Tracking the bludge

McEwen, Hughes and Ryan join the list of seats to watch, at least if you believe what you read in the papers. Also: an in-depth explanation of the BludgerTrack poll aggregate.

First things first:

• I had a piece in Crikey yesterday looking at how-to-vote cards, preference deals and the media coverage attendant to them. It considers a claim by Greg Sheridan of The Australian that any teal independent victories will be owed to ovine fealty to how-to-vote cards on the part of Labor and Greens voters; Labor’s decision to put the United Australia Party ahead of the Greens in central Queensland seats, in sharp contrast to its treatment of the party everywhere else; and One Nation’s tokenistic direction of preferences against the Liberals in five seats, without endangering Pauline Hanson’s second placement on the Liberal National Party Senate ticket in Queensland. Had I held back a day, I might have been able to note the latest full-page United Australia Party advertisements proclaiming &8220;Labor are preferencing the Liberal Party”.

Andrew Tillett of the Financial Review reports the Liberals are boosting resources in the Labor-held seat of McEwen in outer Melbourne. However, Labor sources say they expect to retain the Victorian seats that have become the source of media chatter over the past week, the others being Corangamite and Dunkley, as “national concerns over cost of living and antipathy towards Mr Morrison” are registering as strongly here as anywhere else.

The Australian reports the Liberals are newly concerned that the normally safe Brisbane seat of Ryan will be lost to Labor. There has also been increasing talk that the Greens could prove competitive in both Ryan and neighbouring Brisbane, together with Labor-held Griffith immediately to the south.

Alice Workman of The Australian reports “independent polling conducted over the phone, towards the end of April” shows Liberal candidate Jenny Ware on a low enough primary vote to put her in danger of losing Hughes to independent Georgia Steele. Liberal sources are quoted saying Ware is “on the nose with locals after being picked by Scott Morrison to run, against the wishes of rank-and-file branch members”. Assuredly not in contention is the seat’s incumbent, Craig Kelly, notwithstanding United Australia Party advertising proclaiming him the “next Prime Minister of Australia”.

• The Age/Herald today reports that this week’s Resolve Strategic poll showed 32% rated the Coalition as best to manage the Solomon Islands issue compared with 29% for Labor.

Now, by popular demand, a post probing into this site’s popular BludgerTrack poll aggregate, for which a permanent link can be found on the sidebar. This presently suggests Labor holds a lead of 54.0-46.0 on two-party preferred, which I don’t think anyone seriously expects to be actual result at the election. It does, however, show a narrowing trend commencing slightly before the onset of the campaign period, though not sufficient to suggest any chance of the Coalition closing the gap. Given the record low support for the major parties, the Coalition can at least hope that parity on two-party preferred need not be required to at least hold on to minority government – and also for another pollster failure like that in 2019 (the likelihood of which is considered in a post by Mark the Ballot).

BludgerTrack is one of a number of endeavours around the place that seek to plot a signal through the noise of federal opinion polling, together with one on the Wikipedia federal election page maintained by a user called Canley; Twitter user @Gergyl’s regular posts aggregating trends both short-range and long-range; and semi-regular blog posts from the aforementioned Mark the Ballot. That’s aside from the sites Armarium Interreta and Buckleys and None which, together with Professor Simon Jackman’s betting odds model, are tracking the horse race in other ways.

BludgerTrack and its close relatives, each of which produce very similar results, use LOESS (locally estimated scatterplot smoothing) functions to trace a path through the data points that keeps the distance between the path and the points at an appropriate level. The degree of tolerance for this difference is set by a smoothing parameter, which produces something resembling a straight line if set too high, and zooms all over the place in response to each individual poll result if set too low. The industry standard for determining the Goldilocks point is called the Akaike information criterion, which I use (thanks to a library available for the R statistics package) without really understanding its mathematical intricacies.

