The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – or the Herald/Age, to adopt what is evidently Nine Newspapers’ own preferred shorthand for its Sydney and Melbourne papers – have revealed their opinion polling will be put on ice for an indefinite period. They usually do that post-election at the best of times, but evidently things are more serious now, such that we shouldn’t anticipate a resumption of its Ipsos series (which the organisation was no doubt struggling to fund in any case).
This is a shame, because Ipsos pollster Jessica Elgood has been admirably forthright in addressing what went wrong – and, importantly, in identifying the need for pollsters to observe greater transparency, a quality that has been notably lacking from the polling scene in Australia. In particular, Elgood has called for the establishment of a national polling standards body along the lines of the British Polling Council, members of which are required to publish details of their survey and weighting methods. This was echoed in a column in the Financial Review by Labor pollster John Utting, who suggests such a body might be chaired by Professor Ian McAllister of the Australian National University, who oversees the in-depth post-election Australian Election Study survey.
On that point, I may note that I had the following to say in Crikey early last year:
The very reason the British polling industry has felt compelled to observe higher standards of transparency is that it would invite ridicule if it sought to claim, as Galaxy did yesterday, that its “track record speaks for itself”. If ever the sorts of failures seen in Britain at the 2015 general election and 2016 Brexit referendum are replicated here, a day of reckoning may arrive that will shine light on the dark corners of Australian opinion polling.
Strange as it may seem though, not everyone is convinced that Australian polling really put on all that bad a show last weekend. Indeed, no less an authority than Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has just weighed in with the following:
Polls showed the conservative-led coalition trailing the Australian Labor Party approximately 51-49 in the two-party preferred vote. Instead, the conservatives won 51-49. That’s a relatively small miss: The conservatives trailed by 2 points in the polls, and instead they won by 2, making for a 4-point error. The miss was right in line with the average error from past Australian elections, which has averaged about 5 points. Given that track record, the conservatives had somewhere around a 1 in 3 chance of winning.
So the Australian media took this in stride, right? Of course not. Instead, the election was characterized as a “massive polling failure” and a “shock result”.
When journalists say stuff like that in an election after polls were so close, they’re telling on themselves. They’re revealing, like their American counterparts after 2016, that they aren’t particularly numerate and didn’t really understand what the polls said in the first place.
I’m not quite sure whether to take greater umbrage at Silver’s implication that Antony Green and Kevin Bonham “aren’t particularly numerate”, or that the are – huck, spit – “journalists”. The always prescient Dr Bonham managed a pre-emptive response:
While overseas observers like Nate Silver pour scorn on our little polling failure as a modest example of the genre and blast our media for failing to anticipate it, they do so apparently unfamiliar with just how good our national polling has been compared to polling overseas.
And therein lies the rub – we in Australia have been rather spoiled by the consistently strong performance of Newspoll’s pre-election polls especially, which have encouraged unrealistic expectations. On Saturday though, we saw the polls behaving no better, yet also no worse, than polling does generally.
Indeed, this would appear to be true even in the specifically Australian context, so long as we take a long view. Another stateside observer, Harry Enten, has somehow managed to compare Saturday’s performance with Australian polling going all the way back to 1943 (“I don’t know much about Australian politics”, Enten notes, “but I do know something about downloading spreadsheets of past poll data and calculating error rates”). Enten’s conclusion is that “the average error in the final week of polling between the top two parties in the first round” – which I take to mean the primary vote, applying the terminology of run-off voting of the non-instant variety – “has been about five points”.
2,078 comments on “Of swings and misses: episode two”
Seems a shame to waste all those words I just wrote on the last blog. Feel free to skip what are probably two boring posts.
I have also spent a lot of time trying to understand the string of elections recently that have been “upsets” in terms of polling.
We are now looking at Brexit, Trump, Bolsanaro in Brazil, and now Australia.
There is also now good evidence from Avaaz that fake Facebook accounts are being viewed by enormous numbers of people for the EU elections.
I enjoyed Kevin Bonham’s article: http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-miracle-is-over-2019-australian.html
and agree with the conclusions.
My best guess about what is going on is that the “Cambridge Analytica” types are getting very good at targeting an undecided group of voters on social media, who are also swinging quite suddenly, and all in one direction, for a particular party / group.
The polls have not yet caught up.
It is not illegal, but it is driven by money from people with quite a lot of it, and who know how to spend it wisely to target the votes they need to switch. Also, anecdotally, I would say it is not just one demographic. I have collected a few friend and family stories about unusual messages / emails in the prepoll period, and particularly on Election Day.
