Newspoll: 51-49 to Coalition

A slight lead for the Coalition in the first results to emerge from a new-look Newspoll, which has dropped automated phone calls in favour of an exclusively online polling method.

Big news on the polling front as Newspoll unveils its first set of results based on what The Australian describes as “an improved methodology following an investigation into the failure of the major published polls”. The old series had been limping on post-election with results appearing every three weeks, but this latest result emerges only a fortnight after the last, presumably portending a return to the traditional fortnightly schedule.

The poll credits the Coalition with a two-party lead of 51-49, compared with 50-50 in the result a fortnight ago, from primary votes of Coalition 41% (up one), Labor 33% (down two), Greens 12% (steady) and One Nation 5% (down two). Interestingly, both leaders’ personal ratings are a lot worse than they were in the old series: Scott Morrison’s approval rating is at 43% (down three) with disapproval at 52% (up nine), while Anthony Albanese is at 38% approval (down four, though he was up five last time) and 42% disapproval (up five, though he was down seven last time). No news yet on preferred prime minister, which is presumably still a thing (UPDATE: Morrison’s lead narrows from 46-32 to 46-35).

On the methodological front, the poll has dropped robopolling and is now conducted entirely online. The sample size of 1519 is similar to before (slightly lower in fact), but the field work dates are now Thursday to Saturday rather than Thursday to Sunday. In a column for the newspaper, Campbell White of YouGov Asia-Pacific, which conducts the poll, offers the following on why robopolling has been abandoned:

A decade or so ago, most ­people had landlines and they tended to answer them. There was very little call screening. This meant getting a representative sample was easier and pollsters did not need to be so skilled in modelling and scaling their data. The truth is, the old days are never coming back. In order to do better, we need to consider what we can do differently. We’ve seen a consistent pattern overseas where telephone polling has become less accurate and online polling more so as fewer people answer phone calls and more and more people are online.

White further notes that “annoying and invasive” robopolling is “answered largely by older people or those who are very interested in politics”, while “busy people who are less interested in politics either don’t answer or hang up”. He also reveals that the new series will “weight the data by age interlocked with education and have precise quotas for different types of electorate throughout Australia”, consistent with YouGov’s methodology internationally.

Hopefully the restated commitment to “greater transparency” means we will shortly see comprehensive details of demographic breakdowns and weightings, a commonplace feature of British and American polling that Australian poll watchers could only envy. Stay tuned.

Call of the board: South Australia

Yet more intricate detail on the May federal election result – this time from South Australia, where normality was restored after the Nick Xenophon interruption of 2016.

Welcome to another instalment of the now nearly complete Call of the Board series, a seat-by-seat review of the result of the May federal election. Now is the turn of South Australia, previous instalments having dealt with Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland, regional Queensland and Western Australia.

So far as the two-party swing was concerned, South Australia was largely a microcosm of the national result, with the Coalition picking up a swing of 1.6% (compared with 1.2% nationally) and no seats changing hands. Similarly, Labor did particularly badly in the regions, suffering big swings in Barker and Grey, compared with a highly consistent pattern of small swings in the metropolitan area. Labor won the statewide two-party preferred vote, as they have done at four out of the past five elections, albeit by a modest margin of 50.7-49.3.

As in previous recent instalments, I offer the following image with colour coding of swings at booth level. Compared with other metropolitan capitals, the divide between Labor swings in inner urban areas and Liberal swings further afield is somewhat less clear here, although the Labor swings are a fairly good proxy for general affluence. This would be even more apparent if the map extended further afield to encompass the Adelaide Hills areas covered by Mayo, where, as noted below, the tide seems to be running against the Liberals, and not just in comparison with Rebekha Sharkie.

On the primary vote, comparisons with 2016 are complicated by the Nick Xenophon factor. The Nick Xenophon Team scored 21.3% statewide in 2016, but its Centre Alliance successor fielded candidates only in the non-metropolitan seats of Mayo, Barker and Grey. Rebekha Sharkie was comfortably re-elected in Mayo, but the party’s vote was slashed in Barker and Grey. Primary votes elsewhere followed similar patterns – to save myself repetition in the seat-by-seat account below, the Xenophon absence left between 16.7% and 20.0% up for grabs in Kingston, Makin, Spence and Sturt, which resulted in primary vote gains of 5.1% to 6.2% for the Liberals, 5.2% to 6.6% for Labor and 2.6% to 3.9% for the Greens.

