Election plus two weeks

A deep look at federal election swings, plus a few meagre snippets of post-election polling news.

Two points to emerge from our friends in the polling community, which passed notice while I’ve been diverted by close counts:

• ReachTEL has published a helpful table illustrating pollster accuracy, which is sporting of them given the attention it calls to the eye-watering accuracy of Newspoll. However, all concerned did very well in predicting a two-party preferred result which, by my back-of-envelope reading, will ultimately settle at around 50.5-49.5 to the Coalition. Essential and especially Ipsos overshot on support for the Greens, with the latter landing around 2% too low for both major parties, but the only other substantial errors involved the balance of support between the Liberals and the Nationals, which I don’t regard as particularly important. Electorate polls were a different matter, and will be looked at in greater detail when all the results are in.

• On the Tuesday evening following the election, Roy Morgan conducted an SMS poll poll from 3587 respondents on leadership approval. The poll had Malcolm Turnbull with a narrow 51-47 lead as preferred prime minister, which the Morgan release sets up for comparison with a 57-24 result from May. However, the May result was an interviewer-administered phone poll, a method evidently less conducive to a “neither/can’t say” response. The poll also found Malcolm Turnbull leading Tony Abbott by 71-25 as preferred Liberal leader, and Anthony Albanese leading Bill Shorten 49-48 for Labor.

Now to an exercise I’ve conducted to get a clearer sense of what sort of areas did and didn’t swing. The chart below shows results of a regression analysis on 6582 polling booth results in which two-party swing data was available, which excludes the 14 electorates where the AEC’s two-party count is not between Labor and the Coalition. The purpose here is to discern if the swing to Labor was more or less evident in areas with particular demographic characteristics. The results record a big move back to Labor in the ever-volatile mortgage belts; an apparent failure of the Abbott-to-Turnbull leadership switch to improve the Coalition’s standing in ethnic communities; and better swing results for the Coalition where voters were wealthier and better educated, and – perhaps more surprisingly – older.


After the constant and starting with “Age”, the table lists the associations between polling booth swings to the Coalition, which in practice usually means negative results recording swings to Labor, and five demographic variables for the census districts in which the booths were located. All but one of these variables, English spoken at home, records a statistically significant association with the swing, as indicated by a score of less than .05 in the significance column on the right. The “B” coefficient of .001 for “Age” tells us that areas with a median age of 40 would generally swing 1% more favourably for the Coalition than areas with a median age of 30. “MFY” stands for median weekly family income and is measured in thousands, so the coefficient means swings tended to be 0.3% stronger for the Coalition for every $1000 of average household income. “School” represents the percentage of the 18-plus population who had completed high school, every point of which associates with nearly 0.1% of swing in favour of the Coalition. Conversely, Labor did 0.02% better for every percentage point of mortgaged dwellings.

The five demographic variables are followed by geographic ones that are there to ensure the results for the demographic variables aren’t influenced by regional differences in the swing, particularly those from state to state. Sydney is excluded so it works as a baseline, so the coefficient for Melbourne tells us that the Coalition would typically do 2.6% better there than at a demographically identical booth in Sydney. Finally, two variables are listed to control for retiring member and sophomore surge effects, which prove to be significant in both cases. “LNPgain” was coded 1 where the candidate was a Coalition sophomore and -1 where a Coalition member was retiring; vice-versa in the case of Labor sophomores and retirees; and zero where neither applied. “ALPloss” was coded 1 where Labor lost the seat in 2013 and 0 otherwise, to measure the boost to the sophomore effect in seats where Labor had a sitting member defending last time. The results suggest Coalition members who won their seats from Labor in 2013 did 2.2% better in swing terms than other Coalition candidates, which reduces to 0.5% in seats where they were replacing retiring Coalition members.

