Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Poll Roundup and Seat Betting Watch: Not Even A Dead Cat Bounce

2PP Aggregate: 50.0-50.0 Dead Heat (-0.1 for Coalition since end of last week)
Coalition would probably win with small majority if election "held now" (seat projection 78-68-4)
No significant move in voting intention detected in the past six weeks

This was a week in which it seemed like things might be starting to happen! First Peter Dutton said some rather provocative things about (supposedly) illiterate refugees.  This was widely regarded as a Lynton Crosby "dead cat" maneuver. The idea of that is that if you are hopelessly losing the argument, just say something ridiculous and disgusting and then everyone will talk about that instead of the issue you were losing.  A tiny minority of calmer voices pointed out that there was no need for Dutton to "throw a dead cat" since there had been nothing happening in the campaign worth distracting attention from, and suggested instead that Peter Dutton was just being Peter Dutton.  But still, perhaps all this was something voters would react to?

Then there was the NBN raid on ALP offices, a seemingly juicy matter that raised questions about the possible politicisation of policing referrals, and made people wonder whether the Prime Minister knew it was coming, and if he didn't know who knew, and who they told or didn't tell.  This, the commentariat told us, could only end badly for the Government, since at worst it looked like an unAustralian denial of fair play to a party in the middle of an election campaign, and at best it still focused attention on the government's failure to even deliver a second-rate NBN for anything near what they said they would.  Perhaps this then would finally set the polls alight?

Nope.  The verdict from the two polls that have been in the field since the above episodes has been still no change to speak of (Labor's primary even dropped a point on both).  A common response to this has been that the public aren't paying attention (how dare the voters ignore matters that have been deemed important.)  That's probably true, but it is not the only possible explanation.  The public could be paying some attention to the campaign but the various events in it could be cancelling each other out.  The public could be paying attention to the campaign but failing to find anything they actually care about (because this stuff doesn't really affect them, and they are sick of the media telling them what they should be thinking).  Or, it's always possible that voting intention has changed but neither of these polls have noticed.  Both Essential and the new Newspoll are often steady to a fault.

What I keep hearing anecdotally is that voters just find the campaign boring, especially when they have to comprehend another five and a half weeks of it.  It's not that the campaign lacks for policy differences or content (compared to, say, the farcically dumbed-down 2010 effort from both sides); it's mainly that the nature of debate is so dry that there is little for anyone but policy wonks to really get stuck into.  And even for policy wonks, there's not all that much depth to see.

Sampling for last week's Ipsos (51-49 to Coalition, 50-50 by respondent preferences) and ReachTEL (50-50 by respondent preferences, and I get exactly 50.0 by last-election preferences) was done before the raid news broke, and since then we've had 51-49 to Labor from both Newspoll and Essential.   All this continues the pattern in which Ipsos leans a bit to the Coalition, Newspoll and Essential a bit to Labor and ReachTEL not predictably to either side.  I aggregated the Ipsos at 50.6 to Coalition, the ReachTEL at 50.0, the Newspoll at 49.1 and the Essential (with an adjustment) at 50.1.  There's a very strong case for deducting a point or so from Ipsos and adding a point or so to Newspoll, but I'm avoiding it (at the cost of the odd wobble of a tenth or two tenths of a point) since they are both polling often enough that they should cancel each other out anyway.  Newspoll is more heavily weighted, but the "global house effect" feature in my aggregate corrects for that.

Here's the smoothed tracking graph.  It's especially smooth this week. The beast that has climbed such mountains and plumbed such depths in a pretty tumultuous term has now spent six weeks almost asleep on the 50-50 line.

Readings from other aggregators are (scores for Coalition): Bludger Track 50.0, Andrew Catsaras 50.0, Luke Mansillo 49.95, Mark the Ballot 49.9, Phantom Trend 49.6


If this week's voting intention figures were boring, the leadership stats were anything but.  This especially applies to Newspoll which had Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten equal on net satisfaction, each on -12 (Turnbull 38-50, Shorten 37-49).  For Shorten this was a gain of seven points in a fortnight - a fortnight in which he impressed many former left-wing sceptics mainly by just being competitive and focused, and also a fortnight in which he was able to show some human touch after a car accident happened right next to his convoy.  It was Shorten's best netsat in just over a year, and only a point off Turnbull's worst as Prime Minister.  The "better Prime Minister" gap also kept closing, and is now a modest fifteen points (46-31), a more or less meaningless lead in the context of this measure's skew to incumbents.

