Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poll Roundup: Three Polls Have Small Swing Back To Labor

2PP Aggregate: 51.6 to ALP (+0.6 in a week, reversing chances two weeks ago)
ALP would probably just win election "held now"

Somewhat against the recent run of play, this week's new polls have all seen modest improvements in federal Labor's position.  It did seem as results crept ever closer to 50:50 that soon we might see a crossover into slim Coalition leads, but it hasn't happened this week - another reminder that in polling, "momentum" is an elusive quantity.

This fortnight's polls

This week's new crop started with Morgan which turned in almost identical figures to last fortnight. A half-point primary shift from the Coalition to Labor was mirrored in the last-election 2PP result, with Labor's position improving from 51.5 to 52.  (The respondent-allocated 2PP, which I largely ignore, came down from 53 to 52 causing the company to describe the gap as the "narrowest in six months").  As Morgan's current methods have skewed to Labor by about 1.5 points during this term on average, this was equivalent to about a 50.5 from anyone else.

The first Newspoll in four weeks (thanks to a public holiday weekend in several states and a desire to release at the start of a new parliamentary sitting week) surprised with a headline result of 53:47 to Labor.  The primaries (Coalition 38 Labor 36 Green 14 Others 14) would normally imply a 2PP of about 52.3 to Labor so it's likely the actual 2PP was something not much above 52.5 and has been rounded up for Labor (yet again!).  As per the standards announced in the smash hit post Wonk Central: What Do We Do With The Poll Rounding Problem? I've treated this result as 52.6 to Labor for aggregation purposes.

That will probably go down as a slightly friendly sample for Labor, so it was no surprise to see PM Tony Abbott's netsat slip back from -11 to -15, or his "better Prime Minister" lead drop from four points to one (39:38).  What was therefore slightly odd was to see Bill Shorten's netsat down six points to -11 (35:46), his equal worst netsat (the third time he's had that score) and his highest dissatisfaction score so far.

After three weeks of 52:48s, Essential moved back to 53:47 to Labor.  This, again, is likely to have been a case of friendly rounding since the published primaries imply a result of about 52.6; I've aggregated it as 52.8.

Last week's Essential showed Abbott with an improved netsat of -8, his best since a -6 in April. Essential had Abbott with a six-point lead (38:32) as "better Prime Minister", also his best since April when he led by 10. Essential had an unchanged netsat of -1 for Shorten, though this hid a two point shift from "strongly disapprove" to "disapprove".  The current "strongly disapprove" figure for Shorten (12) is the lowest since the same reading in January.  Again, Essential's netsats are milder than Newspoll's.

Here's the current smoothed tracking graph:


Newspoll's High Non-Major Figures

Newspoll is normally a reliable poll, although far too much is made by commentators of often random bouncing from poll to poll in its output.  However, recently I've been curious about a string of very high minor party readings in Newspoll's primary figures.  The non-reading-out of PUP in Newspoll is perhaps no longer such a concern with the party only polling 3-4% in other polls, but prior to the May budget every Newspoll since the last election had a combined Green/Ind/Others figure in the range 22-24, and since it every time this reading has been 25-28 (and only one of those was 25).

The following table gives pre and post Budget averages for combined Green/Ind/Others figures for the four polls that have polled regularly since the Coalition's victory in September last year.  At that election the combined Green/Ind/Others vote was 21.1 points:


The standard deviations (SD) are for individual readings.  All four pollsters show a statistically significant average increase in the combined Green/Ind/Others vote since the Budget.  This isn't surprising as there was a big surge in the PUP vote following the Budget, which has only recently returned to sender (the Coalition mainly).  However while ReachTEL and Essential show a change of 1.2 and 1.5 points respectively, and Morgan's 2-point change has shrunk to more like a point in readings over the last few months, Newspoll results have a four-point increase in third-party voting since the budget, to a level nearly six points above the last election.  Also in Newspoll's case it's far from clear the third-party vote is going down.

The five Galaxy readings so far (20 and 24 before the Budget, 24, 24 and 22 after it) are also consistent with the increase in third-party voting being only modest (and with it being not that far, if at all, above the election result to begin with).

This has also been seen at state level, at which the combined Green/Ind/Others votes at polls taken largely or entirely after the federal Budget exceed those taken before in every mainland state, and by at least three points per state.  Again, the flood of third-party figures around the high 20s (even one 30 in South Australia) isn't generally being repeated by other pollsters. What is going on here?