To observe these effects in action, the four tables below identify the 15 highest and lowest ranked electorates by the four statistically significant demographic indicators, and show their two-party swings to the Coalition where available. The lowest education electorates, all of which are regional, were 4.0% worse for the Coalition than those at the top of the scale, of which all apart from Fenner in the ACT are near the centres of the largest cities. Median age was more of a mixed bag — old electorates are regional, but the young ones encompass inner cities, mortgage belts, enclaves, a defence town and the largely indigenous seat of Lingiari. Nonetheless, the distinction here is as great as it was for education, and not in the direction that might have been anticipated from a touted backlash over superannuation policy.


The lowest income electorates, all of which are regional other than two in Sydney, recorded an average 3.5% swing to Labor, only slightly above the national result. But the results for the Liberals were well above average among the wealthiest electorates, over half of which swung in the Coalition’s favour. The mortgage effect is more modest, with 2.8% separating the averages for the top and bottom fifteen. Electorates at the top end of the mortgaged dwellings table are all in the outer suburbs of big cities, but the bottom end is a dissonant mix of regional and inner-city areas, producing a wide range of swing results.

The extent to which this exercise actually explains the results is illustrated by the chart below. For each electorate, the result the model would have predicted is plotted on the horizontal axis, and the actual result is plotted on the vertical. The electorates identified by name are those where the Coalition most under-performed or over-performed the prediction. Keep in mind that this accounts for regional as well as demographic factors, so Lyons shows up as a strong Liberal performance because the swing there was lower than in the other three Tasmanian seats included (remember Denison is not included due to its lack of two-party swing figures). Most electorates’ results were within 2% of the prediction, but a good many had results where alternative explanations are substantially required.


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.

1,112 comments on “Election plus two weeks”

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  1. Guess who is NOT coming to dinner ? 🙂 What a jolly atmosphere there will be at the wake celebration.
    </blockquote?PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull will throw open the doors of the Lodge in Canberra tonight inviting every MP and senator for champagne and canapés to celebrate his government’s near-death election experience.

  2. Great analysis, William.

    My electorate – Hinkler (and next door Wide Bay) – lowest two median family incomes and also 7th and 8th for highest median age (lots of low income pensioners ?).

    Hinkler also very low for finishing school and mortgaged dwellings (lots of renters and retirement villages which probably aren’t mortgaged ?). Many of the citizens here are from country towns (rusted on NP) who have retired to the coast.

    They may appear to be happy with what the government is planning for health and pensions but if it goes too far then these seats could swing with a vengeance.

  3. Make sure youse DP reserves have warmed up and stretched properly . We don’t want and torn hamstrings at this stage of the season 🙂

  4. Good morning Dawn Patrollers. It’s Sunday and there’s not much I’m afraid.
    Back with the patrol next Saturday. I’m taking the useless iPad with me but it just doesn’t cut the mustard for this type of work.

    Mark Kenny with a rather superficial look at the time ahead for Turnbull.
    Peter Martin on why austerity doesn’t work.
    Peter Wicks wonders if the Liberals are broke. Keep your eye on the money he says.
    John Menadue looks at the winners and losers in the globalisation push for FTAs.
    Barnaby Joyce’s farcical move could lead to two thirds of our pesticides and veterinary medicines specialists quit. Nice work Barnaby. I bet the Dept of Agriculture is hoping for a big ministerial reshuffle involving the loose cannon.
    It looks like the Orlando killer was a long tern user of steroids..
    Pauline Hanson gives her Facebook friends a lesson in Gallic geography.
    The benefits of less bathrooms in the modern home.

  5. Section 2 . . . Cartoon Corner

    Alan Moir with the rather difficult Senate. Note the little time bomb still running around.
    Ron Tandberg with some economic perspective.
    A bit of political poetry from Mark David.

    David Rowe with Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.

    A delightful cartoon from Mark Knight on Turnbull’s donation to the Liberal Party.

  6. From Kenny
    ” if Turnbull went under the bus … who then”?
    Of the rest, the only standouts with a chance of broad support are Josh Frydenberg and Christian Porter. Both are confident and competent but both are also too new.

