Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tasmania 2018: ReachTEL Confirms Liberals Probably Winning

ReachTEL (after redistributing undecided) Liberal 48 Labor 32.2 Green 12.5 JLN 5.3 (4.0 excluding seats not contested) Others 2.1
ReachTEL has historically skewed against Labor and to the Greens in Tasmanian elections
Most likely breakdown if raw figures are correct 13-9-3 or 13-10-2 (close to 14-8-3 or 14-9-2)
Most likely breakdown based on figures corrected for past skew 13-10-2 (close to 13-11-1 or 12-11-2)
Aggregate of all polling 13-10-2
Current prediction 13-10-2

The first independent poll of the Tasmanian election (see my main guide page) has been released and it confirms growing suspicions over the past few weeks that the Liberals will probably retain an outright majority, although it may well be a majority of one.  Moreover given the historic tendency of ReachTEL to skew against Labor and to the Greens, the poll can be taken as suggesting that the Greens are in serious trouble and that none of their seats are safe.  I am a little sceptical of whether that past pattern will continue.

The poll published by the Mercury today has a total sample size of 3,179 with 641 in Bass, 636 in Braddon, 624 in Denison, 633 in Franklin, 645 in Lyons.  The history of ReachTEL skew in Tasmania aside, a few aspects of the poll create interpretation issues:

1. The pollster has polled support for the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) in both Denison and Franklin, where the Network has no candidates.

2. The pollster has provided "Undecided" figures (2.4-5.0% varying by electorate).  However ReachTEL defines "Undecided" differently from other pollsters.  If a voter is undecided when first asked their vote, but on the second attempt names a party, then this voter is treated as "Undecided" (Other pollsters include this voter as a voter who has a preference for a given party).  If a voter doesn't name a party on the second prompt, they are excluded from the survey.  (Newspoll defines this sort of voter as "undecided" but also excludes them from the survey).  The figures ReachTEL supplied to the Mercury would have included the breakdowns of the "Undecided" voters by party.  Without the full figures, I can only distribute them in proportion.

Figures without skew adjustments

With the "Undecided" voters redistributed proportionally, but with no adjustments for the history of ReachTEL skew, the following are the results:

However there is a need to redistribute the Lambie Network votes in Franklin and Denison.  Based loosely on the Senate election preference results I have redistributed them as Labor 55% Liberal 30% Green 15% (and ignored Others since none of the Others in Denison or Franklin will be elected anyway) to get the following:

On these numbers (if no adjustments are applied) two seats would be in realistic doubt:

* In Bass, the Greens would hold a 0.1 quota lead over Labor, but that lead shrinks if Michelle O'Byrne does not cross quota by the time Labor is down to its last two candidates.  My suspicion is that because O'Byrne is by far Labor's most prominent Bass candidate, she would have crossed quota by that stage, saving Andrea Dawkins from the dreaded Ginninderra Effect (sorry, I had to throw that wonky link in).  Assuming that's not an issue, it comes down to whether Labor's advantage on preferences from the Lambie Network - and possibly the Liberals if the vote is not split too evenly between the third and fourth Liberals - is sufficient to account for the Greens' advantage on leakage.  As the minor Labor candidates are eliminated votes will leak out of the ticket, and this is what saved Kim Booth in 2006.  I would think the Greens would probably just hold on these numbers.

* In Braddon, the Liberals are close to holding four seats by the same method that enabled them to do so last time.  Indeed the Braddon figures are quite similar to the 2014 result (Liberal 3.53 quotas Labor 1.39 Palmer United 0.43 Greens 0.42).  However the Liberals only just won in 2014 (by 0.04 of a quota) and had the advantage that Labor's second candidate Brenton Best was on the nose with Greens voters.  Also they were very lucky to get the seat because of an even split between Roger Jaensch and Joan Rylah (the dreaded effect again). In this case I would expect Labor to do better on Greens preferences.  The Lambie Network would not win a seat on these numbers because of leakage and splitting of primary votes between candidates from other parties.

So, on raw figures, 13-9-3 or 13-10-2.  The individual electorate samples will always be a bit iffy but if the Liberals are really 15.5 points ahead then by historic standards that should be enough for an outright majority.

