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. William Bowe @ #1345 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 4:11 pm

    Rex, the manager of opposition business takes care of a bit of paperwork, and gets $27,500 extra salary for his trouble. It’s basically a bauble handed out to someone who is important for other reasons. To the extent that Tony Burke is a “senior contributor in formulating tactics”, it’s because of his position in shadow cabinet. If you had suggested he should be demoted from the front bench, I wouldn’t be mocking you right now.

    Any objective observer would see the position of MOOB as more than just ‘taking care of some paperwork’ given the stature of individuals who’ve been graced with the title.

  2. Seems reasonable.

    Phillip Lodge
    Jun 5

    And while you’re all crying foul about the raids on the ABC, don’t forget the politically motivated raids on the AWU to find evidence to tarnish the reputation of Bill Shorten which the media happily participated in. Now the media’s on the receiving end, it’s different, is it?

  3. lizzie @ #1349 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 4:17 pm


    I gather you’re volunteering? If so, I’ll just leave the room, thanks. 🙂

    I appear have been struck by the dead hand of the Gods of the keyboard (I managed to delete the text).

    Second attempt.

    I guess I’m just bored. I have been a little defongerated by the discussion regarding MOOB which I somehow have managed to relate to Seinfeld and the insistence by George Costanza that the MOOPS invaded Spain in the 8th century. What this has to do with streaking – I have no idea either.

    Everybody – as you were ❗

    Back to my book. 😇

  4. Recently I read that whilst Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley conducted affairs with three women simultaneously, two of whom were sisters!

  5. Rex Douglas:

    Any objective observer would see the position of MOOB as more than just ‘taking care of some paperwork’ given the stature of individuals who’ve been graced with the title.

    That was part of Bowe’s point…

  6. KayJay @ #1347 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 2:13 pm

    Question without notice (or anything else for that matter).

    Has Poll Bludger forum ever had the vast pleasure of a streaker : ? :

    I can recall during a heatwave on the east coast a couple of PBers admitted one evening to Bludging without clothes. Does that count?

  7. They have not released Pell straight away.
    I assume that this means that the success of his appeal is not a foregone conclusion.

  8. I am guessing that a full distribution is underway in Hunter. Until the senate calculation this is the most interesting psephological thing happening. In some jurisdictions it is possible to follow the count but not with the AEC site

  9. From Bernard Keane in today’s Crikey email.

    We need a committee that security agencies are afraid of and resent, in the way that US spy agencies are afraid of congressional intelligence committees.

    The other reform, perhaps even more crucial, is to break up the Home Affairs portfolio — at least by removing the AFP and ASIO from it. Intelligence officials are worried that Home Affairs is damaging agencies, that a poison is seeping into them from a portfolio that has contempt for basic freedoms, and which — as the Pezzullo-Moriarty correspondence exposed by Smethurst revealed — wants to expand further into security agencies not already within it.

    That contempt was on vivid display yesterday in the threats of Gaughan to prosecute journalists. That’s the toxic influence of Home Affairs wafting into our national police force. And, unchecked, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.

    The Trump govt is testing congressional oversight now that Democrats control the House, and when Republicans controlled those intelligence committees, there was a chair who could run interference for the president in determining what was overseen, and to what extent.

    Breaking up home affairs will not be done by the current govt, and now Labor has a shadow home affairs minister so it remains to be seen what happens once Labor is in govt. I just hope that the concept of a super ministry home affairs isn’t one of those things that gets embedded with the passage of time.

  10. Confessions (Block)
    Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 4:43 pm
    Comment #1357

    I can recall during a heatwave on the east coast a couple of PBers admitted one evening to Bludging without clothes. Does that count?

    Perhaps a Stat Dec would suffice as evidence.

  11. C
    Morrison added some small responsibilities to Home Affairs straight after the election. Even though Morrison has received a tremendous power boost as a result of the election victory he is keeping Dutton as happy as he can.

  12. Chifley allegedly had his fatal heart attack while entangled in the arms of his lover.

    I recently came into the possession of a menu that he (and Menzies) signed on the night before he died

  13. Boerwar says:
    Friday, June 7, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    “Vote 1 Greens!”

    The only sensible line written by Boerwar in weeks.

  14. Morrrison, interviewed in Singapore (smirk well in place), says wtte what’s all the fuss about, the ‘raids’ were legally approved by a judge and the laws have been around for ever.

  15. It was the gala dinner to celebrate 50 years of Federation.
    Very 50s Australia; peach cup entree, meat and 3 veg and some flummery with a pseudo French name. McWilliams wines to which the name rotgut could be applied.
    The Federation Ball was the next night. Chifley stayed in at the Hotel Kurrajong with his secretary rather than attend. There was consternation at Canberra Hospital as to whether the priest had given him the last rites before he drew his terminal breath

  16. William in today’s Crikey on religious voters’ influence on the election and citing the Australian Electoral Survey on the matter.

    The results from the 2016 survey provide some support for the notion, popular on the right of the Liberal Party, that Malcolm Turnbull brought the government to the brink of defeat by losing religious voters, who appear to have flocked back to the party under Morrison.

    Notably, the fact that non-religious voters trusted Turnbull a lot more than they did Abbott did not translate into extra votes for the Coalition, whereas a two-party swing to Labor of 7% was recorded among the religiously observant. It may be noted that religious observance is continuing to undergo a steady long-term decline, with 47% of respondents to the 2016 Australian Election Study reporting that they never attended services, compared with 37% in the first such survey in 1987.

  17. At every turn of every day the characteristics of this third world, right wing, convoluted LNP government, expose themselves as the charade they have been and are, hurtling uncontained towards a place which can only end in an unpleasant correction at great monetary and social cost to many. Many, including many misguided, having place a mark next to candidate whose ambition is to contribute to further division across a already diverse and unfair young nation.
    A nation of desperate punters and ne’er do wellers.
    Disappointing in 2019.

  18. It seems also that PM Fat George Reid was a hit with the ladies, though presumably in that case the missionary position was eschewed!

  19. Correction, ScoMo.

    Bevan Shields@BevanShields

    Scott Morrison just said the AFP had to “see a judge” to get a warrant – but that is not true. In the case of the ABC raid, the AFP sought the warrant through a court registrar in Queanbeyan. #auspol

  20. George Reid was immense
    During a public meeting on Federation one of the audience, pointing to his stomach shouted “What are you going to call the baby, George”
    He Replied:”If it’s a boy, I’ll call it after myself. If it’s a girl I’ll call it Victoria. But if, as I strongly suspect, it’s nothing but piss and wind, I’ll name it after you.”

  21. zoomster says:
    Friday, June 7, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    C@! Put some clothes on!

    Whats wrong with a nice fur coat and necklace?

  22. Bernard KeaneVerified account@BernardKeane
    6h6 hours ago

    I notice Josh’s new plan consists of being open to other ideas. So we now have crowdsourced economic management. Presumably Treasury has been given the rest of the year off.

    “Crowdsourced economic management”. How apt!

    It was only 10 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime since we had adults in govt managing the country through the GFC. Even Peter Costello, low altitude flyer he was, nonetheless had more intellectual ballast and authority as Treasurer than the incumbent or his predecessor.

  23. Michael JandaVerified account@mikejanda
    3h3 hours ago
    ABC Ultimo staff send an unequivocal message after being raided by the AFP earlier this week #JournalismIsNOTaCrime @withMEAA


  24. People are getting what they voted for and I do not think the Coalition voters are going to be concerned with the AFP raids. These are people, imo, into the Authoritarian spectrum of voter. They will feel more secure with the AFP going after the ‘Lefties’ (as I have seen on social media already). Dutton is their father-figure who will keep their little bubble unpricked, and themselves unsullied by the application of thought.

  25. Tom
    The Irish Republic version of Hare-Clarke is fully transparent.
    There is a declaration of the poll after every count.
    The distribution in Hunter may only interest a small minority but it is not open and transparent. I suspect those of us interested will eventually be able to find it hidden in the AEC’s statistics published in some months time

  26. PuffyTMD
    It needs to be remembered that almost 50% of Germans voted for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The other 50% suffered bigly.

