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. Victoria @ #1498 Saturday, June 8th, 2019 – 9:43 am

    I can’t believe that an organisation such as the Labor Party did not see what was being disseminated on Facebook regarding the death tax etc.

    I mentioned at the time, although I am not on Facebook, friends and family were getting these memes and were doing their darn best to counter the bullshit

    What struck them was how readily these lies were believed by usually sensible people.

    Hence why I dont know how damn serious Labor were about winning govt.

    My vibe at the time was so strange about it all.

    Facebook is a platform specifically designed to push messages at you that arrive just below your usual level of rational and skeptical thinking.

    At this it works tremendously well, which is why it has become the weapon of choice for those working to subvert democracy.

  2. Perhaps the ALP actually want the country to go into recession. Expoilt and destroy the great economic managers argument for the Coalition once and for all.

  3. Dutton, who has ambitions to become PM and rule “for the whole of Australia” as they all say, betrayed his real attitude when he tweeted about “dirty lefties”.

    Can we trust that this dreadful bully’s ambition can be defeated?

  4. Zoomster

    I know that . But Labor could have started their own memes to counter it and remind people what the coalition has actually done.
    Where were the memes on the darling basin, NBN, Great Barrier Reef just to name a few.
    I made a point of viewing the election campaign from the perspective of a swinging voter, and Labor lost on each and every metric.

  5. I don’t recall seeing the death tax stuff on Facebook, but I had friends sharing stories saying Labor was coming after your ute and 4WD.

  6. Zoomster

    And it is a well known tool. It was used to great effect and success in other countries, combined with Twitter bots etc.
    Labor knew this.
    I’m not convinced they worked hard to counter it at all. And you gotta wonder why

  7. Trumps brain is addled by drug abuse. And his brain deterioration is real.

    But he is doing his darn best to show that he is mentally unfit, so he gets off Scot free. Of that I am sure.

    Remember he still does have people screening his tweets.

  8. Interesting story about rampant gambling problems with AFL players, two being in for more than a million. Neither are having good seasons. They estimate 120 players and coaches have gambling addiction.

  9. As I said shortly after the election, I have a friend who is an intelligent, affluent Bootyby nurse who told me the death taxes were the reason she voted Liberal.

  10. victoria –
    That Guardian article on the death tax lie outlines that Labor were well aware of the problem and putting in a lot of effort over months to try to get some action/effective response, but that facebook was not particularly helpful (both in terms of the staff and structurally), and worse that (in a demonstration of the power of framing) efforts to directly refute the lie just escalated the problem.

    As for countering with memes of their own … the problem is that the Libs and Labor are not in the same position. The Libs can run pure scare (true or lies) and win, Labor cannot generally get the same traction except in very niche topics, and they blew their load on Mediscare for no good (and a lot of bad) at the 2016 election.

    When you’re proposing change, scare campaigns tear you apart. Proposing “nah, let’s just stay the same” (which is the conservative wheelhouse, by definition) is largely scare-immune. Being poor administrators, or relatively far removed stuff about dodgy water management, just don’t cut through to the vast majority of voters.

    I don’t know what the answer is except … don’t propose change. Small – miniscule – target. Promise some no-cost feel good stuff – promise transparency measures, a better integrity commission, donation reforms – things that won’t cost voters but impact on politicians.

  11. Jaxkol

    I remember getting texts from Labor at election 2016, regarding Medicare.

    They could have done one this time with some punchy catch cry…

    Are the coalition attempting to impose death taxes by stealth, and trying to blame labor for it.

  12. Diogenes @ #1479 Saturday, June 8th, 2019 – 10:15 am

    As I said shortly after the election, I have a friend who is an intelligent, affluent Bootyby nurse who told me the death taxes were the reason she voted Liberal.

    I recall some of the very bright women I worked with telling of visits to fortune tellers. No amount of telling of cold reading and such -moved by one iota these delusions. Therefore I think the problem is an emotional problem – insecurity perhaps ❓

    My favourite daughter firmly believes every word told her by a fortune teller years ago. This included how many children she would have and other details. Sounds more like hypnosis with post hypnotic suggestions implanted. Shaking my head only hurts my neck.

    Weird ❗

  13. We had been in a per capita income recession for 3 consecutive quarters up to the 1st quarter this year. Anecdotally, economic conditions in the northern parts of Perth have worsened noticeably since the start of the year. By some indications, the Perth economy has never been so slow for so long. It’s possible we have now moved beyond per capita income declines to actual falls in domestic production and employment, into terrain usually considered recessionary.