I am also one of those people who make (some) of my living by delving into low signal to noise data, and using statistics to come up with defensible conclusions. After going back to the start of my field in circa 1970, I am really surprised at how right my discipline got it, using very little information, but including some modelling and sensible inferences, about what they were seeing. They had a few data points, but with many more datapoints we confirmed their results.
When you play with data a lot, you get an “feel” for what is possible and what is not. Sometimes collaborators send you an analysis, and you look at is and say “no this is wrong”. Sometimes it takes a while to convince them to take a second look, but that clanging sound in your head saying something is wrong is almost always correct. If you or they have stumbled on something new and wonderful, a few cursory checks will quickly tell you that the result is probably “Real”, and you go from there.
After talking to my colleagues on Australia over the last week, we all feel that something is “Wrong”. The opinion polls should have given us a better idea of what was happening.
William, Mark the Ballot, and Kevin Bonham noticed a problem with the poll herding in the last two weeks, and rightly urged caution about relying on the opinion polls.
I think opinion polls are extremely important for democracy. They are not gambling odds – they allow people fighting elections to read the public mood, and try to aim for the centre /consensus. Liberal democracy has relied, since WWII, on this centre consensus between parties to keep stability while advancing progressive causes, more slowly than many of us would like, but effectively.
The big problem is that every poll was wrong, by about the same margin, including the exit poll. MoE justifications are not convincing.
The exit poll really worries me. I worry that something changed in the underlying population that the samples did not pick up.
I keep coming back to particular cohorts of voters all breaking for the Coalition / Pauline / Clive when they went to cast their ballot.
Valid votes, but why did things change so drastically for certain demographics / populations in just 3 years since the last federal election in 2016?
I think this is an important question for democracy in Australia.
Bob Hawke was ‘more than prepared’ for death, Blanche d’Alpuget says.
now I really am not going to cry
I think she did cry and so did I.
Love turns to devotion and is so wonderful and fulfilling. – More tears.
Good morning Dawn Patrollers.
Will Woolworths be forced by its shareholders to get out of poker machines”?
There is a general consensus that Speers bring picked up fry the ABC was a coup.
Bob Carr has a stab at what the verdict on the mistakes that brought defeat to Labor might be.
David Crowe tells us that the Labor leadership contest appears to be over, but the policy struggle has only just begun.
Richo writes that Morrison managed to swat Shorten aside but is now in for a real fight. Albanese is personally popular, hard working and very, very bright. What’s more, he is a really good bloke, which is why factional divisions could not impede him. (Use the Google trick on this string).
The RBA looks close to cutting rates again. But with inflation remaining at perplexingly low levels, the move may not have the desired effects, writes Stephen Bartholomeusz.
The Liberals are usually content to be economic managers, but they’ll need new policy to beat Labor in the long run. The IPA’s John Roskam suggests five ways in which they can do this.
The SMH editorial goes to the dangerous rise in tension between the US and Iran.
The Coalition government may be in high spirits after an election victory, but its penchant to shoot itself in the foot over trying to restrict GetUp! can’t be underestimated writes Satya Marar.
Phil Coorey says that as much as the Coalition’s triumph on Saturday was Scott Morrison’s victory, Labor’s loss was a collective effort. And that explains why the party, is not ripping itself to shreds, as is customary after a bad loss.
Michelle Grattan wonders what Labor’s policy direction will be now.
Dr Geoff Davies provides an analysis of factors leading to the Coalition’s election victory, including mainstream media bias.
Sally Whyte reports that Scott Morrison has called on public service bosses to “bust congestion” within the bureaucracy, as well as committing to performance targets.
Barnaby Joyce won’t return as deputy prime minister or to the Coalition frontbench after Saturday’s shock election win. Good!
Anthony Albanese, who is set to become Labor leader within days, said the party needed to end some of the “us and them” rhetoric that shaped its failed election campaign.
Morrison’s re-election sees voters locking themselves into the existing tax frameworks, despite concerns the tax system is not fit for the 21st century.
Australians won’t know who bankrolled the major parties’ election campaigns for another eight months, due to a weak donations reporting regime that experts say is feeding “secrecy and distrust”. This has to change!
ASIC has assured nervous brokers and advisers that no-one would benefit from prosecutions “for the sake of it” as it takes a bolder approach to litigation following the royal commission.
Noel Towell reports that business and welfare groups say they fear tax increases and service cuts while unions are worried about job security for public servants as the Andrews Labor government prepares to hand down its budget on Monday.
Sam Maiden reveals that Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie was broke, unemployed and survived off Vegemite toast and as little as $150-a-week for a year after she left Parliament.
