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. Player One @ #1396 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 6:03 pm

    Oh, and by the way. I want all PB’ers to completely ignore the following article:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-07/council-challenges-residents-to-visit-100-of-its-beaches/11184744

    It is completely untrue. Shoalhaven beaches are all utter crap. Full of great white sharks, stingrays, bluebottles and other aquatic nasties. Not to mention unpleasant sydneysiders, of which we already have enough, thanks very much 🙂

    The Adelaide beaches are crap too. Crowded, full of empty cola cans with nasties hiding in them. Dogs mauling anyone and everyone at will. Getting snagged by fish-hooks or run over by a jet-ski is inevitable. The sand is black and the waves will suck you out to sea in a heartbeat.

    Never mind all those bloody windmills and solar energy farms messing up the views.

    Oh, and our food is awful and the wine undrinkable. They should pay us to live here and keep this part of the coast secure.

    Stay away.

  2. Thanks for your response, Boerwar:

    [‘The attached link seems to show that etanercept may be yet another damp squib.’]

    We share in common the loss of our mothers to this insidious disease. And, in my case, my father, along with almost all my aged relatives.

    Here’s a recent link to enbrel:

    https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/06/06/5-reasons-pfizer-sat-on-a-potential-new-alzheimers.aspx

    I’ve been taking a biologic for some two years; the results have been absolutely remarkable for rheumatoid arthritis. And, sometimes, the off-label benefits of certain drugs – eg, metformin – have the potential to surprise:

    https://www.sciencealert.com/a-common-diabetes-drug-will-be-trialled-as-an-anti-ageing-elixir-from-next-year

  3. meher baba –
    We do have a serious problem about not properly facilitating and protecting whistleblowing.

    What was actually published was clearly in the public interest to do so, and anything that the government or AFP does that even looks like it is intended to stifle what we have actually seen I see as highly problematic.

    There are suggestions that other information was leaked but not published. There is perhaps a possibility that some of this unpublished information was more sensitive, and the leaking of which might not be justifiable, as you say, but I would not trust the Defence department, the government, the spy agencies or the AFP to make that determination, and I have little confidence that the system would be able to balance arbitrary security concerns (over manila folders arbitrarily stamped ‘top secret’ just to prevent the public finding out embarrassing information) against the public interest and genuine national security concerns.

    Regardless, we have zero transparency in these areas, and can have zero confidence that our best interests are actually front of mind of the politicians or the coppers. We need more whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish, and less national security excuses for government ducking scrutiny.

    Waving away the raids as just part of the proper application of the law is to further entrench our inability to know what bad/incompetent things the government, ADF, spy agencies are doing in our names.

    If we must have all of this wall of secrecy (and I don’t believe that we need anywhere near this much secrecy) then we absolutely must demand some independent tribunal/ombudsman who can see behind the curtain but can reassure us that the public interest is being protected and can mediate these disputes between the government/police/agencies and journalists in the public interest. The current IGIS does not fill this role.

    I haven’t seen any suggestion from anyone that police are proposing to charge any journalists with anything.

    The acting AFP commissioner pointedly refused to say that journalists wouldn’t be charged.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/06/afp-signals-journalists-could-face-charges-for-publishing-secrets

  4. Meher:

    I do have sympathy for your view. For me, this whole ‘public’s right to know’ stuff was offered by that disgraced, shitty UK Murdoch tabloid as justification for it hacking the phones of dead people. Clearly the public doesn’t have a right to know everything.

    And then there are the ‘leaks’ that are used by MPs to fuel their own interests, pounced upon by journalists willing to get on that drip – come on down Peter Hartcher circa 2010-2013. Thereby choosing to overlook the actual public interest stuff that was happening in the parliament at the time.

  5. If we must have all of this wall of secrecy (and I don’t believe that we need anywhere near this much secrecy) then we absolutely must demand some independent tribunal/ombudsman who can see behind the curtain but can reassure us that the public interest is being protected and can mediate these disputes between the government/police/agencies and journalists in the public interest.

    Yep, and it can’t be a parliamentary committee for reasons I pointed to earlier re the US.

    Wasn’t the parliamentary press gallery supposed to fulfill this function?

  6. There’s no question about it, the CPG is incestuous, but that’s what you get when they accompany their masters/mistresses around the place. If they report adversely, they’ll be denied tidbits. That’s the way it is. It’s fair enough to label them as a ‘big wank’, but the solution is far more complex.

  7. Mavis Davis @ #1412 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 5:20 pm

    There’s no question about it, the CPG is incestuous, but that’s what you get when they accompany their masters/mistresses around the place. If they report adversely, they’ll be denied tidbits. That’s the way it is. It’s fair enough to label them as a ‘big wank’, but the solution is far more complex.

    When reflecting on that analogy I keep thinking of the phrase about living on your knees or dying on your feet.

  8. I can’t stand cats. Next door neighbours used to come over and i would bang on the window then charge out the back door and hiss until it madly scrambled back over the fence.

  9. Confessions:

    [‘When reflecting on that analogy I keep thinking of the phrase about living on your knees or dying on your feet.’]

    Yes, that’s a fair appraisal. I think, though, why do they don’t? I guess you’ve got to be in the Canberra bubble to answer same. Take, for example, Murph, friends reportedly of Mal and his wife. In life, it’s very hard to be the objective observer and at the same time a vociferous (or less) critic.

  10. The Peterborough election in the UK recorded a combined RW vote above 50%. Labour won but its vote share is a pitiful 31%, nowhere near enough to be competitive in a General Election.

    The Brexit project – conceived by and for reactionaries – is working. It is breaking Labour and delivering a RW majority.

  11. Brexit will turn out to be the continuation of Austerity in the UK. It is intended as a device to disembowel social democratic/egalitarian structures in that country.

