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”

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  1. a r says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 11:56 am
    More intimidation of journalists from the Morrison government… where are the opposition comments on this sharply authoritarian turn?
    Considering the role the media played in handing the election to Morrison, I’d not be surprised if the opposition is enjoying schadenfreude. And fair enough, too.

    The media should take note; you reap what you sow. Back fascists and you get fascism.

    Quite so. The Blues schmooze with the edited re-write of National Socialism, ON. They do so with the tacit and not-so-tacit encouragement of the Green Party. Green voters should take note. They have been duped. The result is a re-run of authoritarian strategies, such as were routinely used in the Lib hey-day, the 1950s and 60s.

    The pillars of social justice, political freedom and legal equalities, social democracy and the rule of law are being undone. The Greens have had a hand in this. We can be forgiven for believing they welcome it.

  2. a r says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 9:42 am

    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


    What the hell is this “shifty” crap. You’re saying that he wasn’t as good a bullshitter as Morrison. Apart from his careful position on Adani where he was being wedged by the Greens and the LNP, you present as evidence just one hazy anecdote that I can’t recall after watching the campaign closely.

    It was a campaign where the media almost to a man and woman relentlessly probed for any weakness, real or imagined, while treating Morrison with respect. It was almost as if they were determined to prove that he was shifty because that was the conventional wisdom. They persisted ever more strongly because he consistently disproved their thesis as he did while winning the three debates. Give me some more examples of the many positions he vacillated on.

    Somebody else refers to “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.” If you put that material to 95 per cent of voters they wouldn’t know what you were talking about. And continuing to raise it in this way serves to perpetuate the slur.

    They’ve been drinking the Koolaid that a vengeful and vindictive Nath has been peddling ad nauseum for years.

    What didn’t help was the unprecedented and sleazy action of the Abbott government in putting the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition on the witness stand, agressively interrogating him as if he were a common criminal, on actions that had taken place a decade before when he was not in politics.

    It was a $55 million character assassination that came up with no adverse findings against him. That result didn’t matter because the Coalition had achieved their number one political tactic: first you demonize your opponent.

    Bill Shorten is no Errol Flynn, (that dates me) or should I say Russell Crowe. But people who consistently advance this “shifty” argument debase political life by making it all about appearances rather than substance.

    Morrison’s performance on the other hand illustrated that like all snake-oil salesmen, if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made.

  3. beguiledagain

    Thank you. I doesn’t make me feel any better about the state of our ‘democracy’, but I prefer truth to bull.

  4. Now is the time for the ABC to rediscover it’s professionalism & unload on the Government with everything they have.. one chance only.

  5. beguiledagain @ #153 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 12:05 pm

    You’re saying that he wasn’t as good a bullshitter as Morrison.

    Yes, he wasn’t. And he looked less open, less happy, and more defensive while doing it. Like it or not, people vote for superficial things like polish and charisma even if/when the product is bullshit.

    Apart from his careful position on Adani

    Which was more noncommital than careful (unless you really want to get into the nuance of why it’s noncommmital, which most people don’t). And which he was grilled on at every opportunity (and in cases where this occurred in front of a live audience, they would often laugh at the question because they knew another non-answer was coming). So hardly a minor one-off.

    where he was being wedged by the Greens and the LNP

    …because he wouldn’t commit to a firm position on a touchstone issue (which may be all that Adani is, but politicians ignore touchstones at their own peril). That’s not the fault of the Greens or the LNP. The only wedge that exists in politics is the one you choose for yourself.

  6. If you want to look at a leader who was never seriously challenged by the MSM, go no further than Dirty Dick Di Natale.
    Dream run.

  7. Lizzie
    “This isn’t a security matter, it’s surely just the military covering its arse.”

    That is almost always the case. It is abused for job security for the guilty. Witness the example of Chelsea Manning’s treatment for the crime of reporting crimes by the US Army in Iraq.

    Labor does it too. Witness the tonnes of documents carted through NSW cabinet as “cabinet in confidence” to avoid scrutiny when Eddie Obeid was de facto premier.

  8. Thanks Lizzie,

    This one stood out.

    free gift
    A classic of the redundancy genre, much beloved of retailers and advertisers.

    This is not so much a redundancy, but a lie when it comes to marketing.

    You need to do or buy something to get the “gift”, so it can’t be considered “free” and its cost is factored as part of the transaction, so it’s also not a “gift”. 🙂

  9. Barney

    I’ve always been irritated by “for free” when it should be either “free” or “for nothing”.
    Also “the reason is because”. 🙁

  10. Another day, another ScoMo government lie exposed. Today it is the economic growth figures for our “strong” economy. Right now the only thing stopping Australia from being in recession is the immigration rate being one of the highest in the OECD. Josh Frydenberg is Australia’s worst treasurer since Morrison. How are those surplus promises looking Josh? They will be the next in the Liberal domino of lies to fall.

  11. lefty e @ #140 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 9:49 am

    More intimidation of journalists from the Morrison government… where are the opposition comments on this sharply authoritarian turn?


