Pieces and bits: episode two

• It now emerges that respondents to the weekend’s Galaxy poll of voting intention in Bennelong were also asked if their vote would be influenced by the prospect of the Prime Minister departing mid-term should he retain the seat. This is highly significant in light of Malcolm Mackerras‘s conviction that voters will tip him out partly to avoid a “quick, unnecessary and costly by-election”. The poll found 84 per cent of respondents said they would not be influenced by such concerns, which can be read one of two ways: voters are overwhelmingly unconcerned, or a small but decisive minority does in fact consider it a vote-switcher. The SBS Insight program, which commissioned the poll in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph, will tonight be devoted to a forum discussion from a hand-picked sample of Bennelong voters, to screen at 7.30pm.

Simon Jackman offers a very illuminating pendulum in which the seats from each state are listed in a different column. The lower part of the table marks Labor’s strongest historical result in each state post-1949. Interesting to relate that if Labor matches its best performance in every state, the Coalition will still win almost as many seats as Labor has at present.

• Inform your speculation on the Senate election with this handy results calculator, brought to you by occasional Poll Bludger commenter Dembo. It is set for the 2004 preference tickets at present, but I am advised that these will soon be made adjustable.

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.

171 comments on “Pieces and bits: episode two”

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  1. ANZ report just out showing that South Australia can now be considered as in recession.

    When was the last time there was any state politics polling there? Rann is popular, but could that be the first state to fall?

  2. Jeez – sorry guys. I should read the article I’m posting a comment to. Well at least I put the time in there. And the repeats.

  3. Has Costello signed with Maq Bank?

    Has Costello already made arrangements in the private sector? Lately he seems unconcerned, disconnected even. Now he’s smacking down Howard publicly.

  4. The fact that the Bennelong poll was partially commissioned by a TV show does make me question how accurate it is. After all, a “PM looks set to hold his seat exactly the same as he has for the past 30 years” type of non-story would not exactly be a ratings-grabber for Insight.

  5. I read the Malcolm Mackerras piece back then on Crikey and thought at the time he might be on the money.
    Amazing how little difference a few months can make in politics!
    There’s less time between now and the election and when that piece appeared.
    People do object to their money being wasted on by-elections and are encouraged by the media to have that opinion.
    It’s almost a certainty that John Howard won’t serve the full three years of his term in Bennelong if he wins the seat.
    I had noticed that Peter Costello seems to have that totally resigned look. He probably knows he will never be Prime Minister.
    He will be snapped up by Macquarie or another large financial institution on a million a year the moment he resigns.
    Nick Greiner and Bob Carr seem quite happy in their various new positions and they’re making ten times the money now, not that money is all important.
    There may well be a swag of by-elections in the months following the election.

  6. Marcus, you are casting aspersions on Galaxy. SBS didn’t send round reporters to ask the questions. It doesn’t matter who commissions it, whether it be the Australian, SBS or whoever. I’m sure Galaxy are fiercely independent of influence. It’s possible their polling methods could be refined but that’s nothing to do with SBS

  7. Just to add a little to Richard’s reply to Marcus…

    The media outlets commission polls with reputable pollsters on the basis that there is a reasonable chance of getting a newsworthy result. They also have to live with the chance that the money is wasted if the result is boring. They try to commission polls so that in the long run they benefit.

    Having a reputable pollster doing the poll contributes to the newsworthiness when they get some good numbers.

    The alternative of getting dodgy pollsters to give you a guaranteed interesting result might work occasionally but is not likely to get much of an audience in the long run.

  8. Richard Jones:

    “It’s almost a certainty that John Howard won’t serve the full three years of his term in Bennelong if he wins the seat.”

    Yes, and that’s the beauty of the ALP fielding a ‘star’ candidate. McKew has positioned herself for the second go-round even if she loses the first time. Come the by-election, would the Libs field a strong candidate in a marginal seat like Bennelong – especially when future re-distributions may make it even more ALP-friendly?

    (Of course, the other reason the ALP fielded McKew is that it means that the PM is bogged down campaigning in his own seat.)

    “I had noticed that Peter Costello seems to have that totally resigned look. He probably knows he will never be Prime Minister.”

    Yeah, I noticed that look too. But I’m not sure it’s resignation. I think it’s a combination of smugness and barely concealed frustration. He knows he could do a better job than his boss, and now he’s forced to cool his heals as Howard’s sidekick. You can almost hear Costello muttering under his breath, “I told you so. I told you so…”.

  9. Can’t the fact voters think Howard will retain the seat cause some swinging voters to vote against him as a protest vote?

