Ups and downs

As promised quite a while ago now, here are charts tracking New South Wales state opinion polling by Newspoll and Roy Morgan during the current term. These have been numbered to identify the approximate timing of the following events:

1. Caucus revolt over pokies tax (Aug 2003)
2. Claims of harassment by whistleblower nurses (Nov 2003)
3. Redfern riots (Feb 2003)
4. Clover Moore elected lord mayor of Sydney (Mar 2004)
5. Orange Grove affair; Bob Carr rebuked by ICAC over health inquiry (Jul/Aug 2004)
6. Federal election (Oct 2004)
7. Treasurer Michael Egan retires; Macquarie Fields riots (Jan/Feb 2005)
8. Bob Carr retires; John Brogden resigns (Jul/Aug 2005)
9. “Triple M” by-elections; RTA chief executive forced to resign (Sep/Oct 2005)
10. Liberal defeat in Pittwater by-election; Cronulla riots (Nov 2005)
11. Deficit budget (Jun 2006)
12. Carl Scully resigns (Oct 2006)
13. Milton Orkopoulos charged; Peter Debnam raises claims against Bob Debus in parliament (Nov 2006)

There have also been three polls conducted by ACNielsen since the middle of last year:

July/Aug 2006 51 40 42 18
Nov/Dec 2006 51 36 41 23
Feb 2007 57 46 37 17

A big thank-you is in order to regular reader and stats guru Geoff Lambert for providing me with the figures, and also with a chart illustrating his very interesting contribution to comments five days ago (note that this was before Tuesday’s Newspoll and ACNielsen figures):

Swing … what swing? The last two years of polls in NSW before the 2003 election showed an upward drift in the ALP TPP which, when projected forward as a linear regression to the election, gave a TPP of 59.6%. This was calculated on the basis of Newspoll+Morgan+Nielsen polls. Over that two years, the ALP TPP grew by about 0.07% per month. The actual election returned an average TPP of 56.2%, an error on prediction of 3.4%. This was due mainly to a “droop” occurring from about December 2002.

In the two year period 2004-early 2007, the upward drift of the ALP TPP is also about 0.07% per month. Projected to election day, the line points at a TPP of 58.6%. So far (to Jan 2007) there is no sign of a “droop”, indeed the ALP TPP seems to be inching up even faster. But, if we DO get a 2002/2003-type “droop” (3.2%) from the polls done in early 2007, the TPP on election day would be 55.2%, a swing of 1% against the Government and lead to a loss of zero seats, if evenly distributed. Recent Iemma schemozzles might enlarge the droop. It needs to be about 6.3% average before the Govt. will start losing seats. Sounds like a big ask.

There are no Nielsen numbers in the 2004-2007 data. Nielsen has a long time record of posting lower ALP TPPs than the other two.

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.

21 comments on “Ups and downs”

  1. Interesting that the same Labor (on average) bias seen in Morgan at a Federal level (when compared with Newspoll) is evident at the state level. It further suggests a systemic bias in the design of Morgan’s polling approach.

  2. Newspaper stories today say that “pundits” have been “astonished” and the Coalition “demoralised” by the Tuesday polls (although one story says the Coalition had similar polling in its hands). Even I was a bit surprised when I sat down on Sunday and drew up the graph now so kindly reproduced above by William.

    But Tuesday’s polls only strengthen that chart- somewhat tilting the black line (“regression” or “line of best fit”) a little bit upward for the ALP. They also firmed up the statistics (reduced the uncertainty) of my Sunday chart. I feel a Morgan Poll will be out by the end of the week, but it cannot statistically drag the numbers too much one way or the other, even though Morgan usually does show a higher ALP than the others (by an average of 1% over the last 15 years of Federal polling).

    Probably, the best guide is to use only the final 6-12 months’ polling, as only in that period do voters really begin to concentrate on what the pollsters are asking of them. Barring a disaster or bombshell like the 2004 Latham-Howard handshake, we may thus expect the most likely State-wide ALP TPP to be in the region of 59% and we would be 95% confident that it would be between 58% and 60%.

    This would represent a 2-4% swing to the ALP and, on a uniform swing (or one where the swings cancelled out the roundabouts) this would translate to a likely seat outcome of a gain of 3 to 5 seats for the ALP.

    Does that sound believable? Not really- but it has always worked at a Federal level (2004 handshakes aside).

  3. Anecdotal evidence that Debnam is in trouble: the Liberals in my local seat of Epping are campaigning here a lot harder than in previous years.
    Epping is meant to be a safe blue ribbon Liberal seat, yet Young Libs are handing out pamplets at my local railway station most mornings, and there are a lot more Greg Smith(Liberal candidate) posters around my neck of the woods. It could have something to do with a) dissatisfaction with the preselection of Smith as the Liberal candidate, quite a few Liberals in the area resigning from the party in protest, b) a strong campaign being mounted by the Independent Martin Levine. The ALP doesn’t have a prayer: I suspect they will run dead and give Levine all their preferences.
    Epping might be a seat to watch on March 24.

