Newspoll: 50-50

The Coalition’s lead disappears altogether in the latest Newspoll, which also records a resounding bounce in Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings.

Newspoll has turned in a result for its three-weekly federal poll which, if nothing else, shows it’s not letting the May election result prevent it from publishing optimistic-looking numbers for Labor. As related in The Australian ($), the latest poll has the major parties tied on two-party preferred, after four successive results of 51-49 in favour of the Coalition.

The Coalition is down two on the primary vote to 40%, with Labor up two to 35%, the Greens down one to 12% and One Nation up one to 7%. Anthony Albanese enjoys some encouraging movement on personal ratings, with approval up five to 42% and disapproval down seven to 37%. However, Scott Morrison’s ratings are little changed, with approval down one to 46% and disapproval down two to 43%, and his lead as preferred prime minister narrows only marginally, from 47-32 to 46-32.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1682.

Autopsy turvy

Amid a generally predictable set of recriminations and recommendations, some points of genuine psephological interest emerge from Labor’s election post-mortem.

The public release of Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s report into Labor’s federal election campaign has inspired a run of commentary about the way ahead for the party after its third successive defeat, to which nothing need be added here. From the perspective of this website, the following details are of specific interest:

• Labor’s own efforts to use area-based regression modelling to identify demographic characteristics associated with swings against Labor identifies five problem areas: voters aged 25-34 in outer urban or regional areas; Christians; coal mining communities; Chinese Australians; and the state of Queensland. The variable that best explained swings in favour of Labor was higher education. However, as has been discussed here previously, this sort of analysis is prey to the ecological fallacy. On this basis, I am particularly dubious about the report’s suggestion that Labor did not lose votes from beneficiaries of franking credits and negative gearing, based on the fact that affluent areas swung to Labor. There is perhaps more to the corresponding assertion that the Liberals were able to persuade low-income non-beneficiaries that Labor’s policies would “crash the economy and risk their jobs”.

• Among Labor’s campaign research tools was a multi-level regression and post-stratification analysis, such as YouGov used with notable success to predict seat outcomes at the 2017 election in the UK. Presumably the results were less spectacular on this occasion, as the report says it is “arguable that this simply added another data point to a messy picture”. The tracking polling conducted for Labor by YouGov showed a favourable swing of between 0.5% and 1.5% for most of the campaign, and finally proved about three points off the mark. YouGov suggested to Labor the problem may have been in its use of respondents’ reported vote at the 2016 election as a weighting factor, but the error was in line with that of the published polling, which to the best of my knowledge isn’t typically weighted for past vote in Australia.

• An analysis of Clive Palmer’s advertising found that 40% was expressly anti-Labor in the hectic final week, compared with only 10% in the earlier part of the campaign. The report notes that the Palmer onslaught caused Labor’s “share of voice” out of the sum of all campaign advertising fell from around 40% in 2016 to 25%, and fell as low as 10% in “some regional markets such as Townsville and Rockhampton”, which respectively delivered disastrous results for Labor in the seats of Herbert and Capricornia.

• It is noted that the gap between Labor’s House and Senate votes, which has progressively swollen from 1% to 4.6% since 1990, is most pronounced in areas where Labor is particularly strong.

Other news:

• The challenge against the election results in Chisholm and Kooyong has been heard in the Federal Court this week. The highlight of proceedings has been an admission from Simon Frost, acting director of the Liberal Party in Victoria at the time of the election, that the polling booth advertising at the centre of the dispute was “intended to convey the impression” that they were Australian Electoral Commission signage. The Australian Electoral Commission has weighed in against the challenge with surprising vehemence, telling the court that voters clearly understood that anything importuning for a particular party would not be its own work.

• The ABC reports there is a move in the Tasmanian Liberal Party to drop Eric Abetz from his accustomed position at the top of the Senate ticket at the next election to make way for rising youngester Jonathan Duniam. The Liberals won four seats at the 2016 double dissolution, which initially resulted in six-year terms being granted to Eric Abetz and Stephen Parry, and three-year terms to Duniam and David Bushby. However, the recount that followed the dual disqualifications of Jacqui Lambie and Stephen Parry in November 2017 resulted in the party gaining three rather than two six-year terms, leaving one each for Abetz, Duniam and Bushby. Bushby resigned in January and was replaced by his sister, Wendy Askew, who appears likely only to secure third place on the ticket, which has not been a winning proposition for the Liberals at a half-Senate election since 2004.

Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reports that Jim Molan is likely to win a Liberal preselection vote on Saturday to fill Arthur Sinodinos’s New South Wales Senate vacancy. The decisive factor would appear to be support from Scott Morrison and centre right faction powerbroker Alex Hawke, overcoming lingering hostility towards Molan over his campaign to win re-election by exhorting Liberal supporters to vote for him below the line, in defiance of a party ticket that had placed him in the unwinnable fourth position. He is nonetheless facing determined opposition from Richard Shields, Woollahra deputy mayor and Insurance Council of Australia executive, who was runner-up to Dave Sharma in the party’s hotly contested preselection for Wentworth last year.

Call of the board: Western Australia

Another deep dive into the result of the May federal election – this time focusing on Western Australia, which disappointed Labor yet again.

The Call of the Board wheel now turns to Western Australia, after previous instalments that probed into the federal election results for Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland and regional Queensland.

Western Australia has been disappointing federal Labor ever since Kim Beazley elevated the party’s vote in his home state in 1998 and 2001, and this time was no exception. After an unprecedented Labor landslide at the 2017 state election and expectations the state’s economic malaise would sour voters on the government, the May election in fact produced a statewide two-party swing of 0.9% to the Coalition, and no change on the existing configuration of 11 seats for the Liberals and five for Labor.

As illustrated by the maps below (click on the images to enlarge), which record the two-party swings at booth level, Perth typified the national trend in that Labor gained in inner urban areas, regardless of their political complexion, while copping a hit in the outer suburbs. This will be reflected in the seat-by-seat commentary below, which regularly invokes the shorthand of “inner urban” and “outer urban” effects. The map on the left is limited to seats that are clearly within the Perth metropolitan area, while the second adds the fringe seats of Pearce (north), Hasluck (east) and Canning (south).

For further illustration, the table below compares each electorate’s two-party result (the numbers shown are Labor’s) with a corresponding two-party Senate measure, which was derived from the AEC’s files recording the preference order of each ballot paper (with votes that did not preference either Labor or Liberal excluded). This potentially offers a pointer as to how much candidate factors affected the lower house results.

Continue reading “Call of the board: Western Australia”

Essential Research: budget surplus and economic management

Essential Research’s latest suggests voters still give the Coalition the edge on economic management, but are nervous about their prioritisation of surplus over stimulus.

It hasn’t yet appeared on the organisation’s website, but The Guardian had reports on Tuesday concerning the latest fortnightly poll from Essential Research, which is still holding its fire on voting intention. There’s the usual general report on the survey from Katharine Murphy, plus analysis from pollster Peter Lewis that features detailed tables for two of the key questions.

The headline finding is that 56% would favour prioritising economic stimulus at the cost of a later budget surplus to avoid a downturn, compared with 33% who favour a surplus as first priority. Other indicators of economic sentiment were more favourable for the government: only 29% of respondents deemed the government’s economic management the most likely cause of the IMF’s recent downgrade in Australia’s growth forecast, compared with 52% for factors outside the government’s control most likely to blame (comprising 42% for global factors and 10% for local ones), and 49% expressed greater trust in the Coalition to handle economic management compared with 34% for Labor (compared with 44% to 29% when the question was last asked in March). A question on the Extinction Rebellion movement found more favourable sentiment than you might have expected from following the news: 52% expressed support for the campaign, while 44% were opposed.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1033 respondents out of the pollster’s online panel.

Call of the board: regional Queensland

A deep dive into the darkest corner of Labor’s federal election failure.

Welcome to the latest instalment of Call of the Board, which probes into every seat result from the May federal election region by region. Earlier instalments covered Sydney, here and here; regional New South Wales; Melbourne; regional Victoria and south-east Queensland. Today we look at the electorates of Queensland outside of Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

The posts dealing with the big cities have featured colour-coded seat maps and the results of a model estimating how the results would have looked if determined by demographic factors alone. Unfortunately, colour-coding doesn’t get you very far when zooming out to vast and unevenly populated regional terrain, and the model hasn’t proved to be much use in producing plausible results for regional seats, in which elusive factors of local political culture appear to loom large. However, I can at least offer for purposes of comparison Labor two-party estimates derived from the Senate results, potentially offering a pointer to how much candidate factors affected the lower house results.

Seat by seat alphabetically:

Capricornia (LNP 12.4%; 11.7% swing to LNP): Labor held this Rockhampton region seat for all but one term from 1977 to 2013, but history may record that it has now reached a tipping point akin to those that have excluded the party from former regional strongholds including Kennedy (Labor-held for all but two terms from federation to 1966, but only once thereafter), Grey in South Australia (Labor-held for all but one term from 1943 to 1993, but never again since) and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia (Labor-held for all but three terms from 1922 until Graeme Campbell quit the party in 1995, and now divided between the safely conservative seats of O’Connor and Durack). The 11.7% swing to Michelle Landry, who has held the seat since 2013, was the biggest in the country, shading the 11.2% swing to the beloved George Christensen in Dawson. Landry’s primary vote was actually little changed, reflecting the entry of One Nation, who accounted for most of Labor’s 14.3% collapse. The rest came from a halving of the Katter’s Australian Party vote from 7.1% to 3.7% and the absence of Family First.