    They could’ve won brownie points from journos (if only temporarily) by standing up for a free press and overreach by security forces. Since they voted to allow all this shit to take place they can’t do anything about it now. The only thing they can do is lay low and avoid any questions about these incidents. Let Dutton et al take the heat.

  12. @WScetrine
    9m9 minutes ago

    It is now, almost impossible for the Federal Police to restore it’s independent reputation. All Australians can now readily see them as an arm of the extreme right wing (fascist) IPA/LNP gang of thugs. The FP will have to be completely restructured by the next REAL government!

    But for once the ABC is wearing the halo!

  13. Briefly has completely and utterly lost the plot. Keep going mate and you’ll always be in opposition.

    The Greens are to the left of the ALP. They’re hence competing for left-of-centre voters. Hence they need to point out how and why the ALP are not great on issues that some left-of-centre voters care about. Not their fault that the ALP keeps giving them plenty of ammunition. The are mostly competing for the same voting pool.

    You can’t destroy The Greens. Look at Victoria with possibly the most progressive State Premier in our history. The Greens suffered a small drop in their vote at the State election, but hardly anything terminal – and that was in the face of a terrible Greens campaign. Those votes, and more, will come back as the Andrews government inevitably ages. Most Greens voters hence looked at Andrews and said ‘Great – he’s adopting or at least partially implementing some of the Greens policy agenda (e.g. assisted dying / safe injection rooms / public transport infrastructure / pro-choice / positive rhetoric on asylum seekers etc / renewable energy). I’ll keep voting Greens as clearly it’s working to shift the ALP to the left.’

    You’re wasting your time and energy targeting left voters as their preferences all come back anyway. Focus on the swinging voters.

    The ALP would simply do better if they and their boosters and rusted-on’s just ignored the Greens. It’s actually a gift given that the Greens only appeal to perhaps 15% of the population, and barring some radical shift in the political paradigm will never form a government. It frees the ALP to take on the Tories, but alas no, the ALP can’t even manage that properly.

  14. Another element of the AFP raids to raise suspicion is the timing. Why raid the ABC now, just AFTER the election, over a matter that was broadcast in 2017?

  15. @TheLyonsDen
    10m10 minutes ago

    AFP RAID LIVE: AFP starting to access hard drive. Head of AFP team says “this could take some time.” Pretty confronting scene; six AFP officers trying to get into the heart of the ABC’s computer system. Is this a free media?

  16. AJM

    My point was whether the AFP may have been asked not to launch any raids during the election campaign. I would not put it past Dutton.

  17. The timing of these raids is just obscene. The AFP doing the dirty work of the LNP behind the scenes for a year or two and unload both barrels of this dangerous non-justice immediately after an election.

    Partisan, slow, useless, arse-covering – the AFP need to be disbanded, and whatever agency takes over their enforcement role needs to be able to push back against this payback face-saving journalist-intimidating shit.

  18. It seems as though no one here has noticed that the Opposition have made statements about the ABC raid. But carry on demonising Labor, it’s what so many here do so well.

    I mean, did you ever think that Labor’s spokespeople have been sidelined, not that they haven’t said anything?

    I did just hear Anthony Albanese on The World Today though.

  19. Gaven Morris@gavmorris
    36m36 minutes ago

    Please take a look at the outstanding @abcnews journalism now the target of today’s Federal Police raid on the ABC HQ: The Afghan Files: Defence leak exposes deadly secrets of Australia’s special forces.

  20. Anyone needing a nap, just listen to Frydenberg.

    Bernard Keane
    34m34 minutes ago

    Presumably the next target of an AFP raid will be the ABS after it exposed how bad the economy is this morning.

  21. a r says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 11:25 am

    I disagree generally with the concept of ministerial discretion, and certainly with decisions related to medical treatment being subject to ministerial discretion. A government minister is not a (practicing) doctor and has not medically assessed the patient. They should have no say in whether or not someone comes to Australia if actual doctors have assessed the patient and agree that they can only be properly treated in Australia.

    I agree with the concept of Ministerial oversight.
    Legislation can be a blunt object and on occasions effect things in ways it never intended to.
    But its use should be open and transparent with detailed reasons for using it tabled in Parliament.

    However I agree with you regarding medical transfers.
    We are able to provide medical treatment for our most dangerous and violent criminals, so why wouldn’t an asylum seeker, so rated, be able to be treated using the same protocols?

  22. lizzie,
    Wtte it seems passing strange these raids are happening now, so long after the original stories were published, plus just after the election. Also journos should be free to do their job.

  23. Dammit ❗

    Cold, rainy in Newcastle.

    We are living in interesting times as Eric Blair’s masterpiece raises its head once again..

    Ministries of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    The Ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty, and Truth are ministries in George Orwell’s futuristic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, set in Oceania.[1] Despite the name, no actual “ministers” are mentioned in the book, and all public attention is focused on the idealized figurehead Big Brother.