The other factor worth noting in preliminaries is a redistribution that resulted in the abolition of a seat, part of a trend that has reduced the state’s representation from 13 to 10 since 1990. This caused Port Adelaide to be rolled into Hindmarsh, creating one safe Labor seat out of what were formerly one safe Labor and one marginal seat. The eastern parts of Port Adelaide and Hindmarsh were transferred to Adelaide, setting the seal on a seat that has grown increasingly strong for Labor since the Howard years, while the Glenelg end of Hindmarsh went to Boothby, without changing its complexion as a marginal Liberal seat.

The table below compares two-party results with corresponding totals I have derived from Senate ballot papers, the idea being that this gives some sort of idea as to how results may have been affected by candidate and incumbency factors (two-party results for Labor are shown). This shows a clear pattern of Labor doing better in the House than the Senate in the seats than they hold, whereas there is little distinction in Liberal-held seats. My guess would be that there is a general tendency for Labor to score better in the House and the Senate overall, which is boosted further by sitting member effects in Labor-held seats, while being cancelled out by those in Liberal-held seats. Taking that into account, it would seem Labor’s sitting member advantages were relatively weak in Adelaide and Hindmarsh, which stands to reason given the disturbance of the redistribution.

On with the show:

Continue reading “Call of the board: South Australia”

The heat is on

An issues poll finds concern about climate change up since the May federal election, and national security down.

One sort-of-poll, and three items of Liberal preselection news:

• The latest results of the JWS Research True Issues survey records growing concern about the environment and climate change, which is now rated among the top five most important issues by 38% of respondents, compared with 33% in June and 31% a year ago. There is diminishing concern about immigration and border security (26%, down from 30% in June and 34% last November and defence, security and terrorism (18%, down from 20% in June and 29% a year ago). A range of measures of general optimism and perceptions of government performance produced weaker results than the June survey, which appeared to record a post-election spike in positive sentiment.

• Jim Molan will shortly return to the Senate after winning a party vote last weekend to fill the New South Wales Senate vacancy caused by Arthur Sinodinos’s resignation. Molan scored 321 votes to 260 for former state party director Richard Shields, adding a second silver medal to his collection after being shaded by Dave Sharma in Wentworth last year. This was despite Molan’s attempt to retain his seat from number four on the ticket at the May election by beseeching supporters to vote for him below the line, to the displeasure of some in the party (and still more of the Nationals, who would have been the losers if Molan had succeeded). Molan was reportedly able to secure moderate faction support due to the apprehension that he will not seek another term beyond the next election.

• The Victorian Liberal Party is embroiled in a dispute over a plan for preselection proceedings for the next federal election to start as soon as January, which has been endorsed by the party’s administrative committee but is bitterly opposed by affected federal MPs. The committee is determined not to see a repeat of the previous term, when preselections were taken out of the hands of branch members to head off a number of challenges to sitting members. Those challenges might now come to fruition, most notably a threat to Howard government veteran Kevin Andrews, whose seat of Menzies is of interest to Keith Wolahan, a barrister and former army officer. Tim Wilson in Goldstein and Russell Broadbent in Monash (formerly McMillan) have also been mentioned as potential targets. According to Rob Harris of The Age, votes in Liberal-held seats could happen as soon as late February, with marginal seats to unfold from April to August and Labor-held seats to be taken care of in October.

Matthew Denholm of The Australian ($) reports Eric Abetz and his conservative supporters believe they have seen off a threat to his position at the top of the Liberals’ Tasmanian Senate ticket, following elections for the state party’s preselection committee. Abetz’s opponents believed he should make way for rising star Jonathan Duniam to head the ticket, and for the secure second seat to go to Wendy Askew, one of the Tasmanian Liberals’ limited retinue of women MPs.

Essential Research: leader ratings and protest laws

Discouragement for Newspoll’s notion of an Anthony Albanese approval surge, plus a mixed bag of findings on the right to protest.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll still offers nothing on voting intention, though it’s relative interesting in that it features the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings. Contrary to Newspoll, these record a weakening in Anthony Albanese’s ratings, with approval down three to 37% and disapproval up five to 34%. Scott Morrison also worsens slightly, down two on approval to 45% and up three on disapproval to 41%, and his preferred prime minister read is essentially steady at 44-28 (43-28 last month).

Further questions relate to the right to protest, including the finding that 33% would support laws flagged by Scott Morrison that “could make consumer or environment boycotts illegal”, while 39% were opposed. Fifty-eight per cent agreed the government had “the right to limit citizen protests when it disrupts business”, with 31% for disagree; but that 53% agreed that “protestors should have the right to pressure banks not to invest in companies that are building coal mines”, with 33% disagreeing.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1075 respondents chosen from an online panel.

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.