The morning after

A quick acknowledgement of pollster and poll aggregate failure, and a venue for discussion of the surprise re-election of the Morrison government.

I’m afraid in depth analysis of the result will have to wait until I’ve slept for just about the first time in 48 hours. I’ll just observe that that BludgerTrack thing on the sidebar isn’t looking too flash right now, to which the best defence I can offer is that aggregators gonna aggregate. Basically every poll at the end of the campaign showed Labor with a lead of 51.5-48.5, and so therefore did BludgerTrack – whereas it looks like the final result will end up being more like the other way around. The much maligned seat polling actually wound up looking better than the national ones, though it was all too tempting at the time to relate their pecularities to a past record of leaning in favour of the Coalition. However, even the seat polls likely overstated Labor’s position, though the number crunching required to measure how much by will have to wait for later.

Probably the sharpest piece of polling analysis to emerge before the event was provided by Mark the Ballot, who offered a prescient look at the all too obvious fact that the polling industry was guilty of herding – and, in this case, it was herding to the wrong place. In this the result carries echoes of the 2015 election in Britain, when polling spoke in one voice of an even money bet between the Conservatives and Labour, when the latter’s vote share on the day proved to be fully 6% higher. This resulted in a period of soul-searching in the British polling industry that will hopefully be reflected in Australia, where pollsters are far too secretive about their methods and provide none of the breakdowns and weighting information that are standard for the more respected pollsters internationally. More on that at a later time.

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.

1,797 comments on “The morning after”

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  1. Morrison’s personal traits are pretty irritating. And with a fractious and riven party room, Barnarby Joyce running amok next door, a bunch of wet independents seeking “real action on Climate Change”, and the possibility of a threadbare majority, or even minority, it won’t be a bed of roses for the Coalition. We’ll see how Morrison’s brilliant, consultative management style copes with that. We’ve already seen how he “managed” minority government: by doing nothing.

    Of course I’m not pretending Labor haven’t lost, but it’s not a Labor wipeout either.

    And don’t forget… they told us Turnbull would be PM for life. Look how long he lasted.

  2. @PaulTu:
    You’re right that the landlines comment of A. Green can’t explain this.

    I don’t buy the “shy Liberal” idea either – why would Liberal voters be shy at this election but not last election, or the one before that or the one before that, or at any byelection of the past decade, etc etc?

    There seems to have been a group failure to properly weight and sample the electorate… kind of like the polls for the Vic state election except favourable to the Coalition instead.

  3. I don’t buy the “shy Liberal” idea either – why would Liberal voters be shy at this election but not last election, or the one before that or the one before that, or at any byelection of the past decade, etc etc?

    I think anyone paying attention in the past 3 years would struggle for a reason to vote Lib 😉

    EDIT: a public reason that is…

  4. I noticed something with my little election watching “cabal”. Whenever Tingle had something to say the room went quiet.

  5. “Question says:
    Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 3:51 am
    I noticed something with my little election watching “cabal”. Whenever Tingle had something to say the room went quiet.”

    Which room? Yours or the studio? Also, why?

    I hadn’t noticed that here, but I did notice her struggling to get her words out on a couple of occasions.

  6. Finally,

    With all due respect to davidwh, when in the hell is QLD going to secede and let the rest of us get on with the 21st century?

  7. William
    Is polling destroying democracy?

    As the polls were hugely inaccurate in predicting the outcome of the election it is just as likely they were inaccurate on the party standings that resulted in Turnbull’s removal.

    The polls are probably shaping the outcome not reflecting it.
    Maybe Barnaby Joyce’s antics were also distorting the polls … upsetting many general voters while at the same time boosting his ratbag / bogan core.

    We may be the Ugly Australia after all.

    Many thanks for running the blog & I hope you can influence polling for the better.

  8. I’m astounded at Queensland. The polling consistently said 49% or 50% ALP TPP; yet we are staring at around 43%. That’s massive. In an Australian context; I can’t think of what compares to this outcome. We cannot estimate election outcomes when polling has gaps big enough to drive a truck through it!

  9. PaulTu,

    I had about 10 of my friends wallowing with me in my living room. Don’t ask me why. I haven’t got the funding to research the observation.

