Election plus three weeks

A look at how the religious vote might have helped Scott Morrison to victory, plus some analysis of turnout and the rate of informal voting.

I had a paywalled Crikey article on Friday on the religion factor in the election result, drawing on results of the Australian National University’s Australian Election Study survey. Among other things, it had this to say:

The results from the 2016 survey provide some support for the notion, popular on the right of the Liberal Party, that Malcolm Turnbull brought the government to the brink of defeat by losing religious voters, who appear to have flocked back to the party under Morrison. Notably, the fact that non-religious voters trusted Turnbull a lot more than they did Abbott did not translate into extra votes for the Coalition, whereas a two-party swing to Labor of 7% was recorded among the religiously observant.

The charts below expand upon the survey data featured in the article, showing how Labor’s two-party preferred has compared over the years between those who attend religious services several times a year or more (“often”), those who do so less frequently (“sometimes”), and those who don’t do it at all (“never”).

Some other post-election observations:

Rosie Lewis of The Australian reports the looming Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the election will examine the three-week pre-polling period and the extent of Clive Palmer’s campaign spending. There is not, it would seem, any appetite to explore the debilitating phenomenon of fake news proliferating on social media, for which Australia arguably experienced a watershed moment during the campaign through claims Labor had a policy to introduce a “death tax”. This is explored in depth today in a report in The Guardian and an accompanying opinion piece by Lenore Taylor. That said, not all of the mendacity about death taxes was subterranean, as demonstrated by this official Liberal Party advertisement.

• As best as I can tell, all votes for the House of Representatives have been counted now. There was a fall in the official turnout rate (UPDATE: No, actually — it’s since risen to 91.9%, up from 91.0% in 2016), which, together with the fact that not all votes had been counted at the time, gave rise to a regrettable article in the Age-Herald last week. However, as Ben Raue at the Tally Room explores in depth, the turnout rate reflects the greater coverage of the electoral roll owing to the Australian Electoral Commission’s direct enrolment procedures. This appears to have succeeded to some extent in increasing the effective participation rate, namely votes cast as a proportion of the eligible population rather than those actually enrolled, which by Raue’s reckoning tracked up from 80.0% in 2010 to 83.2% – an enviable result by international standards. However, it has also means a larger share of the non-voting population is now on the roll rather than off it, and hence required to bluff their way out of a fine for not voting.

• The rate of informal voting increased from 5.0% to 5.5%, but those seeking to tie this to an outbreak of apathy are probably thinking too hard. Antony Green notes the shift was peculiar to New South Wales, and puts this down to the proximity of a state election there, maximising confusion arising from its system of optional preferential voting. The real outlier in informal voting rates of recent times was the low level recorded in 2007, which among other things causes me to wonder if there might be an inverse relationship between the informal voting rate and the level of enthusiasm for Labor.

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.

1,359 comments on “Election plus three weeks”

  1. I suppose I should be flattered that of all the people Nicholas could have chosen to unflatteringly compare to the leader of the federal opposition, he chose me.

  2. You don’t think Labor’s record of just 10 wins out of the 28 elections from WW2 to 2016 (35.7%, to the Coalition’s 64.3%) was worth taking into account when forming an expectation of the result of the 2019 election? Or Labor’s record of winning just 3 out of the 17 elections (17.6%) where the Coalition went in as incumbents? Or Labor’s record of winning zero elections out of 5 since 1914 (!) where a two-term conservative government faced the voters?

    No, I don’t. This is just numerology. If you stare at the static long enough, you’ll start to see patterns.

    The voters are different, the politicians are different, the environment is different and the issues are different.

    How many voters could even tell you off the top of their heads how many terms this Government has had? Virtually none, in my experience – and yet you think these kinds of things are somehow guiding their voting?

    As I said before, this pattern can’t justify an assertion of a deterministic “law of history”, so you can tuck away that straw man you put up. But it does justify us in saying it was “unusual, not to be expected” for Labor to win this year.

    You’re trying to draw some distinction here between “expectation” and “prediction” which does not exist.

    There is zero reason to believe that cherry-picking some correlation of factors with a series with 28 data points has any predictive power on the next point, and that doesn’t change if you call it an “expectation” instead.

  3. Looks like the bandwagon to have Setka expelled is now gaining momentum. As AE tirelessly argues wtte it’s all about the political perception…the political reality….the optics….

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/albanese-to-push-for-setka-s-expulsion-from-alp-over-batty-comments-20190611-p51wgt.html

    “I don’t want him in our party. It’s that simple.”

    ACTU secretary Sally McManus has also, for the first time, called for Mr Setka’s resignation from the union if allegations of violence, including that he threw an iPad at a woman, are correct.