The better PM figures, for what they're worth, set an all-time record, in that the Turnbull-Shorten gap has now closed by 34 points in six months.  There has never (in 30 years of Newspoll) been a case of the gap between a PM and an Opposition Leader closing this much this fast in the direction of the latter, or indeed this much that way in anything under ten months.

What does this new record mean?  Well. basically, for all the mythical nonsense bestowed upon better/preferred PM readings, they are actually a messy multi-purpose indicator.  All else being equal the PM should lead the Opposition Leader by about 16 points, and this then goes up or down depending on how popular the two leaders are and what the two-party-preferred score is.  (It lags behind the PM's netsat and moves with the other two).  All this record narrowing of the better PM score is telling us is that we've had an unusually strong combination of the PM becoming less popular, the Opposition Leader becoming less disliked and the 2PP moving towards the Opposition, all at the same time.

Likewise, it's probably time for another reminder that the relationship between Opposition Leader ratings and voting intention is a very weak and messy one indeed; it's normally the PM's ratings that matter the most.  The fact that many Labor voters who disliked Shorten mid-term are warming to him makes little difference if they were never going to vote for the Coalition anyway.

In the same six months, the difference between the netsats of the two leaders has fallen from 69 points to zero.  This gap isn't quite a record (Keating went from having a netsat 27 points better than Hewson's to being 50 points behind in four months in 1993) but it's been a big relative shift all the same.  But Shorten's big netsat recovery is nothing much compared to that of Andrew Peacock in 1984 (Peacock gained 61 points in two months.)

Other pollsters are showing similar changes, though not yet buying Newspoll's claim that the leaders are now seen equally.  ReachTEL had Shorten at a net rating of  -10.5 (up nine points in two weeks), his best rating since January 2014! Turnbull was more or less unchanged on -6.5 and the forced-choice "better PM" narrowed another two points to 55.6% to Turnbull.  (I think this lead might mean a bit more than the one he has in Newspoll.)  Ipsos has little change for Turnbull (up two points to +10 (48-38)) but Shorten is up five points to -6 (40-46).  Ipsos has Turnbull's lead down as preferred PM down to a modest 47-30, another poll in which the lead has closed by 34 points in six months.

We also have plenty of new attribute polling.  The Australian (Federal election 2016: Turnbull ‘arrogant’ but voters like him) has polling showing Turnbull leading on six of the nine attributes listed, with Shorten leading on "cares for people", "in touch with voters" and (in reverse) "arrogant".  Oddly, both compare poorly on many criteria with ratings for Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, including those taken in April 2012 when both Gillard and Abbott were very unpopular.  My conclusion from this is that the Newspoll methods changes have resulted in a lower tendency for voters to agree with these statements about leaders.  This could be both a result of the general ease of being negative when pushing buttons on a robopoll, but also the fact that the online segment has to present a neutral option upfront.

Essential has done a fresh leader attributes poll only three weeks after the last, finding Turnbull down on various scores but Shorten little changed.  Turnbull tends to score higher on the comparison whether the attribute in question is positive or negative (leading to some misleading reporting that Turnbull was ahead on all fronts!)

ReachTEL also has some issue importance/party trust questions, the results of which are unsurprising.  The Coalition does well in its traditional strength areas, Labor does well in its, and economic management scores highest of the list of issues by some margin.  Likewise on party trust issues from Essential.

Seat Poll

The only new seat poll I have seen in the past week is a ReachTEL of Macarthur, which finds basically the same result (51-49 to Labor) as the Galaxy poll of the same seat.  I get a similar result by seat-specific last-election preferences, which may be a bit misleading because of the redistribution.  With so long to go and given the general issues with seat polls, all we can say is this seat is in play, which is what would be expected anyway.

Seat Betting

The usual disclaimer applies - this section is not about promoting gambling or claiming that markets are predictive, but rather tracking whether they are predictive or not.  It's time, finally, to break out the colour-coded seat betting tracker.

At present these are the seats considered on the Sportsbet market to be changing hands or else reasonably close:

Loss (Coalition to Labor): Barton*, Paterson*
Close Loss (Coalition to Labor): Solomon, Dobell* Macarthur,  Petrie, Capricornia, Hindmarsh, Burt, Hasluck
Tie: Swan, Eden-Monaro
Loss (PUP to Coalition): Fairfax

ALP Close Holds: Batman (vs Grn), Richmond (three-cornered), Lingiari
Coalition Close Holds: Banks, Reid, Page, Gilmore, Lindsay, Robertson, Macquarie, New England (vs IND), Bonner, Brisbane, Forde,  Dickson, Lyons, Braddon, Deakin, Corangamite, Dunkley, La Trobe, Hasluck, Cowan, Stirling.

Here's the colour-coded tracker for seat betting odds:

(Red = ALP favourite, blue = Coalition favourite, grey = tie)

The changes in the past week are minor.  Labor has become favourite in Hasluck again but Eden-Monaro has become tied. The markets sense the Coalition as being vulnerable in a very large number of seats but only likely to lose in a modest number.  My own seat model frequently shows the same thing - projecting about 14 total Coalition losses based on the sum of probabilities, but generally only having Labor favourite in about nine specific seats at a time.

For a national 2PP of 50-50 and with a 50% weighting for state polling, my national seat model currently has Labor favourite in Barton, Paterson, Dobell, Petrie, Capricornia, Solomon, Cowan, Hasluck and Burt, with Macarthur and Brisbane as tossups.  I may post some detailed sample output from it next week.  The model is blind to local factors that may be informing seat betting, unless they are reflected in a seat poll, and because of the lack of information on specific seats it will normally get about ten seats wrong nationwide even in its election-eve version.

(Edit: Crownbet also now has a full seat betting market, showing no difference in favourites above except that Swan is listed as a slight Coalition favourite, and relatively minor differences in the other odds.  In the past I've used multiple agencies for this tracking where possible, so that gives the Coalition 80.5 favourites this week. The colour tracker will be updated to reflect this next week.)

The various exact seat total markets I was tracking last week have all shown no movement since then.

Back next week with more, and the way things are going, it could well be more of the same.

Update: Movement at the station - Greens now narrowly favourites in Batman!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Does The New Senate System Advantage Pauline Hanson?

Advance Summary

1. There is some thought about that the new Senate voting system may favour Pauline Hanson in the Queensland Senate race because she may poll a primary vote of 3% or so and then not be caught on preferences.

2. The image of Hanson's party One Nation as one that struggled under Group Ticket voting and would do better under optional preferencing owes much to Labor, Green and Democrat preferences defeating it in contests in 1998-2001.

3. Since then with One Nation's vote falling and the collective Others vote rising, it became just another micro-party and became able to attract good Group Ticket preference flows.

4. Had the 2013 election been a double dissolution, then based on the votes cast, Pauline Hanson would probably have won in New South Wales off 1.2% of the primary vote, overtaking several other parties under the old Group Ticket system to win.

5. However in the 2011 New South Wales Legislative Council election, where voters controlled their own preferences, Hanson was overtaken from an otherwise winning position and lost, even though a very high percentage of votes exhausted.  This was even though her primary vote was twice as high as in 2013 and the quota was much lower.

6. The idea that Hanson is advantaged by the change of Senate electoral system is, therefore, completely incorrect.  

7. Hanson is, however, one of a large number of micro-party candidates who have more chance at a double dissolution under the new system than at a half-Senate election under it.

8. Hanson's chances at the election are most likely to depend on her primary vote and what voters for other parties make of her candidacy, rather than being decided by how many votes are exhausted.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Poll Roundup And Seat Betting Watch: Neutrally Geared Edition

2PP Aggregate: 50.0-50.0 tie (-0.3 for Coalition since last week)
Coalition would probably just win election "held now" (seat projection 78-68-4*)
* see note re Greens below

So far a quietish week on the polling front, with Morgan and Essential the only national polls expected or seen.  However there are lots of polling snippets to deal with, plus the belated appearance of actual colour in the betting section, so here goes.

The week saw a fairly comfortable audience-scored win to Bill Shorten in a "people's forum" debate watched by hardly anyone, which commentators generally called a draw.   With the audience for debates screened on Pay TV basically containing no-one but political addicts, it's doubtful these debates have much influence on voting intention unless something really out of the box occurs.  The week-to-week shifts in voting intention so far this campaign (and the mock campaign before it) are so small they could be explained by anything ... or nothing.  A campaign about little of consequence meanders along in search of some defining Events.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

ReachTEL Points To Tasmanian Status Quo

ReachTEL (federal) Bass 51-49 to Liberal, Braddon 53-47, Lyons 51-49, Franklin 54-46 to Labor, Denison 66-34 to Wilkie.
(See comments on 2PP estimates below)
Poll shows Lambie support sufficient for one Senate seat.

