Sunrise in the west

More good news for the Howard government from Patterson Market Research’s Westpoll, published in today’s West Australian. Surveys of three marginal seats, each from a sample of more than 400, show the Liberals set to maintain their tenuous hold on Stirling and Hasluck (which were won from Labor in 2004 with respective margins of 2.0 per cent and 1.8 per cent), and gain Cowan (which retiring Labor member Graham Edwards held in 2004 by 0.8 per cent after a 4.8 per cent swing).

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.

62 comments on “Sunrise in the west”

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  1. I’d like to know a) the margin of error on those polls and b) how the ‘Don’t Know’ vote was allocated.

    As for the Morgan Poll – is this the belated budget bounce for the Government? If so, and if it doesn’t get above about 47%, would it be fair to say that the Government would still be in serious trouble?

  2. The latest Morgan is simply reflecting the trend to the Government I mentioned in an earlier thread – we are clearly seeing Labor’s primary vote tumbling and the Coalition’s strengthening. This poll also clearly illustrates the flaws in Morgan’s usual face-to-face methodology.

    As long as the good economic and employment news continues and the Government keeps up its attack on Labor’s connections with the unions, I reckon Howard’s home and hosed. Peter Hartcher in today’s Sydney Morning Herald agrees with me.

  3. If the WA polls had a sample size of approximately 400 this would imply a margin for error of 5%.

    Morgan’s sample size was 614 which has a margin for error of 4%.

    All of the above at 95% level of confidence.

  4. Sorry, always take a Westpoll with salt – it has a real tendency to over-estimate major party, and especially conservative, support. The sample size is small, and the parameters of the poll unknown. The best I would take from them is that these 3 seats are close – something we could have guessed, but it does mean that any swing (at least in WA) will be minor, if at all.

  5. It’s funny how 55-45 will be seen as a good result for the Libs because everyone is camparing it to 60-40, when it’s actually still pretty bad.

    Objectively, he does seem to be trending up. If they can get it back to 53-47 they are probably going to win the election. (Undecideds tend to favour the incumbent)

  6. Thanks Martin – I never was good at stats, but if anyone can remind me of the formula for calculating error margins at the 95% confidence level, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    If the error margin is 4% then the average over the past few months of ~58% is within the margin, so whilst it provides *some* validation of Galaxy, I’ll still wait for Neilsen and Newspoll.

  7. Blackburnpseph
    Yes, you’d be right, at least about Swan.
    That was my first thought – if these numbers are solid (and I have my doubts) that would mean Swan is a real prospect to go over the line.
    It would have, in my opinion, gone to the Libs last time but for a fiasco during the last campaign by someone unknown linked to the Liberal campaign. As it is the margin is one of the tightest in the country so any move to the Libs would see it fall.
    The local Lib candidate seems pretty solid (he actually knocked my door about a month ago) and started campaigning heavily a few months ago. He has strong local links and seems like a reasonable prospect should the ALP swing that I’m anticipating not eventuate.
    That said – I think Brand will be a slightly tougher prospect. As mentioned, I am a bit surprised at these figures, my anecdotal experience suggests a modest swing to the ALP amongst those I associate with. This is largely driven my an ‘its time for a change’ and ‘this bunch is a safer pair of hands than the last ALP bunch’ type of attitude. There is certainly some Howard/Lib exhaustion amongst some of my associates.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that all three seats are quite polarised- they have a strong Labor end and a strong Liberal end. If so, the margin reported in polls could vary substantially depending on who is sampled and where.

    Graham Edwards had a pretty high personal vote so would not be a complete surprise that Cowan’s in play with his retirement. As mentioned above, Swan would almost certainly have been lost last time if not for a hopeless Liberal candidate.

    Brand suffered a fairly large swing last time, so is probably safer than the margin on paper, although it’d be interesting to know what Beazley’s personal vote was worth….

    Do our resident West Aussies have any idea as to why things might be so different there than the rest of Oz? Is it all a state government thing? Residual anger at the shafting of local boy Beazley? AWA’s more popular in the mining sector? Or has Westpoll just pulled these numbers out of a particular orifice???

  9. I don’t think Labor can really clutch at margin of error here, given the consistency of the results. (Sampling bias is more plausible, but self-serving.)

    No doubt about it: these are worrying results for the ALP. And yes, Swan is a shocking omission.

    The national picture still looks reasonably rosy for Rudd. So this would appear to be some vindication of the speculation that WA is likely to buck the trend.

  10. WA is another country.

    I should know. I live here.

    And yes the seats are polarized.

    Hasluck – at the neds thornlie and midland – laborish.. in the niddle the hills and hobby farm region – safe lib..