  4. Andrews…
    https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/andrews-cuts-setka-loose-says-comments-about-batty-are-disgraceful-20190611-p51wj7.html

    Premier Daniel Andrews has joined the push to expel controversial building union leader John Setka from the Australian Labor Party.

    The state government is also moving to remove Mr Setka, the CFMEU’s Victorian building branch secretary, from a government board, with the Premier saying some of the union leader’s recent conduct was “disgraceful”.

  5. I don’t like the Adani Convoy. I think it was a misconceived idea.

    I would have done a Listening Tour to learn what kinds of jobs, services, and infrastructure people wanted in these communities.

    Then I would have prepared some specific promises on federal government job creation, services, and infrastructure to ensure that these communities have a bright future. The federal government would turn on the funding spigot and a lot of improvements to quality of life would follow. These towns have been neglected for decades and it is an insult to the people who live there to pretend that a coal mine is the main form of economic development that is available to them. If you asked people what kinds of lives they envisioned, I guarantee that you would hear about a lot of possibilities other than thermal coal mine.

    I would have said no to the thermal coal mine because we have to put an end to fossil fuel use BUT I would have shown that these communities can do so much better than a coal mine. There is a rich array of social, community, environmental, artistic, culture, and infrastructure projects that could begin immediately in these towns.

  6. Stuart Rees on Assange, Molan, heroes and villains:

    https://newmatilda.com/2019/06/10/a-tale-of-two-heroes-general-jim-molan-and-journalist-julian-assange/

    Perception may be reality in politics, but when it comes to the politics of war, the Australian community’s perception is a long way from reality, writes Stuart Rees.

    Trials by public opinion maintain stereotype images of heroes and villains. Former General Jim Molan, Commander of Coalition forces in Iraq is presented as a hero. Journalist Julian Assange, who faces extradition to the US and up to 175 years in prison has been derided, demonized and treated as a villain.
    :::
    General Jim Molan has been lauded. Yet if the veil of history is pulled aside, public opinion would witness the second siege of Fallujah, a slaughter of thousands of citizens, the destruction of a way of life, the poisoning of the surrounding environment and genetic damage allegedly worse than the consequences of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    To suggest that war crimes were committed in Fallujah and the people at the top be held responsible, a reflective public will need to digest the record of horrendous events. At the very least, public opinion should cease lauding one man and colluding in the punishment of another.

  7. Federal Labor is very weak in Queensland – it is common for federal Labor to only hold about 5 out of 30 federal seats in Queensland. Yet Queensland state Labor is so utterly dominant that the Qld LNP has only held government for two brief stints in the past 30 years: the Borbidge Government from 1996 to 1998 and the Newman Government from 2012 to 2015. Clearly the voters of Queensland distinguish between state and federal elections and come to diametrically opposed conclusions.

    I wonder what the polling data says about the reasons for the Qld LNP doing so poorly while the federal LNP usually does very well in Queensland.

    Could it be that people still associate the state LNP with the corruption of the Bjelke-Petersen era?

    Could it be that the voters trust Labor to run education and health services, and therefore vote for Qld state Labor, but they trust the federal LNP to manage the macroeconomy?

  8. caf says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 2:33 pm
    ————————————-

    And yet, if before May 18 I had joined those on this site who had cautioned scepticism about Labor’s chances of winning, I’d have been right. Instead, I formed my expectations from Labor having been ahead in the polls ever since July 2016, and ignored history, and was wrong. Go figure.

  9. Good to see the Labor movement and the ACTU finally making a clear statement on Setka.

    There’s no place for ambiguity re this individuals conduct.

  10. nath @ #1149 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 2:22 pm

    The more ALP stooges attack the Greens the more it highlights that the Greens are not run by SDA operatives, Kimberley Kitching type social conservatives. Inner city greens will never vote for such types.

    Lol.

    That’s why so many of them just did in Victoria and The Greens’ vote went backwards, nath?

  11. Nicholas says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    Could it be that the voters trust Labor to run education and health services, and therefore vote for Qld state Labor, but they trust the federal LNP to manage the macroeconomy?
    —————————————

    I think that is exactly right, as a “default” position for the sort of voters who decide elections. And not just in QLD: NSW voters (especially in “western Sydney”) repeatedly returned John Howard federally while returning Bob Carr at State level.

  12. Pegasus @ #1158 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 2:52 pm

    Stuart Rees on Assange, Molan, heroes and villains:

    https://newmatilda.com/2019/06/10/a-tale-of-two-heroes-general-jim-molan-and-journalist-julian-assange/

    Perception may be reality in politics, but when it comes to the politics of war, the Australian community’s perception is a long way from reality, writes Stuart Rees.