    The Federal Government is resisting the use of fiscal measures that might arrest this decline. The risk is that once commenced a decline might be very difficult to stop. Household incomes and balance sheets are in really poor shape. This is the basic reason for the decline in the first place. If contraction takes hold, this will impose even greater tension on households and the economy will fall into self-propelling cycles of further contraction.

    To avert this, measures need to be taken to both stimulate demand in the economy and strengthen household incomes – wages and social incomes – at the same time. The LNP will do neither of these. If they do not take very immediate action, the deceleration we’ve been experiencing will turn into a steep decline in domestic economic activity generally.

    This has been a long time coming. Many years of appallingly bad economic management by a cynical and doctrinaire LNP are coming to fruition. The failures here are political as well as intellectual. The self-imposed ignorance of the LNP will be responsible.

  14. victoria – they kind of tried to do that, it didn’t work, and I don’t think even a better formulated snappy comeback would have helped.

    At one point, it posted its own “death tax” content asking why Scott Morrison was refusing to rule such a policy out.

  15. KayJay
    The clever thing was I never saw the death taxes stuff. They somehow are able to target voters who are middle of the road and not very engaged.

  16. Kay Jay

    I have a friend who saw a psychic a few years back. She is a bona fide sceptic.

    This person told her things about her father, names and places etc. Her father being born during the depression here in Victoria. His mother was dirt poor and gave him up. He was not formally adopted, and he never knew his family. A woman took this little boy in and she raised him.

    The crazy thing is that my friend didn’t even know this stuff herself.

    She subsequently did her own investigations and low and behold, it was all true. Nothing online and not known to anyone at all.

    She became a believer after that.

    Many charlatans out there, but there may just be the one who is the real deal.

  17. Victoria says:
    Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 10:28 am

    In other words turn it back on the coalition. It would have at the very least muddied the waters.

    Yeah, nah.

    Labor needed clear water.
    Anything less than this worked against them and the Coalition and the Right created mud everywhere.

  18. The politically engaged know fact from fiction, but the rest rely on background noise infiltrating their conscience.

    Labor failed

  19. Jackol

    At one point, it posted its own “death tax” content asking why Scott Morrison was refusing to rule such a policy out.

    I think that mistake comes under the heading of “don’t mention the war”.

    My general feeling is that in Labor, we have many intelligent, even nerdy types, who read stuff and do serious analysis. The Coalition, more like the general public, works on feels and fear and will patently tell lies to retain power.

    What to do? Descend to their level? At least employ campaign managers and PR specialists who understand and can refute the Coalition mindset.

  20. Meanwhile the Trump movie continues on its merry way.

    Grant Stern
    Who is the mystery Corporation A who fought Mueller’s #TrumpRussia probe all the way up to the Supreme Court and lost?

    Today, we are one major step forward to finding out.


    A court just ordered the release of crucial documents in mysterious Mueller case
    The Mueller Report may be complete, but that doesn’t mean the president’s legal troubles are over.

  21. The Ardern government has refused to accept the latest pay rise offered to MPs.

    Josh Bornstein@JoshBBornstein
    57m57 minutes ago

    Wanted: Jacinta Ardern
    We’re desperate.

  22. Lizzie

    Either Labor were drinking their bath water thinking that they would scrape over the line, or didn’t really want it badly.

  23. Morning all. A belated thanks BK for the roundup. As this article proves, all of Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison, Porter, Shorten and Dreyfus stand condemned for the flawed secrecy laws passed in recent years. They are about control, not about security. The same is true of many public service secrecy practices designed to protect politicians, not the public. In my past experience, Labor governments abuse these just as badly as Liberal ones. Apart from Rudd no recent PM has tried to fix this.

    Keating warned about the security “nutters” just a few weeks ago. Even Shorten criticized him. But the raids show Keating was right. Having been PM and a minister in a cold war cabinet, Keating knew what he was talking about, and should have been listened to. Have a good day all.

  24. At one point, it posted its own “death tax” content asking why Scott Morrison was refusing to rule such a policy out.

    But that’s like, the height of ineffectiveness.

    The Coalition’s ads weren’t “Labor hasn’t ruled out a death tax, scary scary!”, they were “Labor will have death taxes, scary scary!” and “Labor will tax you to death!”.

    If you’re too good to turn your opponent’s lying tactics right back at them, you’re too good to be in politics.

