Why what happened happened

Essential Research chances its arm at some post-election analysis. Also featured: musings on the impact of religion and ethnicity on the result.

The first pollster to put its head above the parapet post-election has been Essential Research, though it’s sensibly refraining from treating us to voting intention results for the time being. As reported in The Guardian yesterday, the pollster’s fortnightly survey focused on what respondents did do rather than what they would do, finding 48% saying their decision was made well in advance of the election, 26% saying they made up their mind in the weeks before the election, and 11% saying they made up their mind on polling day. Lest this seemingly high rate of indecision be cited as an alibi for pollster failure, the historical results of the Australian National University’s Australian Election Study – which you can find displayed on page 18 here – suggest these numbers to be in no way out of the ordinary.

The poll also found those who decided in the final weeks came down 40% for the Coalition and 31% for Labor. However, assuming the sample for this poll was as per the Essential norm of between 1000 and 1100 (which I hope to be able to verify later today), the margin of error on this subset of the total sample would have been over 5%, making these numbers statistically indistinguishable from the almost-final national primary vote totals of 41.4% for the Coalition and 33.3% for Labor. This goes double for the finding that those who decided on election day went Coalition 38% and Labor 27%, remembering this counted for only 11% of the sample.

Perhaps notable is a finding that only 22% of respondents said they had played “close attention” to the election campaign, which compares with results of between 30% and 40% for the Australian Election Study’s almost equivalent response for “a good deal of interest in the election” between 1996 and 2016. Forty-four per cent said they had paid little or no attention, and 34% some attention. These findings may be relevant to the notion that the pollsters failed because they had too many politically engaged respondents in their sample. The Guardian reports breakdowns were provided on this question for voters at different levels of education – perhaps the fact that this question was asked signifies that they will seek to redress the problem by weighting for this in future.

Also featured are unsurprising findings on issue salience, with those more concerned with economic management tending to favour the Coalition, and those prioritising education and climate change favouring Labor and the Greens.

In other post-election analysis news, the Grattan Institute offers further data illustrating some now familiar themes: the high-income areas swung against the Coalition, whereas low-to-middle income ones went solidly the other way; areas with low tertiary education swung to the Coalition, although less so in Victoria than New South Wales and Queensland.

Another popular notion is that Labor owes its defeat to a loss of support among religious voters, as a hangover from the same-sex marriage referendum and, in what may have been a sleeper issue at the cultural level, the Israel Folau controversy. Chris Bowen said in the wake of the defeat that he had encountered a view that “people of faith no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them”, and The Australian reported on Saturday that Labor MPs believed Bill Shorten blundered in castigating Scott Morrison for declining to affirm that he did not believe gay people would go to hell.

In reviewing Labor’s apparent under-performance among ethnic communities in Sydney and Melbourne, Andrew Jakubowicz and Christina Ho in The Conversation downplay the impact of religious factors, pointing to a precipitous decline in support for Christian minor parties, and propose that Labor’s promised expansion of parental reunion visas backfired on them. Intended to capture the Chinese vote in Chisholm, Banks and Reid, the actual effect was to encourage notions of an imminent influx of Muslim immigrants, “scaring both non-Muslim ethnic and non-ethnic voters”.

However, I’m not clear what this is based on, beyond the fact that the Liberals did a lot better in Banks than they did in neighbouring Barton, home to “very much higher numbers of South Asian and Muslim residents”. Two things may be said in response to this. One is that the nation’s most Islamic electorate, Watson and Blaxland, recorded swings of 4% to 5% to the Liberals, no different from Banks. The other is that the boundary between Banks and Barton runs right through the Chinese enclave of Hurstville, but voters on either side of the line behaved very differently. The Hurstville pre-poll voting centre, which serviced both electorates, recorded a 4.8% swing to Labor for Barton, and a 5.7% swing to Liberal for Banks. This may suggest that sitting member factors played an important role, and are perhaps of particular significance for Chinese voters.

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.