    Trials by public opinion maintain stereotype images of heroes and villains. Former General Jim Molan, Commander of Coalition forces in Iraq is presented as a hero. Journalist Julian Assange, who faces extradition to the US and up to 175 years in prison has been derided, demonized and treated as a villain.
    :::
    General Jim Molan has been lauded. Yet if the veil of history is pulled aside, public opinion would witness the second siege of Fallujah, a slaughter of thousands of citizens, the destruction of a way of life, the poisoning of the surrounding environment and genetic damage allegedly worse than the consequences of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    To suggest that war crimes were committed in Fallujah and the people at the top be held responsible, a reflective public will need to digest the record of horrendous events. At the very least, public opinion should cease lauding one man and colluding in the punishment of another.

    I have no time for either of these self-promoting zealots.

  13. Nicholas @ #1159 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 2:59 pm

    Federal Labor is very weak in Queensland – it is common for federal Labor to only hold about 5 out of 30 federal seats in Queensland. Yet Queensland state Labor is so utterly dominant that the Qld LNP has only held government for two brief stints in the past 30 years: the Borbidge Government from 1996 to 1998 and the Newman Government from 2012 to 2015. Clearly the voters of Queensland distinguish between state and federal elections and come to diametrically opposed conclusions.

    I wonder what the polling data says about the reasons for the Qld LNP doing so poorly while the federal LNP usually does very well in Queensland.

    Could it be that people still associate the state LNP with the corruption of the Bjelke-Petersen era?

    Could it be that the voters trust Labor to run education and health services, and therefore vote for Qld state Labor, but they trust the federal LNP to manage the macroeconomy?

    Let’s not ignore the Shorten drag factor.

  14. Nicholas says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 2:47 pm
    I don’t like the Adani Convoy. I think it was a misconceived idea.

    I would have done a Listening Tour to learn what kinds of jobs, services, and infrastructure people wanted in these communities.
    —————————————

    This sounds okay in theory, but I think it runs aground against human nature. The job a voter has now is a more tangible reality to them than one which exists only in someone else’s conception, however eloquently communicated to said voter. And people are generally more driven to avoid losing what they do have than they are to acquire what they could have. Although the additional virtue of helping do what is right for the planet may help a little.

  15. Rex:

    Have you ever seen Anastasia Palaszczuk speak? Shorten is the very image of the charismatic political messiah in comparison.

  16. Kakuru @ #1141 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 2:12 pm

    Lynchpin
    “The sad thing about Labor’s election loss is that it will usher in the small target strategy for oppositions, again.”

    Oh yeah, you bet. It will be like Rudd 2007: change without change. Same same but different.

    This country is crying out for economic reform. But Federal Labor has been burned, and won’t try that again.

    This would be mis-guided.

    If Labor is honest they will acknowledge the horrendous job of selling their policy manifesto.

    Labor need to maintain a reformist mindset to restore equality, fairness and a healthy environment …but reform their own processes in selling their reforms.

  17. Asha Leu @ #1167 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:18 pm

    Rex:

    Have you ever seen Anastasia Palaszczuk speak? Shorten is the very image of the charismatic political messiah in comparison.

    From a Mexican point of view, Anastasia has a bit of the underdog achiever still going for her and a truckload more authenticity than Shorten ever had.

  18. So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?

    The most obvious thing for mine is keep doing the Town Hall meetings.
    Labor must been seen to be doing things that get people together, talking and being positive.
    Labor must be about building face to face networks, doing face to face work.

  19. Anna Palascjuk is something that a lot of Queensland politicians would dream of being. A second generation Queensland politician following in her father’s footsteps. It gives her a lot of inbuilt credibility with the parochial Queenslanders. It doesn’t hurt that her father was much loved.

  20. [‘Could it be that people still associate the state LNP with the corruption of the Bjelke-Petersen era?’]

    I very much doubt it, Joh having left the political scene nearly 32 years ago. Newman’s one term, however, was shades of the Joh days, particularly his appointment of the chief justice, his in your face attitude, the passage of bikie (VLAD Act) legislation. He tried to govern the state like he did when Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

  21. C@

    Yes, a bit hard to find any evidence that anyone in the inner city is particularly upset by the SDA or Kitching.

    It doesn’t, for example, explain the 15% swing against the Greens in Cooper.

  22. Alpha Zero @ #1171 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:25 pm

    So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?

    The most obvious thing for mine is keep doing the Town Hall meetings.
    Labor must been seen to be doing things that get people together, talking and being positive.
    Labor must be about building face to face networks, doing face to face work.