    I must admit I have become hypnotised with the awkward way Tingle has with the autocue on the 7:30 report. I find it quite endearing.

  10. Income, wealth creation and wealth maintenance trumps all other concerns for enough voters to elect both Morrison as PM and the LNP with enough seats to form government (with help from the independents).
    Those voters that have tended this way have gambled on the maintenance of inflated real estate, the world economy and a continuation of their comfortable lifestyles. I wish them well.
    My concerns for the lack of social fairness, environmental wellbeing and political integrity are not shared by enough voters to win government. For the sake of the country I hope I’m wrong.

  11. Goll

    The ALP didn’t run on fairness, they cheery picked winners and losers only for it to blow up on them, they now have three years to get their story straight and a strategy to support that story, that is if this government lasts that long.

    Machiavelli wrote in the Prince words to the affect that a prince can do anything as long as he doesn’t take from the masses.

  12. MB

    Harsh, but I’m inclined to agree. I’m surprised Shorten didn’t pick up on it with the Town Hall meetings.

  13. Question

    In any campaign you can only or should only offer so much or you run the risk of looking like you are just saying what the audience wants to hear, and this did creep into the ALP campaign a bit whereas they needed to just focus on the government’s many failings and focus on how it would do those things better.

    Daniel Andrews kept it simple, talked up his positive plans and hit the Liberals with “Matthew Guy is the Liberal cut guy”

  14. Mexicanbeemer
    The Labor effort clearly didn’t work.
    The Morrison government is dependent upon many factors it can’t control. Many of these will be found in his cabinet and his government.
    Enough masses must be happy for now.
    Machiavelli also said that”of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical and greedy of gain”.
    And New England votes again to retain the odious member!

  15. Goll
    If the ALP can remain focused and united then it should remain competitive against this government, it is hard to see how they can handle a divided parliament with pro-climate change independents in the HoR and the likes of Lambie in the senate, the senate looks less friendly than last term and economic conditions look challenged so the ALP are not that far off.


    Can’t get past the paywall – why not ❓

    As the night went on, it was all but confirmed. By close of play it was almost certain that Scott Morrison had held on against extraordinary odds. All the polls were dead wrong.

    The explanation? The best guess, surely, is some Trumpian dynamic whereby, in the privacy of the ballot box, enough people were voting in a way that they weren’t saying publicly before the poll, that the results were skewed away from all expectations.

    Good read. 🕊


    Labor lost the unlosable election – now it’s up to Morrison to tell Australia his plan
    Katharine Murphy May 18, 2019
    Scott Morrison

    There are a number of unknowns with Saturday night’s result – including whether Scott Morrison will govern in majority or in minority.

    But some things can be known. This was an election in large part about the climate emergency, and the field evidence shows Australia in 2019 is deeply divided about the road ahead.


    Morrison is the hero of the hour for the Liberal party and rightly so, having pulled them out of the fire with a negative, ruthlessly efficient, gravity-defying solo act that convinced a majority of Australians in the right seats that if they didn’t trust Shorten, they couldn’t trust Labor.

    Interest material from Ms. Murphy.


    Conventional wisdom going into the election was that Labor would win, so Saturday’s result had people scratching their heads about the opinion polls.

    They predicted a close result, with Essential Research tracking Labor ahead on 51-49 with a 3% margin of error. The Poll Bludger aggregate of polls had a similar result, 51.7-48.3.

    The actual election result was 50.7-49.3. On a two-party-preferred basis, the only state that fell outside the 3% margin was Queensland, where there was a swing to the Coalition of more than 4%.


    While it is true as my favourite daughter tells me (in the manner of ‘memento mori’ which more directly translates to ‘remember you must die’ ) that I know not much – it appears to me that when quoting polling figures the three figures might get a mention.

    Lower .
    Most likely.

    Wisdom from William required plus more information regarding herding .

  19. Morning bludgers. All the best to you all. There’s plenty of time to reflect on how Labor can put this behind them and make a strong rebound for 2022.

  20. I think this website should shut down. I mean how can the opposite result happen from the published polls. I will be very interested in hearing.


