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”

  1. pedant at 10:02 pm +
    Good point. However the media worked much differently in those days. For better or worse we are stuck with 3 word slogans and 140 character tweets. You can still do smart messaging in that format, but it needs to be part of a narrative. You need to save nuance for long form interviews, Kitchen Cabinet and the Quarterly.

  2. Pauline Hanson denies it is her who is causing the increase in Islamophobia in Australia.

    She’s brazen, that’s for sure.

  3. henry @ #750 Monday, July 18, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    So is Slammin’ Sammy a mussie or what, didn’t really seem to answer that question.

    From my understanding he comes from a Zoroaster background or something like that, but fled Iran for a number of reasons, one of them being the non-recognition by the Iranian government. He sort of tried explaining that they were lumped together with the Muslims by their government or WTTE.

  4. C@tmomma @ 10.08pm:

    You would have to go back a long way indeed to see a performance as un-primeministerial as Mr Turnbull’s speech on election night. The more he carries on that way, the less respect he will enjoy. And when Parliament gets back and the cops have decided no prosecutions would succeed, some bash merchant like Mr Albanese should call him a sook to his face: it’s the sort of tag which would stick.

  5. I like Sam D and couldn’t give rats pizzle about his religious beliefs.
    I’m almost at the stage of feeling sorry for Pauline. Almost.
    She makes me embarrassed to be Australian.

  6. Subjecting myself to Q&A. My gawd hanson is just so dumb and ignorant, & without any self-awareness of that fact (a bit like some here – CC, DF, etc). You can just see a total lack of information processing or thought going on behind those horrible eyes. Problem is, she does represent so many Australians. She came out of the LNP and nowadays they would not dis-endorse her – she’d have a ministry (if she was male).

  7. Thanks Nicole for your thoughtful and reasonable comments. Looking at some of the other posts above about the Greens from people professing to be ALP supporters – well I won’t presume to suggest to you what you should make of it – but to me, it gives the impression that there is a body of Labor people who have a visceral and tribal hostility to the Greens. If you are unhappy about how some Greens people represent your party I’d have to say I’m equally unimpressed by some of the dishonesty that is posted here about the Greens. Mostly though I just scroll past…..

  8. Gareth @ 10.10pm: Pithy slogans and use of Parliament to work over details of legislation aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The thing is, there’s not that much that oppositions can really do to make life difficult for governments, but one thing that Ministers simply can’t avoid is the legislative process. So it’s a great opportunity to pick away at weak spots. The current government doesn’t have much to go with by way of a program, so will be trying to survive on some sort of general reputation for “competence”. But that can be undercut badly if Ministers make mistakes. And if you wear them out, they start making unforced errors as well. And after time, a government starts to look pretty messy. It’s a long term process, the fruits of which might not be seen for a year or two, but still well worth the effort, in my view.

    It also forces shadow ministers to work their backsides off, which is a good preparation for government in the future.

  9. To win an argument, to even -have- an argument. You need to generally agree on the facts of the issue.
    I’ve had arguments with people who have said they don’t believe ABS stats or government spending figures. I know then, i can’t win, because we’re not arguing about the same thing.

  10. so dumb. just fearful of difference. you get the sense she has real trouble just keeping up even if she concentrates as hard as she can, so no wonder she doesn’t want anything different – it would challenge that reptilian brain.

  11. Max,
    Your mealy-mouthed apologia for The Greens to be able to come here and sneer at and smear Labor day after day is just another in the long line of such statements that is typically one-sided by Greens’ supporters.

  12. Labor should generally grant pairs except for those who are not really supporters of the Turnbull government. After all that is what pairs are for.

    So no pair for Abbott, Andrews, Christiansen, Abetz and Bernardi for starters. And that will just encourage the renegades not to turn up to cause trouble for Mal and prove the point.

  13. Hanson refused to say how she will vote in an ABCC joint sitting. She wants to look into the bill. I got the feeling that she will try to extract some rather distasteful concessions for those votes.

  14. Waters just lied about Labor.
    Support for Labor increased faster than support for the Greens in the last election.
    She stated that support for the two big parties is dropping.
    The Greens just can’t help themselves when it comes to lying.

  15. Larissa Waters launches straight into Greens’ diatribe 101.

    ‘Support for big parties is dropping’, she says. What she doesn’t say is that support for The Greens is dropping too.

  16. Pauline shouldn’t forget to thank DiNat for making her dream come to, as well.
    “Justin Barbour ‏@justinbarbour 2m2 minutes ago
    That look on Senator Birmingham’s face when Pauline Hanson thanks the Coalition for its voting reforms which helped her get elected. #qanda

  17. Simon Birmingham says Labor proposed, “The highest level of taxation as a % of the economy in the nation’s history.”

    Fact check!

  18. Ms Hanson should be ecstatic about haram food.
    Essentially, haram is illegal under Islamic law.
    This guy was being so reasonable that he was willing to break Islamic law so that she could join him and his family for lunch.
    There is another allusion here – the tradition that if you join a family inside the house for a meal, you are under their care and protection.

  19. The Piping Shrike ‏@Piping_Shrike 12m12 minutes ago
    #qanda is getting like some WWF tag team wrestling for politicos. It’s totally off.

    Years ago I tagged it the Jerry Springer show for elites.

  20. Gareth

    Monday, July 18, 2016 at 9:36 pm
    Labor has never been adverse of getting down into the gutter.

    Oh, okay, name names and places.

    Enough with the platitudes.

  21. boerwar @ #788 Monday, July 18, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Ms Hanson should be ecstatic about haram food.
    Essentially, haram is illegal under Islamic law.
    This guy was being so reasonable that he was willing to break Islamic law so that she could join him and his family for lunch.
    There is another allusion here – the tradition that if you join a family inside the house for a meal, you are under their care and protection.

    Indeed. The joke is that she goes on so much about Halal food and she is effing ignorant of what she is talking about.

  22. Peter van Onselen ‏@vanOnselenP 20m20 minutes ago
    The notion of banning ALL Muslims migrating to Australia is quite literally one of the most bigoted remarks I’ve heard in a very long time.

  23. Is Pauline Hanson saying that she wants Small, Medium and Large Big Business to get all their tax cuts now!?! “Get it out of the way” she said.

    Though it could be interpreted two ways, I will admit.

  24. briefly @ #668 Monday, July 18, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    greg mcauliffe @ #663 Monday, July 18, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I hope the ALP does to Turnbull & Co what the they did to the ALP when they had a majority of 1 from 2010 to 2013. Absolutely NO Pairs,even for funerals,sickness…..whatever.

    For mine, Labor should apply the standard that befits the House. There is no need to follow the example set by the least qualified and most incompetent person ever to become PM. Voters were thoroughly disgusted by Abbott’s conduct. Labor are the alternative government. Their behaviour should match their standing and nothing less.

    Labor set a new standard by using their time in opposition to develop policies for the election.
    They should not descend to Abbott’s level of opposing everything but they should not compromise their integrity and values either.
    That is what a responsible opposition does.

  25. Birmingham is really giving me the pits. He interrupts everyone. He is arrogant and rude. Nobody except Dastyari and Xenophon is looking half decent tonight.

  26. Boerwar:

    Like Raaraa I too wonder what nasty concessions ONP will extract from the govt in exchange for it support in the Senate.

  27. The LNP must be delighted to have Hanson back, they are suddenly much closer to the center (relatively speaking).
    Labor is going to have trouble putting the spotlight on the LNP, she is not going to give it up willingly.

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