Adjusted for past ReachTEL skew

ReachTEL has polled Tasmania for the 2013 and 2016 federal elections and the 2014 state election.  At all these elections it overestimated the Greens' performance and underestimated Labor's.  At both federal elections it overestimated the Liberals, but at the 2014 state election its last two polls underestimated them.  On this basis I normally apply adjustments of -2.7 to the Greens and +3.8 to Labor in dealing with ReachTEL Tasmanian polls.  We shouldn't assume that because a pollster has displayed skew in the past it will necessarily do so again, but we also shouldn't assume pollsters necessarily will fix such problems either.

The following numbers are an attempt at interpreting this poll with these historic corrections applied.  The corrections do produce some obvious rubbish results (like a Green vote in Braddon that is plainly too low and ditto for Others across the board) but it is really the position of the three main parties we should be concerned about here.

With the house effect adjustments applied, Labor easily beats the Greens in Bass and the result is 13-10-2.  However, there are a few possibilities that are well within the poll's notional margin of error that we should keep an eye on:

Firstly, on these numbers Labor is within striking range of winning three seats in Denison, at the expense of either the Greens or the Liberals.  This would not be easy, as even if Labor managed to poll three quotas, Labor would still lose votes from leakage from the likely surplus of Scott Bacon and from the preferences of their minor excluded candidates.  Given that there is a fight between Tim Cox, Ella Haddad and Madeleine Ogilvie for the last Labor seat or two seats, someone is going to be excluded with quite a lot of votes, which means a leakage problem.

Secondly if the Green vote was a little worse and one of the major parties better then the Greens would be at risk of losing Franklin, probably to the Liberals, as well.  Again here, the dreaded effect might come into play - if Jacquie Petrusma and Nic Street had a close enough split of votes, then something like 1.7 quotas between them might beat a lone Green on 0.8.

So there are a few black swan scenarios to keep an eye out for here:

1. The Liberals cop a really unlucky distribution of votes, overkilling Bass and Braddon but falling just short in Franklin and Denison, and fail to win a majority.

2. The Liberals do better in Franklin but worse in Denison and win a majority with four threes and a one.

3. The Greens could be wiped out entirely or reduced to one seat.

Probably, none of these things will actually happen, but on this poll they cannot be ruled out, and my home electorate, the People's Republic of Denison (that's the last election where I can call it that), does some funny things sometimes.  It's important not to place too much weight on seat samples that may be aberrant anyway - the overall picture is that the Liberal lead is large enough that they should win outright.  This might be further strengthened by a bandwagon effect because voters wanting to avoid minority government at all costs will be most likely to vote Liberal.

Aggregate of all polling

This is the first public poll since early December last year and has a large sample size but still shouldn't be treated as the final word, especially on the seat breakdowns.  I have included it in my polling aggregate in a way that weights the overall distributions of voting intention in this poll at 80% (since it is so long since the last data) but the seat breakdowns at only 60%.  I've also excluded the JLN from those seats in which the party is not running.  This is the new aggregate:

The Greens figure in Braddon in this aggregate is again too low, and the Others figure in Denison is too high (since the Others in Denison are only a lone Shooter/Fisher/Farmer and two candidates from the comically obscure Tasmanians 4 Tasmania).  The Others figure in Braddon is also too low because of the likelihood that Brenton Best will poll a few points.  However, the numbers in the aggregate point to 13-10-2, which I also posted as my current prediction in the sidebar during this week.

It is possible for the Liberals to win more than 13 seats, especially as their Franklin seat is by no means dead on these figures.

Preferred Premier

The Preferred Premier indicator has Will Hodgman ahead of Rebecca White 51.8% to 48.2% on the forced choice question.  Hodgman leads with 58.1% in Bass, 62.8% in Braddon and 55.2% in Lyons, but trails with 45.2% in Franklin and 37.2% in Denison.  The Mercury notes that White was preferred by 95.3% of Greens voters and 55.2% of Lambie Network voters.  However on the current poll numbers Greens preferences will only be distributed in any numbers in Braddon.  Everywhere else they will either win with little or any surplus or else finish sixth without being distributed.  Lambie Network preferences will tend to exhaust, especially in Braddon where they have a team of five.