    Nigel Farage, who is now threatening to make an eighth bid to become an MP, was pictured this week in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, in his usual pinstripe suit. And he’s not the only one – the stripe is making a fashion comeback, but with a twist this time. Traditionally a sartorial by-word for power, the pinstripe has its origins in the banking world, worn as a way of distinguishing workers at different Victorian banks based on the distance between the thin white lines on their suits.

    What’s this about. Not much. I don’t own a suit. 🕴🕴


    There will be no Dawn Patrol this morning. I am not in the mood to subject myself to the task given the way in which a lazy-thinking and credulous Australia has chosen to propel itself into what will be a indeterminably longer period of Americanisation of social and economic policy, not to mention an expansion of a debilitating structural deficit.
    The architect of the last 10 years of chaos and right wing trajectory, Tony Abbott, thankfully is gone. But the damage is done.
    Sorry folks.

  23. Kay Jay,

    Thanks for the front pages and articles – a nauseating bunch, but we to know what the enemy is saying.

  24. The End

    Labor’s ad campaign was woeful based on my exposure.
    After Morrison and that grub consumated that vile preference agreement where was the ad showing the grub owing his workers millions of dollars in entitlements and smirky mcsmirkface cosying up and the fact that taxpayers had bailed the slime ball out to the tune of $70 million on high rotation?

    To me it looked like labor were the ones who were broke.

    Yes, and that is because Labor rely on the $10 or $20 that people like me can chuck them over the campaign. So, they were broke. This is why the ALP could not counter the Coalition’s negative and mendacious advertising campaign.

    On the other hand, the Liberals coffers are never actually empty – Clive and friends will fund a third organisation that will provide wall-to-wall negative advertising against the ALP.

    Even better, it never appears on the Coalition donation records.

  25. Andrew_Earlwood,

    Please don’t go! If a progressive government is ever to grace Federal parliament again, we need every bit of brain’s trust we can get.

    But taking some time off, yep, I get that.

  26. BK
    Sunday, May 19th, 2019 – 5:46 am
    Comment #80

    I presented to my GP on Friday afternoon – mostly for new prescriptions. I considered asking for Valium or similar,

    We survived Mr. Howard – Abbott -Turnbull and we will survive Mr. Morrison although how the damage to the country can be repaired I know not.

    After the 2016 election I calculated that I would need to read 400 books until the next chance to get rid of the RW people.
    Well – only another 400 books to go until the next chance.

    Be kind to yourself.

  27. I’ll enjoy my extra ski holiday and the wonderful revenue boost that my family is about to receive thanks to ScoMo and his overly generous tax cuts for my end of town. His election only hurts my soul, but every other part of my life is better off. Except the environment I live in, the general state of Australian politics and the fact I now have to listen to more self righteous liberal losers brag for another three years. I now have a Labor local representative for all three levels of government, at least my local council has a labor-greens coalition. The other two reps might be on the opposition backbencher.

    Well done Australia and Queensland in particular – enjoy being screwed over during the recession we didn’t have to have. Like many others, I have lurked here for a long time and posted occasionally, but I think a good long break is in order. Thanks William for your hospitality and doing your best with our terrible herded polls, you can only do as well as the pollsters allow you to. I will miss many of the other posters on here, particularly BK and his Dawn Patrol as well as many others.

  28. William,

    Thanks for all your efforts above and beyond the call of duty in keeping this blog going.

    We need you more than ever to understand what went wrong with the polling. Because without that, we are flying blind.

    Also, guys, do not forget to give William a donation. I know it feels like polls have let us down, but understanding why the polls have let us down is the key to understanding how to move forward.

    Given what I know of the Big C Christian takeover of the Liberal party, their unexpected win makes me say “Under his eye.”

  29. With all due respect to davidwh, when in the hell is QLD going to secede and let the rest of us get on with the 21st century?

    43% of us DIDN’T vote for a QEXIT!

    But on behalf of those 43%: our abject embarrassment and apologetic distress.

  30. Looks to me like non-Greens independent and minor party preferences split about 50-50, just like they did in 2016. The AEC has a national 2PP of 50.89% for the Coalition, which reduces to about 50.7% if you add in 13 seats currently missing from the calculation because the preference counts aren’t Coalition versus Labor. Coalition 41.3% + Greens preferences (10.08% * 0.2) + Others preferences (14.7% * 0.5) – 0.1% for Liberal-Nationals preference leakage equals 50.7%.

