Essential Research, territory seat entitlements, Groom wash-up

The federal government continues to be rated highly for its COVID-19 response, as a plan to save the Northern Territory’s second seat proves to have a sting in the tail for the ACT.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll finds 67% rating the federal government’s COVID-19 response as good, unchanged on a fortnight ago, with the poor rating down two to 13% – its strongest net result in this regular series since June. The small sample state breakdowns find the South Australian government’s positive rating down six to 70%, which I believe is the lowest it has yet recorded, although it might not pay to read too much into that given the near double-digit margin of error. The results for the other four mainland state are all up by one point: to 76% for New South Wales, 60% for Victoria, 72% for Queensland and 83% for Western Australia.

Respondents were also asked about their level of interest in various news stories: 69% said they were closely following the COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia, against 31% for not closely; 66% likewise for COVID-19 vaccine trials, and 34% for not closely; 56% closely for Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his election defeat, with 44% for not closely; and 53% closely for war crimes allegations against Australian soliders, against 47% for not closely. The poll also found 37% felt the government spent too much on foreign aid, down four points since 2017, with spends too little steady on 16% and the right amount up four to 23%. Also featured was a series of detailed questions on climate change and coal-fired power plants, which you can read all about in the full report. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Monday from a sample of 1034.

In other news, Antony Green peruses the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ report recommending action to preserve the Northern Territory’s second House of Representatives seat, which otherwise stands to be lost based on the territory’s share of the national population. Significantly, he notes that the proposed removal of an existing tweak to the calculation that was added to help the Northern Territory get over the line back in 2004 now stands to cost the Australian Capital Territory the third seat it gained at the last election – perhaps explaining why the government has been so sanguine about preserving Labor-held seats in the Northern Territory.

The change in 2004 made use of the margin of error the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides for its population estimates for the territories, requiring that the figure at the top end of the range be used in making the determination. Whereas the most recent determination credited the ACT with 2.55 quotas, rounding up to three seats, it would have only have been 2.48 if the ABS’s straightforward estimate had been used. There is no suggestion of changing the existing determination to cost the ACT its third seat at the next election, but a significant growth in population would be needed if the third seat was to be preserved at the next election after.

Antony Green’s submission to the inquiry suggested that, in addition to giving the territories a minimum of two seats, the calculation be made not on the basis of the garden variety arithmetic mean, but on the harmonic mean, which would be less prone to rounding down for the territories and smaller states. This method has the virtue of producing “an allocation of seats with a population per member closer to the national quota than the arithmetic mean”. The committee – apparently including the four Labor and one Greens members as well as the five from the government, since there was no dissenting report – acknowledged the logic of this but cited “problems with the potential for public acceptance”

Mention should also be made of Saturday’s by-election in the regional Queensland seat of Groom, which did nothing to alter its complexion as a safe seat for the Coalition. The LNP candidate, Garth Hamilton, currently has 66.9% of the two-party preferred vote with only a handful of votes outstanding, representing a 3.6% swing to Labor Œ more or less the same size of the swing in the Longman by-election that did for Malcolm Turnbull in 2018, though on that occasion his critics could point to a 9.4% drop in the LNP vote as One Nation surged to 15.9%. The One Nation factor went untested on this occasion, since the party did not field a candidate, although the party’s performance in the recent state election suggested they would only have done a limited amount of damage.

Of perhaps more note than the result is the pattern of turnout in the second by-election held during COVID-19 (the first being in Eden-Monaro only July 4): election day turnout was down 21.3%, from 53,943 to 42,490; pre-poll voting centres were up 0.8% from 25,169 to 25,380; and there have so far been 11,966 postal votes counted, compared with 14,108 at the 2019 election. Voter fraud fans may care to note that the LNP did better on election day votes (a 2.7% swing to Labor) than pre-poll votes (a 4.0% swing) and, especially, postal votes (a 7.3% swing).

Donation drive

At the end of every second month, this site humbly beseeches its readers to spare a few pennies through the PressPatron “become a supporter” buttons that feature at the top of the page and the bottom of each post. I’ve usually got some reason why this would be a particularly opportune moment to show your support, and now is no exception: COVID-19 travel restrictions cost me the extracurricular election work I normally rely on, and I was reduced to covering the campaign on my blog like a bum.

For readers, this had the upside that I was able to hustle together a live results reporting facility, and while it didn’t work too well on the night (all part of that learning curve), in the days that followed it was surely the best place on the internet to follow the late results, as it featured such detail as the preference flow by candidate data in considerably more accessible form than the Electoral Commission of Queensland site. Even now it remains the only place where you can find two-candidate preferred results by booth, which the ECQ in its wisdom removed from its reporting as the counting reached its conclusion. Then there was my Groom by-election live results reporting, which continues ticking over as we speak, and was the only place where booth results were publicly available on the night.