The Department of Human Services has quietly released the external report detailing how and why its notorious upgrades to the Child Support IT system went wrong, more than a year after the report was first received. Another fine mess.
Outstanding high school teacher Eddie Woo says that society urgently needs to shift its view of mathematics. It’s time for everyone to regard numeracy with the same kind of importance as literacy.
Noel Whittaker writes that we have an ageing population, with a decreasing number of people paying income tax to fund a growing number of retirees who pay no income tax. He says a GST boost may be answer to dwindling tax dollars.
The head of a Chicago-based bank was charged in an indictment unsealed on Thursday with bribery and accused of corruptly approving high-risk loans to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in a scheme to land a top Trump administration post such as secretary of the US Army.
Towns in western and central New South Wales, including Dubbo, Nyngan, Cobar, Walgett and Tamworth, are facing a crisis in their water supplies within a few months unless it rains, prompting emergency planning by water authorities.
Fairfax-Lite’s Tony Maguire explains why it has not renews its contract with Ipsos and pausing on polling in general.
Michaela Whitbourn reports that Geoffrey Rush now holds the record for the largest defamation payout to a single person in Australia after The Daily Telegraph agreed to pay the actor almost $2 million for lost earnings, on top of an $850,000 payout.
Mining giant BHP has become the latest resources firm to join the thermal-coal exodus, telling investors it has “no appetite” to grow existing projects. The company said it expects thermal coal as an energy source to be “phased out, possibly sooner than expected” and, as such, has no intention to grow its thermal coal portfolio “regardless of asset efficiency”.
Religious ministers in Western Australia will be compelled to reveal knowledge of child sexual abuse – even if it is gained through the confessional – but the Catholic church is resisting.
Kogan gets today’s nomination for “Arsehole of the Week”.
David Pope and what’s on store for Albo.
And he’s on to Clive Palmer.
David Rowe gets back on to Trump.
Cathy Wilcox with a telling poem about the abortion laws sweeping the US.
Ouch!! Jim Pavlidis takes aim at Morrison.
And Mark David bursts into poetry to sum up the election.
From Matt Golding.
Andrew Dyson at the polling station.
Simon Letch and the jackpot the coal industry has just scored.
From the now hubristic Paul Zanetti.
Some good advice from Jon Kudelka.
From the US
Mark Humphries does it again:
Scott Morrison’s new tourism campaign
Thanks BK. I wonder who Sky will use to replace Speers.
Meanwhile Assange has had more charges thrown at him.
What a shame Shorten can’t sue for defamation, and the nation sue for corruption.
A good Christian would not do this,
Church are fake:
Friday, May 24, 2019 at 6:41 am
Thursday, May 23, 2019 at 6:25 pm
Speers would be good for Q&A as well.
While I nearly always agree with your perceptive analysis of the shortcomings of our national public broadcaster, I have to disagree about Speers.
After watching him over the past five years, my impression is that he let the Coalition get away with too much, rarely testing them effectively on their fabrications and lies. He seemed to question Opposition spokespersons more sharply or amplify ill-founded criticism of Labor.
It’s only when we got closer to the election and it appeared that Labor had it in the bag that he started to challenge the Coalition.
I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt because I assume like many in the Murdoch stable he felt he couldn’t stray too far from the party line. Now free from that yoke we might finally see the real David Speers.
My choice for either post would have been Karvelas, with perhaps Ellen Fanning or Emma Alberici for Q and A. I am glad, however that that supercilious duo Rowland and Trioli will not be in the running.
Tony Abbott gets $6K a week for FREE:
Fran Kelly and her offsider quoted only from the Murdoch papers this morning in their first summary of “the news”, and agreed on the “crushing defeat” of Labor. As others have suggested, this was not crushing in the total sense of a high seat loss, only to the emotions of those who expected a win.
But no doubt the “crushing defeat” is now a permanent part of the narrative, particularly as Labor is rumoured to be jettisoning all the policies it took to the election, proving to their opponents that they were wrong all along. Weak!
Yes indeed, and ‘crushing defeat’ also underscores the commentary that Labor will have the next two parliamentary terms in opposition. Just like the aftermath of the 2004 election.
Is that nong leader of the Nats another religious nut? Saw him interviewed. And asked about the drought and climate change he waffled on. A slightly incredulous journo …..
Journo. So you policy is to pray for rain ! !?
He basically agreed and he prays for that and many other things, reckons we should all pray more .
So basically we just wait for rain as ‘ It will fall one day” the store it and until then ‘pray’ .
I agree, although Albo needs to make the right decisions for Labor to get back into government in 2022. Because I predict an economic crisis similar to that Ireland faced during the GFC is coming in the next year or two.
