Random observations

Scattered thoughts on the Senate, the western Sydney electorate of Fowler, Bob Katter, the informal vote rate, and the fine art of poll aggregation.

Time for a new thread, so here’s some very scattered thoughts that it occurs to me to share at this late hour:

• I had a piece on the Senate result in Crikey yesterday, and have been keeping a low profile on Poll Bludger in part because I’ve been busy fielding inquiries from media outlets eager to hear an election wonk’s take on the whole affair. If you’d like to comment on the progress of late counting in the Senate I’d encourage you to do so on the dedicated thread, or at least re-paste your comments there after leaving them on this one.

• I’d also like to encourage those with particular insights to offer on late counting in close lower house seats to share the love in the relevant comments threads, which can serve as useful clearing houses for information for those of us trying to keep up. Note that these posts can be accessed through links near the top of the sidebar.

• So what the hell happened in Fowler? There was, as we know, a much milder swing against Labor in western Sydney than media hype and certain local opinion polls had primed us for. However, that scarcely explains the thumping 8.8% swing enjoyed by Labor journeyman Chris Hayes. What presumably does explain it is Liberal candidate Andrew Nguyen, chosen by the party with a view to snaring the Vietnamese vote in Cabramatta, who suffered swings approaching 20% in that very area. As to what Vietnamese voters might have known about Nguyen that the Liberal Party did not, I cannot even speculate. However, it won’t be the only question the party has to ask itself about its candidate selection processes in New South Wales, for the second election in a row.

• It wasn’t a very good election for Bob Katter, who failed in his bid to bring new allies to Canberra and had his seemingly impregnable hold on Kennedy cut to the bone. One reason of course was that he was squeezed out by Clive Palmer (with due apologies for the unattractiveness of that image). However, another was very likely a preference deal he cut with Labor which in the event did neither party any good. I would also observe that this is not Katter’s first failed attempt at empire-building. At the 2004 Queensland state election, Katter organised an alliance of independents with a view to activating discontent over sugar industry policy, and the only one to poll a substantial share of the vote had done nearly as well without Katter’s help at the previous election. Even the much-touted successes of Katter’s Australian Party at last year’s Queensland election involved it a) absorbing probably transient protest votes which formed part of the huge swing against Labor, and b) electing two members who could just easily have won their seats as independents. Katter’s constituency would evidently prefer that he stick to being an independent local member, and limit his broader ambitious to bequeathing the family firm to his son.

• As well as witnessing an explosion in the micro-party vote, the election has at the very least seen the rate of informal voting maintain the peak scaled at the 2010 election. Limiting it to ordinary election day votes to ensure we’re comparing apples with apples (pre-poll and postal voters being generally more motivated and hence less prone to informal voting), the informal vote rate has progressed from 4.18% to 5.82% to 5.92%. Presumably the Australian Electoral Commission will be conducting a ballot paper study to let us know how much this is down to proliferating candidate numbers leading to inadvertent mistakes, and how much to disaffection leading to deliberate spoilage of ballot papers.

• If I do say so myself, my BludgerTrack poll aggregate performed rather well. The Coalition’s two-party preferred vote is at 53.15% on current counting, which is likely to edge up towards the projected 53.5% as the remaining votes come in. Better yet, there’s a good chance the state seat projections will prove to have been exactly correct, allowing for the fact that the model did not accommodate non-major party outcomes such as the possible wins for Clive Palmer in Fairfax and Cathy McGowan in Indi. No doubt this is partly down to luck. There was some imprecision on the primary vote, with the Coalition about a point too low and the Greens about a point too high (though the model in fact scaled down the latter from the pollsters’ published results), with the circle being squared by a preference allocation method that proved over-favourable to the Coalition, based as it was on the 2010 election result (although I’m pretty sure it still performed better than a method based on respondent allocation would have done).

Nonetheless, the model was certainly successful enough to confirm the wisdom of its basic premise that the best way to read the campaign horse race is to a) only pay attention to large-scale polling, i.e. national and state-level results, b) adjust pollsters for bias according to their past performance where sufficient observations are available from recent history, c) instead use the pollster’s deviation from the aggregated poll trend where sufficient observations are not available, and d) weight the results of each pollster according to how historically accurate/consistent with the trend they have been. As to the performance of the polls themselves, I’ll have a lot more to say about that when all the votes are in. In the meantime, here’s a broad brush overview from Matthew Knott at Crikey.

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.

2,937 comments on “Random observations”

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  1. [Psephos: to the extent that I know any of the parliaments off by heart (probably only the inaugural Senate, to be honest, and then the last few), your site has a great deal to do with it.]

    *bows*

  2. Boerwar

    Global warming is good for preventing wildfire in the USA 🙂

    2013 has the least amount of wildfires in the last ten years and the 2nd least amount of area burnt in ten years.

    Media coverage of disasters is sky rocketing though and a price on media coverage is required to reduce media emissions.

    http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm

  3. While on the subject of MP doctors, how many federal MPs and senators have died in Parliament House (old and new). I can think of three of the top of my head: Sir Frederick Holder, Senator Keith Laught, and Senator Clive Hannaford.

  4. [Dr William Maloney – MHR Melbourne 1904-1940. Described as a “harmless ratbag”; one of the great eccentrics of the house.]

    But also greatly loved by the people of West Melbourne, then a slum, to whom he provided free medical service all his life. He also holds the record for the longest service on the backbench – 36 years.

