Supercalifragilecologicallyfallacious

Ground zero in the swing against Labor: areas rich in religious, low-income workers in the construction, manufacturing and retail industries, preferably in Queensland or Tasmania.

Ben Phillips of the Australian National University has been hawking research showing the demographic indicators that associated most clearly with the federal election swing, with the clearest patterns relating to Christianity, which correlated with a swing against Labor, and education and income, which went the other way. Evidently the Australia Institute has done something similar, with findings reported by Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In considering research of this kind, one must acknowledge the perils of the ecological fallacy, whereby inferences about the behaviour of individuals are inappropriately drawn from aggregate-level data. My favourite illustration of this point relates to American politics, wherein the Republicans’ strongest states are those of the dirt-poor deep south, whereas wealthier voters favour the more conservative party in the United States as surely as they do here. As such, it should be recognised that Christian areas swinging to the Coalition need not signify that Christian voters did.

Nonetheless, the relationship between swings and the demographic features of the areas in which they did or didn’t happen is interesting in and of itself, and really all we have to go on until the Australian National University eventually publishes its Australian Election Study survey, particularly in the absence of intensive and high-quality exit polling that is conducted in the United States.

My own number crunching along these lines has involved collecting demographic measures of the areas in which each polling booth is located, and using multiple regression analysis to determine how well they predicted the primary vote swing to or against Labor. The results were as interesting for what didn’t prove predictive as for what did. In particular, an electorate’s age profile appeared to have little impact on its swing – or at least, none that couldn’t be better explained by other variables that might themselves correlate with age. This theme was picked up on in the article linked to above by Ross Gittins, which argues against the widely held notion that franking credits was the main culprit behind Labor’s poor show.

After a bit of trial and error, and whittling it down to variables that didn’t appear to be separately measuring identical effects, the most instructive variables proved to be income, home ownership, education and industry of employment, with a few ethnicity measures registering as worth-including-but-only-just.

Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)  
(Intercept) -6.9363 0.581753 -11.923 < 2e-16 ***
Median Income 0.318518 0.149976 2.124 0.033719 *
Home Owned 0.032418 0.005457 5.94 2.97E-09 ***
Secular/No Religion 0.105852 0.007944 13.325 < 2e-16 ***
PrimaryIndustry 0.007588 0.008037 0.944 0.345122
Construction -0.071534 0.015903 -4.498 6.95E-06 ***
Manufacturing -0.115724 0.016538 -6.998 2.82E-12 ***
Retail Trade -0.061778 0.018229 -3.389 0.000705 ***
Prof/Sci/Tech 0.147833 0.021587 6.848 8.05E-12 ***
Education/Health 0.054147 0.01123 4.822 1.45E-06 ***
Indian/Sri Lankan 0.045852 0.018952 2.419 0.015571 *
East/S-E Asian 0.016341 0.007274 2.246 0.024706 *
VICdummy 3.132668 0.18731 16.724 < 2e-16 ***
QLDdummy -1.626883 0.190881 -8.523 < 2e-16 ***
WAdummy -0.538074 0.244318 -2.202 0.02767 *
SAdummy 5.385121 0.267704 20.116 < 2e-16 ***
TASdummy -2.856952 0.369256 -7.737 1.15E-14 ***
ACTdummy -3.811539 0.6012 -6.34 2.43E-10 ***
NTdummy 0.879791 0.853752 1.03 0.302807

The numbers in the “Estimate” column show the coefficients, i.e. how much each increment of that variable associated with the Labor swing. Three stars at the end means the effect is highly significant, two stars somewhat significant, one star of some significance, and with no stars we can’t say with any confidence if the relationship was positive or negative.

So, to pick one of the more striking results, for every 1% of population identifying as secular or “no religion”, Labor’s vote tended to be around 0.1% higher, independent of all other factors. Or to raise the stakes a little, Labor typically did 1% better in swing terms in places where 40% of the population identified as secular as compared with those where 30% did so. Note that the “median income” refers to weekly family income, and is measured in thousands of dollars – so an area with $2000 median family income typically did 0.3% for Labor than one with half that.

The biggest surprise for me is that “primary industry” – percentage of the workforce in mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing – had no significant explanatory power in and of itself. This doesn’t sit well with the drubbing Labor copped in central Queensland and the seat of Hunter, for which I can’t offer a ready explanation, except perhaps that I should have broken out mining and measured it independently of the others.