The data points themselves consist of every opinion poll of voting intention published since July 2019 by YouGov/Newspoll, Essential Research, Roy Morgan, Resolve Strategic and, just recently, Ipsos, which are weighted according to their perceived accuracy and adjusted to smooth out the peculiarities of each series. My methods here are quite a bit less presumptuous than they were before the pollster failure of 2019, when I imagined there was value in calibrating pollsters’ historic performances. I now assume that YouGov/Newspoll, the only pollster with any track record to speak of since 2019, is essentially free of bias, and calculate other pollsters’ biases based on the extent to which they deviate from a trend measure of it. These are halved so the peculiarities of each pollster have at least some weight in the overall result, rather than it being totally centred around Newspoll. The biggest change made is to Resolve Strategic’s Labor vote, which is increased by over two points. All other adjustments amount to less than one point.

Each pollster gets a weighting based partly on how much bias adjustment they’re being loaded up with, but mostly on my subjective impression of how accurate they’re likely to be, together with consideration of how frequently they report. The latter ensures the aggregate doesn’t get overwhelmed by the more prolific polling series. The most heavily weighted pollster at the moment is actually Ipsos, which is a (presumably) high-quality pollster that has so far produced only two polls released several weeks about. However, the mainstay of the series, Newspoll, is not far behind – a Resolve Strategic poll is worth about half a Newspoll, and an Essential Research (the most prolific series over the current term) and a Roy Morgan (which has a dubious track record) are worth about a quarter each.

Where BludgerTrack goes deeper than its rivals is in providing state breakdowns (together with leadership ratings). This is done using trend measures of each state’s deviation from the national results, which are then combined with the national trends (excepting Tasmania, for which next to no state-level data is published). Unfortunately, only Ipsos offers complete state data for each poll, as the others don’t care to have their small sub-samples held up to scrutiny their margins of error can’t bear. Essential Research comes close, but it smooths results for the smaller states by publishing three-poll rolling averages. Newspoll has always dealt with the issue by publishing state-level aggregates on a quarterly basis, which are a big deal for BludgerTrack when they come along (it would be nice to see one soon). Resolve Strategic only goes as deep as Queensland, and Roy Morgan’s are not used as they only provide two-party preferred at state level, whereas BludgerTrack works off primary votes.

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.

1,084 comments on “Tracking the bludge”

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  1. [Steelydansays: Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 9:38 pm
    They need to hide Albo he is more than capable of losing this.]
    He just answered an hour of question – the outgoing pm won’t even appear.

    It may not be a win but it’s not a loss – most of the audience was clapping for him and laughing by the end.

    Interesting that most of the questions were about ndis, housing, aged care, child care and cost of living.

    Albo is doing more than fine – the media can go suck it.

  2. I reckon Speers lost tonight.

    Everything wrong with the political coverage by the ABC was on full display.

    Albo walked through it with ease.

    Big boost for Labor tonight.

  3. [hazza4257says:Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 9:41 pm
    So the general sense is Albo did a pretty good job? Great!]
    7/10 – started slowly but bought it home really well and no gotcha moments.

    Meanwhile outgoing p.m is getting a massage/happy ending on pm live.

  4. As much as I think Albo performed fairly well during the QnA, I don’t think it has as much of the reach as it used. Tomorrows front pages will still likely be the dreaded Gaff, But I think Albo is quite good once he’s warmed up.

    The Sunday Debate will be more of a impact as the 9 and 7 Networks are ones Albo needs to win over, as Scott Morrison seems to have given up on the ABC vote.

  5. Started strong, flagged a little in the first half but got more comfortable and was going pretty well by the end.

    Given the media coverage wasn’t the full court-press on today’s non-incident – I highly doubt it’ll last long, especially given the Coalition would be on a hiding to nothing bringing up the NDIS in any context.

  6. A good warm up and confidence booster before the debates anyway. He did well in the sky debate and I reckon he’ll do well again. Not looking forward to Uhlmann, much prefer Mark Riley.