  10. Can we also extrapolate, from the figures, that 77% of Benelong voters polled think that the Govt. will lose the next election?

  11. On Simon Jackman’s great graphic, perhaps it is an electoral chromatograph rather than a pendulum.

    And also, does anyone else see a merit in animating it on a web page and allowing the vertical lines representing individual states to be moved up or down independently? Thus we could allow for the relative state swings as measured by, for example, quarterly Newspolls. For example, WA moved up 5.4%, NSW up 12.2% etc. A horizontal line across the whole graphic then indicates a uniform nationwide movement relative to the Newspoll.

    If Mr Howard gets some uniform national claw back from the big business anti-union scare campaign, then it will show up as rising level tide of blue dots like the sea-level after a few more years of his government.

  12. #13 Ruawake, I think the 23% you indirectly refer to, are people who think both Howard and the Liberals will win. 38% of those polled think Howard will win his seat but the Libs lose the election. ie. 61% of those polled believe he will hold his seat.

    Of the remaining 39%, who are presumably either undecided or predicting a Howard loss in Bennelong, some would be predicting that Howard loses his seat but Libs retain power.

    Therefore, from my reading of it, unless there are other figures available for this, there is no way of knowing how many Bennelong voters are expecting a Liberal win. But, assuming 20 % of the remaining voters were unsure (7.8% of the total) and 80% (just dragged that out of thin air) of people who expect Howard to lose his seat are predicting a Labor win (approx. 25% of the total)…we have 38 plus 25 = 63% of those polled expecting a Labor win and presumably a by-election in the near future.

    Sounds about right I think. Happy to be held to account for any dodgy accounting here.

  13. To any Bennelong or Wentworth electorate voters reading this comment.
    When you go to the polls come election day, please remember that a vote for John Winston Howard or Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is a vote to rob the NSW Northern Rivers and, the Clarence Valley in particular, of vital freshwater which secures the environmental, economic, social and cultural values of the Clarence River system and the communities who depend on this coastal river.
    The Clarence Valley Council has said no to the Howard-Turnbull push. Likewise the Clarence River Professional Fishermen’s Association and local environmental groups.
    The NSW Government has firmly rejected the Clarence water diversion proposals or any northern NSW interstate water transfer and, the Qld Government has stated that these options are not part of its urban water strategy.
    But still this arrogant and ill-informed duo push on with the creation of terms of reference for the great water heist.
    Don’t let John Howard steal our fresh water!

  14. Interesting to remember Antony Green`s comment a couple of days ago re. this very topic. He suggested that a Howard/Libs double or a McKew/Labor double were statistically the most likely scenarios. However, acording to this poll, of the 61% who expect Howard to retain his seat, a clear majority are predicting a Labor victory.

  15. re.Phillip Coorey`s article, I can only assume that when he states a clear majority believe `Mr.Howard will be victorious at an election this year..`, he is referring to the seat of Bennelong, not the general election.

  16. 23 per cent believe Mr Howard will win his seat and the Government will win the election.

    38 per cent think Mr Howard will win his seat but the Coalition will lose.

    39 percent may think Howard could lose his seat AND the coalition lose the election.

    So it is feasable that 77% think the coalition will lose. Just as it is feasable that 61% think he will win.

    Depends on how you view it. I think my maths are OK.

  17. Re Peter Costello
    I think He will stay around even as opposition leader
    I want to see the Abbott and Costello combination as leader
    and deputy
    it would be great political theatre

  18. #19 Ruawake, sure it`s feasible, but only if there are no undecided voters AND everyone who thinks Howard will lose his seat is predicting a Labor win. I take your point though.

  19. OK lets take the 77% (max) that may think the coalition will lose and subtract the 61% (max) that think they may win.

    A 16 point difference. Divide by 2 (the two options). and you get 8 points of difference.

    54-46 looks pretty similar to most polls. 🙂

  20. I doubt the Coalition would win the election without holding Bennelong…

    Labor’s vote in Bennelong in 2004 was 21,819 votes compared to 38,326 vote the Libs granted 12,573 voted for the Greens it would be a remarkable effort to get such a swing to the ALP i mean after getting 28.4% of the vote compare to almost 50% for Howard the turnaround would be amazing…i doubt Howard will lose his seat…unless its a landslide.

  21. Apples and oranges here Ruawake. There`s a significant difference between the following questions.

    1) Who would you vote for if an election were held today?


    2) Who do you think would win if an election were held today?

    All we can really say from these figures is that of the people polled there were the following expectations.

    Howard win/Liberal win = 23%
    Howard win/Labor win = 38%
    McKew win/Liberal win = ?
    McKew win/Labor win = ?
    Unsure (on either one of the 2 questions) = ?