Dawson (LNP 14.6%; 11.2% swing to LNP): Dawson behaved almost identically in swing terms to its southern neighbour, Capricornia, as voters showed themselves to be a great deal more concerned about Adani and its symbolism than George Christensen’s enthusiasm for life in the Philippines. As in Capricornia, the LNP primary vote was little changed from 2016, but the arrival of One Nation soaked up 13.1% which neatly matched Labor’s 12.5% decline. Katter’s Australian Party held up better here than in Capricornia, their 6.3% being only slightly down on 2016.

Flynn (LNP 8.7%; 7.6% swing to LNP): Labor narrowly won this Gladstone-based seat on its creation at their 2007 high-water mark and sliced the margin back to 1.0% in 2016, but hopes of going one better this time fell foul of the party’s region-wide disaster. The swing in this case was fairly typical of those suffered by Labor outside the immediate range of proposed Adani mine, though in this case One Nation were not a new feature, their 19.6% being slightly higher than their 2016 result. The seat was a bit unusual in that Labor’s score on the two-party Senate estimate was 2.8% stronger than their House result.

Groom (LNP 20.5%; 5.2% swing to LNP): The 5.2% swing to John McVeigh was a bit below the regional Queensland par, despite him being a sophomore of sorts – although he may have arrived in 2016 with a ready-made personal vote due to his background as a state member. Nonetheless, it was sufficient to catapult the seat from fifteenth to second on the national ranking of seats by Coalition-versus-Labor margin, reflecting the narrowing of margins in many blue-ribbon city seats. The 2016 result was remarkable in that Family First polled 10.0% in the absence of right-wing minor party competition – this time the newly arrived One Nation polled 13.1% in their absence. The LNP primary vote was little changed and Labor was down 3.5%, the rest of the swing bespeaking a more right-wing minor party preference pool.

Herbert (LNP GAIN 8.4%; 8.4% swing to LNP): Labor’s most marginal seat pre-election, following Labor member Cathy O’Toole’s 37 vote win in 2016, the Townsville seat of Herbert was one of five seats across the country and two in Queensland that were gained by the Coalition (balanced to an extent by Labor’s gains in Gilmore and, with help from redistribution, Corangamite and Dunkley). While the swing was lower than in the Adani epicentre electorates of Dawson and Capricornia immediately to the south, it was sufficient to produce the most decisive result the seat has seen since 1954. O’Toole’s primary vote was down 5.0% to 25.5%, while LNP victor Phillip Thompson added 1.6% to the party’s 2016 result to score 37.1%. High-profile Palmer candidate Greg Dowling did relatively well in polling 5.7%, and One Nation were down from 13.5% to 11.1%.

Hinkler (LNP 14.5%; 6.1% swing to LNP): Keith Pitt, who has held this Bundaberg-based seat since 2013, picked up a swing well in line with the regional Queensland norm. He was up 2.2% on the primary vote, while Labor was down 3.8%; One Nation fell from 19.2% to 14.8%, mostly due to an expansion in the field from seven candidates to ten, including three independents, none of whom did particularly well individually.

Kennedy (KAP 13.3% versus LNP; 2.3% swing to KAP): Bob Katter had a near death experience at the 2013 election, at which time he was presumably tarred with the minority government brush despite being the only cross-bencher who backed the Coalition after the inconclusive 2010 result. However, he’s roared back to dominance since, picking up successive two-party swings of 8.9% and 2.3%, and primary vote swings of 10.5% and 2.6%. On the latter count at least, he’s been assisted by the fact that One Nation have declined to challenge him. In Coalition-versus-Labor terms, the seat participated in the regional Queensland trend in swinging 7.8% against Labor.

Leichhardt (LNP 4.2%; 0.2% swing to LNP): The negligible swing in favour of LNP veteran Warren Entsch was an exception to the regional Queensland rule, and was generally attributed to the centrality of tourism to the economy of Cairns, giving the region a very different outlook on issues like Adani. The result was generally status quo in all respects, but the seat had the distinction of being one of only three in the state where the Labor primary vote very slightly increased, along with Ryan and Fairfax. With Entsch’s primary vote down slightly, the two-party swing, such as it was, came down to an improved flow of preferences.