    I think Albanese’s Politics in the Pub approach is better.

  23. I don’t think that someone who lauds Molan would be necessarily be anti – Assange. It seems a flawed assumption to start with.

  24. zoomster
    says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 3:26 pm
    C@
    Yes, a bit hard to find any evidence that anyone in the inner city is particularly upset by the SDA or Kitching.
    It doesn’t, for example, explain the 15% swing against the Greens in Cooper.
    ____________________________________
    There are plenty of well informed people in the inner city. Far more so than in rural bumcrackland. Those that changed to the ALP in Cooper were clearly not rusted on greens voters, but hopefully they will return.

  25. C@tmomma @ #1176 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:27 pm

    Alpha Zero @ #1171 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:25 pm

    So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?

    The most obvious thing for mine is keep doing the Town Hall meetings.
    Labor must been seen to be doing things that get people together, talking and being positive.
    Labor must be about building face to face networks, doing face to face work.

    I think Albanese’s Politics in the Pub approach is better.

    A complete waste of time and resources.

    Just get about delivering good paying and sustainable blue collar jobs that also protects their magnificent environment.

  26. caf says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    “You’re trying to draw some distinction here between “expectation” and “prediction” which does not exist.”
    —————————————

    I am revising my heuristic for forming expectations of election outcomes. It is a heuristic, not a theory.

  27. The swing in Cooper was a swing to Ged Kearney.

    If another David Feeney clone was installed by the ALP, we might have seen that electorate painted green by now. As it stands now, it’s probably not just the hipster proof fence that will keep it in the red column…

  28. C@tmomma
    says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 3:27 pm
    Alpha Zero @ #1171 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:25 pm
    So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?
    ___________________________
    Shorten’s knives should definitely be put into the museum at Old Parliament House. In fact, Shorten himself should be stuffed and displayed there as a cautionary tale on believing you are going to be PM from when you are a teenager.

    It should be accompanied by the footage of Bill telling Arnold Schwarzenagger that he was ‘Australia’s next PM’. No Bill you are not. All your scheming came to nought. Suck shit.

  29. Rex Douglas @ #1180 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:31 pm

    C@tmomma @ #1176 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:27 pm

    Alpha Zero @ #1171 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:25 pm

    So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?

    The most obvious thing for mine is keep doing the Town Hall meetings.
    Labor must been seen to be doing things that get people together, talking and being positive.
    Labor must be about building face to face networks, doing face to face work.

    I think Albanese’s Politics in the Pub approach is better.

    A complete waste of time and resources.

    Just get about delivering good paying and sustainable blue collar jobs that also protects their magnificent environment.

    Which is quite difficult from Opposition. Nevertheless, it’s only Labor that already has plans drawn up for infrastructure projects, renewable energy projects, a new electric vehicle manufacturing industry policy, apprenticeship encouragement and changes to the visa system to prevent the influx of cheap labour from overseas.

    Is that good enough for you, Rex Douglas?

  30. “If another David Feeney clone was installed by the ALP, we might have seen that electorate painted green by now.”

    Indeed. Labor finally got smart about who it preselected / parachuted into Cooper. As I predicted at the time, the Greens were unlikely to win the seat once Kearney was Labor’s candidate.

  31. C@tmomma @ #1185 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:38 pm

    Rex Douglas @ #1180 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:31 pm

    C@tmomma @ #1176 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:27 pm

    Alpha Zero @ #1171 Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – 3:25 pm

    So what from the Shorten years should the ALP keep?

    The most obvious thing for mine is keep doing the Town Hall meetings.
    Labor must been seen to be doing things that get people together, talking and being positive.
    Labor must be about building face to face networks, doing face to face work.

    I think Albanese’s Politics in the Pub approach is better.

    A complete waste of time and resources.

    Just get about delivering good paying and sustainable blue collar jobs that also protects their magnificent environment.

    Which is quite difficult from Opposition. Nevertheless, it’s only Labor that already has plans drawn up for infrastructure projects, renewable energy projects, a new electric vehicle manufacturing industry policy, apprenticeship encouragement and changes to the visa system to prevent the influx of cheap labour from overseas.

    Is that good enough for you, Rex Douglas?

    Just get Albo in front of a camera with 10 second sound bites ready to go.

  32. “Which is quite difficult from Opposition.”

    Enough with the excuses. Apparently, if the minor party of the Greens can be accountable for the end of the world as we know it or, for everything that has not come into fruition from a progressive perspective, despite never forming government, as the (il)logic goes, then Labor needs to toughen up and muscle up.