There are also some of you out there who are still in my system as donors but whose payments are not being processed due to expired credit cards — if that sounds like you, you can update your details by logging in at PressPatron and clicking on “edit payment” under “payment details” on the “My Contributions” page. If you encounter technical problems, which have been known to crop up from time to time, please drop me a line at pollbludger-AT-bigpond-DOT-com.

Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

Further improvement in Scott Morrison’s personal ratings, but otherwise little change in the latest Newspoll.

Courtesy of The Australian, Newspoll has the Coalition leading 51-49 on two-party preferred, unchanged on three weeks ago, from primary votes of Coalition 43% (steady), Labor 36% (up one), Greens 11% (steady) and One Nation 2% (down one, and their weakest result since at least the 2019 election). Scott Morrison is up two on approval to 66% and down two on disapproval to 30%, while Anthony Albanese is up one to 44% and up two to 41%, with Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister out from 58-29 to 60-28. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1511.

Groom by-election live

Projected LNP swing Projected 2PP LNP win probability

9.25pm. All pre-poll voting centres as well as election day booths are now in on both primary and two-party, which I presume is all we’re getting this evening. Labor has a 2.8% swing on election day votes, a 4.0% on pre-polls and 3.1% overall.

8.27pm. The South Toowoomba and West Toowoomba pre-poll centres have reported primary votes, and while the former has swung pretty heavily to Labor, the latter was slightly stronger for the LNP than the election day result.

7.43pm. Apart from one straggler on the two-party vote, all election day results are in now. There were 42,483 votes cast at election day booths, compared with 53,943 at the 2019 election.

7.09pm. My coverage is petering out because the booths coming in are merely confirming what was already known. There won’t really be anything worth commenting in until the pre-poll voting centres report, which presumably won’t be for a few hours.

6.51pm. Very quick count with only four candidates: nearly half the booths in on the primary vote already. Swing looks like about 3%, unless there’s a different dynamic on pre-polls, which the LNP would be pretty pleased with after the 5.2% swing in their favour at the 2019 election.

6.48pm. Of the two minor parties, Sustainable Australia is handsomely outpolling the Liberal Democrats. The former have the donkey vote, but the latter have the “Liberal” confusion factor.

6.46pm. Not so sure about that Toowoomba/rural divide now: apart from the 10.2% swing to Labor in the Toowoomba booth of Harristown West, the swings to Labor in Toowoomba booths are modest.

6.44pm. The two-party swing to Labor is settling in at around 4%, and the gap between the reported two-party result and my projection (which makes use of booth results that have only reported the primary vote so far) is narrowing.

6.37pm. Could be seeing a pattern here of a swing to Labor in Toowoomba but not the rural booths.

6.35pm. Some better results for Labor coming through on two-candidate preferred, including a double-digit swing in the Toowoomba booth of Harristown West. Now projecting a 4.6% two-party swing to Labor.

6.31pm. And let it be noted that it’s already got the LNP win probability at 100%.

6.30pm. Three election day booths now in on two-party preferred, which means by two-party projection is no longer going off estimated preference flows. I’m projecting essentially no two-party swing: there’s a slight two-party swing to the LNP just off the two-candidate preferred count, but that doesn’t make use of booths where there are primary votes in but not yet a TCP count.

6.28pm. Five election day booths now in on the primary vote and a small pre-poll booth in as well, the latter with two-party in as well. It actually records a small two-party swing to Labor, which could suggest my preference estimates are a little too favourable to the LNP, although we’re only talking 103 votes here.

6.24pm. The display error is now corrected, although it may take a hard refresh to get it working. Four booths now in on the primary and it’s still looking like a good result for the LNP, with a double-digit swing on the primary vote.

6.21pm. The display above is stuck on 50% for the win probability, which I’ll look into — the results page has it at 87%.

6.19pm. We have 126 formal votes in from Bowenville, and both parties are up on the primary vote with a much smaller field of candidates, though the LNP particularly so, resulting in the projection of a small two-party swing to the LNP. Until we get a non-trivial two-party count, this assumes the LNP is receiving 75% of Liberal Democrats preferences and Sustainable Australia are going 50-50, based on a rough approximation of their historical form.

6pm. Polls have closed. Note that my results display shows daylight savings time, i.e. New South Wales and Victoria rather than Queensland, which is the AEC’s doing rather than mine. Expect to see results from small rural booths start to come in in about 20 minutes or so.