  4. Not just Epping, word from Liberal sources are that a special ad buy for Willoughby and Cronulla local papers has been approved from State Council funds – its looking like a tsunami – Liberal HQ has already written off Chris Hartcher in Terrigal. The Liberals arent talking cricket team but are looking at maybe a touring squad.

  5. In Drummoyne (8.7% ALP), which should be a must-win to deprive the ALP of a majority, at the moment there is an avalanche from sitting member d’Amore and zilch from the Libs.

    While I’m sure that Greg Long (long-time Lib candidate) is doing all he can personally, on current evidence the Lib NSW party machine has decided it’s not worth investing resources in. Albeit, as has already been noted, demographic trends probably make it less winnable for the Libs than the likes of Menai (8.9%) and Miranda (9.1%).

  6. Hartcher was very lucky to win last time!
    Willoughby was almost won by the independent(Mayor of Willougby) in 2003.
    I doubt the Libs will do too well in seats like Drummoyne, Strathfield, Ryde etc.

  7. Once again, people are getting very excited about poll results. What those of us with a psephological bent keep forgetting is that 90% of swing voters are yet to pay the slightest bit of attention to the campaign. This will change over the next weeks of course, and if they keep hearing that Labor can’t lose, the chances of a protest vote goes up accordingly.

    That said, the Libs started the year a long way behind and as far as I can tell haven’t made up any ground whatsoever. The Libs should be ashamed of themselves if they can’t make any headway against a 12 year old government. Who’d have thought that Debnam’s budgie smugglers could be such a turn-off?

  8. Latest Word from the bunker is that the Libs dont even have prepoll votes material organised in Miranda or Menai. Who is going to be the fall guy?

  9. If you want to tell Pete jusy how bad his campaign is I suggest visiting the Bogey Hole Cafe at Bronte Beach on a Sunday morning (before 9am) and tell him personally or ring and leave a message. Whilst Iemma has been campaigning Debnam has been relaxing with the beautiful people. The only morning he has missed all year was to attend the Nats campaign launch.

  10. The Libs are certainly giving Frank Sartor an easy run in my seat of Rockdale. Yes, it has a 15% margin so it was always going to be tough, but given the high level of discontent with the Government, accentuated by this (apparently)very unpopular Minister the Libs should have at least been aiming for a scare. Instead, I’m not sure they even have a candidate, let alone doing any advertising. Clearly resources are now being directed to shoring up their own seats – forget even Labor marginals, let alone safe ones.

    One wonders if there is any Lib leadership rumblings…electoral suicide perhaps but when the firing squad seems to be lined up anyway, what have they got to lose? Even Flegg in Qld managed to break even after only 8 weeks in job and a God-awful campaign.

  11. Hugo Says: Once again, people are getting very excited about poll results. What those of us with a psephological bent keep forgetting is that 90% of swing voters are yet to pay the slightest bit of attention to the campaign.

    While this is at least partly true, it is also true that these same people have been among those polled and their opinion has slowly been drifting towards the ALP. They may suddenly turn around and start jumping the other way once they focus a bit more, but there is no sign of it yet. There WAS a turn-around in 2003 and it MAY even have been due to out-of-focus swingers- but it began to happen 4 months before the election.

  12. The voters of NSW are stuck between a rock and a hard place in their choice on March 24 – its a contest between the fool and the tool!! The readers of this website can decide which is which!!

    In some ways, it is tragic for Australian democracy that a state government that has so manifestly failed to deliver basic services and has become besmirched in a series of ethical scandals should seem to be comfortably cruising back into office because the opposition is just not a credible alternative and doesn’t even seem to want to win.

    Unless, of course, a re elected Iemma government would be so diabolically incompetent (on past record -yep!) that the libs see a reaction against it as shoring up the NSW vote when the federal election comes. Or that they realise that a Debnam government would be as diabolically awful and deliver the Lodge to Ruddy who would have gained a swag of NSW seats.

    Call me cynical…..

  13. MOONEY VALLEY, Victoria by-election

    Reports coming in from scrutineers and candidates indicates that the Victorian Electoral Commission is once again proposing to use a computerised counting system for the Mooney Valley City Council By-election scheduled to be counted this weekend.

    Under dispute is the need to conduct a computerised count for the election of a single member when a manual count would be quicker and require less resources and more important would be more open and transparent.

    The use of a computerised count in a single member constituency can not be justified. The time and resources required to undertake a computerised count is much more then it would be if the election was manually counted. Any time saved is only at the expense the public scrutiny by cutting corners reducing the overall quality of the count.

    Computerised counting was not used to count the results of the Victorian Legislative Assembly (Lower-house) election in November.

    The Victorian Electoral Commissions conduct of the Victorian Legislative Council (Upper-house) election in November 2006 demonstrates that VEC’s computerised counting system has some major problems. Information obtained under FOI indicates that the software used by the Victorian Electoral Commission has not been fully certified and that there is insufficient checks and balances in the system to ensure that the results of the computerised count are accurate and correct.

    The Victorian Local Government Act Schedule 3, Part 3 subclause 10 (c) (ii) requires that the VEC undertake a preliminary sort of ballot papers into parcels based on the allocated first preference vote.

    The VEC claim that they are exempt from this provision of the act where the election is conducted by post and a computerised counting system is used.