  33. Supporters of the party that got 33.3% of the vote and those of the party that got 10.4% of the vote are arguing here over which of them is to blame for the party that got 33.3% of the vote not beating the coalition of parties that got 41.4% of the vote. All while those 14.9% who voted for others decisively preferred the parties who together got 41.4% of the vote.

    Really helpful guys. Keep it up.

  34. Michael A:

    And yet, if before May 18 I had joined those on this site who had cautioned scepticism about Labor’s chances of winning, I’d have been right. Instead, I formed my expectations from Labor having been ahead in the polls ever since July 2016, and ignored history, and was wrong. Go figure.

    Of course. It’s possible to be right for the wrong reasons. The polls were clearly at least herding and possibly exhibiting other methodological failings (the overestimation of Federal Labor’s vote in Queensland compared to elections is a long-running feature of Australian polling now). Their failure isn’t a reason to exalt other correlations to the status of evidence.

  35. Enough with the excuses.

    Lol.

    How’s the Greens vote in Victoria going, Pegasus? Maybe you need to toughen up and muscle up? 🙂

  36. Could it be that the voters trust Labor to run education and health services, and therefore vote for Qld state Labor, but they trust the federal LNP to manage the macroeconomy?

    There’s also a considerable block of Liberal-leaning voters in SEQ that will vote for the Coalition nationally because the Liberals are in charge, but are wary of voting for the State party because the Nationals have a much stronger hand, particularly in Opposition.

  37. @Alpha Zero

    I agree, Labor needs to further refine it’s current platform so that enough people are inspired, that whole army can be formed of volunteers who can actively campaign and hustle for the party come the 2022 election. It is the only way that future disinformation campaigns by the Coalition can be defeated.

  38. caf says:
    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    “It’s possible to be right for the wrong reasons.”
    —————————————

    Indeed. I think this could be said of any attempt to infer a future outcome from past outcomes using any one single method to the exclusion of others. This is what I was guilty of doing leading up to May 18, relying on a 3-year history of poll leads for Labor, in accordance with my own wishes for the outcome of the election. I ignored how historically significant a Coalition loss after just two terms, in an economy with unemployment, inflation and interest rates all lower than three years previously, would have been. I don’t want to make that same mistake again.

  39. This is an amazing and eloquent treatise on the federal election and its core philosophical premise as it applied to both major parties and their messages from Dr John Falzon, former CEO of St Vincent De Paul Australia and now with the Per Capita think tank:

    The Coalition’s policies, along with their populist minor party proxies, have, and will, deliver the greatest benefit to the already wealthy. If you were feeling the heat from neoliberalism, from the inequality and insecurity, the precarity and poverty, that it spreads, you will have gained nothing from the Coalition’s electoral victory. The distance from being underemployed to being unemployed to being homeless is not long. So why does it appear that so many of us have been convinced to support a government that will give more to the few?

    The one thing that the labour movement must completely eschew is any tendency to blame the people who voted against their own class interests. Or to dismiss them as being ignorant. What some might be inclined to call ignorance is at its core our failure, an historical failure, to reach, to recruit, to connect with, to speak “to the immediate wound”, to use Berger’s beautiful formulation, of the people who should logically belong with us but who have felt that whatever consolation was available would only be forthcoming from the other side. This is not necessarily a failure of strategy. It is chiefly a product of the structural atomisation of the working class. The union movement’s Change the Rules campaign in the lead-up to the election was electrifying for many who were already attached to the movement as well as being a vehicle for attracting new members or transforming existing members into activists. Certainly we need to learn from this campaign and assess what worked best. But we do not need less of this grass-roots activism. We need more. And we need to ensure that we maintain the momentum and keep people engaged.

    https://percapita.org.au/2019/05/29/election-2019-another-dose-of-fear/?utm_source=Ideas+at+Per+Capita+Subscriber+List&utm_campaign=6e4ac7409a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_28_12_33_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_729d41d83e-6e4ac7409a-493683745&mc_cid=6e4ac7409a&mc_eid=17f7e10337

  40. Michael A

    Someone has made the comment: Labor can’t win from opposition.
    So illogical. I don’t know how else they can win. 😆

  41. @Cat – I like the approach and idea of politics in the pub and it does have Albos fingerprints and style all over it. It’s a case of getting people together.

  42. The Greens had by far and away the most courageous set of policies and were by far and away the best sellers of those policies: Di Natale, Hanson-Young and Waters were all well above all Labor’s spokespersons.
    After 27 years, the Greens policies are well-honed, well-thought out, fully costed and fully funded.
    The Greens policy explanations were clear.
    The Greens doing the explaining were lucid, persuasive and generally charismatic.
    After 27 years of this, 90% of the public still got it wrong.
    What is wrong with them?

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