1,732 comments on “Why what happened happened”

  1. Labor is “wedged” on many important issues. Translation – they will not unequivocally state what their position is. Makes it pretty easy to wedge them then.

    On another point, I presume the church is funding Pell’s legal bills? I wonder about this, because he has been found guilty after all.

  2. Their are three reasons why Labor lost the election. All the others are just noise. Labor needed just less then 1% of actual votes.
    There were more informals and non voters then that. But the 3 reasons labor lost were.

    Shorten — Shorten –Shorten.

    The man was unelectable, the one constant in all the Polls was that He for the last six years was never the preferred PM. People just turned off when he spoke. Sure the wet lettuce leaf, Bowen didn’t help and the fact that Labor thought they had it in the bag and just tried to go small target and didn”t see that Morrison turned it into a Presidential style Election Campaign and their was only going to be one winner in that contest.

    Albo, at this stage is all Labor have got. He is more popular, knows his place and is a shrewd Politician.

  3. ‘Lovey says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Labor is “wedged” on many important issues. Translation – the Greens are helping to keep the Coalition in power forever.
    How good is that?

  4. a r:

    [‘The law explicitly allows a jury to convict on the basis of a single person’s testimony. It’s their job to hear the evidence and decide who is/isn’t credible.’]

    It certainly does. And, unless there are other compelling factors going to an unsafe verdict, judges are loathe to overturn a jury verdict(s).

    [‘…it’ll likely be days (or even a could of weeks) before any decision is made.’]

    There are many possible outcomes. One of which is a decision ex tempore. I say this, as if the court was to find in favour of Pell, it’s a paramount concern that he doesn’t spend another night in gaol. Another, option, again if his appeal gets up, is to free him, and hand down judgment at a later date. If I were Pell I’d be slightly more worried if the court reserves its judgment. By the way, I’m no fan of Pell, but justice must take its course.

  5. Could someone please try to tell me exactly why Shorten is ‘disliked by everyone? I really would like to know, and not just ‘because everyone says so’. Personally, I was neutral about him but prepared to give him a chance, and admired his work ethic. Was it because he didn’t have the too obvious charm of Turnbull?

  6. “and the fact that Labor thought they had it in the bag and just tried to go small target”

    You expect to say that and be taken seriously?? Wow??

  7. MD
    The Pell trial is a side issue. The main game is restitution. Apparently the Australian RC is signalling that it is running out of money.
    Part of the way it is doing is this is by fiddling (artificially reducing) the values of its massive property empire.

  8. lizzie @ #57 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 9:26 am

    Could someone please try to tell me exactly why Shorten is ‘disliked by everyone? I really would like to know, and not just ‘because everyone says so’. Personally, I was neutral about him but prepared to give him a chance, and admired his work ethic. Was it because he didn’t have the too obvious charm of Turnbull?

    Or the slippery sleazy smugness of Scott Morrison?

  9. A pump action shotgun is the same class firearm as any automatic firearm-only available to professionals who satisfy strict criteria. The Darwin bikie shooter would not legally own or possess a pump action/automatic anything.

  10. Lizzie,
    Unfortunately Shorten does not have the charm of Turnbull. Unfair as it is, that is what the general population choose as their leader.

    They want somebody Statesman like, a Charismatic inspiring individual.

    To the populace Style is more important then substance.

    Sad, but true.

  11. lizzie
    Murdoch lost $25 million a year on The Oz over the six years that Shorten was LOTO = $150 million. The Oz routinely and thuggishly targetted Shorten. That $150 million was, of course, a business tax deduction.
    The Coalition spent $55 million on a RC with the specific aim of destroying Shorten. Pure tax payer money.
    Palmer spent something like $60 million on a saturation campaign that featured personal attacks on Shorten.
    The Coalition Government spent over $200 million in the year before the election telling taxpayers what a great job the Government was doing. (They spent another hundred or so million during the first three years of the Shorten’s LOTO).
    The Greens also spent six years at Shorten sniping. An analysis of their political attacks showed that they attacked Labor four times more than they attacked the Coalition.
    It is only to be expected that the Far Right combined to spend half a billion on killing Bill. The Big End of town knows where its interests lie.
    The Greens cannot possibly ever be forgiven for joining in the Right Wing’s efforts to Kill Bill.
    The reason is that the Greens played their politics right into the Hands of Murdoch, Morrison, Taylor, Canavan, Joyce and Dutton.
    Naturally, the Greens have forgiven themselves for their bastardry.
    After all, it delivered them yet another three years in the Long March to a Greens Government.

