Of swings and misses: episode three

From my paywalled article in Crikey yesterday:

In the wake of its most unambiguous failure at a federal election since at least 1980, Australia’s polling industry is licking its wounds.

The Nine/Fairfax papers have announced the Ipsos poll series will be put on ice, and those pollsters who do return to the field shortly will face catcalls whether they persist in recording a Labor lead we now know doesn’t exist, or only now start detecting a Coalition lead that eluded them through the entirety of the past parliamentary term.

Despite it all though, the pollsters’ performance hasn’t been without its defenders.

Spoiler alert: the latter refers to David Briggs and Nate Silver. But Peter Brent can now be added to the list, up to a point, following a review of the issues raised by the polling failure in Inside Story. Specifically, Brent observes that the primary vote miss was less severe than the two-party preferred; that the difference arose from a stronger-than-anticipated flow of minor party and independent preferences to the Coalition; that herding was less apparent on the primary vote (most markedly in the case of Ipsos’s reading of the balance of support between Labor and the Greens); and that the result was, if nothing else, no worse than the Victorian state election.

Another point noted is the strange consistency with which polls have pointed to extravagant gains for Labor in Queensland before and during election campaigns, only for them to fall away at the end. On this occasion, the falling away as recorded by pollsters wasn’t remotely on the scale needed to predict the result, with statewide polling published towards the end of the campaign landing at least 7% shy of what looks like being the Coalition two-party vote in the state.

The question of geographic variability in the pollster failure seemed worth exploring, so I have put together a table of state and electorate level polling published in the last fortnight or so of the campaign, available below the fold at the bottom of the post. Almost all of this polling was conducted by YouGov Galaxy, whether under its own name or as Newspoll. The only exception was a set of state-level two-party preferred totals from Ipsos, published at the tail end of the campaign by the Age-Herald (which performed rather poorly).

Below all this is a list of “average bias” figures, consisting of straight averages of the observed errors, be they positive or negative, rather than the absolute errors. This means combinations of positive and negative results will have the fact of cancelling out — although there were actually very few of those, as the errors tended to be consistently in the one direction. The national and state-level two-party results are estimates provided to me by Nine’s election systems consultant David Quin. With no Coalition-versus-Labor figures available from 15 electorates, this inevitably involves a fair bit of guess work.

A few points should be observed. Given that poll trends pointed to a clear long-term trend to the Coalition, pollsters may be excused a certain amount of Labor bias when evaluating polling that was in many cases conducted over a week before the election. This is particularly true of the Newspoll state aggregates, which cover the full length of the campaign.

Another issue with the Newspoll state aggregates is that One Nation was a response option for all respondents in the early part of the campaign, despite their contesting only 59 out of 151 seats. Their vote here accordingly comes in too high, and as Peter Brent notes, at least part of their failure could be explained by stranded One Nation supporters breaking in unexpectedly large quantities to the Coalition, rather than other minor party targets of opportunity like Clive Palmer.

In seat polling though, where the issue did not arise, the polls were remarkable in having understated support for One Nation, and overstated it for the United Australia Party. This was one face of a two-sided polling failure in Queensland, of which the other was a serious imbalance towards Labor in support recorded for the major parties. While Queensland has caught most of the attention on this score, the polls were just as far out in measuring the primary votes of the major parties in Western Australia. Things were less bad in Victoria, but Coalition support was still significantly underestimated.

The only bright spots in the picture are New South Wales and South Australia, where Newspoll just about nailed the Coalition, Labor and Greens primary votes, and got the big things right in four seat polls. While Labor’s strength was overstated in Macquarie, it does now appear Labor will pull through there – for more on that front, stay tuned to the late counting thread.

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.

1,256 comments on “Of swings and misses: episode three”

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  1. I have a feeling that Albo and his team will find some chinks in the Coalition and relentlessly probe and attack.
    Let’s face it – there are plenty of opportunities presenting.

  2. BK:

    [‘I have a feeling that Albo and his team will find some chinks in the Coalition…’]

    Possibly. But I think that now Morrison’s ensconced, he won’t scare the horses. He’ll be as elusive as Jack the Ripper – just as he was with the boats.

  3. BK @ #1201 Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 – 7:34 pm

    I have a feeling that Albo and his team will find some chinks in the Coalition and relentlessly probe and attack.
    Let’s face it – there are plenty of opportunities presenting.