    Swan . south perth/manning – blue ribbon lib… vic park/cannington/belmont… strong labor.

  11. Damn straight. When I lived in NSW I never saw any ads claiming products to be “proudly made in NSW”. WA may as well be another country. Worst part, though, is that we effectively have one newspaper which is vehemently and unashamedly pro-Liberal and loves to tell us what we think. These folks commision Westpoll. I would agree with Stewart J and his passionately encyclopaedic knowledge of matters electoral.

    The article tends to inflate the importance of WA voters to the result, something about “to win, every seat they lose in WA must be made up for with two elsewhere”… well, I’d rather think that any seat either party loses anywhere has to be made up for with two anywhere…

  12. Charlie,

    Reduced to its simplest terms the expression for the sample error is 98/SQRT(n)

    where n is the sample size.

    The numerator, 98, is calculated by 50 * 1.96 encompasses the 95% confidence level value of 1.96 and is valid when the percentages of the two parties are around 50-50.

  13. blackburnpseph Says:
    June 15th, 2007 at 1:07 pm
    Results such as these would presumably make the ALP woriied about Swan and Brand as well.

    Let’s not stop there!
    Maybe even Parramatta, Richmond, Hindmarsh
    But 52-48 will get JH back
    Life doesn’t get any better than this!

  14. Steven Kaye, just one problem with that analysis, in morgan’s poll the coalaition gained next to zip on its primary vote.

  15. Charlie,

    The exact equation does include the population size but its effect is so minimal that to all intents and purposes it can be left out. That is to say a sample size of 1000 gives pretty much the same margin of error whether the population is 100,000 or 10,000,000.

    SQRT is square root. Sorry I should have made that clear earlier.

  16. This looks Familiar!
    2004 ALP LIB / NAT
    October 9/10 & 16/17 47.5 52.5 Election day
    October 7/8 51.0 49.0
    October 2/3 51.5 48.5
    September 25/26 50.0 50.0
    September 18/19 53.0 47.0
    September 11/12 54.5 45.5
    August 28/29 & September 4/5 56.0 44.0
    August 14/15 & 21/22 55.5 44.5
    July 31/ August 1 & August 7&8 53.5 46.5
    July 17/18 & July 24/25 53.0 47.0
    July 10/11 54.0 46.0

    Morgan did well, up until the actual vote! Then it all went pear shaped I guess!

  17. ssshhhh Gary-Don’t ask them to actually read the numbers in front of them-It spoils a nice, fat, juicy, conservative, fairytale

  18. Wonder what people’s thoughts on Richmond are this time round. Larry Anthony only lost because of the Libs4Forests rort, and in the state election the Nats secured a big swing to win Tweed.

    Of course one should note that unlike the NSW state election, federally it will probably be 3 cornered and whilst the Nats already have got a candidate, it’s hard to see her getting the government support that Anthony as a Minister got. His personal vote doesn’t exist either but then again Geoff Provest overcame that with a bigger margin. And the emissions trading report might win some green voters back, although they’re pretty hardcore up that way.

  19. Walk around Perth one day and you’ll see why the Libs are leading. There are about 5 skyscrapers going up, construction sites everywhere and the longest porsche order list in the country. then drive up the northern and southern freeways and new homes go on for miles and miles. I worked in Houston, Texas (I’m an oil engineer) in 70s and 80s. Perth is going through a very similar boom – large numbers migrants (predominantly white), lots of money and a ‘frontier’ attitude. Why would any right minded West Australian want to change? Heck, they tolerate corruption in the state government for the sake of a moderately competent labor state government (as opposed to a seriously incompetent but generally clean liberal alternative state government).

  20. Mumble says – “The article alleges that WA will be “pivotal to the election”, and “Labor strategists believe the party must not only hold its five seats in the west, but win two others to have any chance of winning the election.”
    But the chances of this election coming down to two seats are miniscule, and WA is one of the least important states.”
    He also said of Westpoll – “Because of small individual seat samples, I’d be inclined to add them all up and say Westpoll gives a status quo situation in those three seats overall – or small movement to the Coalition – compared with the last election. Which is what their last statewide one said.”
    If Labor is to win the election it won’t be on the back of the West.

  21. Its going to be a very late election night if Labor are only a few seats ahead before the WA results start to come in 3 hours after the rest.

    It is clearly two seperate elections. Perhaps we should cut them loose!

  22. I will say it again Howard will win the election. The change of opinion in the community is being expressed in the polls. This will be the end of the ALP as we know it. The shift to the right is not working and the community groups i am meeting have had enough of both major parties.