5.50pm. Welcome to the Poll Bludger’s live coverage of the Groom by-election. The display featured above is a small sample of what will be available tonight on this site’s results facility. The top half of the display features progress vote totals and booth-matched swings, including a New York Times-style “election needle” recording a probability estimate of the final result. This is based on a projection of two-party preferred that combines estimates of the final primary vote shares and preference flows. The latter is the subject of its own table, which will show how minor party and independent preferences are flowing based on the latest two-party count, and how this compares with the corresponding results from the 2019 election. The bottom half features the clearest and neatest display of the booth results you will find, in the form of a table in which you can toggle between vote totals, percentages and swings. Also featured are separate sub-totals for ordinary election day polling booths and pre-poll voting centres, with swings to match — an increasingly important distinction on election night, when the latter come in quite a bit later than the former and don’t always behave the same way.

Miscellany: Morgan poll, Liberal Senate preselection, etc.

Two polls suggest the federal government’s COVID-19 dividend may be starting to wear a bit thin.

Today is the day of the federal by-election for the Queensland seat of Groom, which you can offer your thoughts on on this post in the apparently unlikely event that you have something specifically to say about it through the course of the day. This site will naturally be all over the count this evening, complete with a live results facility that is fully battle-tested so far as federal elections are concerned.

Other news of note:

• Roy Morgan had a result this week from the federal voting intention series it conducts regularly but publishes erratically. This one credited the Coalition with a slender two-party lead of 50.5-49.5, from primary votes of Coalition 42%, Labor 34%, Greens 12% and One Nation 4%. State breakdowns had the Coalition leading 53.5-46.5 in New South Wales, the reverse in Victoria, the Coalition leading 54.5-45.5 in Queensland, the Coalition leading 51-49 in Western Australia, and Labor leading 52.5-47.5 in South Australia. The poll was conducted online and by telephone over the two previous weekends from a sample of 2824.

• The Financial Review reports on JWS Research polling that shows 20% believe states should close borders to other states that have any active COVID-19 cases, “almost 60%” believe the same should happen if there are 25 active cases, and 75% say the same for 100 active cases. The report further relates that 60% of respondents rated the federal government’s handling of the virus positively, down six points from July, and that 87% of Western Australians, 82% of South Australians and 57% of Victorians (up seven since July) did likewise for their state goverments, with due caution for the small size of the relevant sub-samples. The poll was conducted from a sample of 1035 from last Friday to Sunday.

John Ferguson of The Australian reports on Victorial Liberal Senate preselection contenders for the next election: Simon Frost, staffer to Josh Frydenberg and the party’s former state director (including at the time of its disastrous 2018 campaign); Roshena Campbell, a Melbourne lawyer; Greg Mirabella, Wangaratta farmer and husband of Sophie Mirabella; and Jess Wilson, policy director at the Business Council of Australia. This is likely to amount to a race for the second position on the ticket, with Sarah Henderson to be promoted to first and Scott Ryan not seeking another term. There is contention in the state branch over president Robert Clark’s reluctance to have preselections determined through party plebiscites, with critics accusing him of using COVID-19 to maintain control by the central administration, as it did before the last election. According to the report, “a statewide ballot would favour Mr Frost, while an administrative committee vote would favour those loyal to Mr Clark’s forces“.

Groom by-election minus two days

Two days out, a guide for Saturday’s federal election in the safe LNP seat of Groom in Queensland.

The campaign hasn’t exactly been a barbecue stopper, but we’re two days out from the significant event of a federal by-election. This is to be held in Groom, which is centred upon Toowoomba in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, and will result in the election of a replacement for John McVeigh, who has held the seat for the Liberal National Party since 2016. McVeigh’s winning margin in 2019 was 20.5%, which you would normally think would mean Labor would sit the by-election out, but they have in fact done the election-watching community a solid by fielding a candidate. That’s more than can be said for One Nation and the Greens, with the by-election having attracted a meagre field of four candidates, the other two being from the Liberal Democrats and Sustainable Australia.

While an LNP victory is surely a foregone conclusion, the size of the swing will serve as a real world measure of how well the Morrison government is travelling, a particularly notable fact in these days of skepticism about opinion polls. It is also convenient that it will do so in Queensland, which has so often been the crucible of federal elections over the course of the present century, and which recently delivered Labor a morale-boosting win at state level. For more detail, I now have a complete guide to the by-election in business, and will be doing my live results reporting thing as the numbers come in on Saturday evening.