moved, we've finally got some real action. In the last week we saw expense claims by all sides of politics come under scrutiny following the scandal that brought down former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop.  Although Labor (and especially Tony Burke) looks far from spotless in this, the government seems to be taking all the heat.

Not too much else happened in the issue mix except that Australia's men's cricket team was dismissed for a ludicrous 60 runs and soon after that surrendered The Ashes.  As there is ample evidence that sporting results can affect electoral outcomes, it stands to reason that extremely bad sporting results that are harmful to national pride might slightly impair government polling.  Especially if they undermine this sort of thing:

(More likely, Australia actually started winning at cricket in Nov 2013 mainly because they were playing at home.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wonk Central: How Should Parties Count Member Ballots For Senate Tickets?


Advance Summary:

1. A recent Tasmanian ALP member/delegate ballot for Senate ticket preselections has raised the question of how member ballots for Senate tickets should be best conducted.

2. The use of standardised Hare-Clark (or other similar STV systems) for these ballots should be avoided, because such systems are designed to conduct elections in which all positions won have roughly equal value.

3. The use of standardised Hare-Clark can therefore mean that a minority-faction candidate gets either an easily winnable or an unwinnable position, depending on the way votes split up between other candidates.

4. Such a system therefore creates a big risk of tactical voting.

5. This article suggests an alternative, which is to set the quota off the number of positions on the ticket that are expected to be automatic wins, rather than off the number of candidates to be preselected from the cutup.

6. This article also discusses (scroll way down) the Tasmanian Greens' Senate preselection system.

This one's hugely technical, and is not aimed at a general audience.  Please don't say I didn't warn you.  There is just no other way.