Anyone for Dennis?

With the election safely out of the way, we might have expected the heat to have gone out of the great blogosphere-versus-The Australian opinion poll wars. Turns out Dennis Shanahan has other ideas:

This week’s most eye-catching figures were Kevin Rudd’s 70per cent and Brendan Nelson’s 9per cent on the question of who would make the better prime minister, a Newspoll record high for a prime minister and a new low for an Opposition leader. After The Australian put the story, which I wrote, on the front page, it captured public attention and was reported, commented upon and retold in newspapers, radio, television and blogs. As Possum Comitatus said …: “While records are meant to be broken, this one was obviously meant to be smashed. Brendan Nelson has stormed into the worst preferred prime minister result in the history of Newspoll with an astonishing 9 per cent.” Peter Brent’s Mumble and William Bowe’s Poll Bludger, sites that panned the Newspoll reporting in the past, covered it without personal comment … Yet there was one key point missing from all the commentary that has previously cropped up in analysis of Newspolls: in Possum’s words, Nelson “stormed” to his rating by 2 percentage points. Rudd’s record on preferred PM was also reached by a rise of 2 percentage points. The margin of error for the Newspoll survey on a sample of 1140 is 3 percentage points. The leaders “stormed” to these records with movements of less than the margin of error. In the past, The Australian has been castigated for reporting movements of 2 per cent and placing stories on page one based on “record” lows … Statistical bloggers forever complain about reports of movements of less than 3 per cent and essentially want polls to be banished from newspapers and public debate except during an election. On this occasion, as on previous occasions, the simple news judgment was made in writing the story and placing the story, that a record, however it is attained, is newsworthy. The bloggers thought so, as they trawled the records to find Crean’s lowest reading in Newspoll and talked about the importance of the preferred prime minister figure for leaders. If Nelson’s preferred prime minister rating drops one point to a record low of 8 per cent, is that worthy of page one again? Or do we ignore that as being within the margin of error? Fat chance. Polls interest people, influence politicians and should be treated consistently.

For the record, I personally had very little to say last year about Shanahan’s Newspoll reporting. This was partly because the subject was being done to death elsewhere (not least in my own comments threads), but also because I had more sympathy than some for the idea that Labor’s bloated lead would indeed feel the effects of gravity before polling day. My post on Tuesday’s Newspoll even managed a sarcastic dig at those who paint him as a Coalition stooge.

In other news, the AEC has commenced a redistribution for Tasmania, it having gone the maximum seven years without one. The AEC’s figures respectively put enrolment in Bass, Denison and Lyons at 1.2 per cent, 1.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent below average, with Braddon and Franklin 1.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent above. So the redistribution will presumably involve a transfer of territory from Franklin to Lyons, which is unlikely to make much difference to anyone’s electoral prospects. Changes to the more sensitive Bass and Braddon are likely to be negligible. Uniquely, Tasmanian boundary changes have effect at both federal and state level.

UPDATE: Shanahan’s central contention, that Nelson’s drop from 11 per cent to 9 per cent was within the margin of error, is questioned by David Walsh and Unicorn in comments. The latter tells us that the sampling error depends on the uniformity of the population, so the 3 per cent figure assumes a 50-50 response like you roughly get from a two-party split. Whereas the question of Nelson’s approval or non-approval in fact splits about 10-90, producing a margin of 1.7 per cent.

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.

223 comments on “Anyone for Dennis?”

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  1. Well, Scorpio, beyond the little park, Dover Square, where I played tennis, is stretching it. Two families beyond there I recollect knowing. I was caught stealing almonds by the owners, just before the square, as a child.

    Do you know Tim Dunlop? I do not. Not that it matters. Great idea. Catch you this evening.

    Fulvio, I will try to work out what I am doing wrong. If I am. Sad to imagine that linguistic jungle jims provided Yoda with fame and possibly fortune, while I, I am nothing. Oh well.

  2. That’s okay, Fulvio. I would not really know, anyway.

    I’m just going to look for my little trophy, Junior Tennis Champion, Dover Square.

    Good Night, all.