  27. Re the raids. In the interests of furthering debate, I’m going to put a contrary view to the consensus in the media and on this forum.

    First of all, nobody should pay any serious attention to the journos on this topic: journalists will always rally around their own, and they all fervently believe – largely on the basis of self-interest – that everybody working for the government in any capacity should be allowed to leak anything they want whenever they want.

    Secondly, despite all the screeching about press freedom, I haven’t seen any suggestion from anyone that police are proposing to charge any journalists with anything. The investigation appears to be into a known leaker of classified information. The suggestion from the AFP and Dutton appears to be that the classified information concerned was Five Eyes material. If this is true, it’s a very serious breach of national security, and undoubtedly a serious criminal act on the part of the leaker: much, much more serious than the everyday leaks from Cabinet and Ministers’ offices and the occasional whistleblower from the public service that fill the newspapers on an almost daily basis.

    Perhaps it’s all a beat up and the material leaked wasn’t really all that important. But I don’t know that and neither do any of you. So, until proven otherwise, I’m going to back the AFP in this case. They are charged with the job of going after criminals, and good on them.

    OK, there you go, do your worst.

  28. Meher baba

    OK, there you go, do your worst.

    You say:

    The suggestion from the AFP and Dutton appears to be that the classified information concerned was Five Eyes material. If this is true, it’s a very serious breach of national security, and undoubtedly a serious criminal act on the part of the leaker: much, much more serious than the everyday leaks from Cabinet and Ministers’ offices and the occasional whistleblower from the public service that fill the newspapers on an almost daily basis.

    A “very serious breach of national security” but it somehow took them two years to act?

    The signals directorate, like NSA and GCHQ, has a strong reputation (and by far the strongest reputation of any of the agencies) due to (amongst other things):
    – not acting like plonkers when they think no-ones watching (their discovery of sex was funny, but not really dangerous)
    – strong support for diversity consistent with mission, in preference to sycophantic obeisance to political whims (NSA is lit up as a rainbow, GCHQ has a permanent memorial to Turing)
    Largely a group of mathematicians (in some cases very strange people who live in forests…)

    Other agencies are more monocultural, and less effective, and more prone to cock-ups.

    It looks like a cock up, and if so, Australians are entitled to expect much better.

  29. The Australian Federal Police is bracing for fresh scrutiny over its decision to raid major media organisations after officers quietly abandoned a separate investigation into who leaked classified national security advice at the height of a major political dispute over border protection.

    The leak, which Australia’s top spy decried as “seriously damaging” and Labor claimed was orchestrated by the Morrison government to discredit proposed laws to fast track asylum seeker medical transfers, was referred to police by Department of Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo earlier this year.


  30. Rudd commissioned a review of the secrecy laws in 2008.
    The review was tabled in 2010, but the recommendations were never implemented.


    In this Report, the ALRC recommends a new and principled framework
    striking a fair balance between the public interest in open and accountable
    government and adequate protection for Commonwealth information that should
    legitimately be kept confidential.

    The principles underpinning the ALRC’s recommendations are

    administrative and disciplinary frameworks play the central role
    in ensuring that government information is handled appropriately, and that
    every person in the information chain understands their responsibilities in
    respect of that information;

    criminal sanctions should only be imposed where they are
    warranted—when the disclosure of government information is likely to cause harm
    to essential public interests—and where this is not the case, the unauthorised
    disclosure of information is more appropriately dealt with by the imposition of
    administrative penalties or the pursuit of contractual remedies;

    there is a continuing role for properly framed secrecy
    offences—both general and specific—in protecting Commonwealth information,
    provided that they are clear and consistent, and directed at protecting essential
    public interests.

    In this Report, the ALRC considers three broad areas for
    reform. First, the ALRC recommends the repeal of the wide catch-all provisions
    currently in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), and the introduction
    of a new general secrecy offence, limited to disclosures that harm essential
    public interests. Secondly, the ALRC considers the wide variety of other specific
    secrecy offences and recommends best practice principles to guide the review,
    repeal and amendment of these provisions. Thirdly, the ALRC considers the
    administrative frameworks governing those that handle government information
    and makes a range of recommendations to improve the management of government
    information within those frameworks.

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