Also I predict Albo will be remembered either as one of the greatest Labor leaders or the man who destroyed the Labor Party. I am sure Scomo will end up being remembered as the man who kept the Liberals out of power for a generation.
Douglas and Milko- not boring posts. Concerned that you are on the money for the first one in particular. There is well and truly something going down, very believable that the likes of Cambridge Analytica are playing a role. In this context, EU elections will be very interesting.
Firstly, I am guessing autocorrect changed “Nats” to “Bats”. Although the way Oz politics is at the moment I have to ask.
Secondly, my mother, much as I love her, is totally of this mindset. She really believes that prayer will fix all evils, and if something is not fixed by prayer, then you just need to pray harder.
She still believes her prayers diverted the rampaging bushfire about to overwhelm out little part of the Blue Mountains in 1994, was deserted by a change in the wind so that the good citizens of a small place called Yarramundi (near Richmond NSW) were the ones who were burnt out.
I was at out local pharmacy the day after we escaped the fire, and another dear little old lady explained to the pharmacist that prayer had saved the day. He basically said who I was thinking – why do you think god hates Yarramundi.
No way to reason with these people, despite the fact that they would do anything for you if they thought you needed help.
The well-worn solution for the Coalition to deal with an economic crisis is to cut taxes. They know nothing else. 🙁
Maybe, however I think they will be more determined to try and balance the budget, in an attempt to preserve their image as superior managers of the economy than Labor. That will mean the sort of austerity that Britain has experienced for a decade now.
Sorry is this correct ?
The CFMEU has warned the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, against rushing to have Adani’s Carmichael coalmine approved, saying it “risks selling out local jobs” and threatens water security in central Queensland.
Adani Mining’s former chief executive, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, has previously said: “We will be utilizing at least 45, 400-tonne driverless trucks. All the vehicles will be capable of automation. When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port. In our eyes, this is the mine of the future.”
Tristo @ #16 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:05 am
What is this parallel universe you speak of?
I personally have some doubts about the Labor party being led by Albo, he might very well throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak. I predict he will be a popular well liked leader, however Labor could end up being behind the polls.
Analysis shows Labor losing votes from Christians, blue collar workers and parents
The West Australian
Friday, 24 May 2019 4:00AM
Labor is losing votes from Christians, blue-collar workers and families with children, according to new analysis of electorate data.
The findings from the Australia National University show a correlation between electorates with high proportions of those three groups and swings towards the Coalition.
It comes as separate research from the Grattan Institute found that of the top 20 postcodes with the highest average franking credit claims, only four had a two-party preferred swing towards the Coalition.
Grattan Institute economist Danielle Wood, who conducted the postcode analysis, said she believed people in poorer electorates had chosen to vote against Labor — even when they weren’t impacted by its franking credits or negative gearing policies — because they were fearful about their wider impact on the economy.
“If you don’t have investment property, if you don’t have franking credits, it’s incredibly complex, then maybe it’s not worth the risk of making those changes even if it’s not going to affect you directly,” Ms Wood said.
“I think they saw there was a campaign around what a change of this scale would mean for the economy and just thought it’s not worth the risk, and jobs matter in those electorates.”
Ms Wood said political disengagement was also likely to have played a role in the election outcome with many people “not looking at policies and what it would mean for them”.
And even though Labor promised a $4 billion childcare package, the top 10 electorates across the country with the highest proportion of families using childcare also all swung away from Labor.
Rich electorates that had swings to Labor included North Sydney where the median weekly income is $2352, Bradfield in NSW where median income is $2341 and Julie Bishop’s former electorate of Curtin in WA where median weekly income is $2052.
ANU associate professor Ben Phillips, who mapped voting trends in relation to age, religion, income, families with kids and renters, told The West Australian there was a strong correlation with Christian religion and low-income voters swinging against Labor.
He said there was a slight correlation of families with children swinging against Labor and little correlation with age or rental status in voting patterns.
Austerity – yes, I fear so. Punish the poor, reward the rich. It’s the Pentecostal way. (Can anyone prevent the future use of “God Bless Australia”?)
lizzie @ #13 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 6:50 am
Labor never learns.
Excepting xtians, this is like Trumplandia where the turkeys are voting against their interests for thanksgiving.
lizzie @ #22 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:15 am
Ahem, it seems to me the poor will get what they deserve. Or at least what they voted for.
Thank you BK.
‘Towns in western and central New South Wales, including Dubbo, Nyngan, Cobar, Walgett and Tamworth, are facing a crisis in their water supplies…’
We visited each of these places within the past month.
The drought is wrecking the joint.
