Saturday, November 18, 2017

Queensland: A Hard Election To Model

Primary vote aggregate Labor 34.7 LNP 32.8 Green 8.8 One Nation 17.3 Other 6.4
If Newspoll/Galaxy preference assumptions are correct Labor should just win majority on current numbers
If ReachTEL preferences are accurate LNP should just win a majority

It's taken me until the week before the election to get around to posting any analysis during the campaign for the 2017 Queensland election.  This is partly because of an unusually severe version of the usual problem: I've been extremely busy and there are just not enough of me to do everything I'd like to do.  It's also because this election's very challenging to model.  And, as I noted previously, the big picture isn't much help either.  The government has been chaotic, but the federal Coalition's turmoil is a massive burden for Tim Nicholls' LNP opposition.

Most of the difficulty comes from the preference problem.  A divergence of around four points in polling exists between the ReachTEL polls on the one hand and the Galaxy/Newspoll stable (and also Essential) on the other.  About three points of that, on the latest figures, is caused by preferencing differences.  ReachTEL is using purely respondent preferencing, while the others are using some combination of previous elections (Essential) or assumptions with an undisclosed and unclear basis in evidence (Galaxy/Newspoll).  The previous election had much less significant One Nation presence and also had optional preferencing, so there is really no credible baseline for "last-election" preferencing.

A further issue with Queensland has been the dearth of statewide polling.  In the last six weeks there has been only a Newspoll (17 Oct), a Galaxy (1-2 Nov) and three ReachTELs (two commissioned ones both on 13 Nov and an earlier one for which the 2PP was released but the primary votes were not.)  The Newspoll and Galaxy both had Labor ahead 52-48 and all the ReachTELs had Labor behind by the same margin.

Aggregating all polls that have released full primaries based on polling conducted entirely since September, but with a 25% downweighting for commissioned polls, and with greater weighting for November (3) than October (2) and September (1) I get a reading of:

Labor 34.7 LNP 32.8 Green 8.8 One Nation 17.3 Other 6.4

By Newspoll's preference assumptions this would result in a 51.8% 2PP for Labor, a 0.7% swing to the government.  But by ReachTEL's respondent preferences it would result in about a 51-49 result to the LNP.

A small number of seat Newspolls released today was reported favourably for Labor, because it showed them gaining Whitsunday and competitive in Gaven, while holding Ipswich West and Mansfield.  However the flip side of the reporting is that the poll also had Labor losing Bundaberg and losing Thuringowa (an otherwise vaguely safe seat) to One Nation.  Also as Whitsunday was 51-49 to Labor and Gaven 51-49 the other way, the chance one would give them in Gaven is the chance of them not gaining Whitsunday.  So, a very threadbare conclusion on the evidence in question, which based on my record in calling out sloppy Queensland poll reporting probably means the conclusion is true.

The overall average of the eleven Labor-vs-LNP seat polls released by the Galaxy/Newspoll stable has been a swing of 0.9 points against the government, with three projected losses, one projected gain and two 50-50s in seats held by the LNP.  Throw in the projected losses in Thuringowa and South Brisbane (the latter of which I don't take all that seriously) and the seat polls do not in fact show Labor in good shape.  Seat polling is an enterprise in crisis, but the least we can say is that the seat polls at best add nothing positive for Labor to what we know about the state picture.

One Nation

Currently the only seat where I can find any seat betting that has One Nation favourite is Buderim, the seat of their state leader Steve Dickson.  However, Buderim is not strong ground for One Nation historically and it isn't clear that having a state leader in a seat is enough to overcome that.  In general, I have had about 19-20% as the tipping point at which One Nation start to win a lot of seats.  The polling at present has them a little shy of that.  Using Alex Jago's Senate-based calculator (the Senate preference results skew to Labor by around 1.5 points on average compared to the Newspoll/Galaxy preference assumptions) the tip from the current level of One Nation support is for five One Nation wins, but one of them is Traeger which is being left with Katters Australian Party.  The rest are Callide, Hinchinbrook, Lockyer and Mirani.  Callide is extra-winnable because of the loss of Jeff Seeney's personal vote (and One Nation have shown up as polling competitively there) while the others listed haven't had any released polling I'm aware of.  Mirani is one that's cropped up in these Senate simulations but for whatever reason isn't on the frontline of betting.  With so many vagaries in converting Senate to state results it's deeply unlikely they would win exactly those seats but the simulation should give a fair idea of about how many seats they are good for, even if not those exact ones.