  3. 154
    Chris B

    Wait a second, while everyone has been fixated on Horatio Hornet’s MOE, that great antipodean Ann Coulter, that virago of the right and Howardista she-whippett, the fearless cultural warrior Miranda Devine has again charged in to do battle once more.

    She is unstoppable, despite the political death of her erstwhile champion, so yesterday she once again made a valiant lunge for the right.

    Her topic in yesterday’s SMH? Be afraid, because she’s taking on mothers with double size, wide load, A380 prams! Yes, women who want to push around their twins in Pramborghinis and expect to get them down the aisle of Sydney buses!

    This must be stopped, and Miranda, ever vigilant, will challenge these ‘aspirational’ chariot drivers to her last breath.

    And you thought the Culture Wars were finished and the Right vanquished?

    Well think again. Miranda has you in her sights.

    (Can we expect Horatio Hornet and Fluffer to take up this challenge in the Parliament? Stay tuned!)

  4. Poor Dennis has gone from mildly relevant (government spruiker) to irrelevant. His blog is never popular because apart from the screening of reponses, he does not reply or engage in the discussion. I dont bother reading or posting any more, let his blogs just fade into oblivion

    How I miss Matt Price…

  5. Chris B, Diogenes told the story of venturing into a bookshop a couple of days ago and reading the Ralph Magazine article. There have been so many threads on all sorts of topics lately I just can’t point you to the relevant posts but I can assure you it has had an adequate airing on one of the recent threads.

  6. 152
    Fulvio Sammut Says

    “Foolish I am”

    psssssssssssst!!!!!! is the sound I made spiting coffee all over the screen when I read that Fulvio 😉

    too funny

  7. Thing that amazes me about Dennis’s recent column is that we have 168 people claiming on this blog that they understood what he was on about. I confess I didn’t have a clue. I think the rest of you are fibbing.

  8. 169 [I confess I didn’t have a clue.]

    Don’t feel bad about that Alan, turns out that Sham-I-am never had a clue. He is the master of delusion but once he fools himself that badly, it can only end in confusion.

  9. Good to see the ABC not missing any opportunities this morning

    Rudd under fire over Indigenous visit
    Rudd to skip Parliament for Walgett visit
    Rudd ‘wasting money’ by skipping Parliament
    Parliament a ‘farce’ under new rules: Hockey

  10. 165 steve Their mock indignation is hilarious. They are so desperate to change the subject they will create something out of nothing. The trouble is it looks fake. The Tampa may have worked once, but the Liberals will keep crying wolf.

  11. 174 It astounds me that the one thing Liberals seem to dislike above all all else is having to sit in parliament. A Gold Coast Liberal got himself turfed out of parliament yesterday because beach conditions are good on the Gold Coast at present, apparently.

  12. Kina

    ther sad bleatings are soon to cease

    (time for a few board members to check their eligibilty methinks)

    also friends of the abc are preparing submission for cabinet

  13. 177 Scorpio, I think he is just trying to drive his Newspoll figures down so he can hand the job on to someone else. He knows from Howard how hard it is to give the job away but as he approaches zero Turbull will have to step up and receive the poisoned chalice.

    Turnbull thought he was going to be safe for eighteen months or so but his day is fast approaching. It is a smart piece of political thinking by Nelson to ensure his name is not tarnished for too long. He can then go back to the backbench and join Costello in sleeping while the next leader rushes towards a zero ppm.

  14. I have just been watching the tail end of proceedings in the Reps up until the Deputy Speaker found herself in an untenable position and suspended the house.
    The performance of the opposition has been puerile to say the least.
    Luke Hartsutker – Member for Cowper – nor only LOOKS like a village idiot, he IS one!

  15. That’s what I’d be doing if I was him. He is so close to achieving it that it is almost moving from dream to reality. Turnbull must be on his knees praying for a turnaround in Nelson’s figures.

  16. Crikey Whitey, re your post 625 on the Newspoll thread.

    [My ALP must hold itself responsible, because the ALP did not bother to address the seat of Boothby, for years and years and years and in the case of any candidate in 2007, left it so late and so woefully prepared Nicole for her first press appearance, that they have themselves to blame and we in Boothby can, and do, blame them for a particularly cavalier approach to the quite good chance of winning the seat.]