    Yep, because there were none of those ‘opportunities’ as put it over the last 6 years.
    Relentlessly probing and attacking? Labor?
    Really, you are a funny fellow BK.

  4. Mavis Smith @ #1199 Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 – 7:30 pm

    Viewing Albanese tonight on Aunty gives rise to some trepidation: that is to suggest, he reminds me of Beazley, Crean, Shorten. Labor should’ve gone for generational change – to wit, Chalmers, who’s young, articulate and above all, a Queenslander, the state where elections are won or lost.

    Albo gets his turn then after the next election Chalmers becomes opposition leader.
    You can’t rush this sort of thing.

  5. I have a feeling that Albo and his team will find some chinks in the Coalition and relentlessly probe and attack.

    I sure hope so.

  6. “I reckon Late Riser should start a PB book on which pollster will be first to pop its head over the parapet with a new poll”
    Already done.
    DioPoll carries out 31/5 to 1/6. Polling sample 1400. Liberal 52-Labor 48 TPP. Primary vote
    LNP 42
    Labor 33
    Greens 10
    UAP 4
    PH 4
    Allocations based on preferences 2019 election.
    PPM Morrison 45 Albanese 33 undecided 22.

  7. Well, we’re two by-elections away from minority rule.

    Being cooped up in a cabinet room with ScoMo (who appears to believe he was elected by divine intervention) – coming on strong and intense as his default demeanour, burning for the punters, happy clapping about how good everything is – is guaranteed to wear out the most forgiving soul, as the antics of all workaholic obsessives are sure to do. ScoMo’s one man band approach to life is ill-suited to collegiate cabinet government. Someone is sure to crack.

    Having just one or two seats up his sleeve won’t help. End times are at hand.

    I look forward to the day.

  8. Oh Goodie.

    Kristina Keneally the woman nobody voted for and who was rejected by the people at NSW at both the state election…. achieving the honourable title of worst NSW ALP Primary vote in the parties 100 Year history… and rejected at the 2017 Bennelong by-election has now been catapulted into a Ministry by more Labor faceless men.

    How many times can NSW say NO to this person, before the ALP will listen? She’s never been elected to the Federal Parliament, only ever selected and it shows just what is wrong with Labor and why they will keep losing elections.

    Perhaps it’s also the reason their Senate vote dropped in NSW, the people of NSW will hold her and the ALP to account

  9. Did Phil Coorey (or anyone else) really describe the new Morrison cabinet as:

    Like a mouthful of missing teeth

  10. C@tmomma says:
    Sunday, June 2, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    …”I’m not entirely sure about this prediction because you would have to think that Australians will fall for Palmer’s crap all over again”…

    Palmer already made his $60 million investment and he will be rewarded handsomely.
    I doubt he will need to do so next time.

  11. Though I don’t think it’s wise to lock in tax cuts, Labor should wave them through.

    With nothing left to legislate for the next three years the government will quickly get bored and start tearing each other down. I expect we’ll have at least 2 new PMs this term.

  12. I’m not entirely sure about this prediction because you would have to think that Australians will fall for Palmer’s crap all over again. When, if you look at the claims he made this time, by the time of the next election it will probably be the case that none of it has eventuated.

    This is to misunderstand what Palmer was doing.

    Australians didn’t “fall for” Palmer’s crap … they certainly didn’t vote for him in any great number.

    What Palmer was doing was making us sick of politics. (Almost) Everyone knew that Palmer is a spiv and a chancer, they didn’t vote for him, but those yellow frickin ads made everyone go “jeez I hate them all”, and enough little snips and snarks about the major parties (and Shorten and Labor in particular) to make people tune out of anything remotely resembling actual discussion or thought about policy or the future.

    I have no idea if Palmer will do the same again, but he certainly could. All he has to do is make an annoying joke of this whole democracy lark and you can get a similar effect. The beneficiary of turning everyone off politics is pushing people to protest candidates, but with the government successfully making Labor policies the thing that should be protested against (since they had nothing on offer themselves), then the protest mostly lashed Labor rather than the actual incumbents. Perhaps that’s a tough one for Morrison to re-engineer without Labor helping them out … but I guess we’ll see.