    When you compare this to Labor, the alternatives to Bill Shorten are legion: Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen, Tony Burke, Jason Clare, perhaps Richard Marles.

    What this article really points out is the LNP is without talent ( or ability ) …period

  7. Peter Martin on why austerity doesn’t work.

    Peter Martin says:

    I should point out that there’s no real parallel in Australia. Despite all their talk about quickly restoring the budget to surplus, Tony Abbott and his treasurer Joe Hockey were far too clever to attempt to do it here, as are Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

    Excuse me, What? Far Too Clever To Attempt To Do It Here!!

    What does Peter Martin think the 2014 Budget was all about?

  8. Mal might be on a hiding to nothing here.

    Opponents claim that the new enterprise agreement gives the UFU a veto over the decisions of the CFA. This is not the case. The agreement requires that consultation occurs on matters relating to the employment of career firefighters. If no agreement is reached, the issue can be referred to the Fair Work Commission.

    This does not amount to a union veto over management actions, but it does give the union a certain amount of influence. Such provisions are common in enterprise agreements, but supporters of unrestricted management prerogative do not like unions to have any say at all.

    Opponents of the agreement include the Liberal Party, the former board of the CFA (which was sacked by the state government for refusing to sign the agreement), the Herald Sun and the Age. These forces have cultivated fears among volunteer firefighters that the agreement would adversely affect them.

    There have been some rallies by volunteer firefighters against the agreement, but other volunteers have spoken out in support of the union’s position.

    Turbull’s proposed amendment to the Fair Work Act is likely to face a constitutional challenge in the High Court, on the grounds that it would amount to federal government interference in a state government matter.


  9. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jul/14/fears-western-australia-will-close-remote-indigenous-communities-by-stealth?CMP=share_btn_tw

    Chapple said attempts to move Aboriginal peoples off their traditional lands and into larger towns or communities had failed repeatedly in the past, and created the social issues that Barnett, who justified his closure comments as having a moral not an economic imperative, had claimed were the impetus for reform.

    “If you look at any of the work that has been done in this area, remote communities are the safest places,” he told Guardian Australia. “That’s where you send troubled kids, to get them away from the bad influences in town.”

    He said previous attempts to transition remote communities into gazetted towns had been “an abject failure”.

    “You end up with all of these houses with nobody living in them because they can’t pay rates and people around the houses living in the dirt,” he said.

    “If the thinking is that by some form of ‘glorified normalisation’ which is almost a form of assimilation by stealth that we can fix this, it’s not going to happen.”

  10. Ray Wilton


    …some reports suggest that Capilano’s honey is being imported from China and Argentina. Both countries have been associated with fake honey scandals in the past.

    So it is disappointing that Australian consumers are not being told where the honey is being imported from.

  11. Thanks for the heads up, lizzie!
    It’s just as well I didn’t have to run on the field today as my eldest sent me a text at 5.30am to tell me to pick him up at the train station at 7am!! He had been at a party in Sydney, up all night and didn’t want to couch surf a nap so decided to come home instead!!!

    So tomorrow morning would you like it if I let you take up the running first and then I can fill in with extras that you may not have come across?

    I can also try and do a few cartoons, then let Douglas and Milko pick up the slack later. I don’t subscribe to News Corpse so the pickings may be a bit slim. Also I’m not quite sure how you get around the paywall to get to the cartoons.

  12. Interesting, Will – thanks. If you can get the data, the other variable I’d be interested in is the change over the last few years in demography – ie the burbs that are getting more (or less) middle-clawss over the years. I had the deeply unsatisfying experience of canvassing in Bracken Ridge – in Petrie, one of the marked outliers on your chart which swung to the so-called Libs against expectations. It was a newly-developed burb a generation ago – lots of 2-storey McMansions with a double or triple garage occupying much of the ground-floor frontage. Now I imagine most of the buyers have paid off their mortgages (and may well have a neg-geared investment property) and they are looking very well-fed and self-satisfied. Interesting thing was that despite the number of middle-aged couples who would surely have grown-up kids there were very few younger voters. There were just a few druggie-looking ones and a few glowing young Christians – it seemed all the others have moved away from home. I suppose there has to be an area in each capital that is getting more complacently middle-class at any one time; Petrie seems to be the Brisbane one, and Chisholm may be the Melbourne one. Any relevant stats on that, or other helpful thoughts?

