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 2:22 pm

    Lenore Taylor
    The govt cannot pretend these raids have nothing to do with them. Perhaps the media could ask no other questions at press conferences or interviews until they answer these ones #AFPraids

    That suggestion seems to pop up every once in awhile. It never gets anywhere.

    Yes, but this time it’s the media that’s the target, so maybe! 🙂

  2. ‘Perhaps the media could ask no other questions at press conferences or interviews until they answer these ones #AFPraids’
    That would be like expecting the Greens to expend 100% of their political energy against Far Right politicians.
    It will never happen because they know they have to destroy Labor in order to form a Greens government.

    Oh, and sure, sure. Murdoch paid $150,000,000 over six years to enable his bought and paid for journalists to ask hard questions!

  3. ‘Big A Adrian says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    excellent now BW here for a salvo. Do you guys take shifts?’

    You pathetic and hypocritical Greens are going to get three years of the blowtorch on the belly treatment – the same treatment you handed out to Shorten for six years.


  4. Progressives and people of faith.

    One thing I’ve noticed over time with some progressives is their inability to talk to people with different views, they often speak at the person with a dismissive tone with snarky comments like “your a right winger” and “stop reading murdoch” as if either comment addresses the issue or is even remotely convincing. Its one of the reasons why political forums in Australia are mostly so left leaning because for a conservative its nearly impossible to have a real debate with some progressive who are really borderline feral in their team barracking which of course blindsides them to the May 18 result.

  5. Scummo, watch your back!!
    Dutton has shown with these AFP raids that nothing is off limits. Dutton does not like you. Don’t trust him.

  6. BW

    The Greens argued for human rights including press freedom and whistle blower protections.

    It’s the parties that passed national security laws that have undone the freedom of the press that are to blame. Yes that includes any laws the Greens voted with as well

  7. The ONLY two valid arguments for a national security classification restricting access to our war crimes in Afghanistan are:
    1. That it would put our soldiers’ lives at risk.
    2. That it would reveal our tactics.

    1. Is dead in the water now that we are no longer fighting in Afghanistan.
    2. Every villager in Ouruzgun was perfectly aware of our tactics by the end of the first decade of fighting.

    This cover up is a cover up to protect the Liberals and the Nationals.
    And, oh boy, where is Di Natale holding the Liberals to account… the same Dirty Dick who bragged about how he was going to hold LABOR to account.

    Come on Dirty Dick and Bastard Bandt! For once in your pathetic political lives stop batting for the Coalition side. Do you stuff!

  8. I am not going to criticise Libs/nats in these raids ,as the libs/nats are controlled by the media tycoons

    No one in Labor should lift a finger or share a tear to help any media outlet,lets not forget the majority of the media in Australia is owned by a foreign media tycoon, who uses its foreign influence in Australia politics by supporting the libs/nats.

    The media outlets will never be a friend to Labor

  9. Boerwar @ #255 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 2:29 pm

    ‘Big A Adrian says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    excellent now BW here for a salvo. Do you guys take shifts?’

    You pathetic and hypocritical Greens are going to get three years of the blowtorch on the belly treatment – the same treatment you handed out to Shorten for six years.


    It’s not the Greens’ fault Labor opens themselves up so easily.

  10. ‘guytaur says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 2:33 pm


    The Greens argued for…’

    When are the pathetic Green vanity project managers going to grow up and understand that talk is 100% cheap and that there is NO progress without power?

  11. At the current rate of progress we only have another 120 years before the Greens form a government.
    And they will declare victory at every election for the next forty elections!
    What a pathetic, sick joke!

  12. Boerwar

    I’m not going to hold my breath. But it would be a pleasant surprise if DiNatale and co decided to ask for accountability from the fiberals

  13. Boerwar @ #264 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 2:37 pm

    At the current rate of progress we only have another 120 years before the Greens form a government.
    And they will declare victory at every election for the next forty elections!
    What a pathetic, sick joke!

    I’d suggest Fitzgibbon acting as a booster for coal is more the ‘pathetic, sick joke’.