  12. Boerwar:

    [‘Apparently the Australian RC is signalling that it is running out of money.’]

    Perhaps they should put two cathedrals (eg, Sydney & Melbourne) on the market. That should get them back into the black.

  13. ‘Keyman says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 9:34 am

    A pump action shotgun is the same class firearm as any automatic firearm-only available to professionals who satisfy strict criteria.’

    100% bullshit.

  14. ‘Mavis Davis says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Boerwar:

    [‘Apparently the Australian RC is signalling that it is running out of money.’]

    Perhaps they should put two cathedrals (eg, Sydney & Melbourne) on the market. That should get them back into the black.’

    Perhaps. Converted into units with an interesting facade might do the trick. Prime locations!

  15. C@t

    Very true. 🙂

    I have been criticised for mentioning clothes here, as if dress never makes a political statement, but I have to draw attention to this pic of our Oz leaders meeting QE. Oz is represented a coming almost from the 19th century. How apt.

  16. I’d argue that most successful campaigners in Australia aren’t charismatic, but they look enthusiastic and like they really want the job. Shorten looked bored and disinterested

    obviously he wasn’t because he had a pretty thoughtful, albeit politically risky, policy package. But how you come across probably matters sadly.

  17. lizzie @ #57 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 9:26 am

    Could someone please try to tell me exactly why Shorten is ‘disliked by everyone? Was it because he didn’t have the too obvious charm of Turnbull?

    I think it’s some parts that, some parts because he tends to come across as ‘shifty’ when you watch him speak. Not being able to take a clear position on some issues like Adani/coal probably didn’t help with this. Nor did things like deriding the “how much will your climate policies cost” question as “stupid” one day and then the next day walking that back and declaring the question “not stupid”. People were told over and over again the Shorten can’t be trusted, and he tended to confirm that slur by vacillating between positions on a number of subjects.

    Morrison can make himself seem happy and outgoing when he wants to, Shorten tended to come across more as pensive, defensive, or even petulant at times. How much of that is down to legitimate difference and how much is just the result of that media’s narrative I have no idea. But one thing you didn’t see were blokesy pictures of a grinning Shorten picking carrots, hanging out in clubs, and so on.

    I think Shorten should have done more of this:

    …except with ordinary Australians rather than foreign leaders.

  18. Boerwar

    But – but – if we suggest that the KillBill strategy by NewsCorp was at the root of his unpopularity, we are shouted down, on the principle that he must have been evil or they wouldn’t have done it. 🙁

  19. a r

    But one thing you didn’t get were blokesy pictures of a grinning Shorten picking carrots, hanging out in clubs, and so on.

    🙂 Very true. Nor was he a very sporty figure.

  20. @lizzie

    The KillBill strategy worked because people had doubts already about Bill Shorten. One Marxist friend of mine said that Bill Shorten’s various deals over the years, made some people feel that he did not have any principles and wasn’t genuine. Hence the ‘Shifty Shorten’ slogan that was developed.

    I argue that a KillAlbo strategy is going to be a lot tougher to be successful, because Anthony Albanese has an image of somebody who has principles and is genuine.

  21. Tristo says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 9:47 am

    @lizzie

    The KillBill strategy… by the Greens and the Murdoch and the Adani family worked a treat.

    True.

    Albanese might think that the Greens and Murdoch are going to give him a break.