  13. Jack A Randa

    Had a similar experience – doorknocked an area which traditionally is very pro Labor, one of its features being cheap ex Housing Commission housing stock, to find that at least 50% of the houses are now either holiday rentals or holiday homes.

    The booth might still be very pro-Labor but it made finding locals to talk to a daunting exercise!

  14. C@t

    That sounds good. I’ll make the early first pass and you can fill in later. (I usually start about 6am and post by 7am.)

  15. I assume this is the source of CC’s latest plunge into prejudice.

    The Murdoch media and conservative Coalition parties have ramped up their attacks on renewable energy in light of the big spike in electricity prices in South Australia this week, saying that wind and solar are solely to blame for the state’s electricity problems.

    Power prices spiked sharply again this week, but energy analysts say that wind and solar are not at fault, pointing out that gas prices have jumped to record highs, and the interconnector to Victoria was constrained due to delayed work on network upgrades.

    But this has cut no mustard with the Murdoch media and the Coalition, who have used the incidents of the past week to renew their usually skewed attacks against the high levels of wind and solar in the state.

    “SA’s reliance on wind and solar power is responsible for these absurd prices,” thundered The Advertiser, Murdoch’s monopoly daily newspaper in Adelaide, in an editorial entitled “SA power prices threaten future of economy.”

    “The state’s electricity supply cannot be left at the mercy of the weather gods and erratic spot prices. Labor’s great green energy experiment will cost it ultimate power in 2018,” it threatened. The editorial makes absolutely no mention of the record gas prices, or the energy cartel that it is defending.

    Murdoch’s position has been eagerly supported by the local state Opposition, which like all Coalition parties across the country – at both the state and federal level – is pushing back against any moves to increase the amount of renewable energy in the electricity system.


  16. Zoomster,
    I have a degree and a postgraduate diploma but a very low income due to physical disability of myself and my youngest, who I left the workforce to care for. So the two demographics can be discrete. Though I take your point.

    However, otoh, there are plenty of Tradies out there now, with lower levels of educational achievement who earn more than some Uni graduates!

  17. I thought NSW, home of more Coal-fired Power than you could poke a stick at, had the highest electricity prices in the world?

  18. I guess, with the $1Million that Malcolm contributed to the Liberal Party during the election campaign, you have to agree that it is a party that has been bought and paid for by the guy that leads it and it is, ‘The Turnbull Coalition’.

    Which I am sure Turnbull will make sure Abetz, Abbott, Andrews and Dutton do not forget.

  19. C@

    I started my teaching career at the ‘least disadvantaged’ secondary school in Victoria (it was not unknown, for example, to find students using $50 as bookmarks…)

    Classes tended to be split into children whose parents were high achieving professionals (including, dauntingly for a first year out, the head of the English Curriculum department) and tradies who had struck it rich (there were a couple of Tatts winners as well).

    So half the class saw education as vitally important and the other half had the ‘me dad left school at fifteen and he’s a millionaire’ attitude.

  20. Good on Murrandoo Yanner for having a go at Pauline Hanson yesterday! What was the red-headed redneck (as he so appropriately called her), doing trying to schmooze with our Indigenous brothers and sisters anyway!?! She thinks they are a class below her. Maybe she was trying out her White Supremacist shoes?

  21. Re cheap food imports (Chinese honey etc)
    Where ever possible I buy local from a couple of delis and shops that source local Gippsland produce from museli to milk and honey to peanut butter.
    I now rarely purchase Arnott’s brands as many are now made in Malaysia.
    Some Chinese friends of my folks state we would be stupid to purchase ANY Chinese food products due to poor QC, terrible pollution and suspect ingredients.
    It will be interesting to see how the new food labelling laws will have any effect.