    It`s drawing a very long bow to suggest that

    McKew win/Liberal win = 0%


    Unsure= 0%

    or that these results are as closely connected to voting intention as you seem to suggest.

  22. Howard must be very worried about his seat if he’s agreed to debate Maxine and face an audience of Bennelong voters on SBS tonight (night now in fact, except my teenage daughters won’t let me near the telly). It’s good that he’s done it, and it will actually really test Maxine. She would not be nearly as au fait with the background to local issues, and will need to know Labor policy on them (like the underground railway line that’s been mentioned by some Poll Bludger correspondents). The Prime Minister, of course, can do more than recite Liberal policy – he can make it up and announce it on the spot!

    No doubt SBS will have a good selection of Chinese voters lined up for this encounter.

    Good news…my daughters have agreed to watch CSI on a fuzzy telly in another room, so I can watch Insight. Gotta go.

  23. Of course John Howard had to appear on Insight – they invited him! It would have looked pretty bad if he didn’t appear and just let McKew spew Labor propaganda.

    Just watched a bit of it and it looks like the economy is still the Government’s trump card. Some polling was quoted showing that 23% of Labor supporters in Bennelong think the Coalition is better at keeping interest rates low.

  24. Does anyone else think Howard kind of tanked on that interview on Insight? He just seemed rather frustrated, and didn’t mention any of the government’s policies.

  25. ‘Insight’ tonight was an excellent mix of public forum and televised deliberative democracy. Both candidates presented professionally, articulately and without rancour (though my missus thought Howard seemed nervous. Certainly interesting he agreed to appear at all – SBS doesn’t have a large audience, but his advisers know the trouble he is in and he can’t appear to be shirking a debate).

    Wish there could be more such debates, but short of a celebrity politician it is hard to get more than a few dozen to a public hall for one. Ideally there’d be an electoral law requiring the web-broadcasting of such debates amongst the key candidates.

  26. Re:#28
    Simon Howson Says:
    August 14th, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Does anyone else think Howard kind of tanked on that interview on Insight? He just seemed rather frustrated, and didn’t mention any of the government’s policies.

    I thought it odd he didn’t appear live and debate Ms McKew,instead he gave a prerecorded interview.I agree with Graeme #29 that it was a good mix of people from both sides.Rusted on to swinging.It begs the question will Mr Howard debate Mr Rudd?I thought Ms McKew did ok.She is no dummy.I winder why the main TV Networks..7.9.10. don’t try something similar?Maybe no ratings in it for them.

  27. Sorry for the typo,the last line should read:
    “I wonder why the main TV Networks..7.9.10. don’t try something similar?Maybe no ratings in it for them.

  28. [“I wonder why the main TV Networks..7.9.10. don’t try something similar?Maybe no ratings in it for them.]

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. The government stations get attacked for being biased, but the commercial networks don’t give any of these informative shows a go. It was a much more civil forum than an average sitting day of parliament.

    Howard should’ve appeard in person, I guess he can hide behind being busy, but it would’ve helped his campaign if he turned up in the studio.

    I think McKew made some mistakes of not talking at the micro-level about how Labor’s policies will improve people’s everyday lives.

  29. Maxine was awesome. Of course I’m going to say that, as a rusted on Labor voter. However, I thought the contrast between her and Howard could not have been more striking. A warm, intelligent woman who understands what her party stands for. Great to see.

    Credit where credit is due, I thought Howard did well on some issues. I tried to be objective, but I found I just couldn’t believe anything he said, even about the disabled facility in his electorate. That’s because he chose to throw in some abuse of Labor at the same time. I saw none of that from Maxine. She was very respectful, and did not use any personal attacks.

    I though the reaction of the audience was interesting too – the Liberal voters were uneasy, and some of the swinging voters went over to Maxine by the end of the show.

    All in all I think it was a fairly accurate encapsulation of where the voting public as a whole, not just this electorate, are at.

  30. Even the rusted on Lib voter (as she was called by the commentator) said that Howard’s appearance from Canberra was negative. Another Lib supporter changed her mind mid interview.

    Points from Insight

    *Why didn’t Howard do a live cross/face to face debate with McKew? He did a pre-recorded interview. Would he have done this if it was on 7, 9 or 10?

    *A point was made that Howard is copping on to fronts, from Rudd who wants his PM gig, as well McKew on the home front. This is putting him in a unique situation. When was the last time a sitting PM was in trouble in his own seat?