  12. I’m sure he still feels similarly. What a shame he didn’t lose his seat.

    Peter DuttonVerified account@PeterDutton_MP
    9 Dec 2011
    You dirty lefties are too easy. Enjoy your weekend.

  13. I LOVE CATS, I never owned one, but my relatives do and my brother owns one, and love them.

    I also love DOGS, BIRDS.

  14. Snarky Feminist Union Thug

    ‏ @MinhKular
    10h10 hours ago

    When is Tony Abbotts’ heroine ‘whistleblower’ Kathy Jackson going to court ? #auspol #qldpol

  15. 7NEWS Sydney
    ‏Verified account @7NewsSydney
    3m3 minutes ago

    Manly: @zalisteggall has moved into Tony Abbott’s old electorate office. It was out with the old and in with new, as Mr Abbott’s longtime signage was replaced with Ms Steggall’s more colourful branding. The former PM served as the Member of Warringah for 25 years. #7NEWS

  16. One last post, I had a soy flat-white at Robina Town Town Centre today – it was bar far the best soy flat-white I’ve ever had.

  17. While, of course, it is vital to oppose the Government’s war against whistleblowers and the press.

    But are the Australian press and journalists worth getting a sweat up about, much less die at the barricades for?

    Sadly, I don’t think they are worth it.

  18. What the fuck is wrong with SBS showing the other women’s semi-final instead, then cutting to some pre-game rubbish for the men’s draw?

  19. briefly@ 7.53:

    its becoming apparent to me that the days where the two major centrist parties in western democracies can rely on high 30s and above percentage of the vote, are coming to an end.

    I believe we are entering a period where minority government will be the norm, and no one party will domimate. And that is a good thing imo.

  20. swamprat @ #1437 Friday, June 7th, 2019 – 9:25 pm

    While, of course, it is vital to oppose the Government’s war against whistleblowers and the press.

    But are the Australian press and journalists worth getting a sweat up about, much less die at the barricades for?

    Sadly, I don’t think they are worth it.

    However, if you don’t have them, what have you got? Direct government propaganda. And before you say, well you may as well have, try telling that to Amy Remeikis, plus a few others I could name.

  21. A description of the 1983 Sheraton Hotel raid by ASIS and subsequent inquiries, published by the Commonwealth Goverment:
    https://aic.gov.au/publications/lcj/wayward/chapter-8-caught-act-asis-raid

    Amongst various retrospectively amusing passages, the first three paragraphs stand out:

    At about 8 pm on Wednesday, 30 November 1983, the Manager of the Sheraton Hotel in Melbourne was alerted by a guest to a disturbance on the 10th floor. The Manager entered a lift and upon reaching the 10th floor, he was accosted by a stranger who said ‘Come with me, you’re not going to get hurt, but come with me.’ The Manager retreated back into the lift, the stranger followed and pressed the appropriate button to return to the lobby. The two scuffled while descending. The stranger’s repeated insistence that ‘nobody would be hurt’ was not entirely reassuring. When the lift reached the lobby, the Manager ran out and called for his staff to ring the police. The stranger retreated to the 10th floor.

    Shortly thereafter another lift reached the ground floor. A group of hotel employees were gathered near the door of the lift, and the Manager equipped himself with a nightstick – a 30 cm metal rod covered with heavy duty red tape – which was normally kept behind the reception desk. As the lift door opened, a group of men stepped out. Some were wearing masks, some were carrying weapons, ranging from Browning 9 mm automatic pistols to the formidable Heckler and Koch submachine gun. The intruders moved through the lobby into the kitchen, menacing the kitchen staff on the way, and departed in two getaway cars waiting outside a kitchen exit.

    One of the cars was stopped by officers of the Victoria Police a short distance from the hotel and its occupants were taken into custody. When other police officers arrived at the hotel, they encountered a bystander, who rather strangely claimed that he could explain everything that had happened, and that he was willing to pay for any damages incurred. Hotel staff may have assumed that they were the victims of an armed robbery; in fact they were unwilling parties to an incident culminating a year of acute embarrassment for the new Hawke Labor government. The episode in question turned out to have been a resoundingly unsuccessful training exercise by officers of the super-secret Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

    However, consider what could have happened had the manager gone for or been carrying a high powered pistol, instead of a nightstick…

  22. In the UK it is voluntary voting and first past the post.
    If 50% vote in an electorate and its:

    Labor 16%
    Brexit 14%
    Lib Dems 10%
    Conservatives 8%
    Greens 2%

    Then Labor wins.
    They only have to get above the number 2 party.

  23. kate says:
    Friday, June 7, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    Greg Jennet’s got a new job as Morrison’s press secretary evidently.

    ABC’s on the improve already.

    Although it might be a challenge having to write his own copy. 🙂

  24. The Spectator Index
    ‏ @spectatorindex
    22s22 seconds ago

    JUST IN: Canada’s unemployment rates falls to lowest level for over 33 years

  25. Barney …, re Greg Jennet’s supposed movie form ABC to the Liberal Party:

    ABC’s on the improve already.

    The usual formulation is to say the move raises the average intelligence of both organisations

  26. Big A Adrian says:
    Friday, June 7, 2019 at 9:48 pm
    briefly@ 7.53:

    its becoming apparent to me that the days where the two major centrist parties in western democracies can rely on high 30s and above percentage of the vote, are coming to an end.

    I believe we are entering a period where minority government will be the norm, and no one party will domimate. And that is a good thing imo.

    In Australia we have effective one-party rule. Labor is gradually contracting. The RW are growing. The old plurality is just about defunct. We should expect a RW quasi-tyranny supported – counter-intuitively- by The Greens.

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