However, a significant negative effect is recorded for the other blue-collar industries of construction and manufacturing, together with the generally low-wage retail sector. This, remember, is independent of the effect of income, such that Labor would have suffered a combined whammy of the various effects in low-income areas with large workforces in the aforementioned industries.

On the other side of the coin, the “professional/scientific/technical” industry designation recorded a strong positive association with the Labor swing, and this too needs to be understood as part of a double whammy with the income effect. This was evident in the large-but-useless swings Labor picked up in blue-ribbon metropolitan seats. The positive effect recorded for education/health is interesting, perhaps suggesting a public-versus-private sector effect.

A fair bit has been said of Labor’s bad show with the Chinese community, but it was actually found that the “East/South-East Asian” population had a slight positive correlation with the Labor swing. However, the recorded effect is very likely drowned out by the strong positive result for “secular/no religion” variable, which records the effect of the swing against Labor in the various ethnic enclaves of Sydney and, to a less extent, Melbourne.

Finally, the “dummy” variables simply record how much of the swing could be explained by the state in which a booth was located, again independent of all other factors. Note that no measure for New South Wales is included, as it serves as the benchmark against which the other states and territories are being measured. The strong positive result in South Australian reflects that this is a primary vote measure, and both major parties rose in South Australia off the demise of the Nick Xenophon Team.

The r-squared value for the model is around 0.25, which is to say that all of this explains only about one-quarter of the variation in the Labor swing. In a future episode, I might take a closer look at what the model fails to predict by looking at individual electorates that bucked the various demographic trends just noted.

Note also: the new post below on the count for the Senate, in which only Queensland appears still in doubt, and the ongoing one dealing with close races in seat for the House, albeit that yesterday’s counting provided essentially nothing new to report.

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.

1,092 comments on “Supercalifragilecologicallyfallacious”

  1. I’d want to see data before agreeing with that assumption. My assumption is that Albo speaks to a certain specific demographic in NSW rather than to NSW as a whole.

    Well, it’s two-sided – not just the gain of a NSW leader, but the loss of a Victorian one.

    Anyway, even if I’m right it’s not like it’s really actionable, you have to have a leader from somewhere. It was more just meant in the spirit of a passing observation.

  2. “We need a socially-determined financial and fiscal order. We need a socially-determined investment environment.”

    “No-one adheres to a ‘monetarist’ economic model these days, not least because it’s just not possible to adequately measure monetary volumes, flows or velocities; and because the basic proposition of monetarism – that monetary expansion will cause inflation – is empirically spurious, as we have seen since the GFC.

    It’s not possible to separate cause and effect when it comes to prices, the real economy and money. No-one really tries any more, though the Magic Money Mob are thinking about it.”

    Is this a different Briefly? I like this Briefly. The other one, not so much.

  3. If the ALP can’t be prosecuted for their clearly fraudulent unauthorised and unattributed Mediscare Texts then how on earth could the LNP be prosecuted for a correctly authorised campaign material?

  4. Radguy

    Is this a different Briefly? I like this Briefly. The other one, not so much.

    It’s the good old Briefly, back again (without the tedious “libling” cacophony)

    Long may it continue.

  5. YBob says:
    Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 9:51 pm
    Breifly Perhaps, but according to most, we are heading for a downturn. Besides which, even baring a downturn, the Libs will start to piss the masses off, you would think. What with, tax-, cuts, but only for the wealthy, the rest “promised”, but never eventuating. That wages will continue to stagnate, that Job security will never be thought about.
    Then there are the service cuts that they cant help but impliment.

    The Libs will use any pretext to cut services.

    We have been in a very long period of real per capita income stagnation. When the transfer of income away from the household sector is also considered, real wages have been falling for years. This is institutionalised. The Libs are basically quite proud of it. Labor has to campaign on wages and other economic themes.

    There are signs of weakness in industrial economies generally. This is a cyclical phenomenon. It does not necessarily predict a recession or a sharp rise in unemployment.

  6. Same old/same old, here, Radguy. I think my terminology was very apt. I’m calling for a declaration of hostilities with the Lib-kin. Green-anting against Labor generates political dysfunction on the Left and will keep the Lib-Libs in power for a generation unless they are politically bankrupted. They should be dissolved.

  7. Briefly is forming an anti-Green ALP Brigade. He’s responsible for bringing Belfast style para military politics into Australia.

  8. Howard must have been gobsmacked by the Hawke Keating years.

    There he was fighting an ideological battle to bring whig economics to what was back then a “one nation” Tory party and suddenly the socialists start doing all the things he wanted to do.