    The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.

    Gawd help us when the AFP start investigating allegations relating to a VC winner. The good news is that the mills of the Gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Which I take to imply, in this case, that equal and opposite reactions may occur at some time in the far, far distant future (next week perhaps).

    In relation to the ABC raid concerning alleged murder and torture – the average Joe, Jack and Jill will probably now think the stories are true and the Gummint is trying to shut (I first typed shit – sorry) the truth down. Not that these supposed average folk watch the ABC – not do they know who Mr. Shorten is and his being unliked or shifty would be news indeed if they (average Jo, J or J) were apprised of the same.

    Good afternoon. 😍 ☕😵

  24. Why has today’s raid taken nearly two years to be carried out?

    The article is dated 11/7/2017.

    What has prompted them to act now?

  25. Interesting to see that the story in the Herald Sun about yesterday’s raid includes promos for the Foxtel series Secret City.
    Yes a link but Murdoch never misses an opportunity.

  26. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/05/jay-weatherill-asked-to-conduct-warts-and-all-review-of-labors-election-loss

    Former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill and retired Queensland MP Craig Emerson are expected to review Labor’s failed election campaign, as the party prepares for a confronting postmortem examination of its defeat.
    “Well, those of us who were in positions in the Labor party have to accept the outcome and have to accept that we made some strategic errors,” Albanese said.

    “We listened to the verdict of the people. The people always get it right. There’s no point complaining about what happened on the field. When you look at the scoreboard at the end of the day, we were defeated by about 77-68.”

    No doubt Albanese’s advice will be ignored by the Labor diehards who continue to blame those “stupid voters”, etc.

  27. Socrates @ #244 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 12:41 pm


    My point was whether the AFP may have been asked not to launch any raids during the election campaign. I would not put it past Dutton.

    Somebody or something in the government has been restraining Dutton and now they’ve gone. We’ll see lots more of this. It’s very sinister.

  28. jc says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Briefly has completely and utterly lost the plot.

    The G’s think of themselves as left-ish. This is false. They campaign to disable Labor at all times. They are riding shot-gun for the LNP.

    Totally correct.

  29. Liberal and Labor voters have given Govt the power to suppress whistleblowing.

    Imagine what the Govt can now get away with under the cover of darkness….

  30. pegasus –

    who continue to blame those “stupid voters”

    So you think the voters were not at all stupid? That returning the Morrison government was the smart, considered, thing to do? Tell us what you really think…

    Albanese, as any political leader must, is obliged to phrase whatever he says in anodyne political speak – not insulting the voters (however stupid we have collectively been) is part of that, whether justified or not, and giving a humble appearance, accepting responsibility, not deflecting blame, yada yada yada. But the same would be done regardless of where the actual blame lies.

  31. The raids are just Adolph Kipfler’s was of celebrating retaining his seat after it looked like it would be all over. Just think of what we could look forward to celebration wise if he managed to get his arse on Scrott’s big chair.

  32. An alternative view of Labor and it’s support of the workers…

    Bob Hawke: The PM who tamed the labour movement:


    In 13 Years of Hard Labor: Lessons of the Accord experience, Pat Brewer and Peter Boyle write: “Most importantly, the major role the union movement played in policing industrial peace and wage restraint under the Accord eroded traditions of militant and independent unionism, leaving the union movement widely discredited in the eyes of workers and in a poorer position to resist the capitalists’ reactionary offensive.

    “Today it is clear that the Accord was a disaster for the working class and paved the way for the reactionary Liberal-National government that replaced Labor in March 1996.”
    While the anti-union attacks of Coalition governments from 1996 onwards have played a major part in accelerating this decline, the rot had fully set in under the Hawke-Keating Labor governments.
    Bob Hawke played a critical role, along with Paul Keating, in the launching of the international neoliberal offensive in Australia during the 1980s, which has now reached its peak under the current Coalition regime. But perhaps his most damaging legacy is the taming of the trade union movement, which has had long-term serious consequences right up to this day.

  33. Oh, and I’m not denying that Labor made big big mistakes and contributed mightily to the re-election of the Morrison government. But it certainly wasn’t all down to Labor’s fumbling-in-the-polling-dark errors. Clive, social media lies, the Adani convoy all contributed significantly as well.

  34. briefly @ #191 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 1:14 pm

    jc says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Briefly has completely and utterly lost the plot.

    The G’s think of themselves as left-ish. This is false. They campaign to disable Labor at all times. They are riding shot-gun for the LNP.

    Totally correct.

    I wouldn’t describe the Greens party as either left or right.

    I think they’re just an issues based party basing their positions on factual evidence.

  35. Today’s broadcast of Pell’s appeal reveals that his counsel is arguing a reasonable doubt defence based on inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence. He’s not accusing him of lying, but that I think is the sub-text. Brett Walker seems to have overlooked a few High Court judgments which go to the fundamental importance of the jury system. A bit too early to prognosticate, but I’m not sure that Pell should pack his prison swag.

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