  14. Wow

    John Lyons
    AFP: For the record, one part of this extraordinary warrant: The AFP is allowed to “use any other computer or a communication in transit to access the relevant data; and if necessary to achieve that purposes (sic) – to add, copy, delete or alter other data in the computer…

  15. The Shorten loyalists will never move on from the 2019 election. All kinds of enemies conspired to deny Australia it’s greatest Never Prime Minister. They will be at it a while. Fortunately it’s only about 7 or so bitter right-wing ALP stooges. Shorten is defeated, he was shit. Get on with it.

  16. ‘Victoria says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm


    I’m not going to hold my breath. But it would be a pleasant surprise if DiNatale and co decided to ask for accountability from the fiberals’

    Di Natale pompously announced during the capaign that he was there to hold Labor to account.
    After six years of failing to do the same to the Liberals and the Nationals.
    As he will fail to do for the next three years.
    Nine years of fuck all accountability from Dirty Dick except for targetting Labor and Shorten.
    I trust that there is a single Greens with integrity left who will tell Di Natale that real accountability only arises if you have real power – not when you are trying to gut Labor during an election campaign.

  17. Also not to be forgotten

    Not once did the those in the majority of media, complain about the every day person rights being taken away by the libs/nats , all what those in the media were concern about was themselves and their protection

  18. AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019

    Outrageous !

  19. We are supposed to forget that the Right spent over $600 million in Killing Bill and defeating Labor.
    We are supposed to forget the lies: Labor was going to kill babies, exact a trillion dollars in tax, steal your utes, force you to buy electric cars, and organize the invasion of Australia by the Chinese. The other lies are simply too numerous to mention.
    The Greens are supposed to be against the Coalition.
    They spent most of their political energy white anting Labor.
    Why the fuck would any decent human being who has any interest in Australian democracy, any interest in closing the wealth gap, and any interest in looking after the young, the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the precariously employed and the elderly ever want to forget ANY of the bastards who helped the Coalition to victory.
    The Greens might want to sink back into their usual ineffective and immaterial torpor.
    Not me!
    Dirty Dick, Bastard Bandt and the rest of the Ever Lasting Vanity Machine are going to get what is coming to them.
    Again. And again. And again.

  20. John Lyons
    AFP: so far the AFP’s three digital forensics experts not playing too big a role. I suspect their role will be to check that the ABC has downloaded every email and document that fits the keywords. Btw, popular keywords trending in this room include “Oakes”, “Clark” and “Afghan.”

    John Lyons
    AFP: the reason that the four smaller files will be created is so that the ABC and AFP can start going through file number 1 while the others are being created. This could take hours. Origin not looking good.

    John Lyons
    Change of plan. Instead of creating one new super file, 4 new files are going to be created. These will consist of all material (9214 items) that came up in the keyword searches…

    John Lyons
    AFP (continued) …and to do any other thing reasonably incidental to any of the above authorised by section 3F ( 2A).”
    How broad is that? Anything that is “reasonably incidental.”

    John Lyons
    AFP: (continued) …or the communication in transit; and to copy any data to which access has been obtained, and that appears to be relevant for the purposes of determining whether the relevant data is evidential material of a kind specified in the warrant and…

  21. The Australian public should be asking , why was the media’s union not involved in the royal commission into union governance

    Not once has the media’s union ever come down on its own members in the media,who refused to follow their union own policy and regulations

    The media union allowed thier own members to be corrupt with no punishment

  22. ‘Victoria says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 2:44 pm


    Up to this point, the Greens have only achieved being good oxygen thieves.
    Next to useless.’

    They are useful to the Liberals and the Nationals, the Katter Party, the UAP and One Nation.

  23. I have come late to the argument but here goes. The Catholic Church has indeed a vast real estate empire in Australia, and that empire is nominally worth a massive amount of dollars. But as some one who has been involved in liquidating two of the most minor holdings in the empire I know that the difference between nominal value and achievable value is quite vast, and the time scale involved in settling the matters is inordinately long. Both matters I am involved in have been going for longer than 7 years and are probably hardly out of the blocks even yet. One of the biggest impediments to a sale is heritage listing, (one holding i am involved in is an 1870s stone church in a rural setting, the vacant block next door sold for $800, the church will probably go for even less, but can neither be demolished nor defaced by renovation so may well be better abandoned.) The other property is a mediocre brick building built just post war of poor materials and zero architectural merit. The sale of that property is delayed by interminable appeals to various courts by parishioners who have not been noticed in the congregation for decades. The attainable value of these properties is much lower than is imagined.