  23. At the end of May I called the Election for the ALP on the back of the ALP maintaing a high TPP lead a month after the budget.

    I’m not surrpised the polls have turned for we have seen over the past month the Government appear to get its act together, with the ALP making several woopsies main offenders being Garrett and Gillard.

    I’m still tipping an ALP win, but I now feel we will either have a very narrow ALP win or a comfortable Liberal Party win.

    I’m not surprised to see the Liberals polling well in WA, and think the Liberals will hold Hasluck and may pick pick up Cowan with Stirling being too close to call.

  24. Bill Weller – “This will be the end of the ALP as we know it.” You totally lose credibility with me with this type of exaggerated statement. What a load of rot.

  25. Gary, seats in WA are worth the same as anywhere else in Australia. If it comes down to 1 or 2 seats those seats will decide the election. Your statement above isn’t very well thought out.

  26. Bill, in you saying the ALP shift to the right “not working”, surely that only stands as true if leftists like yourself preference the Coalition over the ALP?

  27. WA is likely to deliver at least one additional seat for the Coalition, as far as anyone can say six months out from an election. There is simply no incentive, let alone imperative, for change, especially in the West. And I suspect that Mr Rudd’s marketed persona does him no favours in WA. He appears to be increasingly narrowing his appeal to the converted and the uninformed. Are his staff largely to blame? In the recent media-intensive cycle, politicians are increasingly reliant on “expert advice”. I think Mr Keating made some telling points last week, in his inimitable fashion. WA is clearly a different market, and without Mr Beazley and considering the strength of the economy the ALP will clearly have an uphill battle.

  28. Ray “Its going to be a very late election night if Labor are only a few seats ahead before the WA results start to come in 3 hours after the rest”.

    Havent lived in ‘the other country’ [WA]. I was living in QLD around the time of the last Federal Election when the overwhelming views on the outcome was very polarised, either ‘too close to call’ or ‘a comfy win for the Coalition with a few [side order seats] freebies tossed in’.

    There havent been too many ‘won by a few seats’ Federal Election outcomes lately. All the Federal election Ive been part of were decided long before results from WA came in. You can book your taxi to your Election celebration/commisseration {did i spell that right Adam ?) party for around 8.30pm.

    The ‘must gain x seats in WA’ statement was present at the last 2-3 elections, postulated by uneducated, tea leaf reading arm chair ‘experts’ like moi, although this view was not one I actually ascribed to. It wont come down to what happens in WA, I will stick my neck out and say that much.

    For WA the net result in my crystal ball says either the same as it is now or the Coalition to get a net gain of one seat – but i reserve the right to speculate some more on WA down the track abit. Im not planning on a late election night, it will be all over before the sun goes down in WA. My attention will be on what happens here in QLD if I want to con myself into beleiving that a ‘close’ result is pending, which i dont ascribe to right now.

  29. Adam the Pedant. “Tiresomely common spelling error #674: there is no such word as “miniscule.” It is minuscule”. This is a very tongue in cheek comment but Adam, dear, I am betting I would find the word “tiresomely” in an English language source, Im not going to go look either. Maybe I should have had you spell check my Phd thesis-Never mind, i didnt finish the bloody thing anyway.

  30. SDTo Strop,

    I think the last time we had an Election where the results in WA really matters (all seats matter) was 1990 when the the ALP held onto 3 or 4 seats by small margins.

  31. My preferred dictionary, Chambers, lists “tiresomely”. But anyway.

    If there’s no incentive for change in the West, why is a seat going to go over to the Coalition? That’s only going to happen if WA Labor voters go the other way. Nobody has given a convincing reason as to why Labor is going to definitely lose its WA marginals. I expect Labor to either gain one or be status quo in WA due to 2004 being an absolute low mark due to the appalling Latham campaign.

  32. Edward there was more than the Latham factor involved in the 2004 loss for the ALP. Dont be fooled by the ‘Now we have a better leader we can/will win’ mythology or the comforting poll results of 2007 six months out from an election.

    You probably look abit tragic making statements about the outcome in WA yourself without much to back it up beyond the oft quoted lament about the “appalling Latham campaign” , abit flimsy, and then critique others who are speculating Labor losing marginals in WA on the equally flimsy grounds that there is no incentive for change in WA because the place is booming [economically] and/or following Coalition (mis) representation of every WA voter living in mining huts and profiting from the mining ‘boom’ over there.

    On providing “a convincing reason as to why Labor is going to definitely lose its WA marginals”, yeah, Id like to see someone come up with a substantiated argument for that notion, if indeed that is what other people are postulating here.

