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. This article from The Daily Telegraph about how Scott Morrison waged and won the election campaign is very informative:

    In the plush prime ministerial seat, en route to Launceston, Morrison pulled out his well-thumbed campaign notebook, filled with his illegible handwriting, and ran through the marginal seats for the millionth time with his principal private secretary, the bespectacled savant Yaron Finkelstein, 47, and Andrew Carswell, 38, his head of media and press secretary.

    The internal polls for key marginal seats, crunched every night by Crosby Textor quants in London, hadn’t wavered. Throughout the campaign the primary vote stayed within the winning zone of 42 and 43 per cent. It first broke through the victory threshold of 40 per cent in April, going from 38 to 41 per cent on the back of the “Back in Black” budget.

    https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/how-scott-morrison-pulled-off-a-miracle-to-remain-prime-minister/news-story/8490dadfd770f4df3817899a30b8f260

  2. The Curse Of Bushfire strikes again…

    I switch on the Barty finals match and Barty is up an almost unbelievable 5-0 and 3 set points within the first 15 minutes of the event.

    Immediately she loses the game, then the next 4 games after that.

    Now 5-5… no… wait… Barty just lost her 6th game in a row. Barty now down 6-5.

    It’s like the bloody election night, except it’s Barty choking, not Labor.

  3. BB,
    I think you might be watching a replay of the semi-final (there is a rain delay). It seems like you’re into it so I won’t spoilt the plot 🙂

  4. C@tmomma @ #1677 Saturday, June 8th, 2019 – 9:27 pm

    I am beginning to understand why the Australian people found Bill shifty

    Yes, the Australian public don’t do nuance. You say, ‘shifty’, but what about a nuanced opinion makes it ‘shifty’? Unless, that is, you are looking to find ‘shifty’ in nuance.

    That’s an easy one. Shorten is mentioning all sides of the argument but backing none. He’s got all of:

    1. It’s a contractual negotiation matter
    2. Folau shouldn’t suffer an employment penalty for expressing his views
    3. Folau’s statements were hurtful

    Unless his intent was to propose that there be certain conditions that cannot legally be included in employment contracts (specifically around employees being required to agree not to say publicly broadcast certain things that run contrary to their employer’s culture and public image), then he hasn’t articulated a position.

    I don’t believe that was his intent, so he’s failed to articulate any position. He hasn’t said if he thinks the contract overrides the general right to freedom of expression, or if freedom of expression should override the contract, or if the kind of things Folau expressed should be unacceptable even without an specific contract prohibiting them.

    Those were the options. Shorten chose none of them, and all at once. That’s not nuance, it’s legitimately shifty. It’s trying to win over all three groups while actually committing to none of them, which is insulting to each of them.

    It’s like Labor’s policy on coal. Or UK Labor’s policy on Brexit. Straddling the fence is a weak strategy all around. At least Morrison articulated (correctly) that in this case it hinges on contract law because Folau voluntarily agreed not to do this shit as a condition of his employment.

  5. Perhaps Shorten was saying it’s a definite conundrum, and he doesn’t want to stick his bib into someone else’s employment dispute (possibly including a court case), as he has no standing in it. But he can see points on both sides, and as general matters of public policy.

    Smart move actually, because it IS going before FWA.

    That’s not shifty. That’s sensible. Potential PMs shouldn’t be delivering judgements in legal disputes.

  6. And yet Morrison was able to say that if he has broken his contract then that contract is void. Not hard

    It’s stating the bleedin’ obvious to say that if a contract is broken then it’s broken. The weasel word is “if”.

    The issue in the Folau matter is whether, for consideration (in this case a million dollar plus salary), you can contract away your “right” of religious freedom. It’s even being spoken of as a test case on free speech of any kind, not just religious. Many employment contracts have such clauses, at leadt where public political commentary is involved.

    In these cases you’re not giving up your right to beliefs, but to expressing your beliefs in a defined medium or media.

    In Folau’s case it may have been part of the negotiations (in fact I think it was, wasn’t it?). These were negotiations that resulted in Folau being paid rather handsomely.

    And of course, we do not have constitutional rights to free speech in Australia, so they may well be able to be contracted away.

    If Folau believed (no matter how genuinely) that homosexuals should be killed out of hand, then would he have a right to express that without breaking criminal incitement laws?

  7. Another point… Morrison said he didn’t believe homosexuals should go to hell.

    I’d be very surprised if that’s his true position, or that of his religion, or his church.

    Who’s shifty here? Who’s “adjusting” his beliefs to talk his way out of a corner?

  8. The Catholic position is that homosexuals don’t go to hell but homosexuals who have sex do unless they seek forgiveness before death or in Folau’s words “find Jesus”. I suspect pentocostals and Morrison believe something similar.
    Not an acceptable position but it means that Morrison can say that he dosen’t believe homosexuals go to hell

  9. Bushfire Bill @ #1713 Sunday, June 9th, 2019 – 12:41 am

    Another point… Morrison said he didn’t belueve homosexuals should go to hell.

    I’d be very surprised if that’s his true position, or that of his religion, or his church.