  13. Can the US be now classified as a totalitarian state?

    Nearly all applicants for US visas will have to submit their social media details under newly adopted rules.
    The State Department regulations say people will have to submit social media names and five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.


    How long before Dutton follows suit?

  14. “I doubt thar. The far right doesn’t take losing very well.”

    Now that’s a laugh. The left still haven’t accepted you lost the Presidential election and Brexit 3 Years ago. Blame the Russians. Blame Facebook. Blame the weather. Blame anyone but yourselves. You were cheated you cried… democracy is broken you proclaimed… because people didn’t vote the way you wanted.

    Talking about not voting the way you want, new poll out today by the Observer showing the Brexit Party leading in GENERAL ELECTION polls. Yes that’s right… if a U.K General election was called tommorow, the Brexit Party would get the most votes.

    And the best bit? Unlike the EU elections, U.K general elections are First Past the Post. None of this preference deals and scratching each others backs like in Australia, the Brexit Party will win a swath of seats and become the biggest party in the U.K. Fun Times Ahead.

    The DUP should pull the plug on their partnership with the worst U.K Government in history and force a general election… let’s see what those people who “didn’t know what they were voting for” really think.

  15. BK
    Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s block by Federal Court as it may impinge on Americans 1st amendment rights, a shame we don’t have a bill of rights

  16. TheTruthHurts

    I think your reference to faceless men is a bit over the top, and speaks of a time gone by.

    The factional sharing formulas are practised consistently ie caucus in its various groupings work together, argue together, demand together, negotiate together, conspire together, to get the share of positions their faction is entitled to, and to nominate the actual people.

    There are more applicants than jobs so it has to be worked out.

    Personally, I would have preferred Chalmers, but the caucus didn’t.

    It sounds like you prefer the Coalie method where the leader rewards whoever he wants because they have influenced him to do so, by pissing into his pocket (or frightening him) in whatever ethical / unethical, legal / illegal, just/ corrupt manner they choose. Their method is totally subjective and opaque and clearly open to abuse.

    The people he actually chose shows that the abuse was real. How else would the likes of Stuart Robert be elevated. Or Price, or the lightweight Ms McKenzie. There are many other examples.

  17. What a terrible way to govern, a one man mini dictator-tyrant style approach. It’s not going to end well.

    President Trump pushed ahead with plans to impose tariffs on Mexico over the objections of several top advisers, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, opting to side with hard-line officials who were advocating the move, according to multiple administration officials and people briefed on their plans.

    For several weeks, Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers have been urging the president not to use tariffs to punish Mexico for failing to stop the flow of migrants into the United States. Mr. Kushner, along with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s top trade negotiator, has warned the move would imperil the president’s other priorities, like passage of a revised North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.


  18. Sceptic @ #1224 Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 – 8:49 pm

    Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s block by Federal Court as it may impinge on Americans 1st amendment rights, a shame we don’t have a bill of rights

    I think you’ll find that the courts consider that the Bill of Rights only applies to 1) U.S. citizens and 2) people within its borders. Someone applying for a visa from overseas would be neither and would therefore not have any 1st Amendment rights to impinge upon.

    Possible caveat if they’re lodging their visa application after arriving on U.S. soil.

  19. Oakeshott Country @ #1146 Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 – 7:32 pm

    C@t I would love to read your candid review of the campaign in Robertson. Your anonymous so you can say what actually happened from the inside. As someone not involved I can say what I saw from North Avoca

    Sorry I didn’t reply earlier, I was watching Masterchef (as any self-respecting person who doesn’t devote their ENTIRE life to politics does 🙂 ).

    Now, I could do this for you, and will, however it may take a day or so of reflection before I can crystallise my thoughts. 🙂

  20. Still can’t get my head around Andrew Leigh missing out on a shadow front bench position. Yes I know he is factionally unaligned but surely for a guy that smart you find a way.
    Ditto Ed Husic and Ged Kearney.
    Wondering how Michelle Rowland, Farrell and Fitzgibbon stay on the front line quite frankly.

  21. In other news, a grand total of 9,410 turned up to the AFL game in China today.
    All expats no doubt.
    What. Was. The. Point.

  22. Bowen is going to have to do better than this in his new portfolio. There’s so much to get stuck into the husked out Hunt over without trawling through his social media account.