    The Liberals of the sixties and seventies were leftwing on economics by the modern standards, Hawke and Keating pushed the centre of politics when it came to economics way to the right, and destroyed the labour movement (union membership halved on their watch).

    Twenty three years, one parliamentary majority from nine elections in a post cold war era that should have brought Labor back to at least parity.

    Yet another loss, yet another debate about what Labor should stand for should it move left should it move right should it to the hokey pokey and shake it all about.

    Truth is it has never recovered from the Hawke Keating years when it gave up on the very raison de’ tre for it’s existence and wandered off into the wasteland of identity politics and tree hugging.

    Of course Albanese is right wing on economics given that Labor offers no alternative to the neoliberal monetarist model that they introduced and indeed boast about introducing what else could he be.

    There is nothing left of the modern Labor party it’s like a car in a cheap car yard, from a distance it’s pretty but a closer inspection reveals it’s just bog and paint.

    In fact the big question for the Liberals over the next few years might be “do we go for the jugular and kill Labor off by strangling it’s main source of finance ie the public sector unions.Or is it safer to leave it hanging around because if we kill it off a more formidable foe might rise from the ashes?’

  9. nath takes things very literally when they choose to. Green-anting is a real problem. It has to be contested.

    Labor won from Opposition in 1929. They did not win again from Opposition until 1972, an interval of 42 years. After losing in 1949, Labor were kept from office for 23 years, largely by a split in the Labor plurality. Since 1996, Labor has won just one election -just once in 23 years.

    No important issue has been resolved on terms that favour working people since the 1980s. Not one. As long as the Lib-kin campaign against Labor, we will likely remain in Opposition. As long as the Lib-kin divide the Labor plurality, no significant issue in the economy, in social policy, in public administration, in tax, or in the environment will be conclusively and durably concluded on terms that favour working people.

    The Lib-kin have to go.

  10. Its about time there was a party for draft dodgers, for welfare cheats, for dole bludgers and disability fraudsters, for petty thieves, shoplifters and shonky small business people. They are the forgotten people.

  11. Its about time there was a party for draft dodgers, for welfare cheats, for dole bludgers and disability fraudsters, for petty thieves, shoplifters and shonky small business people. They are the forgotten people.

    What about people that cheat at Monopoly, people that speed up at every overtaking lane and people that take 20 items through the 8-items-or-less line?

  12. caf
    says:
    What about people that cheat at Monopoly, people that speed up at every overtaking lane and people that take 20 items through the 8-items-or-less line?
    __________________________________
    Yep. they are all my people.

  13. Oh and Ybob they are not my liberal mates and it’s your Labor mates who brought us the so called economic rationalism not the tories.

    All you people just can’t bring yourself to admit, it was Labor that deregulated, deindustrialised and deunionised the economy just ask your hero Paul Keating he boasts about it.Labor is now reaping what it sowed as Lars von whatshisname posted the other night.

  14. The idea that you’ll stop “political dysfunction on the Left” by ruthlessly crushing the dissenters is darkly funny. There is no disagreement, there is only The Party! The Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai.

  15. “They should be dissolved.”

    That’s not right and it’s not going to happen.

    I posted this the other day, I’m posting it again for the Green haters to show that obsequience to the surveillance state is an absolute deal breaker. I’m sure I don’t need to cite the policies I’m talking about, but supporting Trump on Venezuela was the most recent appalling demonstration that the ALP prior to the election was definitely NOT left wing.

    There’s also the unsupportable positions of not committing to a raise for Newstart or getting rid of Job Network, Parents Next and any of the other crafty busywork policies designed to render the non-compliant destitute (for confected reasons) while claiming profit for their mates and getting away with pretending that this is what the electorate wants.

    If I can’t vote against this crap, there’s no point voting.

    https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/shocking-admission-by-fbi-veteran-shows-why-the-fbi-shouldnt-exist-aa3508483acb

  16. Malevich wrote a text entitled “Laziness—The Real Truth about Mankind” (1921). In it he criticized capitalism, because it enabled only a small number of capitalists to be lazy, but also socialism, because the entire movement was based on work instead of laziness. To quote: “People are scared of laziness and persecute those who accept it, and it always happens because no one realizes laziness is the truth; it has been branded as the mother of all vices, but it is in fact the mother of life. Socialism brings liberation in the unconscious, it scorns laziness without realizing it was laziness that gave birth to it; in his folly, the son scorns his mother as a mother of all vices and would not remove the brand; in this brief note I want to remove the brand of shame from laziness and to pronounce it not the mother of all vices, but the mother of perfection.”