  31. Conor, and all the other totally disillusioned people,

    Now is the time to keep fighting – the Coalition will be fighting among themselves before next week is out. Now is the time to stick together, lick our wounds, reassess, and fight another day.

    So A_E, Conor and all those others who are thinking of disappearing:

    Baby please don’t go:

  32. I have also just made sure my Crikey “auto renew” setting is turned to “off”.

    I am still paid up until July, but will probably just send the Crikey Daily Newsletter to junk. I will not be able to face the sneering and schadenfreuder from Bernard Keane and Guy Rundle. I have only kept subscribing for William’s excellent articles.

  33. Pondering this result some more overnight. Trying to work on the Ockham’s Razor principle, although – as William pointed out in his opening post – the pollsters who got it all so wrong don’t provide us with a lot of facts to work with.

    I’ve got a range of thoughts that I’ll spread over a number of posts.

    First of all, no matter how much it hurts to do it, Labor will need to face up to the fact that this result was a vehement rejection of them and their whole approach leading up to the election.

    Let’s start with Bill. A majority of voters never liked him and never trusted him. I believe that some of this mistrust dates all the way back to Beaconsfield, where – perhaps unfairly – he was widely perceived as having gatecrashed the party and then behaved like a show pony. But the deal was sealed by his role (again perhaps overstated) in the removal of Rudd in 2010 followed by his leading, Brutus-like role in the removal of Gillard in 2013.

    And he was also too much of a union leader. It has always seemed to me that swinging voters find union leaders to be a bit scary, and certainly don’t like strikes. Hawke was the exception that proved rule: he was wildly charismatic and always projected an image of wanting to resolve industrial disputes and get people back to work.

    Bill was in reality a similar sort of union leader to Bob, but his desperate lack of charisma meant that he could never project this fact to voters. And, through that rotten Royal Commission, the Libs did a great job in damaging his image in that respect.

  34. Next thought: Labor’s election strategy totally sucked.

    There’s the old adage from cricket that, when you win the toss, you think seriously about sending the opposition in, but almost always end up batting first. I think last night we had proof once again that the same adage should apply to big target strategies on the part of political oppositions.

    The received wisdom from canny political strategy from both sides – the likes of Tony Eggleton, Geoff Walsh, Hawker, Credlin, Della Bosca, Sinodinos, etc. – has long been that successful political parties need to target the aspirational voters in the marginal seats with carefully controlled messages that emphasise things like 1) reducing social divisions and bringing people together; and 2) making things fairer in a way that will also benefit you directly. Labor’s campaign this time didn’t look anything like this: it highlighted social divisions and effectively told a sizeable proportion of the electorate that they would be losers and would need to suck it up.

    Because of the inaccurate polling information, everyone – Labor and Liberal apparatchiks, the Press Gallery, and ordinary folks like us – assumed that the strategy was going down much, much better than Labor had any right to suspect. But, as we now know, it actually wasn’t. As I said at the time, Labor should have dumped the “big end of town” nonsense as soon as ScoMo became leader. It was perhaps a reasonable strategy against a silvertail like Turnbull, but it had no relevance against a suburban boy like ScoMo.

    I reckon Labor had access to some internal polling/focus group information in the last week of the campaign that was telling them the actual truth. It was noteworthy that, while many leading Coalition figures seemed to have thrown in the towel, Shorten and co weren’t really looking all that confident. And Wong gave the game away at about 6 pm last night, when, after Sinodinos had stated that the Liberal Party was fearing the worst, she made an extremely guarded prediction of what would happen on the night. I immediately thought that was a very bad sign, and so it proved to be

  35. Grumpy me, but today’s (I am in Bonn) election result is a disaster for me, personally.

    Not because of money, like most of you posters here, I may be better off with those massive tax cuts.

    But, I am worse off community-wide, as are all who do not want to live in a gated or otherwise isolated community.