Well, they voted for the Nationals who support water crooks, and for the Greens who by their anti-Labor activities helped deliver government to the Nationals.
I hold them accountable.
I feel sorry for the Labor voters who supported real action on climate change and who will suffer as a result of the Nationals and the anti-Labor actions of the Greens.
This drought needs a name.
I name it the Greens Drought in honour of the Greens helping to ensure thirty years of inaction on climate change by helping the Coalition beat Labor.
I predict Albo’s legacy will be more to reform the party to give more power to the members. It will be interesting to see if the election result sees an increase in party membership.
Personally I have been penciling in Scomo to get a couple of terms and the next Labor Prime Minister not being in the Parliament yet.
Before mundo convinces you of anything please take the time to find out the facts.
The facts are these:
1. Labor ALWAYS has a review of their policies after EVERY election.
2. Nothing has been dumped yet.
3. Some modifications may be made.
4. Whatever is mooted MUST be passed by National Conference.
5. mundo is very good at arrogantly stating his opinion as FACT.
I endorse the above comments on the polling failures in the last election.
But the polling failure that grates the most is that of Queensland.
Going into May 18 we were led to believe, thru polling, that there was a swing of 4%+ to Labor occurring in Queensland before and during the campaign. Indeed, right up to the last poll.
But on polling day we saw the swing was approximately correct but running wholely in the other direction.
If that isn’t polling failure, what is???
Regarding the polls. It seems fairly apparent that there is a personality type(s) that is not being polled correctly, if at all. One possible reason is electorates are simply polled too often resulting in under-engagement by people of a certain type (apathetic under-educated non-politically engaged voters) and over-engagement by others, often motivated educated politically engaged voters. High frequency polling in marginal or other important electorates, combined with the decrease in landlines would mean the sample becomes smaller and smaller increasing the margin of error. Add herding into the mix and you have the perfect storm of incorrect polling. I guess it comes down to how many people and what type of people will not get frustrated by receiving 2-3 calls per week from a robot asking who they are likely to vote for.
I was remembering and I did predict back in the early 2000’s Labor would get back into power federally and the Democrats win the Presidency around 2008.
My predictions were vindicated when Kevin Rudd won in 2007, so maybe my prediction of Labor getting back into power in 2025 could be vindicated.
There is a high probability of an economic crisis in Australia in the next few years. Wages are stagnating. Household debt has never been higher at 120 percent of GDP. House prices are falling. I doubt that the LNP will know how to respond when the crisis hits.
Tristo @ #29 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:19 am
Yep, 2 terms for Scrotty, 3 for Fraudberg…..a while to go yet…
Nicholas @ #35 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:42 am
Oh they’ll know. Blame Labor for weakening the economy with it’s debt n deficit crisis and tell everyone they’re lucky Labor’s not in government to make things worse.
I think that covers the main points.
I lived in Victoria for nearly 21 years, the local Liberals are now taken over by the Hard Right. So I am predicting any plans on reforming the party platform will be shot down in flames.
If the Liberals preside over the worst economic crisis in Australia since the depression of the 1890s. Their reputation in being seen as superior economic managers as Labor will be in utter tatters. They could be discredited in the eyes of the voters for twenty years.
Two subheads in The Age. “Labor in Turmoil”. Really, the journos should stop getting so excited. They just want to encourage discord (Yes, I know why).
Tristo @ #40 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:56 am
Oh my dear Tristo, have you learnt nothing from the past few weeks.
lizzie @ #41 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:57 am
‘ They just want to encourage discord (Yes, I know why)’
Said big Ted to Little Ted. What should we do said Elephant?
Sweet Jesus get a grip.
Tristo @ #40 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 7:56 am
Um, you like how Labor’s successeful management of the economy during the worst financial crisis in 80 years transformed their reputation from econmic dunder heads to economic super men leaveing the hapless Liberal party scratching their heads?
So you actually believe that Labor is in turmoil?
Sweet Jesus get a grip.
Douglas & Milko
It was Nats but Bats works, both fruit and vampire . At least it makes drought relief cheap . —“Today we announce a drought relief package that doubles the amount of Thoughts and Prayers offered to farmers”
Aptly named The Shining.
Mundo believeswhat he believes in media.
Queensland are suckers:
lizzie @ #45 Friday, May 24th, 2019 – 8:08 am
Of course I don’t for crisakes. A media beat up was entirely predictable. There’s nothing new about it. And it’s only the beginning.
My point was there really is no need to post the bleeding obvious anymore.
And if you can’t stop yourself at try not to let it sound like a script from Playschool.
As everyone expected, Biden is the front runner for the Dems by quite a margin.