  17. “Give me a lazy person who can shirk the system any time.”

    HELLO!!!

    I provided so much resistance and contempt to a work for the dole manager that I stayed there less than 2 hours! I happily ruined his day.

    And when they went to act on it to make me destitute, my wife and I swapped parenting payment and Newstart!

    Getting a call from my job network provider was a scream! The switch was done, they were out of the loop, and they didn’t get to appropriate our survival money!

    The first Centrelink officer tried to stop the switch, but it was perfectly legitimate. Not long after, my wife went back to her old job.

    We put some noses out of joint I tell you. They kind of struck back at me later, for other reasons, but there wasn’t really any consequence, I had done what I believed was the right thing and any action on their part would cause a headache and yield them nothing since they were culpable for the problem.

    Anyway, let’s not call it lazy, let’s call it uncommonly efficient!

  18. If socialism formed the basis of evolution then, there would be no evolution.
    We would have died out as single cell creatures.
    Socialism is a fantasy based on the notion that a perpetual motion machine can exist.

  19. “The Real Truth about Mankind” (1921). In it he criticized capitalism, because it enabled only a small number of capitalists to be lazy, ”

    What a stupid person then. He jumps straight to the Capitalist who can be lazy, but not the path to that end, i.e. the risk taking, investment, downstream effects, wealth and value generation to society etc. And also the assumption that is likely untrue that the Capitalist is lazy .i.e. they freeze all their assets and do nothing thus have no effect. However they by nature are involved in investment, business and so on.

  20. Nice work Radguy. In my youth, around 1991, I convinced a CES case manager that I was a mute. She put me in the ‘too hard basket’ and left me alone, enabling me to travel with my friends for a summer in the sun in Northern NSW.

  21. “Socialism is a fantasy based on the notion that a perpetual motion machine can exist.”

    This is silly. Thought’s trajectory is to be able to run on pure energy. While it may not be perpetual, until the end of time is long enough isn’t it?

  22. LOL Nath, it’s profound how much better young people’s lives were back then, despite the high unemployment. It wasn’t a lot of money, but at least you could own your own mind.

  23. I make no recommendation on Malevich’s description of capitalism or socialism, I just admire his unorthodoxy in relation to laziness.

  24. A worthy expenditure of leisure time Nath, thanks!

    Every political decision should be viewed under the lens that informed this piece of writing.

  25. D&M
    Sometime just after the current PM was elected to Parliament (2007) he asked me whether l believed in climate change!
    The next day l contacted two eminent associate professors and asked them to outline their viewpoints in regard to climate change. Neither is directly involved in the study of climate.
    Both quite independently replied that the proposition (climate change) was no longer in doubt. They expressed concern as to whether the inhabitants of earth had enough understanding and determination to take action to avert the further on-set of climate change and its possible effects on earth’s climate. Both claimed that we are past the point of rectifying the damage done and can only hope for a slowing down of the process of climate change.
    My reply to the newly elected Morrison was a question. Have you ever had chooks?
    It’s now 2019 and we have ministers still promoting the use of coal gas and other fossil fuels as a part of the earth’s future.
    We have corporate Australia influencing elections. We have ex politicians being willingly used to promote coal mining.
    And we have a PM having never ever tended chooks!
    And then we have Pauline and the Queenslanders gambling with entrepreneurs for a job.
    A great letter from the paleo-climatologist.

  26. Goll,

    Both quite independently replied that the proposition (climate change) was no longer in doubt. They expressed concern as to whether the inhabitants of earth had enough understanding and determination to take action to avert the further on-set of climate change and its possible effects on earth’s climate. Both claimed that we are past the point of rectifying the damage done and can only hope for a slowing down of the process of climate change.

    Thanks for that post.

    And I definitely agree with the proposition that we are well into mitigation territory now. No matter how quickly we cut emissions now, the temperature will keep rising for some decades. So, we need to make a start on cutting emissions ASAP, but also recognise how much damage has already been done.

    And perhaps look at letting our Pacific Island neighbours come to Australia as their islands become more affected by rising sea levels and violent storms.

  27. Monetarism was abandoned in the early 1980s when it became clear that central banks cannot control the money supply. The reason is that central banks make an ongoing liquidity guarantee to the retail banks, which means that as bank deposit money grows, so does the monetary base (reserves plus physical currency). The fancy term is that the money supply changes endogenously i.e. as a result of the inner workings of the private sector. The money supply is not externally controlled.

    So central banks decided to target particular inflation rates instead.

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