  33. Hmm. I was being a touch short and unspecific, I’ll grant you that.

    But I do think that Western Australia may have gone a few points to the Coalition because Kim wasn’t leader and there’s no reason for it to go any further. What I mean is, I can’t see any reason why a Labor TPP voter from 2004 won’t stick with them in 2007. I can see plenty of reasons why a Labor TPP voter from 2001 would have gone to the Liberals in 2004.

  34. bmwofoz Says:

    June 17th, 2007 at 12:17 pm
    SDTo Strop,

    I think the last time we had an Election where the results in WA really matters (all seats matter) was 1990 when the the ALP held onto 3 or 4 seats by small margins.

    The 1990 election was a close-run thing. The Hawke Labor government secured 78 of the 148 seats in the House of Representatives and did have to wait for (8) seats they won in WA to get a majority, leaving the Coalition (69 seats) in Opposition for another 6 years. It was ALP 70-Coalition 63 before the WA results came in. Winning 12 of the 14 WA would have won Government for the Coalition, but not even the most optimistic among the Coalition would have been sitting there thinking this was possible. [The best Coalition results in WA were to come later, 8-3 in 1996 and 10-5 in 2004]. ]. .
    After 1990, the result of the Election was decided long before the sun went down in WA—

    In 1993, It was ALP 74-Coalition 57 before the WA results came in. Even if they had won all 14 WA seats in 1993, the Coalition (71 seats) would have been 3 short of a majority in the House of Representatives.

    In 1996, It was Coalition 75-ALP 46 before the WA results came in: the Labor Government was seriously beaten.

    In 1998, it was Coalition 73-ALP 60 before WA results came in, giving the ALP no chance of winning a majority in the HOR, despite improving their pre WA seat count by 14 seats.

    In 2001, it was Coalition 74-ALP 58 before the WA results came in, again giving the ALP no chance of winning a HOR majority and dropping 2 pre WA seats (down from 60-58 seats) along the way.

    In 2004, it was Coalition 77-ALP 55 before the WA results came in, giving the ALP their second worst pre WA seat count (55) in four losing elections.

    In summary, the contender that won these elections (1993-2004) had a HOR majority or very close to it (73-77 seats) already in hand before the WA election results came in and their opposition was lagging behind so badly (46-60 seats) that winning all available WA wouldn’t have won the election for them.

    Therefore, Id still be booking my taxi to my post election party for 8.30 pm on Election night if you live on the Eastern side of Oz.

  35. Edward, I cant see any reason why ALP 2PP voters in WA wont stick with them in 2007 either, although the Green primary vote, for example, in ALP marginal seats in WA was not overly strong in Brand (4.8%) and Cowan (5.6%) compared to Swan (8.3%) in 2004.

    The ALP primary vote in those seats will probably need to improve to keep them on the ALP side of the WA ledger and that is not likely in Brand (47.0%) and Cowan (43.8%) where the ALP primary vote was already strong in 2004 compared to the National ALP primary vote (37.6%). Swan could have room for an increased ALP primary vote (39.9%).

    It is the primary vote winners in the ‘other’ category (other than the Liberals, ALP, Greens and Democrats) and where they are going to direct their 2PP preferences in those WA marginals that make things tougher to ‘read’ from past elections [to the extent extrapolising from one time and space to another 3 years on can be ‘valid’].

    The ‘others’ accounted for 7.3% of the primary vote in Brand, 4.8% of the primary vote in Cowan and 6.2% of the primary vote in Cowan at the 2004 Federal election. What do you think these ‘others’ will do in 2007 ?

  36. I never pay much attention to anything other than 2PP really, I don’t think primary vote is the be-all and end-all, but then again, that is probably being a bit simplistic given that the biggest minor parties have been the Greens who can’t direct their preferences anyway. But then again, would a Labor voter who swings towards FF really follow a HTV that preferences the Liberals?

    Maybe I’m a fool, but I give people more credit than that.

  37. I’m not in WA, but I believe the argument that Labor may do worse is primarily about the loss of Graham Edwards’ personal vote in Cowan.
    I don’t know how to evaluate the argument, but it is worth noting that each side has two seats on the proverbial knife-edge – Cowan and Swan currently held by Labor, Hasluck and Stirling (Liberal). Consequently a modest swing in either direction could yield a net gain of two seats. Given the narrow margins. it’s also feasible that anywhere between 0-4 of these seats could change hands.
    I had thought that Labor’s poor result in 2004, might be enough to see them hang on to their two extreme marginals.
    I also agree that it is unlikely that the election will turn on the WA outcome. At least this time with daylight saving in the West, we won’t have to wait quite so long for the conclusive result.

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