    Clearly, there was enough evidence, prior to the last Federal election that there was no longer such a thing as an “unwinable” seat or a “safe” seat.

    This was demonstrated clearly in the case of Howard, who lost his even though he was PM, and the major scare experienced by Hockey, Turnbull etc.

    There were many seats that the ALP could have picked up with a bit more attention paid to individual seat campaigning.

    In the case of Boothby, it was there for the taking and you are right, they should be condemned for the manner in which they approached that campaign and the level of support that they extended to Nicole.

    By the time they woke up out of their slumber and realised that there were seats like Boothby, just ripe for the plucking, it was too late and the sitting Members, backed by a desperate “marginal seat campaign” by the LNP were just able to hang on.

    Some of the blame can be pointed to what we discussed last night in regard to the postal, pre-poll and absent vote strategy also. A lot, in fact.

  17. 180 BK, seems like Rudd has snookered the Liberals once again into appearing to be a leaderless raqbble. It is a very common thing that when work is mentioned the resistance of the Liberals reaches its high point. Friday is not a good day to get the Liberals to work, it brings out the juvenile traits in them.

  18. Steve,
    I couldn’t agree more. The Libs may be over-reaching with the antics. Harry Jenkins in the Chair must be building up quite a head of steam and may act with even more vigour than he did this morning when he got the Sergeant-at-Arms to eject a Liberal member.

  19. 184 But BK the day is so warm and the surf so good at the Gold Coast today. I’m just surprised more Liberals weren’t ejected.

  20. 185 Steve – It was interesting to see Mr 9% just sitting there mute while all the shennannigans were going on around home. What a leader!!

  21. BK @ 184,

    I think the Liberals have totally misread what Harry Jenkins was trying to achieve in improving the decorum and effectiveness of Parliament.

    They saw it as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to try and dominate parliamentary proceedings in the manner they did for 12 years.

    Unfortunately for them, they are so out of touch and are missing a golden opportunity to present themselves as a capable alternative government.

    Instead they are just re-enforcing the public’s fast growing awareness of their abject inability and incompetence. How I love it.

    There’s no accounting for stupidity, is there.

  22. 188 Scorpio – Yes, I just cannot understand the stupid direction the Libs are taking. Underestimating Jenkins is a BIG, BIG mistake.

  23. Disorder in the house, well considering the disorder in the Opposition it’s not really surprising, is it?

    What a rabble of a rump they are, and to think, just a few months back they wanted Australia to vote them back to ‘govern’! LOL

    Yeah, right!

  24. 185 Steve – It was interesting to see Mr 9% just sitting there mute while all the shennannigans were going on around home. What a leader!!

    Yeah, BK. Nelson has had that “stunned mullet” look about him since the first day of sittings.

    It’s as though he is bewildered by what’s happening around him and has no idea of what his parliamentary operatives are going to come up with next.

    When Hockey, Turnbull or Bishop rise and head for the Dispatch Box, there is always a surprised, questioning look on Nelson’s face as though he doesn’t have a clue of what is happening or what will come next.

    Great leader. Yeah. He must have been asleep for the past 12 years during Parliamentary sittings.

  25. KR @ 190,

    All those Lib supporters who were only months ago, mouthing off at every opportunity about what a fantastic team they were and bagging Labor’s inexperience, have gone horribly quiet in the past few weeks.

    The Coalition are more than an embarrassment now if you ask me. Heads down, man the parapets, surrender!

  26. Luke? He’s a National. Their 10 Members contribution gets them close to a front bench job each.

    G*d the Libs are stupid aren’t they. Most of the Nat’s are incapable of making a decent cup of tea, let alone operate as an effective MP.

    How the Libs can allow any of them on the front bench, let alone some of their own, is a mystery to all.

  27. 195 Click on Biography and read his first speech and you will know more about him than most people in Australia.]

    You will probably know more about him than he does.

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