  22. The price for a box of 100 strips will rise from $1.20 to $60 for patients who are not dependent on insulin because their diabetes is controlled.

    Wrong. Insulin dependency is the final stage. The testing strips are vital for Type 2 diabetics who do not wish to progress to insulin dependency.

    Diabetes Australia chief executive Greg Johnson said there had been universal access to the strips for 28 years and no evidence that they were being used wastefully.

    “It sends the wrong message,” Mr Johnson said.

    “If the government wants people to take responsibility and it wants them to look after themselves, you’ve got to give them access to these things. The risk is that some people who no longer have access, their diabetes management will suffer and that may have a cost to the health system in the future.”

    University of Sydney metabolic health professor Stephen Colagiuri, a world authority on diabetes, said in his submission that the strips were an “integral” component of diabetes self care.

    The single most effective way to control blood sugar levels was medication, he said, but the strips supported the drug therapy by providing objective feedback to patients on how their lifestyle habits affected their glucose levels.


  23. Steven

    Some Chinese friends of my folks state we would be stupid to purchase ANY Chinese food products due to poor QC, terrible pollution and suspect ingredients.

    Or any building materials, it seems.

  24. C@tmomma Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 8:43 am

    I guess, with the $1Million that Malcolm contributed to the Liberal Party during the election campaign, you have to agree that it is a party that has been bought and paid for by the guy that leads it and it is, ‘The Turnbull Coalition’.

    I wonder who is picking up the tab for our Mr MillionDollar Prime Ministers “pigs in the trough” dinner bash tonight ??????

  25. How petulant of Abbott to refuse an invitation to Turnbull’s shindig because he isn’t going to get a ministry.

  26. Phoenix Red,
    Of course the taxpayers will pick up the tab for Malcolm and the Moochers’ champagne and canapes!

  27. Botox overload on Julie Bishop today. Looks like she is getting it in the neck too now. Forehead and eyebrows unmoving.

  28. Lizzie,
    The UK are yet to get over their Thatcher fixation. They have even given the new PM the nickname ‘Maggie May’. Sheesh!

  29. dave Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 9:15 am
    “ The Counter-Coup Begins: Erdogan Purges 2,745 Judges, Prosecutors; Arrests Hundreds ”

    Almost a repeat of the 1944 July 20th Plot ……

  30. confessions @ #35 Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 9:08 am

    How petulant of Abbott to refuse an invitation to Turnbull’s shindig because he isn’t going to get a ministry.

    He’s probably pissed he never got to live there and is refusing to go there until it is his home.
    Bring on the leadershit.

  31. ausdavo @ #3 Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Great analysis, William.
    My electorate – Hinkler (and next door Wide Bay) – lowest two median family incomes and also 7th and 8th for highest median age (lots of low income pensioners ?).
    Hinkler also very low for finishing school and mortgaged dwellings (lots of renters and retirement villages which probably aren’t mortgaged ?). Many of the citizens here are from country towns (rusted on NP) who have retired to the coast.
    They may appear to be happy with what the government is planning for health and pensions but if it goes too far then these seats could swing with a vengeance.

    I suspect they will be highly susceptible to the kind of one-on-one grass roots campaigning so well described by Briefly. If this is not already being done then it should be.
    These should be Labor strongholds.

  32. Ambitious Conservative females do tend to model themselves on Thatcher, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. She was a role model for Mirabella, for example.

    Michaelia Cash and Bronwyn Bishop are also examples, at least in the hair department.

  33. C@t

    There is a bawdy song about Maggie May.

    Oh Maggie, Maggie May they have taken you away
    To slave upon that cold Van Diemen shore
    Oh you robbed so many sailors and dosed so many whalers
    You’ll never cruise down Lime Street any more

    Best I don’t quote too much here, but it’s not complimentary!

  34. The Liberals preselect women candidates in the same way the Greens preselect indigenous candidates: ie not in safe seats.

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