  7. So what did we miss with The Liar on SkyNews?

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken a swipe at Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese over his latest policy stumble on the campaign trail, saying “could you imagine three years of that?”.

    Mr Albanese on Thursday struggled to list his six-point NDIS plan during a press conference before being grilled by reporters for seeking help from an aide.

    In an exclusive interview with Sky News Australia’s Paul Murray, Mr Morrison hit out at Mr Albanese for not knowing the key details of one of Labor’s signature policies.

    “I would’ve thought this deep into the campaign, they would have had some clear plans and the few plans that they have he’d know what they are,” he said.

    “And I think what we’re seeing as people look at this campaign and it is a choice, he wants to make it a referendum about me as you know.

    “But it is a choice and people are looking and they’re going, I can’t see it in this guy, I can’t see it in that other guy from Labor, I can’t see it in Anthony Albanese.”

    I must admit, this is pretty compelling logic…

  8. While the top entry in the Google results for “blue pill” relate to a treatment for certain medical condition, it is actually a reference to the turn of the millennium movie “The Matrix”. As narrated, the blue pill will allow the subject to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix; the red serves as a “location device” to locate the subject’s body in the real world and to prepare them to be “unplugged” from the Matrix.

  9. hazza4257 says:
    Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 9:39 pm
    As Albo has said, “people have underestimated me my whole life.” It hasn’t stopped him yet
    I hope SfM cries like Malcolm Fraser when he loses.

  10. Even if Albo’s Q and A has minimal reach. It and other events such as the Hadley interview (which probably didn’t of itself sway one vote) help with a perception that he’s a bloke who fronts up, even when it’s hostile.

  11. The Liar continued..

    “Plans require careful consideration, they require thinking things through and when you’re managing particularly things in the middle of a pandemic, design of your policy, thinking things through counts even 10 times more,” the Prime Minister said.

    “And I think that’s where the clear difference is emerging. I mean I know that not everybody agrees with everything I’ve done.

    “But they do know I think things through, they do know I work diligently on the policy detail. They do know that I seek to fully understand the problems I’m seeking to solve.”

    Mr Morrison said Mr Albanese had spent his last three years as opposition leader attacking him rather than thinking his policy announcements through.

    “He’s only had three years – and this is the challenge, he’s spent three years having a crack at me every day. His day has started, he gets up, what’s something I can have a crack at ScoMo about for today, goes out, says it, goes back,” he said.

  12. Albo did great!! Speersy is a *******, he kept interrupting throughout in a way he would never dare to do with Scomoe. Albo though keeps plowing through and never takes offence, he is a decent man who I hope will be PM. He will make a great PM and work hard for this country unlike the lazy entitled Libs. Time for a change.

  13. William

    Seen attempts to suppress this story before, so finally went to find out what it was. It is not hard. Doubt if it is true, but who am I to judge.

  14. “But they do know I think things through, they do know I work diligently on the policy detail. They do know that I seek to fully understand the problems I’m seeking to solve.”

    And then you fuck it up. 😐

  15. I watched the whole of Q&A. Albo is not an oratorical big hitter, he is something much better – a genuinely caring person. On that score alone he won the audience over. That came across. If anyone is obsessed with the length of his tie I refer them to the Chinese adage, “When the finger points at the moon, the imbecile will look at the finger”.

  16. David Speers was caught on Live camera saying “looks like we’ve won” at the last election. Tony Abbott also only wanted David Speers to host the one election debate he was willing to do. David Speers ego is as big as his use of hair product.

  17. To me The first question person appeared to be a Greens voter.
    All the questions are very tough questions from audience. Speers tried to turn some of them into Gotcha questions.
    Albanese answered some questions well and some He did not. Towards the end Albanese was more at ease but I can see where Mavis is coming from with this below post . It was a tough gig.

    Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 9:07 pm
    Albanese is doing okay but he’s not a Whitlam, a Hawke, a Keating. I have severe doubts whether they’ll be a majority Labor government.