The Mercury states that White has "slipped behind" but Preferred Premier scores cannot be easily compared across different polls.  The numbers do however confirm my feeling that voters who would choose undecided as an option given that option do in fact favour Hodgman.  This is contrary to the normal pattern in which incumbent PMs or Premiers do better if the poll has an undecided option.

Why Is It So?

I have a few comments about the meaning of this poll's results.  Firstly, Labor is losing the fight against the bandwagon effect, which is strong in Tasmania because many voters see avoiding a hung parliament as important.  The Liberals have churned out internal polling data showing their own party ahead if not clearly winning and Labor has not effectively countered this narrative.  Labor has claimed its internal polling shows that Labor can win a majority (and were out doing so again today) but this is especially unconvincing when they can't provide evidence that it is true.

The second thing is that this is playing out as a north-vs-south election and the poker machine issue, as well as Rebecca White being a relatively left-wing leader, is having an impact there.  On my corrected numbers the swing back to Labor on primary votes is highest in Denison and Franklin (11-12 points compared to eight points elsewhere) while the swing against the Liberals is reasonably even across the board.  This contradicts previous data which suggested that since the northern seats had swung the most in 2014, they would also swing back the most this time.  It would seem that the pokies issue plays strongly in both parts of Denison (as an issue of middle-class concern in the Hobart part and by direct impact in the Glenorchy part, in both cases amplified by the influence of Andrew Wilkie) but that outside the south the issue is having less traction.


On TV news bulletins, ALP figures continued to say that their internal polls showed they could win majority government, but again no evidence was provided.  State secretary Stuart Benson did refer to
the scale of Labor's campaign in terms of the numbers of conversations with voters.  I tend to agree with him that conversations are more effective ways of winning votes than billboards, but voters still have to be receptive to what is being said.

Richard Herr on Southern Cross news suggested that the Greens could have a chance of holding Lyons on the back of anti-major-party votes from the Jacqui Lambie Network.  However, as the Senate election preference flows showed, Lambie Network voters do not like the Greens and are more likely to preference both major parties, as Palmer United voters also did at the last state election.

The Mercury's editorial makes much of the possibility of Labor winning three seats in Denison.  However its argument (that the Liberals are "stranded just shy of two quotas in Denison" and might hence lose if all the independent/undecided voters swing to Labor over pokies) not only represents an unrealistic scenario but also ignores Labor's greater exposure to leakage from surpluses (and probably also excluded candidates). The more realistic arguments for three Labor in Denison would be either sample error or pollster house effects.  The editorial then goes on to say that Rebecca White could easily become Premier while keeping her agreement to not deal with the Greens, simply by having the Greens support Labor on confidence and supply.  This ignores the fact that White has not just said she will not deal with the Greens, but has said that she will not govern in minority at all, so she would still have to break a commitment to govern in that case.

Update (25 Feb): Issues Questions

Today's Sunday Tasmanian contains issues questions where voters are asked which party is better placed to manage various things and given the options of Liberal, Labor, Greens or JLN:

Economy - Liberal 53.2 Labor 35.2 Greens 6.7 JLN 5.0
Health - Liberal 48.1 Labor 40.3 Greens 7.0 JLN 4.6
Public education - Liberal 48.2 Labor 39.4 Greens 7.9 JLN 4.5

The report says that "voters back the Liberal Party over Labor to manage the economy, health and education [..]".  However, this claim is only clearly supported in the case of the economy, on which the Liberals received over 50% of support.  For the other questions, it is highly likely that those preferring the Greens would strongly back Labor over Liberal, and probable that those preferring JLN would do so to some degree.  I suspect the Liberals would be just ahead on a two-party basis but it would be very close.  I am not greatly fond of the inclusion of minor parties in questions like this, as it is well established that outside of certain pet items (such as the environment or climate change for the Greens), minor parties are not well regarded as able to manage issues, and their inclusion distorts the gap between the major parties.

Nonetheless, health and education are normally Labor Party strength areas and the party should be doing better on these questions.  My suspicion is that the focus on pokies as the key conflict issue on the election has made it more difficult for Labor to sell its position on health.

