BludgerTrack: 53.1-46.9 to Coalition

Poll aggregation suggests the momentum against Labor has slowed, but with the rocks now too near for the ship to be turned around. Their last hope: the polls are wrong.

Yesterday’s Essential Research release concludes what I’d normally regard in the off season as a weekly cycle of poll results, making this an appopriate moment for a situation report. News reports yesterday were full of talk of a shift back to Labor based on a three-point lift in their primary vote from Newspoll, which neatly encapsulates what’s wrong with mainstream journalism’s reportage of opinion polling. For all The Australian’s success in marketing it as the gold standard, Newspoll is not – and indeed, does not claim to be – any more immune to statistical noise than any other poll. This particular shift was undoubtedly more noise than signal, coming as it did off a below-par result in the previous week’s poll.

For a more meaningful read of the situation you should refer to a poll aggregate, of which the one most readily to hand is of course BludgerTrack. However, you can find much the same story being told by Julian King at Pottinger (who has the Coalition at 53.6%), Simon Jackman (53.5%), Mark the Ballot (52.7%), Kevin Bonham (52.3%) and the AFR’s Poll of Polls (51.8%) (with apologies to any I’ve missed, like Andrew Catsaras’s which only appears on Insiders). Much of the variation comes down to the weight given to Essential Research, which is excluded altogether by Mark the Ballot and downweighted by BludgerTrack for having gone off trend.

Mark the Ballot’s charts offer a better visual representation of what emerges from the numbers coming out of BludgerTrack, which is that the rate of Labor’s decline slowed this week. The current output of the BludgerTrack model has Labor down 0.4% since this time a week ago (note that this isn’t exactly the same thing as the “last week” comparison on the sidebar, which reflects the model’s result at that time rather than its current retrospective evaluation) compared with 0.7% in the week to August 17, 0.7% in the week to August 10 and 0.5% in the week to August 3. As Mark the Ballot and BludgerTrack concur, the rot set in around mid-July, perhaps a fortnight before the election was called.

Of course, it’s a little too late in the game for a mere slowing of the momentum against them to do Labor much good. It would take a black swan event to return Labor to parity in the 12 days still available to them, the potential nature of which is by definition impossible to foresee. Labor’s other hope of course is that the polls and the aggregates derived from them are fundamentally wrong. A favourite argument of those predisposed to this view is that the online polling of Essential Research is telling a different story from polls using other methods, having had Labor at a post-Gillard high of 50-50 for the past two weeks. Nate Silver, it is noted, gave online polling the highest collective score in his post-match report after the presidential election, finding an average error of 2.1% compared with 3.5% for live interview phone polls and 5.0% for “robopolls”.

However, I would observe that the pollsters at the top end of Silver’s list are a mix of live phone interview and internet polls, with the live phone interview average dragged down by a number of poor performers at the bottom end (the most spectacular example being Gallup). Given the strong performances of Newspoll and Galaxy at recent state elections, at least on two-party preferred, it would require a leap of faith to conclude that either belongs in the latter camp. If anything, the risk appears to be on the downside for Labor. Essential Research aside, the big anomaly of the polling picture is that national polls have been kinder to Labor than electorate-level ones, a phenomenon by no means unique to the robo-polls (and it should be noted that the disparity seems to be lower in the case of Galaxy’s automated polling, suggesting that “house” as much as “method” bias has been at work here).

Now to some observations on the state-level projections. Labor received a large bounce in New South Wales and Queensland after Kevin Rudd’s return, bringing them into parity with the 2010 election result in the former case and well in front of it in the latter. However, in Victoria the move to Labor was more subdued. Three weeks after the Rudd comeback, BludgerTrack had the Coalition’s national lead at 50.5-49.5 and pointed to swings in Labor’s favour of 0.6% in New South Wales and 2.4% in Queensland, while going 3.7% in the other direction in Victoria (remembering that the 2010 election gave Labor its best result in Victoria since the Second World War). So far as BludgerTrack is concerned, the decline in Labor’s fortunes since has been driven by New South Wales, where the swing has now caught up with Victoria’s. That being so, one could perhaps hypothesise that it’s the Daily Telegraph wot’s winning it.

As for Queensland, that 2.4% swing to Labor is still there as far as BludgerTrack is concerned, inconsistent as that may be with reports of internal polling, the weekend Newspoll showing Labor going heavily backwards across eight Liberal National Party marginals, and a series of grim results for Labor coming out of Griffith and Forde. I keep waiting for new data from Queensland to square the circle by showing the other recent results to have been anomalous, and it keeps not happening. Of the last nine data points available to me from Queensland, which go back as far as August 7, only one fails to show a swing to Labor. The one exception is the sturdiest result of the bunch – an 800-sample Galaxy poll conducted late in the first week of the campaign. The rest are sub-samples from national polls, some (but not all) with very small samples.

The samples are smaller still for Western Australia and South Australia, although there are enough of them that it would be hoped that aggregating them would get you fairly close to a real world figure. On this basis, Labor’s once promising position in Western Australia relative to the 2010 result seems to have deteriorated significantly. In South Australia, Labor is rating a little better than media chatter (not to mention the weekend’s Hindmarsh poll) suggests they should be, though not to the extent of indicating an improvement on the 2010 status quo in terms of seats.

One final thought. With Labor holding 72 seats out of 150, it seems very likely that they will need a swing in their favour if they are going to win the election. Out of 17 national and 39 electorate-level polls conducted during the campaign (not counting a small number of electorate polls involving Greens or independent sitting members), not a single one has shown such a thing.

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.

1,322 comments on “BludgerTrack: 53.1-46.9 to Coalition”

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  1. [ On January 17 the federal Department of Health and Aged Care had received complaints from nursing staff at the care-for-profit Riverside Nursing Home about the kerosene baths and other ill-treatment of residents. It was not until the complaints received media coverage three weeks later, however, that the department referred the matter to the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency, and inspectors were dispatched to investigate. Aged Care Minister Bronwyn Bishop claimed not to know of the facts until mid-February. ]
    incompetent government

  2. Z/1280
    My recollection was that the treasury forecast was for 8.5% unemployment within about 6 months, and I remember it never broke the 6% barrier. There were a whole lot of other dire warnings too, which were then taken up and amplified by Kevin Rudd before he announced his stimulus package. I thought those warnings were a big part of the negative feeling around the economy. He should have explained that Australia was in a different situation to other western economies, due to our resource base. Instead he GAVE IN TO THE PANIC and made it worse.
    Instead of comparing ourselves with the US/EU why not to Peru, another resource based economy, that has been going gang busters with record growth over this period?? Of course the government compares us to the OECD bloc, because its flattering, but it may not be objective. There should be other models for comparison. Why not to resource based economies? or to our largest trading partners? Lets see those comparisons for the GFC period.

  3. [1295…Fran Barlow]

    It seems that the approaches of Howard and Rudd/Gillard have been pretty much the same on this matter. This records some parliamentary debate, moved by Abbott, last year. The partisan divide – and the tactics – are visible here too:

    I agree with you about releasing ourselves from panic. We need reason as well as a grasp of our emotions if we are going to make wise decisions.

    By the way, you might be amused to know I played the Guardian multiple choice game the other day. Out of 10 policy picks, I selected 5 Green, 2 LNP, 2 Katter and 1 ALP “box”. If there had been a “none-of-the-above” choice, then Katter would have scored nil and the others would have been unchanged. How mixed up is that!

  4. @kezza2 – that is hilarious!
    Your got one serious feminist chip on your shoulder!
    Truth doesn’t hurt at all, cause there is no truth in the crap your displaying tonight!
    To damage someone’s character based on lies, speaks volumes in the type of person you are.!
    Btw big enough balls to deal with the types of you miss!!

  5. Briefly /1262
    Yes our non-resource economy is weak. That is not going to change in a hurry. Its because of globalisation, not the GFC. Manufacturing has felt the pinch, next it will be the professions and services sector. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in these sectors will be offshored in the next few years. This is having a deflationary effect. Nothing to do with GFC. Its the same issues causing problems in the US/EU zone. We are lucky that our resources base enables us to offset these effects – that’s the real reason why we did so much better during the GFC.

  6. [ By Tom Allard and Mark Baker
    October 21 2002

    Australia stands ready to fight in a worldwide war on terrorism, including any military action against Iraq, “in the name of the scores of Australians who were killed in Bali”, the Prime Minister, John Howard, pledged yesterday. ]
    3 days after he admits failing to pass on warnings about the devastating Bali nightclub attacks, he commits to invading Iraq.
    Lucky for the Libs there were no pink batts involved or the incompetence of the Howard government and all who sailed in her might get mentioned more often…

  7. peterk/1308

    I think the slowdown is not so much to do with globalisation as such, which has been slowing and even reversing in the years since the GFC. The main feature of our recent past has been the declining growth rate in real incomes, which, together with high system debts, has resulted in declines in the demand growth. As well, demographic forces right around the industrial world are impelling increases in savings rates and flattening consumption growth, in turn suppressing capital investment rates, weakening the labour market and hollowing out the income spectrum of those in work.