  18. One meta point. Every time a FICAC with teeth is mentioned by Labor, the crowd goes wild. Not just tonight on the ABC but everywhere.

  19. The inevitable lead after qanda is pretty bland, referencing Albo getting fired up with Speersy (apparently) about his NDIS “gaffe”.
    So that’s a win for him in my book. There was nothing there the MSM could attack him on and he was able to get a couple of good left hooks and policy differentials in.
    So imo overall Albo was ok, slow to start, warmed up, then faded a little at the end. I got the impression he was tired, a possible lingering Covid after effect.

  20. Albo did very well on Q and A and I agree with him that the real issues of the election are not gotcha journalist games but who is offering Real Action on Climate Change , a Real Federal ICAC with retrospective powers and Real improvements to Aged Care with 24/7 nurses.

  21. Go easy on Speers. I don’t like his style but he would give Morrison the same treatment if he had the balls to show up.

  22. We all know what another three years of Scomoe will be about. One big PR fest supported by the Murdochcracy and a heap of ministers who are asleep on the job and patently not up to it.

  23. Spot on pritu. Albo won the crowd over. Clapping in a genuine (not just polite) way from about half way through.

  24. Interesting ‘takes’ on qanda. The tribal delineation hasn’t changed though.

    As a biased observer, I thought Albo came across well and built through the course of the show. The ausience mostly appeared to agree with me and were cheering by the end. Most important questions he could answer in the positive for the questioners, and the fact they were often nodding to his response was good.

    David Speers on the other hand needs to take a blue pill and chill … his interruptitus is getting beyond a joke and did much time-wasting – perhaps it was a bit of a ploy to lessen the time Albo had to build momentum? Who knows but Speers’s ego showed, a lot.

  25. Love how Scotty from marketing refers to himself in the third person, and uses the nickname he made up for himself.

  26. Steve

    Good google work mate 😉

    … aaaaaand you are about person number 45 to mention that origin too. Look you tried ok?

    The irony was always lost on those here. It is funny seeing those who have been in this room (some for what? 15 years now) in your virtual reality world here, thinking that I am the one in the ‘Matrix’. The cognitive dissonance is so deep. To doubt the party would be to doubt your identity, right?

  27. Margo Kingston…

    How close can a media magnate and the PM get? The @westaustralian hosts a lunch for Morrison tomorrow, big ticket prices, then publishes tonight its “exclusive” on his speech to its own event tomorrow.

  28. C@tmomma,
    On the FICAC, I have long been a proponent for the guillotine of white collar criminals. FICAC is the public bloodlust for real justice.
    I think that people can handle a pollie getting a hotel allowance or even a uplift in living standards for a diplomat where required (A friend who worked in DC at the embasy said the pay trippled to put you in a similar class as those you were interacting with.). But remember when bronwyn bishop was hiring choppers to go to golf courses on the public dime. People have a good head for the vibe of things.

    The real test of labor will be when FICAC catches on of their own in the headlights during their time at the top. It will happen.

  29. simm0888 says:
    Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 9:59 pm
    Go easy on Speers. I don’t like his style but he would give Morrison the same treatment if he had the balls to show up.
    Maybe Morrison needs the Blue Pill everyone has been talking about tonight. Harden him the fuck up.

  30. marquelawyers: Sound advice! I know of the scurrilous allegations (?) but refuse to add to them, based on legal advice. Say naught until you see your friendly solicitors, Sly & Sly Lawyers, discount rates applying to all Bludgers. Sacre bleu, I’ve just realised that one can’t tout – sine die.

  31. Wow you aren’t really a great moral compass yourself and it’s a random thing to get angry about defending a powerful media agent. I get more angry about media bias.

  32. Rule of thumb; If you can’t attribute a statement, it’s best not to voice it. Then, at least if you’re wrong, you can say why. if you can’t attribute it, then you’re the one in the wrong.

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