Enter Ipsos

It is pleasing with so few active polls, and clouds of some sort over most of them, that a new player will soon enter the market with the arrival of Fairfax Ipsos.  Ipsos has run a series of issue polls based on online panel polling, and did a few voting intention polls by this method, but will now be running polls similar to the old Fairfax Nielsen - phone polling in most months (including calling mobiles) with a sample size of 1400.  It will also be running numerous state polls.  Ipsos has a strong international reputation - for instance its US phone polls have an A- rating on fivethirtyeight, ranking them well inside the top 10% of US pollsters.  Because we have already seen from the online polls that Ipsos have some idea what they are doing in the Australian environment, I will be including their phone polls in my aggregate right away, though they will be slightly downweighted for the first four while I get a feel for their behaviour and house effects (if any).  Based on what we know from overseas there is a good chance these polls will be at least as good as the departed Nielsen, if not better.

Issue Polling

Some new findings on Iraq come from another new pollster for Australia, Factuality.  This is another online panel poll and, similarly to other pollsters, it finds that voters support air strikes against ISIS (54-25) but are equivocal about ground troops (39-38).  Factuality also finds that voters support these actions although believing (56-25) that they will make Australians less safe from domestic terror.  The full report is well worth a look for those with an interest in these issues, as there is much more detailed drilling down than in most such polls.  A slight concern about the poll is that a massive 20% of the sample were supposedly "unsure" of their voting intention.  The only voter intentions mentioned are Coalition, Labor, Green and Unsure, so whether any "other"-type choice was offered isn't clear.  If others were included under Unsure they should not have been; if they were not then the Unsure figure is too high and more prodding is needed.

Newspoll finds that Australians want Tony Abbott to "confront" Vladimir Putin over the apparent shooting down of flight MH-17 over Ukraine (63:27, including a 51:40 majority of Labor voters).

Essential finds as usual that voters think everything in the economy except company profits is getting worse.  It also finds that Australians believe the government is doing enough to fight Ebola (58:21) based on a preamble that advises that the government has committed $18 million, but has said risks are too high to send personnel.  Last week, Essential had various highly predictable findings about voter attitudes on wealth vs poverty, including the unsurprising results that voters would like the Government to fund its Iraq involvement through higher corporate taxes (68:22) and dropping its paid paternal leave scheme (56:31) rather than by cutting tax concessions or services or raising income tax.  Sometimes the results of Essential issue questions make me wonder that their 2PP isn't permanently jammed at 65:35 to Labor!

We're about due for another ReachTEL soon (if one appears later this week comments will be edited into this post) and the first Fairfax Ipsos isn't far away.  Their opening poll will be a Victorian state poll expected early next week, followed soon after by a federal poll.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

State Liberal Conference Attacks Hare-Clark System

 Advance Summary:

1. Recently the Tasmanian state Liberal conference passed a motion calling for investigation into alternatives to the Hare-Clark system.

2. The limited evidence available suggests that the arguments advanced for change were based on false attacks on the accuracy of the system and inapplicable analogies with the grossly defective Senate system.

3. In fact the problem some Liberals have with Hare-Clark is that as a converter of vote share to seats it is too accurate for their liking, and by being so increases the chance of minority government.

4. Minority parliaments in Tasmania are often unstable because of the inverted nature of Tasmania's two-house system, compared to other states in which the proportional system tends to be used in the upper house.

5. Claims that the government needs to strike in this term on this issue are far-fetched given both the size of the government's buffer and the fact that the last major electoral system change was bipartisan and happened in a hung parliament.

6. Indeed a switch to single-member seats in the current environment would not improve the government's chances of retaining its majority in 2018, and would actually increase the chance of it losing outright.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Poll Roundup: Budget Blowout Over

2PP Aggregate: 51.0 to ALP (-0.5 in one week, -0.9 in three weeks)
Chances would be roughly equal in election "held now"

It's taken twenty-four weeks, an air disaster, "combat operations" and various backdowns but national polling has finally returned to where it was before advance reports of an unpopular Budget caused a blowout that at times was worth close to four points in Labor's favour. 