    He can forget about that. Di Natale can’t take votes off the Coalition. He has to take them off Labor. To achieve that, the Greens have to destroy Labor. That this delivers endless cycles of Coalition bastardry is worth it to the Greens ideologues on their Long March to Nirvana.

  22. So, it kinda looks to me as if it wasn’t any single issue.

    About the only conclusion I can draw is that lower socio-economic people are abandoning the progressive side. Based on almost no evidence, I’d guess it’s because the left isn’t taking about jobs.

    The main issue is you’re in insecure employment is work.

  23. The Reactionaries and their ensigns now get 2/3 of the PV in Federal elections. That’s why Labor lost. As a result, there will be no effective action against climate change taken in this country. There will be no way to prevent the dismantling of progressive taxation nor of increasing the living standards of most working people.

  24. @lizzie

    I would argue that Anthony Albanese on issues such as Marriage Equality has been consistent for all of his political career, he was advocating it in 1996 when he entered the parliament. This sort of behavior exhibited by Albanese earns respect from people such as Bob Katter and David Hildebrand (who likes him a lot). Hildebrand argued that Anthony Albanese is the only political in his opinion, who can heal the country.

    Scott Morrison on the other campaigned for the No Case in the same sex marriage plebiscite and abstained from the vote in parliament after that plebiscite. However recently he said he supports marriage equality and he is very vulnerable to a campaign highlighting that he is a Fundamentalist Christian with beliefs many Australians would feel uncomfortable about. I like to describe Morrison as a political chameleon.

    @Boerwar

    I am expecting Albanese to go harder against the Greens than any Labor leader before him as done. This is a guy who has had to fend off Green attempts to defeat him in his seat for a while now. Also he could get support from some segments of the News Corporation press such as the Daily Telegraph.

  25. @lizzie

    A campaign arguing that Morrison is a opportunistic chameleon would be very effective, in contrast with Anthony Albanese who has stuck to his principles throughout his political career.

    Also among Coalition voters Morrison is respected, however not terribly liked. Anthony Albanese has an opportunity to make them like him.

  26. Keyman @ #65 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 9:34 am

    A pump action shotgun is the same class firearm as any automatic firearm-only available to professionals who satisfy strict criteria. The Darwin bikie shooter would not legally own or possess a pump action/automatic anything.

    Thanks for that. However the point I was trying to make and maybe didn’t clearly enough was that we can only imagine if the AR-15 type gun was freely and legally available in this country how much worse these type of mass shootings could be and how many more people could have been murdered by this guy if he had been able to access one, if illegally.

  27. About the only conclusion I can draw is that lower socio-economic people are abandoning the progressive side. Based on almost no evidence, I’d guess it’s because the left isn’t taking about jobs.

    Well, the left could try pointing out that it’s not the government that creates and uncreates jobs in the first place. Though that would doubtless be ineffective.

  28. But one thing you didn’t (get) were blokesy pictures of a grinning Shorten picking carrots.

    You know why? The media were on a go slow to print any favourable pics of Bill.

    He was in exactly the same carrot field as Scott Morrison the week before. Do you remember the media covering it as slavishly as they did Morrison’s visit? Both leaders are supposed to get equal footing but the reality was far from it.

  29. a r says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Well, the left could try pointing out that it’s not the government that creates and uncreates jobs in the first place.

    This is the Right/Classical line on the economy. It’s the laissez-faire world view. It’s false. The State has a highly significant role in the economy.

  30. Kristina Keneally@KKeneally

    None of this is likely to improve.

    The 2019 Budget shows a $150 million cut to Home Affairs staff wages and salaries to June 2021, which could equate to a 15% cut of the total workforce.

    The number of people in Australia on bridging visas waiting for their visa applications to be processed has blown out to over 229,000. This compares to just 92,906 bridging visas in December 2013.

    Meanwhile, Morrison/Dutton waste money on bright ideas like opening Christmas Island, and paying ‘protection’ (sic) for detainees on Manus. The smell of corruption is overwhelming.

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