In case you were wondering, The Australian reported on Monday that the first Newspoll since the election – indeed, the first poll on voting intention of any kind since the election, unless someone else quickly gets in first – will be published “very shortly”.
In the meantime, I offer what will be the first in a series of posts that probe deep into the results of the federal election region by region, starting with Sydney and some of its immediate surrounds. Below are two colour-coded maps showing the two-party preferred swing at polling booth level, with each booth allocated a geographic catchment area built out of the “mesh blocks” that form the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ smallest unit of geographic analysis (typically encompassing about 30 dwellings). The image on the right encompasses the core of the city, while the second zooms further out. To get a proper look at either, click for an enlarged image.
In a pattern that will recur throughout this series, there is a clear zone of red in the inner city and the affluent, established eastern suburbs and northern beaches regions, giving way to an ocean of blue in the middle and outer suburbs. The occasional patches of red that break this up are often associated with sophomore surge effects, which played out to the advantage of Mike Freelander, who had no trouble retaining Macarthur (more on that below); Susan Templeman, who held out against a 2.0% swing in Macquarie; and Emma McBride, who survived a 3.3% swing in Dobell (albeit there was little to distinguish this from a 3.1% swing in neighbouring, Liberal-held Robertson).
The second part of our analysis compares the actual two-party results from the election with the results predicted by a linear regression model similar to, but more elaborate than, that presented here shortly after the election. This is based on the correlations observed across the nation between booth-level two-party results and the demography of booths’ catchment areas. The gory details of the model can be found here (the dependent variable being Labor’s two-party preferred percentage). The r-squared values indicate that the model explains 76.5% of the variation in the results – and doesn’t explain another 23.5%. Among the myriad unexplained factors that constitute the latter figure, the personal appeal (or lack thereof) of the sitting member (if any) might be expected to have a considerable bearing.
Such a model can be used to produce estimates that hopefully give some idea as to where the two parties were punching above and below their weight, and where the results were as we might have expected in view of broader trends. The latter more-or-less encompasses Lindsay, which was the only seat in the Sydney region to change hands between Labor and the Coalition (the only other change being Zali Steggall’s win over Tony Abbott in Warringah). The table below shows, progressively, the model’s estimate of Labor’s two-party vote, the actual result, and the difference between the two.
The first thing that leaps out is that the current leaders of both parties did exceptionally well, with their margins evidently being padded out by their substantial personal votes. Beyond that though, patterns get a little harder to discern. The Liberal-versus-independent contests in Warringah and Wentworth appear to have had very different effects on the Coalition’s two-party margins over Labor, which reduced to a remarkably narrow 2.1% as voters turned on Tony Abbott in Warringah, but remained solid at 9.8% in Wentworth, suggesting Dave Sharma may have accumulated a few fans through two recent campaigns and a dignified showing in the wake of the by-election defeat. That there was nonetheless a 7.9% two-party swing to Labor illustrates that he still has a way to go before he matches Malcolm Turnbull on this score.
The modelled result further emphasises the particularly good result Labor had in Macarthur, a seat the Liberals held from 1996 until 2016, when Russell Matheson suffered first an 8.3% reduction in his margin at a redistribution, and then an 11.7% swing to Labor’s Michael Freelander, a local paediatrician. At the May 19 election, the seat defied the national pattern in which outer urban seats that responded had unfavourably to Malcolm Turnbull swept back to the Liberals, with Freelander in fact managing the tiniest of swings in his favour. In addition to Freelander’s apparent popularity, this probably reflected a lack of effort put into the Liberal campaign, as the party narrowly focused on its offensive moves in Lindsay and Macquarie and defensive ones in Gilmore and Reid.