    Who’s shifty here? Who’s “adjusting” his beliefs to talk his way out of a corner?

    If “should” is the word he used, then perhaps it was genuine. As in ‘they shouldn’t go to hell, but they do; the Bible is clear on that’. Kind of like ‘there shouldn’t be refugees tortured with indefinite detention, but we’re sure as hell gonna keep doing it’.

    Anyways, nothing says that Shorten and Morrison can’t both be shifty. Though on that particular question in that particular debate, Shorten came across worse than Morrison (and Morrison’s comment about whether or not gay people go to hell wasn’t made until a day or so afterwards).

  10. Anyways, nothing says that Shorten and Morrison can’t both be shifty.

    Morrison’s comment about whether or not gay people go to hell wasn’t made until a day or so afterwards

    You defend Morrison with “ifs” and “buts”, benefit of the doubt, timing of remark etc… weasel words.

    Where’s your famous certainty AR, as in, for example, even if Pell is acquitted on appeal, he’s still guilty.

    Morrison betrayed his beliefs and his church most likely, to get out of a jam. Shorten was perfectly entitled to ask whether Morrison believed homosexuals would/should/could go to hell (more AR weasel words).

    Answers to questions on such matters reveal a lot about a person. As do non-answers.

  11. Oakeshott Country says:
    Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/folau-shouldn-t-suffer-an-employment-penalty-for-views-shorten-says-20190508-p51lgf.html
    When asked Morrison defended Folau’s right to express his opinion but agreed he should be sacked for breaking contract

    Shorten said:
    It’s a contractual negotiation at one level but I’m uneasy about where that debate’s gone. On one hand, I think Israel Folau is entitled to his views, and he shouldn’t suffer an employment penalty for it. So I’m uneasy about that part of it.”
    But he said he also understands the other side of the argument given the “hurtful impact” of Folau’s public statements.

    I am beginning to understand why the Australian people found Bill shifty

    ————————————————————-

    I am beginning to understand why some people see everything in life as black or white. It makes everything so easy.

    You don’t have to think.

    Pretty well sums up the Australian electorate in the recent election.

  12. Indeed, some on the Blog would certainly agree with Brecht:

    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

  13. IT, yes, that occurred to me too.

    Far easier to just declare people guilty, no matter what happens. Bugger what the Could shall so hold.

  14. Oakeeshott Country @ #1714 Sunday, June 9th, 2019 – 12:47 am

    The Catholic position is that homosexuals don’t go to hell but homosexuals who have sex do unless they seek forgiveness before death or in Folau’s words “find Jesus”. I suspect pentocostals and Morrison believe something similar.
    Not an acceptable position but it means that Morrison can say that he dosen’t believe homosexuals go to hell

    Pentecostals aren’t much into deathbed conversions and confessionals.

  15. The consensus of the blog is that the electorate is at fault for not seeing the obvious benefit of electing Bill; rather than Labor changing to suit the wants and needs of the electorate it would be much easier for Australia to get a new electorate.
    The poem is Die Losung, Brecht’s response to the 1953 Workers’ Rebellion in East Berlin

  16. Or if the HC does not so find, Australian Rugby Union is bankrupted; Win-Win for a Sharkies fam (Although personally I think he, like all Liberal leaders, is actually a fan of RU and only follows the Sharks as an arrempt at popularity)

  17. It’s Time – but they do see salvation through finding Jesus which is what Falou said when quoting Corinthians

  18. guytaur

    To your earlier comment about Elizabeth Warren and some wealth tax.

    We really shouldn’t take tax policy ideas from the US because their tax system is entirely difference from the Australian tax system.

  19. On Facebook and ads
    The ads are suppose to be driven by user behavior but I question the performance of Facebook’s bots because I rarely if ever see ads and the feed hardly shows things I might be interested in, I can go months without seeing anything in the feed from some page I follow unless I go directly to the page then its like the bots get their act together. Recommender systems work on the basis of the theory that where you go on the web correlates with your interests so they align the ads to where you go.

  20. https://www.pollbludger.net/2019/06/05/why-what-happened-happened/comment-page-35/#comment-3199566

    A wealth tax is taking more from European tax systems, rather than the U.S. Federal tax system. The U.S. Constitution requires federal wealth taxes to be distributed to the states by population. This used to also apply to income taxes from assets but that was changed in the early 20th century, mainly because the alcohol prohibitionists wanted the federal government to be weaned off alcohol taxes, to allow prohibition (without then there likely would have been insufficient support).

    Basic tax ideas, like wealth taxes, are also fairly similar between most jurisdictions.

    In Australia, the Commonwealth government used to charge a limited wealth tax, a land tax (with exceptions), from 1910 to 1952 and the states still do.

  21. TomTFAB
    Thanks and I appreciate that but when I look at how the US is run, and I include a range of policy areas from tax to welfare to health & education, I find little they do that I consider better or worth copying, the only area I think the Americans possibly do better is medical and scientific research.

  22. Mum is in Lyell MacEwin hospital. Not sounding good with kidney partially failing. I am way up past Broome area and can’t get back till 48 hours. All the fucking mineral wealth they take out of a country and where they take it from gets fuck all public resources back.

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