So at the moment One Nation will probably win a few seats, but probably won't win a lot.  They are not far short of the winning-lots level but would probably have to surge a few points in the last week to get there.

There's an impression in the seat betting (which is not predictively reliable, but in this election, what is) that One Nation are more of a nuisance to the LNP than Labor in seat terms.  Of the 21 seats One Nation are at $5 or less on one exchange, 12 are seats the LNP would be expected to win, including 4 of 6 where they're at $3 to win.  However, because the LNP probably will form government with One Nation if they have to, and Labor are very unlikely to, losses to One Nation are a lot more painful for Labor.

Labor's Task To Retain

I count Labor as starting with 49 notional seats, including three notionally Labor seats occupied by the LNP, and also Pumicestone and Cairns which are technically on the crossbench.  I count the LNP as starting with 42, including Nicklin which is being vacated by an independent, and Dickson's seat of Buderim (won by the LNP last time).  Two seats are held by KAP.  Ignoring any possible losses to the Greens, Labor's target for forming majority government is 47 seats, a loss of two notional seats.

A fair amount has been made of the fact that the One Nation strategy of preferencing against sitting members harms Labor more than the LNP, since in many LNP seats One Nation could come second anyway making its allocation irrelevant.  However, there are quite a few close seats where One Nation aren't running or won't poll much.  I don't find that it makes a huge difference in terms of the number of expected 2PP wins for each side, and the fact that a lot of One Nation's LNP-held targets are well up the LNP side of the pendulum means that the LNP must have been expending effort in seats it would normally not need to bother defending.

Against that aspect, there is an advantage to Labor, and that is personal vote effect.  Labor MPs who won seats from LNP members at the last election will have obtained personal votes, whereas the defeated LNP members' personal votes will have been factored into the LNP's 2015 vote in their seats.

I expect personal votes to count for less this election than normal.  Firstly, most of the new Labor MPs defeated LNP MPs who had only been in for one term themselves, and hence would not have built much of a personal vote up themselves.  Secondly, redistributions mess with personal votes, and the Queensland one which has changed 89 seats into 93 would have had large impacts on them.  Nonetheless, sophomore effect is a theory and a fact, and Labor would have won outright last time but for it.

After factoring all these things in, if there is no swing I have Labor winning the 2PP contest in, on average, 49 of the 91 non-KAP seats (in other words, no change).  For the 0.7 point swing projected using Newspoll's preference assumptions, I get 51 Labor 2PP wins (so, say, something like ALP 50 LNP 37 PHON 4 KAP 2, if no Greens get up).  For the 3.1 point swing to LNP that ReachTEL keep getting, however, I get 51 LNP 2PP wins.  And obviously if it's somewhere in the middle things get very close.  (I personally slightly prefer Labor's chances at this stage.)

Bearing in mind that the majors are each likely to drop a seat to a few seats to One Nation, it's still quite possible either side can win this outright.  However, if the 2PP lands somewhere around 50:50, a hung parliament becomes a lot more likely.

The Greens

The Greens have not had the success so far with inner-city Queensland seats that they have had in NSW and Victoria.  However the Adani coal mine proposal gives them one hell of a trump card to deploy in such areas.  The Greens will be energised in the final week by their party winning the Northcote by-election in Victoria - a win that was no great surprise, but the margin (approaching 56-44) was a big one.

I have continued to have an eye on Maiwar because of its Prahran-like results history, though it's debatable whether LNP voters in the suburbs in Maiwar are as tractable as Liberals are in Prahran.  A ReachTEL showing the Greens falling well short should not be treated as definitive.  There is a history of ReachTEL poll errors in inner-city electorates where the Greens are strong, of which Northcote tonight (a nine or ten point 2PP miss) is yet another case.  A Greens internal has them competitive but Greens internals were never that reliable either.

The fight for South Brisbane and McConnel (where the Greens are taking on Jackie Trad and Grace Grace) stepped up with a surprise Galaxy showing a 51:49 Green lead in South Brisbane, but the Greens are coming from a very long way back there against a candidate with a large personal vote, so I'd need to see a lot more than a 1-point seatpoll to give that one away.

So all up the Greens still have a few chances but none of them are easy.

Which Pollster Will Blink?

We've had a long run of the Newspoll/Galaxy stable on the one hand and ReachTEL on the other getting completely different 2PPs because of different preference assumptions.  Pollsters are especially careful with their final poll because it is the one they're judged most by, though I've often argued this is silly.  It will be interesting therefore to see if either pollster comes back to around 50:50 this week, or if they both stay where they are.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Poll Roundup: Citizenship Chaos Sends Government To New Term Low

2PP Aggregate: 54.2 to Labor (+1 point in a week) - highest reading of term
Labor would win election "held now" with a large margin
Government has lost majority (for now) with two MPs recontesting their seats in by-elections

This week we've seen a highly unusual event in Australian political history: a federal government has lost its majority partway through a term.  This last happened in 1931.  The one-term Scullin government began its term with a robust 46 seats out of 75, but a by-election loss and defections to the opposition UAP and the Lang Labor split saw it whittled down to 35, following which it collapsed before the year was out.  What has happened to the Turnbull government, so far, is much less dramatic - two of its seats are vacant pending by-elections, and the government will recover majority status if Barnaby Joyce is returned, although it would then lose it again if John Alexander is defeated.

However, as the Section 44 eligibility issues continue to unfold (with the tabling of required evidence by December 1 expected to be the next step), we could well see more by-elections early next year in some much more difficult government seats.  The prospect of the government slipping into permanent minority, or perhaps even losing enough seats that it can no longer govern, is a real one.  There may also be by-elections in Labor and crossbench seats, but no incumbent government has gained a seat from an opposition in a federal by-election since 1920 so there would not be too much optimism regarding chances of gaining seats there.  My legally unqualified view, incidentally, is that the "hesitators" (those who filed to renounce UK citizenship too late for the process to complete by the close of nominations) are in trouble.  The references in previous cases to the taking of all reasonable steps as sufficient refer to a context in which a member cannot reasonably renounce an overseas citizenship, not one in which a candidate was needlessly slow about it.

For the time being, the government faces two very unpleasant sitting weeks in which, by vice of it holding the Speakership, it has a floor minority (73-74) compared to the combined forces of Labor and the crossbench.  That is, assuming Bob Katter shows up!  The non-Coalition forces won't be able to suspend standing orders, but they will have extensive control over other operations of the House and should be able to use that to inflict pain.  As noted in my New England preview, it's not likely Barnaby Joyce will spring back into parliament on the Monday after the by-election, and the 17-candidate circus announced for his seat won't help expedite matters there.

I may have a Bennelong preview later, but that seat is not far above the waterline as concerns the expected average swing in by-elections given the shabby state of the government's polling.  As with New England, the fact that the incumbent is recontesting instead of quitting should help soften the swing, and makes Alexander the favourite on paper to retain, but no certainty.  Labor has presumably taken this into account with their surprise candidate selection of former Premier Kristina Keneally.  It is not that Keneally is necessarily a good candidate - she may well turn out to be a bad one given her time at the helm of an extremely rotten state government - but if voters no longer care about that then her high profile could in theory be worth the few extra points the party may need to get over the line.

Voting intention polls

The Yes vote in the same-sex marriage survey may (or may not) bring some respite in future weeks but this week's polls are shockers for the government.  First there was Newspoll with its 55-45 lead to Labor, the second time Newspoll has produced that result in this term.  This included a 38-34 lead on primary votes, Labor's largest lead in any poll this term.  That it was the 23rd straight Newspoll 2PP loss on PM Turnbull's watch was barely even noticed given how dire the result was.

Essential backed it in by drifting a point to 54-46, and YouGov came out with primaries that would have also given 55-45 by last-election preferences (it was 52-48 to Labor using YouGov's respondent preferences).  After results in the 52% to 54% range (based on last-election preferences) for Labor in other polls in the previous weeks since my last update, this was a big jolt to my aggregate which has jumped a whole point to 54.2 to Labor, its highest reading of this term.  If there are no more polls this week, it will also be one of the largest one-week moves since the last election.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph (which will almost certainly tick over 54 next week):

To be trailing worse than 54-46 at any stage of a term is, historically, bad news for an incumbent government.  The break-even point in terms of term-worst deficits is about seven points, so this alone gives the current government a slightly less than 50% chance of re-election.  In this case, however, one might permit an asterisk about whether the 2PP is really that bad, given the uncertainties around One Nation preferences.

Over the 23 Newspolls since the Coalition fell behind, the average 2PP is now 46.87.  That's almost as bad as the 46.80 average for Tony Abbott's 30 consecutive losses, but Abbott had more really dire results (four 45s and a 43) probably as a result of the more volatile nature of the old Newspoll.


This week's Newspoll had Malcolm Turnbull's lead as Better Prime Minister cut to just two points (36-34). The 34% was Bill Shorten's highest Better PM score against Malcolm Turnbull, whose own score was his worst of the term by four points.  Previously, Turnbull had always led by at least seven.  It is still notable that he leads at all, given that Tony Abbott trailed Shorten about half the time.

Turnbull's net satisfaction rating (-29 (29-58)) was one point off his worst of the term, while Shorten's -19 (34-53) was his least worst since early August and second least worst for the year.  Other polls have, as per normal, been more lenient, with Essential giving Turnbull a -12 net rating (though this is down 11 on the previous month), Shorten a -13 (down 6) and Turnbull still keeping a strong lead (40-28).

One poll Turnbull isn't leading is the Newspoll of preferred Liberal leader.  In that one he was thumped 40-27 by Julie Bishop (who is hardly even being talked about as a leadership contender) with Peter Dutton on 11.  Among Coalition supporters, Turnbull had a feeble 42-39 lead over Bishop.  When Newspoll even does these polls at all, it often spells trouble brewing.

Other polls

Some Australia Institute ReachTELs attracted notice because they had implausibly high One Nation figures in rich inner-city electorates.  After redistributing leaning voters, One Nation were on 8.8% in Wentworth, despite polling less than 1% there in the Senate (compared to a statewide 4.1%).  A reading of 7.0% in Warringah, also hardly One Nation heaven and the last place to expect a conservative revolt from Liberal voters for one obvious reason, was almost equally suss.  Results like these raise further concerns about the reliability of seat polling, which did not perform well at the 2016 federal election.  The (respondent-allocated) 2PP results of these polls had scarcely any swing in Warringah but 10.8% in Wentworth and 6.3% in Kooyong.  Prime Minister Turnbull's Wentworth was a popular target for polls predicting large swings in 2016, all of which proved to be nonsense.

Another TAI ReachTEL of Hughes found only a small 2PP swing, while New England results were reported on the by-election thread.

As usual there are many more issue polls out there than I have time to do justice to.  Concerning the dual citizenship issue, Essential found 40% believing Malcolm Turnbull's plan to resolve the issue goes far enough and 44% believing otherwise, but the preamble is misleading as the Turnbull plan (including requiring MPs to provide documentary evidence) goes much further than described.

Newspoll meanwhile found a very narrow (45-42) lead for changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to be MPs, suggesting that constitutional reform of Section 44 would be a long and rocky road.

Essential found that voters think politicians, CEOs/senior executives and lawyers are paid too much, but that nobody else much is. Essential also found that in party attribute comparisons, all the ones with large differences are in Labor's favour, with the Coalition's score for "divided" up 17 points since November 2015.

How Accurate Was The Same-Sex Marriage Polling?

The abrogation of responsibility and waste of resources that was the Marriage Law Postal Survey has now concluded with a Yes vote of 61.6%, based on a very high turnout of 79.5%.  Every Australian poll on same-sex marriage in the last ten years has shown more voters supporting same-sex marriage than opposed, with the exception of a single fledgling ReachTEL in 2011, so this has been seen initially as another good result for Australian polls.  In contrast, non-polling "big-data" approaches based on social media analytics failed completely, with the EqualityPulse site mostly favouring the No vote until after the polls had closed and a Griffith University study bombing embarrassingly.  (Be wary of anyone who claims their methods predicted Trump would win - most who predicted him to win did so because they wrongly expected him to win the popular vote.)

This is being taken as another strong result for Australian polling, but the reality is not so snazzy, and more consistent with experience elsewhere.  Below are all the final poll results by each pollster that I could find.  (Some pollsters conducted several polls, typically finding little variation through the survey period.) The polls vary in methods - some asked about results based on those who had voted, some asked about the votes of those who intended to vote and some just asked a basic question about support or opposition to same-sex marriage.  One (Ipsos) appears to have asked about voting intention among those certain to vote only.  In many cases, inadequate public documentation means that it is not entirely clear what the pollster did.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pembroke By-Election: Live And/Or Post-Count

CALLED: Reliable scrutineering reports on Sunday that Siejka (ALP) will win easily with Walker narrowly beating Chipman for 2nd.


Analysis: Still awaiting margins for the two scenarios. As Brad Stansfield has said on Twitter, it's a bit much to be saying first that the Liberals' attack on Chipman wouldn't work at all, then after the result that it worked too well. But if working means getting near winning, it was only a pyrrhic success. It seems that far from generate a sympathy vote for Chipman, the tactic actually worked in driving votes away from him and to Walker, but at the cost of driving Chipman preferences (in droves as predicted by Pete Lawler on Twitter last night) and possibly primaries to Siejka. The Liberals needed to make the final two to have any on-paper chance, but did they cause enough voters to switch their preference from Chipman ahead of Siejka to the other way around to the extent that they caused Siejka rather than Chipman to win ? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years: Round 3

Image result for gough

"The Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Sir Billy Snedden, has broken his promise: the promise he made to me before the election. He promised not to tell any lies about me, if I didn't tell the truth about him."*

A month ago I started a multi-round Not-A-Poll to determine this site's visitors' choice for the title of Best Prime Minister of the Last 45 Years.  The idea is that each month the Prime Minister in last place is eliminated and the rest continue until someone gets over 50% and wins.  There are rules permitting multiple exclusions in certain cases, to speed up the process a bit.  Each round runs for a month, so you can vote for different candidates from round to round if you want to. Multiple voting is in theory banned and adjustments may be made if I detect it, but there will probably be a lot of low-level multiple voting I can't detect or prevent. Comments about the merits of the contestants are welcome.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Section 44: Could Parry Peril Unelect McKim?

Warning:  Section 44 has now reached Wonk Factor 5/5.  

The Section 44 citizenship crisis affecting the Federal Parliament has reached a new level of electoral law murkiness today with the news that a Tasmanian Senator, Senate President Stephen Parry, is investigating whether he may be a UK dual citizen by descent.  Parry's father was born in the UK but moved to Australia as a child.  If it turns out Parry is ineligible, he is expected to resign from the Senate immediately, and following a referral the High Court would presumably follow the precedents set in Re Canavan regarding Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash and give him the flick.

That might all be the straightforward end of proceedings.  The possibility of a special count for Parry's seat (a recount of all votes as if the departing Senator had died before the poll) creates new problems in dealing with the replacements for ineligible Senators.   The reasons for this concern two unusual features of the Tasmanian Senate count: the very high rate of below-the-line voting and the extremely close result for the final seat.  Incumbent Nick McKim (Green) held off Kate McCulloch (One Nation) by just 141 votes.  McKim should have been re-elected easily but the Greens vote was damaged by the successful campaign to save Lisa Singh, who had been dumped to a normally unwinnable position by her party.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

New England By-Election: Prospects And Polls

Seat: New England (Nat vs Ind 8.5%, Nat vs ALP 16.5%)
By-Election 2 Dec 2017
Incumbent: Barnaby Joyce (Nat)
Main opponents likely to include Rob Taber (IND) and ALP candidate
Former incumbent and 2016 opponent Tony Windsor (IND) not contesting
Outlook: High chance of comfortable Nat retain

With the date of the New England by-election set it's time for a general prospects and polls post that I will update through the campaign as opportunities arise.  I may be pretty slack about this as Queensland will be a higher priority and I have a lot of other stuff on at the moment.  I won't be doing live coverage on the night because of previously booked air travel, but there will be a postcount thread if it is needed.

Circumstances and history

The New England by-election follows the disqualification from office of incumbent Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, who was found to be in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution because he was a dual citizen of New Zealand by descent, despite having been born in the electorate of New England.