This should not cause very much comfort for the Coalition, since "where it was" in April wasn't by any means  good; based on current figures an election "held now" would be a tossup.  But the view about from hopeful ALP supporters during the initial stage of the Budget backlash - that this was a basically uncompetitive government that was always going to trail badly from that point on - turns out to have been incorrect.  With it goes one of the main scenarios under which this government would have been heading for defeat in 2016.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Recent Polling In Four States

NOTE: There is no regular federal Newspoll this weekend (4-5 October) because of public holidays in some states, although quarterly aggregate Newspoll data should appear.  The next federal poll roundup will appear in the week of the next Newspoll, unless there is a Galaxy or ReachTEL first.
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This could be a dull week in federal polling, but fortunately new state polling has been released in four states.  The last article on polling from states other than Tasmania was Recent Victorian and Queensland Polling, over a month ago.  This one will cover what has come out since, and updates will be added for anything else that surfaces in the next few weeks.  Beyond that we will be getting seriously close to the Victorian election and polls should become more common.

Immediately after this article was written a Morgan poll including data from all states was released.  Comments about it appear at the bottom.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wonk Central: What Do We Do With The Poll Rounding Problem?

This supplement to this week's Poll Roundup concerns recent results comparisons between my poll aggregate and BludgerTrack, and explains a small methods change I've brought in to my aggregate this week, and also how the hell Newspoll might have got a 51 to Labor 2PP off this week's primaries.  I was firmly expecting this to be the least read article on this site all year (but 24 hours after release it is beating the main roundup), and it's the only one I've ever published with a jump break included from the start. Click on the "Read more>>" below the warning sign (if you didn't arrive here via a direct link) to read on if you dare.

(Image lambied from a widespread internet meme of unknown (to me) origin, example here)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Poll Roundup: Terror Focus Improves Abbott's Ratings

2PP Aggregate: 51.5 to Labor (-0.4 on last week, very little change in past five weeks)
Election "held now" would be very close 

This will be one of my longer fortnightly roundups, there is quite a lot to get through!  I've decided to split the mass into two halves; this is the main part and the really wonky stuff (about aggregate methods, rounding, Newspoll black magic and such) is being split off into a separate Wonk Central supplement and released to mass critical excitement later tonight.  I've made a small methods change to my aggregate, that will rarely if ever make more than 0.3 of a point difference and often make none at all. The change is documented on the methods page and all will be explained soon.

This week has seen a ramping up of anti-terrorist rhetoric and action centred on perceived threats from Islamist extremists connected to everybody's least favourite Sunni jihadists ISIL.  Massive terror raids resulted in the arrest of a man accused (and entitled at this stage to the presumption of innocence) of conspiring to order the execution of a random non-believer, plus a few other charges.  Security alert levels have been raised, military actions prepared, and a range of other measures (some of them contentious from a civil liberties viewpoint) introduced.  There's even been some rhetoric from the PM about how Australians would have to sacrifice freedom for security, although polls this week suggest voters think we're sacrificing both, and like it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jacqui Lambie And The British Thug Far Right

Recently Palmer United Party Senator for Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie, shared an anti-burqa image first posted by a group called Britain First on her Facebook page.  The widely reposted image showed a woman dressed in a burqa and pointing a gun.  It was accompanied by the words "Terror attack level: Severe - an attack is highly likely" and "For security reasons it's now time to ban the burqa".  The text clearly showed the intention behind posting the image "Do you agree the burqa is a security risk?"  Much attention has been given to Lambie's use of the image but not so much to the group who originally supplied it.

The Photo

The first problem, as reported by many outlets (ABC, SMHnews.com.au), is that the woman dressed in a burka and pointing the gun, portrayed by the posted image as a terrorist security risk, was in fact a leading policewoman from Afghanistan, Malalai Kakar (1967-2008), who was assassinated by the Taliban.  An image of a woman who fought for women's rights in a country that always desperately needs such people has been ripped off without the original photographer's consent or even attribution of the source, to make an implied claim that burqa-wearing women are a security hazard to the west, a view that neither the photographer nor subject (whatever their views on the burqa) would have shared.  To make matters worse, Lambie has since said that she knew the back-story before reposting the image.

Jacqui Lambie is a former soldier who says that putting your life on the line for your country is a great thing.  Here, in pursuit of an anti-burqa agenda, she demeans the memory of a very brave woman who died doing exactly that and was killed by much the same enemy Lambie rails against - the Taliban, a group whose attitudes are such a big part of the "burqa problem" in the first place.  This is not about Lambie's view that the burqa should be banned, but is about her way of expressing it. It's hard to tell whether Lambie is too stubborn, too determined to create sensation at any cost, or too malignantly clueless to understand this.