This weekend the Sunday Tasmanian is publishing ReachTEL polling of the five Tasmanian federal seats.  The poll includes several questions and other questions will be released by the Mercury through the week.  At this stage two questions have been released - voting intention and a question on the Budget and economic management.

Tasmania has three marginal Liberal-held seats: Lyons (Eric Hutchinson, 1.2%), Braddon (Brett Whiteley, 2.6%) and Bass (Andrew Nikolic, 4.0%).  All were won from Labor at the last election so the new members should have some buffer against swings because of their new personal votes.  It also has the Labor-held seat of Franklin (Julie Collins, 5.1%) and independent Andrew Wilkie's seat of Denison (15.5% vs ALP), neither of which have been considered really "in play".  Until now there has been no released polling of these seats since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister.  There have been small state samples aggregated by Poll Bludger, which have generally looked OK for the Liberal incumbents except for a wobble after the short-lived "state income tax" proposal.

This is the first large-scale poll we have seen, but it has a number of unusual aspects that make interpreting it challenging.  While the Liberal incumbents could take some heart from it, there is plenty of room for other interpretations.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Poll Roundup and Seat Betting Watch: Election Called

2PP: 50.3 to Coalition (+0.6 in two weeks, -0.1 since end of last week)
Coalition would probably narrowly win election "held now" (seat projection Coalition 79 Labor 67 Others 4)
Updated after Essential

On Sunday the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, visited the Governor-General and asked him to dissolve both houses and call a double-dissolution election for the long-expected date of July 2.  I hope the G-G asked him if he was absolutely sure the High Court would dismiss the Senate reform challenge case first, but in any case the G-G is in no position to be refusing such requests.

In the last week Scott Morrison delivered his first Budget.  So far if there's a budget bounce at all, it's very small.  We've got Ipsos at 51-49 to Coalition (up one on last month) but Newspoll unchanged at 51-49 the other way. We've also had two post-Budget appearances from polls not sighted for a while - a federal Galaxy at 50:50 and a Morgan Phone at 51:49 to Coalition.  In pre-budget days we had a 50.5 to Labor from Morgan multi-mode (by last election preferences, 51-49 respondent) and a 52:48 to Labor from Essential, which has mostly leant strongly to the ALP since mid-November last year.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Legislative Council 2016: Apsley and Elwick Live and Post-Count

Apsley: CALLED (c. 7 pm) - Rattray (IND) has retained
Elwick: CALLED (c. 8 pm) - Willie (ALP) has defeated incumbent Taylor (IND). 


Sunday 8:11 pm: We have a preference throw in Elwick with preferences splitting 53.3:46.7 to Willie, which makes the current result almost the same (53.16% to Willie).  It will change by fractions of a point but there are not nearly enough votes left for Taylor to have any mathematical chance.  In Apsley Rattray is 20 votes short of an absolute majority.  A provisional preference throw shows her gaining 36.8% of Green preferences (wow) to Clark's 35.9% and Hall's 27.3%.  Then with Hall excluded, his votes go 68.9% to Rattray giving her a 67.3% 2PP over Labor if we ignore the few undistributed votes. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Queensland: Compulsory Preferencing And Recent Polling

Because of other distractions (see articles below) I've been a bit slow dealing with Queensland's sudden return to compulsory preferencing, but fortunately in this time a new state poll has arrived that is highly relevant to the issue.

For those who spent a couple of hours asleep last Thursday, that was about all it took for Labor to amend an LNP motion to expand the parliament from 89 to 93 seats and make it conditional on a return to compulsory preferencing.  The LNP voted against the amendment but the KAP and ex-Labor crossbenchers supported it and in the end the LNP didn't even vote against the amended bill.  It was vintage roughshod Queensland politics in its execution - moving it as an amendment meant it could be passed without prolonged discussion or a committee process, and Queensland of course has no upper house to get in the way.  It all gave the appearance of a tactical disaster for the Lawrence Springborg-led LNP (allowing such a major concession while fishing for crumbs) and again raised concerns of friends and foes alike as to whether the Queensland Opposition has all that much upstairs strategically.