    Chris BowenVerified account@Bowenchris
    4h4 hours ago
    Thanks for the congrats Greg. But a little hint: it’s best to delete the “what about” before cutting and pasting a tweet suggested by your staff.


  23. Henry:

    The Ch7 frothy breakfast guy and Port prez (whose name escapes me) was there in China, however. 😀


  24. Henry
    I know three people who flew to China for the game and I assume quite a few others did so it wasn’t even 9000 expats. It’s just a junket for business types. It’s not about football.

  25. Yes Gilligan and Kochy would have loved it fess.
    Doesn’t make it any less pointless though.
    Another Gilligan vanity project.

    Bowen btw was just pointing out little Greggy’s amateurish cut and paste insertion of a staffers jab. Fair play I reckon.

  26. This is incredible footage. I assume it is genuine as high profile journalist Jake Tapper has retweeted. I had no idea it’s been 30 years since Tienanmen Square massacre. I was in high school when that was going down. Where did the years go?!

    Carl Zha@CarlZha
    May 31
    ‘Tank Man’: the full footage. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1989


  27. Henry
    Gil was over there with the Sports Minister sorting out the Tassie AFL team which would lock those Tassie seats in the Lib basket next election.

  28. Henry:

    Yep, as Dio says, the China scheduling was totally a business junket. What on earth has happened to the AFL mens? The womens league is going from strength to strength whereas the men seem to be going backwards.

  29. Agreed Dio. My brother did the same. A marvellous rort.
    I think it will be quietly shelved next year, would hate for my team to have to travel half way around the world for an AFL wank fest. Two of the saints players fell ill on the journey over ffs.

  30. There’ll never be a Tasmanian AFL team, sadly. Even though they bloody deserve one. All those tassie champions, Hart, Hudson, Baldock, Scott Maginness (hawthorn joke).
    It’s a captive, small market, already an afl state or market as they like to say.
    No dollars in it for Gilligan.

  31. Actually fess, the mens afl is growing ratings and crowds, which says more about the average fan than anything. We support our club regardless of the shyte the AFL puts up.
    I have been to all of Sydney’s home games this year and I’m not a swans supporter and each time walked away thinking that the game is far less attractive to watch.
    The afl is really testing the fans loyalty with their bs rule changes, ridiculous match review decisions etc.

  32. What about the freo bloke who kicked a goal but it was very obviously touched.
    Sorry says the AFL, technical issue, umpire missed it. Imagine if that happened in a grand final?
    Anyhow, psephological blog, will there ever be another poll William or can we just talk sport all day.

  33. I think that Tasmania is a big enough market for an AFL team. Half a million people, with now some strong population growth after all these years. The problem will be the stadium issue and how many games played in Hobart and Launceston. I think the biggest problem Tassie has is in convincing AFL players to relocate there.

  34. Henry,
    Hang in there for one more week. The Eagles will be over to provide some much more attractive football.

  35. I like to go to the swans games jolyon and watch Buddy Franklin lumber around, barely touch it and think “only four more years of this Sydney”. Yeah nah, still love the bloke but the schadenfreude is nice.

  36. mundo, Creed…cheers for the encouragement.

    I had an interesting afternoon. I did a couple of quick paintings, studies in tone. Fun.

    Then I was introduced to a friend of a friend. He is a sometime Green member, an intellectual, a thoughtful and candid person. He’s interesting and brave. He’s trusting too, which makes him even more courageous.

    He’s approached Labor in the hope of joining, on the premise that we’re probably all fucked; that we need to come together. As a former Green, he confirms the Greens hate Labor and hope for its destruction. I wish him success. We need more like him. We have to recruit and re-build. The refreshing thing is he’s not quite as brutal as I am.

  37. Confessions:

    The Ch7 frothy breakfast guy and Port prez (whose name escapes me) was there in China

    Kochie (David Koch)

    Only time this has ever happened to me. I’m walking along Grenfell St (from breakfast at Le Carpe Diem, as it happens). I spotted Kochie and Mrs Kochie (Libby?) ahead of me (crossing Bent Street?). Some random bloke has just crossed in the opposite direction, and comes up to me and says:

    “that Kochie, he’s a f*&^ing c*&t, I just said g’day and he didn’t even notice I was there”

    Would never have happened in Australia twenty years ago. The poor bloke was probably a Port Power supporter too…

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