    I have said here before I live in Redfern / Waterloo in inner Sydney. There is a lot of Department of housing accommodation here, which, together with a long working class history, leads to one of the most amazingly welcoming and socially cohesive places I have ever lived.

    However, the Berejiklian Liberal government has put all local social services out to private tender. Of course big corporate organisations have won the tenders, and all our local support people are gone. Now, one in every 2 women seeking refuge from domestic violence is turned away, as are all homeless people. Now every park near us has a community of homeless people. We also have a food bank now.

    I guess the neo-liberalism of the coalition will get us locals working even more for the community – it is too hard to watch so many other people living in such destitute circumstances.

    Welcome to David Cameron’s “Big Society”.

    Meanwhile, the denizens of the Shire will not even notice homeless people, and will continue to have nice lives, with taxpayers paying for their “Choice” of private hospitals and private schools.

  36. BK, completely understand.

    Thanks to all who kept the analysis and soul-searching going through the night. Big hugs to those who fought the ground fight and had an early night in sheer exhaustion and disbelief – with you too.

    I’ve been an ALP and GetUp donor for the last couple of elections. I wonder if the latter’s activism, clumsily lampooned and assisted by a few misfires, played into a community-level “ratbag” narrative that hurt the Left in the end, most notably in Dickson. These are tired thoughts. There is a lot here to think about.

    Clive had full page ads in the Courier Mail for weeks. An unscrupulous sales technique and a splash of cash got under a lot of skins.

    And an excellent point was made about the importance of environmental activism needing the support of the locals. This is something to work with and work on.

    I think the Senate might keep the lid on the worst of it. Let’s hope.

    So grateful for this site. It’s therapeutic, remembering that therapy often means examining difficult material, and feels like my local even if I mostly just sit in a corner and listen.

    Hang in there. Big hugs. And buy William a beer, too, if you’re not a regular donor: he can only work with what he has and it’s places like this that help the rest of us understand in retrospect.

    I do think the Shy Tory effect is part of it, for myriad reasons above, but mostly because voting for the status quo is like voting to try to warm yourself with a backyard burn while the smoke chokes the neighbours. And there are well-greased and cunning voices telling them in a million overt and subliminal ways that there is nothing to be ashamed of and no need to apologize to a future they cannot imagine beyond a projected annual income.

  37. Im still disappointed ,

    but i am not going to lay all the blame on the libs/nats for people’s wages not rising , employers exploiting slave labour and low wages , the cost of living and electricity , health, education rises , and so on , the people of Australia who re-elected the libs/nats are as guilty as the libs/nats for Australia being pounded into the ground.

  38. “Possibly so. But the exit polls never depended on landlines. I assume that they ask people as they leave the polling booth.”

    thats what i used to think, but then someone here mentioned they got called on their mobile for an exit poll. When you think about it simply standing at the exit of the polling booth asking random people would be even more problematic sampling wise than finding people to call on the electoral roll.

    Also I recall the latest NSW election exit poll was way off too, so its not the first time.

  39. poll bludger tracking has likely lost a lot of meaning now, thanks to the manipulating of the media opinion polls by the media

    it shows now why the public should ignore the media opinion polling and they should be no more , they are untrustworthy and the corrupt media will manipulate the polls for self-interest and will suffer no penalty for deliberately misleading the public .

  40. Peter Fitzsimon take on why Labor lost the election:

    Morrison had held on against extraordinary odds. All the polls were dead wrong.

    The explanation? The best guess, surely, is some Trumpian dynamic whereby, in the privacy of the ballot box, enough people were voting in a way that they weren’t saying publicly before the poll, that the results were skewed away from all expectations.

    And the other explanation of course, is that all those intent on turning on the Liberals just happened to be living in the seat of Warringah, where former sitting prime minister Tony Abbott was absolutely thumped by Zali Steggall.

    But it was Abbott who also offered the best clue of the lot to what happened when he noted, “Where climate change is a moral issue, we Liberals do it tough. Where climate change is an economic issue, as the result tonight shows, we do very, very well.” And his supporters cheered wildly!

    Herein, the lesson. In Australia in 2019, you can forget your moral arguments of what is right and wrong for the future and all that stuff. Just win the economic argument for what will put money in the pocket right now, and you win government.

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