    *Why didn’t the Libs simply move Howard to a safer seat for this election? Labor did it with Beazley (nearly lost Swan in 93, mover to Brand 96). There are plenty of safe Lib seats in the north of Sydney. Why couldn’t a backbencher “take one for the team”? Are there sinister forces at work? Was this Howards decision? Am I reading too much into this? Do I ask too many rhetorical questions?

    If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh anyone else….

  31. It seems John Howard lost a couple of votes right there in the audience, at least that is what they said.
    He can’t face up to the interest rate promise being untrue. He talked of WMDs but didn’t talk of the children overboard.
    He didn’t look at all comfortable. Maxine McKew was her usual polished self. She hadn’t got the facts on the Econotech Report. She had better do some homework on that report. It’s available.
    On the other matter of Peter Costello denying that he had ever said that “John Howard can’t win, I can” unfortunately for him there were witnesses including Michael Brissenden who brandished his notes of the meeting and reported them.
    Essentially he demonstrated that Peter Costello is a liar.
    It really is very silly of Peter Costello to deny verifiable facts.
    He has now given the ALP another bunch of highly potent ammunition to use against the government.
    The day after the meeting in 2005, Peter Costello’s press officer tried, successfully, to have the comments during the meeting in Canberra declared off the record, that is until the Bulletin article and Michael Brissenden’s revelations this evening.
    If that doesn’t cause shock waves, I don’t what will.
    It might well have put paid to Peter Costello’s chances of becoming PM.
    Maybe it was a plot by Malcolm Turnbull!

  32. Tip Tip Tip Tipping point…Brissenden squeezes tip and spurts…oh deary deary me…shattered icebergs; this is getting aweful…PK you are a right proper bastard.

  33. I think the problem is Howard didn’t mention a single thing about what he is going to do in the FUTURE. He defended workchoices, which people generally hate, but he didn’t talk about what is coming NEXT.

    If he continues debating like that then people in Bennelong (and around the country) won’t vote for him, because they will think he is simply running to be prime minister again, rather than to do something with that position.

  34. Steven, as a matter of interest what do you, objectively, think of the “John Howard can’t win, I can” effect on Peter Costello?

  35. Well, Simon, a good friend of his who knew him in his twenties and who later went on to become a Liberal minister, said quite contemptuously (and privately) that John Howard wanted to be Prime Minister but he didn’t have any grand vision for Australia, he just wanted to be Prime Minister. Maybe that explains it.

  36. Insight was absolutely fascinating, as, despite all the political analysis you get from the media, you seldom get to hear ordinary voters chatting about the issues they believe are important and their impressions of what politicians (in this case Howard and Maxine) are saying.

    The most interesting thing was that the voters were quite complex in what they thought. None of them disliked Howard, but some thought it was time for a change. One woman, who was a confirmed Liberal voter, mentioned that her son’s partner had had her wages cut under WorkChoices, and she wasn’t impressed. Another woman announced she was going to vote Liberal, but seemed to be changing her mind by the end of the program. One bloke said he would vote Liberal if it looked like being a Labor landslide,
    but would probably vote Labor if the election looked like being close!

    The electorate has lots of Asian voters, and, being SBS of course, there were plenty of them in the studio. But it was obviously that they really don’t vote any differently than anyone else, except they seem a bit more concerned about education, Hardly a surprise.

    The two things that one could conclude was that voters don’t like
    WorkChoices, but on the other hand, they trust the Libs on the economy, and may even trust the Libs better than Labor if things turn bad. Interesting political times are ahead.

    Other interesting points were that Kevin Rudd was hardly mentioned by anyone, neither politicians nor audience, and that it’s clear Maxine will have a great advantage by being able to be out in the electorate every day, while Howard is pre-occupied running the country and running the nation-wide election campaign.

    I thought Howard started well and fizzled out, while Maxine started tentatively but finished very strongly. She had the great advantage of being in the studio amid the voters, and they could hardly bag the shit out of her. With Parliament sitting, Howard had little choice but to appear on a screen from Canberra, and it’s natural that he wouldhave seemed a bit distant and off his game to the people in the studio.

    By the way, I disagree with Steve Kaye, who says Howard had to appear because he was invited. No he didn’t. Howard gets dozens (if not hundreds) of invitations to appear on the media every day, and rejects the vast majority of them (as would Rudd). He could have refused to appear, saying he was too busy with parliament. In that situation, SBS may have had to decide not to proceed with the program at all, or they could have gone ahead with “Labor propaganda”, as Steve says. But Howard did have an excuse to cop out, but didn’t use it, so good on him for fronting. Just emphasises that he must be worried about the seat.

    Finally, I thought Jennie Brockie missed the opportunity to ask the following question of the Prime Minister: Irrespective of who wins the election, will you guarantee to serve another full term as the Member for Bennelong? I would love to have heard the response.