  25. Victoria

    1. I honestly think that Labor thought that people wanted change, but didn’t realise how scared the nation had become through media/terrorists/centrelink/Murdoch etc.
    2. Because of the polls, everyone (including Coalition) was conned.

  26. Diogenes @ #1487 Saturday, June 8th, 2019 – 10:35 am

    The clever thing was I never saw the death taxes stuff. They somehow are able to target voters who are middle of the road and not very engaged.

    I don’t know whether to be pleased with this or no. I saw none of it either and barely an add from Labor or Liberal at all (Newcastle).I agree with the level of engagement.

    Who would disagreee that Puppies Make You Laugh out Loud is vastly more amusing than reading about the BS distributed by The Australian or (Lord Zeus help me) The Daily Telegraph.

    For your delectation


    Easy choice for some. I don’t watch any of the crap that has so enraged Puffy the Magic Dragon.

    As for the Labor should say this or that. To whom and by what means – pray tell ❓

    That just about me for the nonce. Updating my older Windows computer hard drives. ☕

  27. Lizzie

    I get that is what they thought.

    But even in my part of the world which is pro Labor, the negative gearing changes were not being embraced at all. And I was surprised by those seemingly caring sharing usual Labor voters who didn’t want this particular change at all.
    They wanted the option of being able to negative gear an existing property, despite their own kids struggling to afford to buy a run down old shack.

  28. Josh Bornstein@JoshBBornstein
    57m57 minutes ago

    Wanted: Jacinta Ardern
    We’re desperate.
    Not Wanted: Scott Morrison
    We’re desperate.

  29. The clever thing was I never saw the death taxes stuff. They somehow are able to target voters who are middle of the road and not very engaged.

    I reckon they target according to where you live as well. I don’t see any election adverts from either major party on Facebook, TV etc because I live in a very safe seat.

  30. Victoria

    I can only agree that the changes weren’t explained properly. For example, not enough emphasis was placed on grandfathering, or phasing in the changes.

    Question: is Chris Bowen a little arrogant?

  31. Julia Gillard
    · 14 mins ·

    When I was Australia’s first female Prime Minister, gender discrimination raised its ugly head, and I must admit I was taken aback. As you might recall, I even gave a bit of a speech about it in 2012.

    It’s now 2019 and I’m still offended by the lack of women in leadership. So I decided to make a podcast about it.


  32. news.com.au@newscomauHQ

    A “scare campaign” about a tax loophole may have helped @ScottMorrisonMP win government. But it could come back to bite him and cost us billions.

    And with many Australians now more likely to jump on the franking credit refund train now it has been put on the national radar, many believe the policy will only grow increasingly divisive over time.

    That’s because franking credit refunds now cost more than $5 billion a year compared with around $500 million when it was first introduced in 2011.

    But as more and more of us take advantage of the system — which many believe will happen — that already staggering figure is likely to blow out even further.


  33. lizzie @ #1506 Saturday, June 8th, 2019 – 11:02 am


    I adored pic of the spaniel waiting in line. 😆

    It’s wonderful – I am very lucky that occasionally I have a visit from Gracie a gorgeous big black Labrador who loves me (or maybe the hot potato chips that I offer her). She makes me so glad.

    This is not to denigrate the visits from daughters and sons in law etc.
    Daughter loves to show me photos of pups and bunnies, screenshots etc. When I ask “do I really need to see this ? ” she assures me that this information is absolutely necessary for my survival.
    Q –How lucky am I ❓
    A – Very.

    Au revoir – computer work. 😇

  34. @NickFeik
    24h24 hours ago
    Insiders ABC
    Barrie Cassidy reiterates an important point here: The whistleblower had already admitted he gave the ABC the documents.
    The AFP raid on the ABC was therefore completely unnecessary, except to intimidate the journalists.

  35. Victoria says:
    Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 10:03 am


    And it is a well known tool. It was used to great effect and success in other countries, combined with Twitter bots etc.
    Labor knew this.
    I’m not convinced they worked hard to counter it at all. And you gotta wonder why

    “And you gotta wonder why?”

    I’m sure you didn’t mean to infer that Labor had a cunning plan of deliberately running dead or doing everything they could to lose the election.

    Anyone who thinks Labor didn’t want to put Morrison’s gang out of business needs their head read.

    I can’t even begin to imagine why anyone would come up with such an outlandish suggestion which was raised by others on this site. Hope for an economic recession and just wait it out until 2022, at the end of nine years of Tory rule. Oh yeah!