  5. Well, it wasn’t known that Page had lost until after he’d died, was it? His illness probably did have something to do with that anyway, since he obviously couldn’t campaign.

    Dr Maloney was a good one. I believe the longest-serving member never to hold a portfolio?

  6. [While on the subject of MP doctors, how many federal MPs and senators have died in Parliament House (old and new). I can think of three of the top of my head: Sir Frederick Holder, Senator Keith Laught, and Senator Clive Hannaford.]

    Ernie Roberts (ALP, Adelaide) slipped on the polished marble of Queen’s Hall and cracked his skull open, in about 1914.

  7. Not sure about dying in the House, pedant, but you’re mentioning Holder reminds me of two other doctor MPs, Dr Carty Salmon, the second Speaker, and Dr Gratton Wilson, MP for Corangamite. Together with Maloney they tended Holder after his collapse. Of course Holder died at the Victorian Parliament House.

  8. [Oakeshott Country
    Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 10:11 pm | PERMALINK
    Dio
    Until this morning the IOC was headed by an orthopod]

    and they don’t come much more political than the IOC! :devil:

  9. I was reading newspaper reports of Holder’s death. Newspaper reports were much more interesting then. Holder was carried from the chamber to his office by four attendants using a rug as a stretcher and then took 12 hours to die while Salmon, Wilson and Liddell (another dr/mhr) tendered to him.

  10. [A Vietnamese-born Liberal party candidate, who was unsuccessful in the election, has attacked the party for lacking “an ethnic brain” and for banning him from talking to the media.

    Andrew Nguyen, who stood in the electorate of Fowler, told the Liverpool Leader the Liberals would “never ever” win seats in western Sydney because it failed to understand ethnic minority voters.]
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/liberal-andrew-nguyen-western-sydney

  11. The United States of Paranoi
    ___________________________
    An interesting new US book which looks at the role of paranoia and conspiracy theories in Amerian life

    The author says it has been a constant theme in US history,linked with the belief in forces that endanger the very existance of the USA’from within

    Far from being new this view goes back to the start of the USA and has links to the many odd religious cults which flourished… and still do… in the USA
    The recent “Birther” stories about Obama are just a new version of such paranoia..as well as the stories of his being a Marxist sent to destroy the USA…or a Moslem..planning to enforce Sharia law

    I have just spent 6 weeks in the USA visiting family there
    and never fail to be amazed and delighted at the sort of paranoia that one hears on talk-backs and the like…or in the mouths of the most rabid right-wing shock-jocks

    As well a seeing family(I have an American daughter-in-law and an American grandson)my wife and I travel widely…and we use AMTRAKs long -distance trains…one effect of this is that one gets to meet people in the dining cars and lounge/bar cars of the trains..and have conversations with strangers….
    who are often meeting exotic Australians like us for the first time(“Of my…you speak such good English…” or ” How do you go home..by boat ?”…or when told of our visits to New York..”My…I guess you were amazed at the department stores”)…wonderful stuff !!

    and one can draw out all sort of notions and paranoi.. in conversation

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/a-nation-of-birthers/

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/a-nation-of-birthers/

  12. One of the more or perhaps least successful medical politicians was John Mildred Creed who was a member of the NSW parliament for 47 years but achieved very little except for the Inebriates Act.

  13. [Andrew Nguyen, who stood in the electorate of Fowler, told the Liverpool Leader the Liberals would “never ever” win seats in western Sydney because it failed to understand ethnic minority voters.]

    Maybe the good folk of Cabramatta weren’t able to take a 70yo first-time candidate seriously.

  14. Psephos @ 2819: William Tevlin Arthur and Frederick McDonald (the latter “missing, presumed murdered”, by, or at the instigation of T J Ley, supporter of proportional representation).

  15. Psephos: “Maybe the good folk of Cabramatta weren’t able to take a 70yo first-time candidate seriously.”

    Well, while I think about the other murder victim, how many MPs and senators served into their 80s?

  16. Andrew Peacock was not killed in action in Vietnam, unlike 521 other Australians, because he didn’t go, despite his enthusiasm for sending other people. (And people ask me why I became a Labor voter…)

  17. Interesting but little known fact:
    Lemonade Ley kept Eugenia Falleni’s dildo in the drawer of his Macquarie St parliamentary office desk (source- the always reliable J T Lang)

  18. Western Australian Senate – Analysis Ticket votes Double Dissolution Non Weighted Surplus Droop Quota

    Elected Candidate Group
    1 JOHNSTON Liberal
    2 BULLOCK Australian Labor Party
    3 LUDLAM The Greens (WA)
    4 CASH Liberal
    5 PRATT Australian Labor Party
    6 REYNOLDS Liberal
    7 FOSTER Australian Labor Party
    8 BROCKMAN Liberal
    9 THOMAS Liberal
    10 DROPULICH Australian Sports Party
    11 WANG Palmer United Party
    12 BALDERSTONE Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party

  19. A senior public servant of my acquaintance was bashed nearly to death in Telopea Park around the same time. He had to be invalided out. It was a dangerous place. I don’t know if it still is, but I made a point of not going near it when I lived in Canberra.

  20. Optional Preferential Voting:

    Be careful for what you wish for.

    In Victoria’s Western Metropolitan Upper-house seat Bob Smith lost his seat to the Greens because of optional preferential. The Holly Trinity voted below the line and only preferenced Christian Group and stopped. This was enough to elect the Greens ahead of the ALP Candidate by default. Had they preferenced to ALP ahead of the Greens the ALP would have won the seat.

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