    Furthermore, the contraction in the growth rate of world trade since the GFC has also retarded real wage expansion, also impinging on both employment levels and new investment.

    These factors have all both contributed to and been exacerbated by fiscal retrenchment in industrial economies.

    During the 1990’s, globalisation and technological change had the effect of driving down the price of manufactures and many services too. This resulted in marked increases in real wages, in turn stimulating consumption, employment and new investment as inflation fell and interest rates also declined. Ultimately, the combination of very low interest rates and rising real wages in a deregulated financial environment had the effect of provoking a huge debt-fueled consumption boom, a boom which inevitably burst and is now being unwound. This will take some time to work itself out, and will eventually be assisted by adaptation inside the export-oriented, investment intense economies of East Asia.

    What we really seriously need to do in this economy is restore real income growth by improving productivity, increasing the capital intensity of our industries, and by supporting market adaptation, extend the competitive potential of our economy. We also have to bring down the exchange rate as a precondition for the rejuvenation of our non-resources traded sectors.

    Meantime, we have to support demand in the household sector by using our fiscal position to support infrastructure investment across the economy.

  8. Australian mortgage interest rates are roughly based on the RBA Cash Rate and so are usually variable. US mortgages are normally based on the bond rate and so tend to be fixed. When interest rates drop in the US mortgage holders normally go out and refinance to take advantage of the lower rate. If rates in the US go up existing mortgage holders are generally unaffected.

    By contrast when banks lower interest rates in Australia they normally don’t reduce the borrowers monthly payment. Borrowers have the option of doing this if they want, but it’s not automatic (this is probably a good thing as it means the mortgage is paid off faster and the mortgage holder ends up paying less interest). When interest rate go up mortgage holders, unless they’re are already paying extra (because of previous rate cuts or because of conscious choice) normally see their repayments increase.

    Put all this together and I think we can see that Australian mortgage holders are probably much more sensitive to increases in interest rates than their US counterparts, but also much less sensitive to rate cuts. So, I think rate cuts in Australia may be less effective than in the US.

    All the more reason for effective fiscal management.

    One of the criticisms of the Howard Government was the lack of spending on infrastructure. Although it allowed them to pay down debt faster, it also created bottlenecks in the economy. This, together with generous (and it now turns out unsustainable) tax cuts meant that our economy had hit capacity by the end of 2007 and inflation was on the increase. The RBA was increasing rates to combat rising inflation (remember Turnbull when Shadow Treasurer claiming that inflation was increasing because Swan and Rudd were talking it up). I think there was a very real possibility that if the GFC hadn’t hit the economy might well have ended up in an interest rate induced recession. Labor saved us from the GFC and the GFC saved us from recession.

    In many ways 2007 was an unlucky election to win. If it had been a year earlier Labor would have had at least one sizeable surplus under their belt. A year later and Costello would have either delivered a sizeable deficit or a recession (or both).

    Now parts of the economy are doing well, parts ok and parts poorly. But that’s not unusual. Mining is doing well, retail is so so, mining services (especially engineering and construction) not so well. I wonder how much of the below trend growth can be put down to fiscal consolidation in an attempt for an early surplus?

    This election might be a lucky one to win (although who can predict the future). By next election a surplus will be on the horizon, if not already delivered. The NBN rollout will have progressed to a stage where it’s unstoppable (in the unlikely event of a Labor win). Hopefully business conditions will have improved. Labor productivity should also have continued its improvement. Internationally Europe and the US should be showing stronger growth.

    If the Coalition win they will find a huge budget black hole (they will add the cost of their promises to the existing deficit and blame it all on Labor, it’s what Howard/Costello did in 1996 and Hawke/Keating did in 1983). Then expect to see large cuts so they can pay for their promises (I think Crikey currently has the Coalition at over $60b in the red at the moment).

  9. FMD, News pulling up Sloppy…sloppy by name, sloppy by nature


  10. [1315
    Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 4:59 am | PERMALINK
    The Essendon imbroglio made AJ news.]

    i had a laugh at that this morning as well.

  11. In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s claim that cutting taxes would increase state revenues by increasing economic activity — supply side economics — was dubbed voodoo economics. It turned out upon examination to trade $6 in revenue for every $1 IT recovered.

    Today, JoHo will try to show that spending big on PPL will make the regime money despite no new net revenue being associated with the program. It’s magic pudding day.

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