Maranoa (LNP 22.5% versus One Nation; 6.6% swing to LNP): For the second election in a row, Maranoa emerged with the distinction of being the only seat in the country where One Nation made the final preference count. One Nation and Labor were down on the primary vote by 3.2% and 2.7% respectively; at the last preference exclusion, One Nation led Labor 21.3% to 19.0%, compared with 23.6% to 22.9% in 2016. The other story here was the strong sophomore showing for David Littleproud, who was up 6.8% on the primary vote and by similar amounts on two-party preferred against both One Nation and Labor. The 25.4% margin versus Labor is now by some distance the biggest in the country, compared with the electorate’s ninth ranking on this score in 2016. Equally impressive for Littleproud is the distinction between his 25.4% margin and the 20.4% recorded by the two-party Senate measure.

Wide Bay (LNP 13.1%; 5.0% swing to LNP): Llew O’Brien may also have enjoyed a sophomore effect after succeeding Warren Truss in 2016, as his primary vote was up 3.2% while One Nation fell from 15.6% to 10.8%. However, the Labor primary vote held up unusually well, and the two-party swing was at the lower end of the regional Queensland scale.

Wright (LNP 14.6%; 5.0% swing to LNP): So far as the major parties were concerned, the result here was typical of regional Queensland, with LNP member Scott Buchholz up 3.1% on the primary vote and Labor down 4.0%. Independent Innes Larkin, who appears to have made his name locally campaigning against coal seam gas, scored a respectable 5.3%, which presumably helps explains the drop in the One Nation vote from 21.8% to 14.0%.

Leave means leave

Mounting suggestions that the disappointment of Labor’s election defeat could prompt an end-of-year rush for the parliamentary exit.

By-election watch:

• In her column in The Australian yesterday ($), Niki Savva wrote that unspecified Labor MPs were convinced Mike Kelly would “be gone by Christmas and that his resignation could be the trigger for others such as Mark Dreyfus and Brendan O’Connor”. This raises the prospect of by-elections for, respectively, the famously marginal south-eastern New South Wales seat of Eden-Monaro (Labor margin 0.8%), the Melbourne bayside seat of Isaacs (6.4%) and the western Melbourne Labor stronghold of Gorton (15.4%). Savva also canvasses the prospect, noted here last week, of Eden-Monaro being contested for the Nationals by state party leader John Barilaro, who holds the corresponding seat of Monaro and is said to hanker for the federal leadership.

• A move to federal politics, successful or otherwise, by John Barilaro would also require a state by-election in Monaro. Labor held the seat from 2003 to 2011, and Barilaro eked out only modest wins in 2011 and 2015, before a 9.1% swing blew the margin out to 11.6% in March. That could just be the beginning of things on New South Wales by-election front – as Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reported yesterday, John Sidoti’s difficulties at the Independent Commission Against Corruption are likely to result in a vacancy in the safe Liberal seat of Drummoyne (margin 15.0%), and there are suggestions Labor MP Nick Lalich “might want to retire early” from his safe seat of Cabramatta (margin 25.5% against Liberal, 12.9% against independent Dai Le). There were also said to be rumours an unspecified Liberal MP was “suffering an illness”.

Latest from the event-packed preliminaries to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ inquiry into the federal election:

• A submission from the Australian Electoral Commission has raised the possibility that counting of pre-poll votes might begin before the 6pm close of polls on election day. This would address the growing issue of election night being a two-stage affair in which most of the election day booths are done counting by 9pm, while the larger pre-poll voting centres can be delayed by several hours beyond that.

• A submission from the Liberal Party has called for the number of pre-poll voting centres to be reduced ($), and the pre-polling period to be cut from three weeks to two. Labor’s submission has also noted a three-week period places “significant pressure on political parties’ ability to provide booth workers”.

• GetUp! remains in the sights of the Liberal Party, and indeed much of the conservative end of the news media, with the Liberals aggrieved that the organisation has escaped classification as an associated entity of the ALP, despite it targeting exclusively Coalition members.

• Labor is correspondingly unhappy with the Australian Electoral Commission’s determination that the Liberal election day advertising that has prompted the challenges to the Chisholm and Kooyong results is beyond the reach of the section of the Electoral Act dealing with “misleading or deceptive publications”.

• The Greens want political truth-in-advertising laws adjudicated by an independent body, campaign spending caps and fixed three-year terms.

• A submission from Facebook has sought to address Labor complaints that the service was used to disseminate misinformation about Labor’s plan for a “death tax” by saying “thousands of posts” making such claims were demoted to give them less prominence in their news feeds, thanks to the work of its “third-party fact checkers”. It also claims to have shut down two accounts for spreading fake news, without providing any further detail.