    The election is expected to take 24 data-entry operators two hours to count., That’s 48 man hours.

    A manual count would take four people approximately 4-5 hours to count a net savings of 28 man hours. So where is the benefit of a computerised count, and at what costs? A computerised count is virtually impossible to effectively scrutinise.

    The tally of the 2006 Victorian Legislative Council also required that the Victorian Electoral Commission presort ballot papers into parcels based on the first preference allocation.

    This is an important part of the scrutiny of the ballot. Without this provision scrutineers are limited in their ability to undertake a proper scrutiny of the counting of the election. Ballot paper preferences are keyed in a random fashion and scrutineers are unable to focus on a particular candidates preferences.

    The VEC electronic shell game

    There is further concern that the Electoral Commission refuses to provide copies of the recorded preference data file for independent analysis and review, further denying the opportunities and ability to undertake a proper scrutiny of the count.

    This is akin to the con-mans game of three shells and a pea where the returning officer declares the results of the game by lifting up one shell showing that the pea is not there but refuses to show what’s underneath the other two shells.

    Use of computerised counting of single member constituencies should be prevented until such time as full and comprehensive review of the electronic voting systems has been undertaken,

    A Manual count would facilitate an open and transparent scrutiny of the ballot and would be preferable then the proposed computerised count,

    The Victorian Electoral Commission is more interested in playing with its latest toy then it is about public accountability and the maintenance of open and transparent electoral system.

    Given the experience of recent past events the VEC management of the electronic count can not be trusted.

    The fact that the VEC is prepared to misrepresent the facts in respect to the legislative requirements in order to cut corners is further evidence for a major review of the functions and operation of the Victorian Electoral Commission.

  14. What’s interesting in reading the Victorian local Government Election regulations is that clause 110 (4) states “Before calculating the result, the returning officer must reconcile the electronic record of ballotpapers
    with the total number of ballot-papers received.

    This is somthing that was clearly missing froim the Nopvember 2006 Victorian State Electon

    Had the VEC reconciled the electronic record of ballotpapers
    with the total number of ballot-papers received the number of significant erros in the conduct of the election count would not have occured.

    The total number of ballot papers recored in the final count has upto 470 ballot papers missing from the previous count.

    There is little to wonder as to why the VEC does not want to publish the polling place details of the 2006 Legislative Council results.

    Hopefully these errors in adminsitration will not occur in the NSW count and that copies of preference data-files and polling place results are readily available prior to the declartion of the poll.

  15. Thank you William. The four years since the last election seem to have gone in a blur. I really felt that Labor had governed fairly well in NSW and the change of leadership was achieved with some expertise (certainly compared to Unsworth). Iemma seemed to have grown into the job.

    I have been racking my brain to think of why Iemma is so hated. Your charting with 13 points brings back some of the last 4 years happenings. Here are my comments on them and I freely state that I have voted Labor about 70% of my life

    Points 1-4 are hardly points against the government. In the case of the whistle-blowing nurses the charges were rejected by ICAC and one of the nurses now looks distinctly like a liberal stooge.
    5 Was admittedly a low point but ICAC again cleared the government
    6-10 Seem to be either neutral or fairly balanced low points between the government and opposition
    11 I may be an old Keynsian but I believe deficit budgets are beneficial during periods of downturn, particularly when the state is virtually debt free
    12 Scully certainly deserved to go but I felt it was handled quickly and efficiently.
    13 I don’t know if a Minister’s sexual percadillos can be blamed on the government but once again I felt the reaction was handled well and Debnam handed the government an own goal.

    I can also think of the changes to the train timetables, which have now settled down, and the failure of the PPP Cross City tunnel as negative points since 2003 but I know there must be others.

    For my benefit I would really like blackburnpseph and others to tell me of the government’s specific failures that have caused such a negative reaction. (I mean, even if you don’t like the government, there is no reason to act as if its the end of civilisation if they get re-elected.)

  16. Looks like another election between Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum… such a pity democracy has become so polarised between two competing horses in the race… Alp and LNP. If only the mindset was broken to vote a completely different 3rd party in to really shake things up…. One Nation in Qld in 1998 definetly made the majors listen … but doesn’t look like anything big will happen – so it’s stuck with the devil we know. The only other slightly credible 3rd party, ironically enough, is the democrats. Besides that – not much choice to choose from. Such a pity…

  17. Oakeshott country, I agree people should not act like it is the end of civilisation when the Iemma government is reelected. I like Morrie. He is a decent fellow. I still think he is a chauffeur masquerading as a premier. The architect of Labor’s win is Mark Arbib with help from the other mob who chose a dud leader.

  18. bert not saying one nation is a credible third party – but saying something of their achievement actually made the majors listen and actually do something rather than rhetoric – something needs to knock the majors back in line

  19. Bill, the quota for election is 4.545%, so they will win one seat for that much, two for 9.09% and three for 13.63% (after preferences). The following is the percentage vote and seats won at the past three elections, bearing in mind that upper house members serve eight-year staggered terms.

    2003 8.6% 2
    1999 3.0% 1
    1995 3.8% 1

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