  37. The forum on SBS with Maxine & Howard and Bennelong crowd was interesting. The swinging voters and even some of the liberal supporters seemed to be swayed towards Labor. If any Bennelong people were watching [and I am sure many were] many would have turned to Maxine. The thing that turned them I believe was the polished performance and explanations of Maxine, she is no dummy – I think many would have been surprised. In the end one so called ‘swinging voter’ (though I suspect he was a pretty much liberal) ended up saying he might not vote Labor because he was worried about a landslide.

    In the end I think the forum actually helped Maxine quite a bit by winning over the TV voters in Bennelong and they will spread her professionalism by word of mouth. This may have helped her win this seat.

    I wonder how Howard and Rudd will go together.

  38. sorry a correction…one Bennelong voter did say she had never liked Howard. She was the one who said she was definitely voting Liberal, but seemed to change her mind by the end of the show.

  39. [John Howard wanted to be Prime Minister but he didn’t have any grand vision for Australia, he just wanted to be Prime Minister. Maybe that explains it.]

    Well I think that is the case NOW. In the 1970s he always wated to introduce a GST. but Fraser wouldn’t let him, he wanted to make it hard / impossible for workers to pursue collective agreements, and he wanted to abolish the I.R.C.

    He has done that, so now he no longer needs to be P.M. Hence he struggled to say anything positive about the future tonight.

    It’s the same in parliament, all he talks about now is what the government has DONE, and how it is so much better than what Labor wants to do. He no longer talks about what the government is going to do!

  40. I thought Howard seemed very irritable tonight. He kept saying “Jennie, Jennie”, at the start of each answer and seemed annoyed at every question.

    Looking forward to the Howard/Rudd debate.

    As of 5 minutes ago the odds on Centrebet for Bennelong had shortened for McKew into $2.15, while on $1.63 for Howard.

  41. Everyone, if you missed it (like me), you can watch it on the website since it’s loaded there! That’s exactly what I’m doing! This is too exciting! 😀

  42. The most intriguing aspect of the Insight program for me was the the last five minutes, and I thnk it gives a clue to one of the trends we are seeing in the polls: In this last few minutes, two voters who had said they were definitely voting Liberal suddenly expressed real misgivings. They were not swayed by policy, by Maxine or any other point, but simply found something off-putting about Howard himself. They could not exactly put their fingers on what disturbed them, but found him evasive, unimpressive.

    I think this is a very measurable factor in the polls – it is part of what we refer to in shorthand as the “It’s Time” factor. Quite simply, the more Howard speaks, the less people are inclined to listen. Part of this is baggage – a percieved record of dishonesty or, at the very least, evasiveness and tricky answers. This is not just the result of clever tactics by Rudd Labor, the problem is Howard. He has his set-piece answers, we’ve heard them, and we can now read the codes: “I’m not going to play the role of commentator”…”I’m not going to talk about that”…”I will serve as long as the Party wants me, etc…”

    He ends up saying very little, and we have heard the exact answers dozens of time before – it looks tired and evasive. Its a dilema – Howard himself is now one of the biggest election issues, but the more he appears in the media, the more that problem seems to be exacerbated.

    I think this has been one important factor reflected in the polling over the past six months.

  43. [As of 5 minutes ago the odds on Centrebet for Bennelong had shortened for McKew into $2.15, while on $1.63 for Howard.]

    That’s astonishing! Someone obviously watched the show and liked what they saw of McKew.

    I agree with your assesment of Howard, he is starting to behave like a loser, he isn’t talking about policy.

  44. Was it just me slightly disappointed with Insight tonight? Way too much Howard(although I agree he didn’t do his cause much good), and Jenny Brockie only seemed to focus on 1 or 2 supposed swinging voters for the entire hour. Where did they get that Liberal idiot from? “I’ll vote Liberal if it looks like there is a landslide to Rudd!” – funniest bit of the entire show. He must be a relative of Nostrodamus LOL
    Maxine did well, but you’d expect an experienced former TV presenter/journalist would know how to handle herself in such an environment.

  45. [“I’ll vote Liberal if it looks like there is a landslide to Rudd!” ]

    I thought that guy was thoughtful and honest. To me he seemed to be a genuine swing voter. His concerns seem to me to be reasonable, he seems on the virge of being able to support McKew / Rudd, but he wouldn’t want them to win by a huge majority. I don’t think it is likely that will happen, which means McKew has a serious chance of getting his vote if she can convince voters WHY it would be good.

  46. As usual the media is focusing on the ‘big issues’ – Howard can’t win says Costello.. who cares? How about the issues that matter…

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