  24. Lizzie

    Why was Shorten not trusted?

    The first thing I would say to that is people generally don’t trust politicians at all. With Shorten he gave off a vibe which screamed “fake” and “insincere” on one hand he was against the “top end of town” yet he was educated at an elite private school and has married into wealth. He made out he cared for a “fair go” but failed the groups in society most in need of help, but instead played to the usual ALP safe ground of child care. His attitude towards retirees was nasty considering the perks he enjoys and the large pension he will enjoy the moment he walks from parliament.

    Shorten came across as robotic and fake. However the strange thing about this, when he was disability services minister, he was actually very good at it so its a mystery why he was so unable or unwilling to embrace his strengths instead of the phony class war envy rubbish he went with despite there being some policy justification for some of it.

  25. nath

    The first person who needs to get over Shorten is yourself. When you’ve done that, you can start criticising others.

  26. Victoria and BW

    The responsibility lies with the politicians who voted for the laws the AFP are using today.

    No matter their political stripe.

  27. Max
    I doubt Jeff was ever popular as Premier, he only won because the ALP deserved to be thrashed in 1992 and that 1992 margin saved him in 1996. Jeff is one of those people who is able to get attention despite many people thinking he is an idiot. The thing Jeff got ticks for was actually doing stuff, a bit like Andrews in the sense both Premiers are doing things that will remain long after they depart office.

  28. FMD it really is BW’s shift.

    Are you guys seriously going to spam us with this crap for the next 3 years?

    If krakatoa erupts are you going to construct a meme about how its the greens fault?

    Talk about sore losers and not getting the message!

  29. Based on the errors associated with all those polls over the last few years, who is to say Shorten wasn’t more popular that the PMs during that whole time?

    In his previous roll in the Union movement the press decided he was “shifty”. A RC scrutinized all that and found nothing.

    Can they look at Scummos record in the 10 years before he entered politics. Businesses he managed, pre selections he fought.

    Your colleagues know what a low life you are Scummo. Watch your back!!

  30. guytaur @ #284 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 2:52 pm

    Victoria and BW

    The responsibility lies with the politicians who voted for the laws the AFP are using today.

    No matter their political stripe.

    The responsibility for an action lies with the person who carries out the action.

    There is a separate issue as to what went into enabling the action to be taken but that is quite different. There are very many laws that permit action to be taken that are never used – are the people who voted for those laws over decades prospectively responsible for any action that may ever be taken using those laws?

  31. Who in the Govt ordered these raids? Who agreed?It is an attack on democracy & an attack on those who tell the truth. Both whistleblowers & journalists play an integral part of making sure our democracy is robust & honest.Australians have a right to know what our Govt is up to.— Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 5, 2019

    As @sarahinthesen8 has said today, Australians deserve to know what the Government is doing. Journalists should be able to report the facts without looking over their shoulder for the AFP. An attack on the press for doing their job is an attack on our democracy. https://t.co/QGUyWOTr1S— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) June 5, 2019

  32. Guytaur

    It appears the AFP are attempting to ascertain the identity of whistleblower who has given
    Info to journalist.
    And thereafter ascertain what information was given and in what form.

  33. Victoria

    Yes. Given the ABC raids are about Afghanistan while I am not saying it is revenge over Mr Hastie it would not surprise me if it was the motive behind the raids.

    Very chilling effect for journalists.

  34. Briefly and Boerwar strut and fret this hour upon the stage: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    Apologies to Shakespeare.

  35. Mr Ed,
    I don’t think being a union leader was Shorten’s problem, it was hardly raised during the campaign and being a union leader hasn’t hurt other ALP leaders.

  36. guytaur @ #293 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 3:00 pm


    No excuses. Action would not be legal without the laws the politicians voted for.

    So the politicians who voted for the original Crimes Act in 1914 are responsible for the raid on the ABC today? Or the politicians who voted for a penalty on speeding in a motor vehicle are responsible for the last person who was caught in a speed trap?

    You are mixing up responsibility for the legal architecture with responsibility for law “enforcement” action.

  37. The warrant attaches to an investigation in connection with a suspicion of the commission of an offence under the Cth Crimes Act, 1914.

    What is there to suggest that some new law alone permits the raid?

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