    I’m afraid that with the “death tax” lie, it was like many things in life: No matter how hard you try, the bad guys always find a way to beat you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. they won and we and the rest of Australia lost. Winners are grinners.

    Whatever metrics you were using, how could those other issues compete with a death tax, a tax on your savings, a grab at your pension, and coming for your utes. Watergate, GBRF, NBN, Murray-Darling were important evidence of LNP chaos, mismanagement and worse. But they were too complex for the gullible minds of a large chunk of the electorate who were guarding their wallets and their vehicles. How do you boil them down to three-word slogans?

    I don’t fault the Labor campaign. The farrago of lies and misrepresentation was too potent to effectively turn back.

  36. It is alleged that some time recently some small boats dropped some divers off and that those divers attached some limpet mines to the hulls of four ships. In or about the Straits of Hormuz.
    It has been asserted that this could only have been done with the OK of a state actor and it has been bruited about that the state actor in question is Iran.

    1. Were the perps out of control of the Iran Government, under the control of the Iran Government, or agents provocateurs belonging to another state altogether?
    2. Are we looking at Gulf of Tonkin Take Two?

  37. A “scare campaign” about a tax loophole may have helped @ScottMorrisonMP win government. But it could come back to bite him and cost us billions.

    And with many Australians now more likely to jump on the franking credit refund train now it has been put on the national radar, many believe the policy will only grow increasingly divisive over time.

    So I can stick it to Morrison by buying shares in companies that pay franked dividends? Or is the author of that article just hoping to trigger a quick run on stocks they already hold, to bump the share price up?

    Whichever. Think I’ll get a Model 3 instead and just stick it to the coal and oil companies.

  38. re. labor’s campaign – I think one of the main problems was that labor spent over 2 years finessing their campaign to target Malcolm Turnbull specifically.

    In hindsight labor needs to ackowledge that they underestimated Morrisson’s campaigning skill. And that includes the rank and file. Looking back I remember there was so much scorn and derision about how hopeless Morrisson was on the campaign trail. Not just that you guys hated him, but you actually convinced yourselves he was a terrible campaigner. Its a most unfortunate consequence of being in an echo chamber such as this – people are only interested in drinking each other’s kool-aid. Yes the polls kept saying labor would win, but they were clearly tight, and this tightening should have sent out alarm bells. There were alarm bells, but only about big bad Murdoch – nothing, or very little about how badly labor was handling the negativity. Poor Bluey had labor winning every single day of the campaign – hands down.

    Now I note with interest several people here are finally coming out and acknowledging that Shorten wasn’t up to the task. Wasn’t up to countering the negativity of the combined forces of liberals, Palmer and Murdoch. Such a sentiment was considered nothing short of treasonous before the election – as was the idea that Morrisson was actually campaigning well. Instead it was all ‘Shorten going magnificently – in spite of everything against him’. Of course there is still the delusional ‘the greens wot done it’ hysterics flying around, but I suspect such voices are becoming increasingly isolated. So its good that at least some labor people are now swallowing hard truths about the inadequicies of labor’s campaign – but it shouldn’t just happen in the post mortem of election defeats. You guys need to knuckle down now, spend 3 years confronting the inconvenient, acnowledge the strengths of your enemy, and focus on how you are going to defeat them in 2022. Labor did that once in recent memory – in 2004, which earned them a spectacular win in 2007. Now make 2019-22 another 2004-07.

    Just my observation as a fence-sitter. The labor people here I think have difficulty recognising when they remove themselves from harsh reality and filter out the inconvenient truths. When discussions here are just become self-congratulatory echo chambers. This understandably becomes most apparent during election campaigns. And yet this is the time when labor most needs critical self reflection. Not a criticism, just human nature I guess.

  39. Labor demanded an investigation into the leaking of “highly classified national security information” to the journalist whose home was this week raided by the Australian Federal Police, in a revelation that could blunt the opposition’s assault on the government over press freedom.

    Correspondence obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age shows shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus wrote to Malcolm Turnbull in 2018 to urge the then prime minister to convene an investigation into how secret government documents were leaked to senior News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst.


  40. BW – Bolton came straight out and said it was Iran, and Trump followed up shortly after.

    There is no military intervention proposal against Iran that Bolton will oppose. None.

    IMO it is not coincidence at all that the sabre rattling against Iran has only been ramped up since Bolton became NSA.

    So… join the dots I guess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *