Polls: this, that and the other

Today’s Advertiser carries two interesting electorate level polls with impressive samples of around 550 voters, which provide support for two items of conventional wisdom about the coming South Australian election – that the Rann government will win a handsome majority, and that quirky independent MP Peter Lewis is gone for all money in Hammond. The first proposition is backed by a poll of voters in Stuart (top), a vast electorate covering the eastern part of the state in which Labor are competitive thanks to their strength in Port Augusta. It has Labor’s Justin Jarvis on 47 per cent of the decided primary vote against 42 per cent for Liberal veteran Graham Gunn (veteran seems almost an understatement for a man who entered parliament in 1970) for a lead of 52-48 on two-party preferred.

The Hammond poll (bottom) backs up Malcolm Mackerras’s assertion in Saturday’s Australian (where he predicted that Labor would pick up six seats overall) that Peter Lewis would "get done like a dinner". It shows Lewis in distant third place on 13 per cent of the decided vote compared with 48 per cent for Liberal candidate Adrian Pederick and 25 per cent for Labor (who unveiled James Peikert as their candidate earlier this week). If these figures are accurate, the best preference flow in the world would not be enough to boost Lewis to second place ahead of Labor, and even if it did the Liberal vote is close enough to 50 per cent to assure Pederick of victory. It also suggests that a majority of the voters abandoning Lewis are heading for Labor rather than Liberal – together with the Stuart results and Saturday’s Advertiser poll, this undercuts the notion that the Labor swing will be confined to Adelaide.

Bass Braddon Denison Franklin Lyons Total
Labor 39 41 35 37 48 42
Liberal 38 42 28 29 30 32
Greens 20 10 36 24 18 22

Also just to hand is a detailed breakdown of the EMRS poll for the Tasmanian election (above) which was published in the Mercury on Saturday. There are a number of reasons why these results should be treated with caution. While the total sample of 1002 is substantial, the margin of error blows out significantly when it comes to the seat-by-seat breakdowns. Even more troubling is the extremely high undecided rating (23 per cent in Saturday’s poll) that is a consistent feature of EMRS polling, which suggests they are making no effort to twist the arms of voters reluctant to declare a preference (larger polling agencies ask undecided voters who they are "leaning towards", and they usually get an answer). The following table, showing the course of aggregate EMRS polling over the past year, is probably more useful.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

7 comments on “Polls: this, that and the other”

  1. A question for the experts … if Graham Gunn falls in the seat of Stuart would this represent some sort of record as he has been MP for the seat for nigh on 36 years? Has any MP lost election after such a lengthy time in parliament? I’m aware that Earle Page lost Cowper in NSW after 42 years (dying without knowing he had lost!!) but that was in 1961. Are there any other old-timers who were bumped out at election have extreme lengths of time in parliament?

  2. Thanks for posting those William, but it strikes me that the figures don’t add up. If the sample is the same in each seat Labor’s vote can’t be as high as 42, nor the Libs as low as 32. The Greens figure is probably right.

    This may just mean that the sample size in Lyons is larger than the others, but in that case the total figure should be weighted to reflect that.

    Given the margins for error this is probably a trivial point, but it does make me question the whole poll a bit.

  3. Good question about long-serving MPs. Generally if you have held a seat for long time it must be ultra-safe so losing becomes unlikely. Gunn’s problem is the redistribution. John McGowan lost Redfern in 1917 after 26 years but that was because he had left Labor over conscription. William Holman lost Cootamundra in 1920 after 26 years but that was due to new boundaries under PR. Possibly some of Vince Gair’s supporters in Qld also.

  4. Stephen, I have only just noticed that the person who sent me the EMRS data included their own table of party totals after exclusion of the undecided which differs slightly from mine – it has Labor on 40, Liberal 33 and Greens 22. All I did was divide the party scores by 0.77 (23 per cent being the undecided figure) and mutliply by 100, which may not have been the most sophisticated way of going about it.

  5. I think you mean James McGowan, and Holman lost after 22 years in Parliament. He could have accepted an offer to move to the city. He was defeated by a Progressive candidate in the new mutli-member electorate of Cootamundra in 1920. The two sitting Labor MPs were elected, but Holman was defeated by a competing conservative candidate.

  6. Long serving members who lost…two that come to mind..Former Qld Liberal leader Sir William Knox lost Nundah in Brisbane in 1989 after 32 years. Federally, Ian Robinson lost Page in 1990 after first being elected in 1963.

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