Most Important Issues (26 Feb)

Today's Mercury includes the question "When voting at the upcoming Tasmanian state election, which of the following issues will influence your vote most?" (my bolding)  Health leads on 31.9% followed by jobs and the economy 30.2% Pokies reform 14.3% Education 9.7% Cost of living 7.9% Energy security 3.3% and fish farms 2.8%.  In Denison, pokies reform tops the list with 26.1% to 24.9% for health and 20.6% for jobs and the economy; in all other electorates the big two are first and second in various orders.

The poll also finds 57.1% to 42.9% support for Labor's poker machines policy over the Liberals, rising to 70.9% in Denison, with only Braddon (48.1%) not preferring Labor's policy. 

However the reporting of this poll says "Pokies reform has been touted as the biggest issue facing Tasmanians as they head to the polls on Saturday, but exclusive polling indicates it will influence just 14.3 per cent of the statewide vote."  Oh no it doesn't!  Voters can be influenced by more than one issue at a time!  (There would also be voters who are influenced by none of the issues mentioned, because their vote is already locked in for some other reason, and who just pick one arbitrarily to get through the question).  Unfortunately, the reporting is riddled with other incorrect assertions about the meaning of the results.

I think it is very interesting that pokies reform has scored so highly in the Denison sample, but it is important to be aware that people picking that option will include some voters who are opposed to Labor's policy and think opposing it is the most important issue.

I will be covering the election on election night but don't know if it will be here or elsewhere; a link will be posted if the latter.  I expect to be offline most of Sunday March 4 and unavailable for in-person interviews (phone may or may not work) unless somebody pays me to remain in Hobart.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Poll Roundup: Barnaby 1, "Momentum" 0

2PP Estimate By 2016 Preferences: 53.3 to ALP (same as end of last year)
With historical One Nation adjustment: 52.8 to ALP
Labor would win election "held now"

With six new federal polls released in 2018 so far it's time for another federal Poll Roundup, a series which I issue roughly every second Newspoll.  As noted in a piece I did about second-term Opposition Leaders, the year began with widespread predictions of a painful year for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and many people reading a lasting Coalition recovery into, well, a single Newspoll really.  However it has taken the Coalition just two weeks to hit another speedbump in the form of a multi-faceted scandal involving Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.  The scandal, involving both his relationship with a staffer and various arrangements arising from it, escalated into an exchange of insults between the Prime Minister and his Deputy late last week.

In all this Joyce's behaviour has been that of the ultimate entitled politician, who has even claimed that he himself would never comment on Liberal Party leadership matters when in fact he's been doing so, and frequently, for years. Some of Malcolm Turnbull's comments in response to Joyce's situation have agitated Joyce into retaliating and encouraged Tony Abbott supporters to do their usual thing.  However, the idea that Joyce's lack of moral standards and spectacular political hypocrisy should cause the Liberals to replace their own leader with someone better able to work with such a person is ridiculous.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tasmania 2018: More Internal Polling Games

The 2018 Tasmanian state election (see my guide) is three weeks away, but still we have had no neutral public polling in the state for over two months.  In contrast, by this stage in 2014 we had had a recent public EMRS, a recent public ReachTEL, and also a Liberal-commissioned ReachTEL of which detailed results were released.  All we've had this year is a dribble of internal polling snippets and one commissioned seat sample by the Australia Institute.

This makes it rather hard to tell what's going on.  The Hodgman Liberal Government, which appeared to be asleep or in a holding pattern for most of 2017, has been quick out of the blocks with a large number of policy announcements covering most (perhaps even almost all) of the many issues in play at this election.  Insiders claim what they're doing (especially claiming there could be a return to a Labor-Green government) is working.  Could it be a repeat of 2006, when a seemingly ailing government that was widely considered doomed to lose its majority in fact surged through the campaign and ended up winning very easily?  While there are some differences between 2006 and 2018 in polling terms (especially the severe volatility of the late 2005 polls) majority government is a major issue for some voters, and a party that can establish that only it can win in majority has an important advantage.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Is It Hard For Opposition Leaders To Win At Their Second Election?

Especially after a benign opening offering from Newspoll, there's been a lot of speculation that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is set for a nasty year.  Shorten's net personal Newspoll ratings have been in the negative double digits for almost three years now - that's longer than any other Opposition Leader or PM in Newspoll history. While Labor's two-party-preferred polling has remained strong, a lot of left-wing voters see Shorten as too safe and uninspiring, while right-wing voters distrust his union background.

Also, in pundit circles there is a lot of focus on Better Prime Minister scores, which Paul Kelly has called all-important in the Australian's usual ignorance of the historic evidence otherwise. There Shorten's failure to close the gap as much as Labor's 2PP leads suggest he should remains a focus of discussion.  And it's not just wishfully thinking right-wing commentators saying Bill Shorten has problems. One betting market is saying it too, with Shorten $1.80 to be challenged for the Labor leadership before the next election (the "Rudd rules" notwithstanding), to $1.90 not.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tasmanian Senate Seats Filled At Last

On Friday, Tasmania returned to its normal complement of Senators, having been down two since Stephen Parry and Jacqui Lambie resigned because of citizenship issues in November 2017.  It's been a long strange trip which started with the possibility that Parry's special count might unelect Nick McKim.  That was cancelled out when Lambie was also removed, only for two new issues to arise.  The first concerned whether Lambie's #2 and #3 candidates, Steve Martin and Rob Waterman, were even eligible, and it turns out Martin is and wants the seat.  The second, which is still to be resolved, is what happens with the Tasmanian term lengths, and I'll discuss this a little more below.

Lambie Network "Expels" Martin

A dramatic, if widely expected, event this week was that Jacqui Lambie announced that Steve Martin was being expelled from the party.  To be precise she announced that "the management committee of the Jacqui Lambie Network has moved to expel you from the party".  That has been universally taken that Martin has been expelled from the party, although it is capable of being interpreted as just saying that expulsion proceedings have been commenced.  This is no great surprise after Lambie told Martin to give up the seat, and also threatened to expel Martin if he re-employed Rob Messenger (which Martin says he is not doing anyway).  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Batman: A Unique Federal By-Election

Batman (Vic): ALP vs Green 1.0%
Ged Kearney (ALP) vs Alex Bhathal (Green)
Incumbent David Feeney (ALP) resigned over eligibility issues
Outlook: Greens favoured if Liberals do not contest

A by-election will be held for the Victorian seat of Batman in the near future after David Feeney became the first confirmed Labor casualty of the Section 44 citizenship fiasco.  Feeney threw in the towel when he was unable to find any positive evidence that he had renounced his UK citizenship circa 2007. Some Labor insiders believe the seat is now unsaveable while some are more upbeat that they may just hold it.

This could be the last time we'll be referring to the seat by the name "Batman".  There's a significant campaign to rename it after Simon Wonga, but that won't be decided until the redistribution process concludes later this year.

The heavy lifting by way of preview has already been done at Tally Room and Poll Bludger with their excellent by-election guides.  The seat's dramatically split voting pattern was laid out by Michael McCarthy in his pieces (here's the latest) on the "hipster-proof fence" (aka Tofu Curtain, Great Wall of Quinoa, Corduroy Line) around Bell Street, which divides the Green-friendlier and Labor-friendlier sides of the electorate.  Also of interest may be Kosmos Samaras' analysis of why Labor is getting trashed by the Greens in inner-city seats like the state seat of Northcote (the southern half of Batman) and (see also Tim Colebatch on this) what they can try to do about it.  A convenient step-up in attacks on the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland probably isn't it (at least, not by itself).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Best Prime Minister Of The Last 45 Years: Grand Final!

Image result for gough whitlam     VS  File:Paul Keating 1985.jpg
(image source, licence)                                (image source, licence) 

Round 5: Whitlam and Keating tie, Gillard eliminated
Disputed Returns adjusts Gillard total following stacking (result not affected)

The last round is upon us.  These two dashing gentlemen (actually both pictured several years before they became Prime Minister) are the final contestants for this site's multi-stage Best Prime Minister of the last 45 years.  Hmmm, I think there might be a lot of Tasmanians voting in the final round somehow.  These two are the last left standing after they tied for first (following four previous outright Whitlam wins) at the end of a cracking round which had the following raw final totals: