Eden-Monaro by-election minus one day

A poll conducted on Tuesday credits Labor with a lead which, however you slice it, lands well inside the margin of error.

If you’re planning on following the action in tomorrow night’s Eden-Monaro by-election count, I flatter myself that there will be no better place to do so than this website’s live results feature, which you can see ready for service here. For an idea of how it will look when fleshed out, here’s a test I ran on the feed from the Bennelong by-election.

The top half of the display features progress vote totals and booth-matched swings, including a New York Times-style “election needle” recording a probability estimate of the final result. This is based on a somewhat novel projection of two-party preferred that uses estimates of the final primary vote shares and preference flows. The latter is the subject of its own table, which will show how minor party and independent preferences are flowing based on the latest two-party count, and how this compares with the corresponding results from the 2019 election.

The bottom half features the clearest and neatest display of the booth results you will find, in the form of a table in which you can toggle between vote totals, percentages and swings. Not the least of the benefits of this is that the results can be easily cut-and-pasted into a spreadsheet. The table also features separate sub-totals for ordinary election day polling booths and pre-poll voting centres, with swings to match — an increasingly important distinction on election night, when the latter come in quite a bit later than the former and don’t always behave the same way.

With the self-promotion taken care of, here’s the late news:

• The Australia Institute has produced its second uComms robo-poll for the campaign, conducted on Tuesday night from a sample of 643, which shows Labor with a lead of 52-48. This compares with 54-46 at the earlier poll on June 15, although the tightening is more pronounced on the primary votes. After allocating results from the forced-response follow-up for the 3.7% undecided, the poll had Labor up 0.3% to 39.3%, Liberal up 6.2% to 38.3%, the Greens down 1.5% to 7.5%, the Nationals down 1.8% to 5.2% and Shooters down 1.9% to 4.8%. Using preference flows from last year’s election, the new result rounds to 50-50, whereas the earlier poll had Labor leading 53-47. The poll also found 56.4% of respondents thought the ABC should receive more funding, 23.8% less and 19.8% about the same. Kooyong, Wentworth and Warringah were also polled, the latter finding independent member Zali Steggall with a 56-44 lead over a presumably hypothetical Liberal candidate.

• If the result indeed goes down to the wire, it will be a long night tomorrow – as well as processing large pre-poll voting centres whose results are unlikely to be reported well into the night, the Australian Electoral Commission will also be counting what it estimates will be between 5000 and 8000 postal votes, contrary to its usual practice.

Phillip Coorey in the Financial Review reports sources from both parties say their internal polling is similar to that of the aforesaid Australia Institute poll, “but neither side was prepared to predict how it would pan out on Saturday”. A Labor source is quoted expressing concern that the Victorian outbreak could rekindle a sense of concern about coronavirus to the Liberals’ advantage (“it puts us back in the dynamic of April and May”). Elsewhere, Niki Savva in The Australian ($) writes of Labor concern that lack of awareness of the by-election could depress turnout.

• John Barilaro persists as a thorn in the side of the Liberal campaign, having contradicted the goverment’s line that it had not cut funding to the ABC, refused to rule out running for the seat at the next election and, reportedly, encouraging supporters to preference Labor. A blast from the past also emerged this week in the shape of a post-election Facebook comment in which he told Kotvojs he was glad she didn’t win.

• With scarcely an account of the race failing to note that 1920 was the last time a government gained a seat from an opposition at a by-election, Peter Brent at Inside Story notes the probably more salient fact that 14 of the 91 by-elections since 1918 have swung to the government by more than the 0.9% they will need to win in Eden-Monaro. He also calculates an average swing against the government of just 0.9% in opposition-held seats at by-elections, compared with 4.6% in government-held seats.

Eden-Monaro by-election minus four days

More reports of alleged party internal polling, plus other developments on the by-election front.

As the campaign enters its final week, I have given my Eden-Monaro by-election guide an overdue overhaul, such that it now offers a thorough account of the Coalition’s preselection tangles and full detail on the various reports of opinion polling that have emerged, along with the usual charts, results map and historical detail. Other news worth noting:

The Australian ($) reports the Nationals are hawking internal polling showing a surge in their own support potentially great enough to push the Liberals over the line. Their candidate, Trevor Hicks, was said to have risen from 6% a fortnight ago to 11.5%, clipping Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs from 36% to 34.3% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers from 7% to 4.6%. Labor’s Kristy McBain was said to have slumped from 36% to 29.3%, with the Greens up slightly from 7% to 8.7%. The more recent poll was conducted on Thursday from a sample of 630; the sample for the earlier poll was said to be rather larger.

• A borderline comical spam email attacking Labor candidate Kristy McBain is the subject of an Australian Federal Police investigation. Purporting to be from McBain’s campaign manager, the email claimed she had withdrawn as a candidate after being hospitalised with COVID-19, before holding her largely responsible for fabricating the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Complaints under the “misleading or deceptive publications” provision under the Electoral Act are ten a penny, and invariably fall foul of the limitation that the falsehood must be “in relation to the casting of a vote”, (which the Australian Electoral Commission contentiously determined did not apply to Chinese language Liberal Party advertising in Melbourne at last year’s election). In this case though, the material clearly crosses the line in asserting that votes for McBain will be invalid.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has so far processed 16,098 postal vote applications, compared with a total of 7426 at the 2019 election. The thirteen pre-poll voting centres now in operation have already received more than 21,000 votes; last time a total of 35,114 votes were cast at eight locations.

Eden-Monaro: more private polling

Two more privately conducted polls lean the other way from the party polling circulated last week, showing Labor leading in an apparently tight race.

The Australian reports on two private polls of Eden-Monaro with contrary results to last week’s mystery internal polling related on Sky News, which showed the Liberals with a comfortable lead. A poll conducted by the Australia Institute reportedly has Labor leading 53-47, with reported primary votes of Labor 36.5%, Liberal 29.9%, Nationals 6.1%, Greens 8.1% and Shooters 6.5% – it’s unclear if the 12.9% balance includes an undecided component. The sample size was 643, with no field work dates provided. Labor was also credited with a 52-48 lead in a uComms robopoll the Australian Forest Products Association, but the only primary votes provided are for the smaller parties (Nationals 6.7%, Greens 6.3%, Shooters 3.6%). The poll was conducted Tuesday from a sample of 816.

UPDATE: The poll was conducted bu uComms, like the one discussed below – the undecided rate was 8.1%. The 53-47 result was based on 2019 preferneces; a separate respondent-allocated result had it at 54-46. Full results here.

The report in The Australian leans hard on the notion that Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ decision to put Labor ahead of the Coalition on its how-to-vote card is set to hand the seat to Labor, but last year’s federal election results suggests this overstates their impact. The party run eight lower house candidates across three states, whose branches jumped different ways on preferences. In the one seat the party contested in New South Wales, Calare, preferences went to Labor ahead of the Coalition, maintaining a habit the state branch first acquired at the March state election. However, less than half of the party’s voters took the advice, with preferences splitting 55.0-45.0 in favour of the Nationals.

In Western Australia, where Shooters directed voters to put Coalition candidates ahead of Labor, the split in favour of the Liberals was actually even weaker in the suburban seats of Burt (54.4-45.6) and Cowan (52.3-47.7), and only moderately stronger in Forrest (62.3-37.7), Pearce (59.6-40.4) and Hasluck (63.3-36.7). Two of the strongest flows to the Coalition were in the Victorian seats the party contested (67.6-32.4 in Mallee, 62.8-37.2 in Gippsland), where voters were advised to make up their own minds — probably reflecting the fact that these were rural seats traditionlly dominated by the Nationals. On even the most generous reading, Shooters preferences might make one point of difference to the 53-47 headline from the Australia Institute, and not even that much from the uComms poll, which recorded only weak primary vote support for the party.

Eden-Monaro by-election minus three weeks

Good news and bad news for the Liberals in Eden-Monaro, respectively courtesy of a mystery internal poll and the order of candidates on the ballot paper.

News Corp journalist Andrew Clennell reported on Sky News yesterday that an internal party poll — which party was not disclosed — suggested the Liberals are the front-runners for the Eden-Monaro by-election, now three weeks away. After exclusion of the 11% undecided, the primary votes as reported round to Liberal 43%, Labor 35%, Nationals 7%, Greens 7%, Shooters and Fishers 6% and One Nation 3%. Since One Nation aren’t actually running, the poll may not exactly be hot off the press. Clennell reported that the Liberals do not consider their position to be quite as rosy as the poll suggests. Beyond that, the only detail on the poll was that it was a robo-poll with a sample of 600.

There was less happy news for the Liberals from Wednesday’s ballot paper draw, at which their candidate Fiona Kotvojs drew the fourteenth and final position. Donkey vote effects tend to be over-hyped, and since Labor also drew a higher spot on the ballot paper last time, they should in theory be no more advantaged by voters numbering straight down the ticket than they were when they very nearly lost the seat at the election. However, Peter Brent has rustled together some numbers that suggest being last on the ticket is more harmful than being first is beneficial, the average impact on the primary vote over the past six federal elections being -2.0% and +0.7% respectively.

Essential Research: robodebt, protests and coronavirus latest

The weekly Essential poll finds considerable displeasure at the government’s handling of the robodebt affair, even as Newspoll finds the electoral damage to be limited at best.

Together with the usual suite of questions on coronavirus, the latest weekly Essential Research survey offers findings on the government’s robodebt the recent disturbances in the United States. The former make grim reading for the government, or might do if Newspoll hadn’t suggested the debacle had made no difference on voting intention: 74% say the government should apologise to those negatively impacted, with only 11% disagreeing; 66% support interest and damages for those who wrongly repaid money, with 13% disagreeing; 55% supported a royal commission, with 23% disagreeing; and only 32% agreed the automated notifications were a good idea “even if it was poorly implemented”, with 43% disagreeing.

Regarding the protests in the United States, the propositions that “protesters are right to demand better protection and treatment of African Americans in society” and that “the protesters want to loot and cause property damage, more than they want social change” both received majority support, though far more emphatically in the former case, with 80% agreeing and 11% disagreeing, compared with 54% and 33% for the latter. There were likewise large majorities in favour of the notions that “authorities in America have been unwilling to deal with institutional racism” (78% to 10%) and that the death of George Floyd pointed to “wider discrimination against minority cultures in society” (72% to 16%), while only 33% considered Floyd’s death isolated and not illustrative of institutional police racism, compared with 54% who disagreed.

As for coronavirus, the number who are “very concerned” maintains a steady decline, down five to 27%, with quite concerned down one to 48%, not that concerned up six to 21% and not at all concerned up one to 5%. Approval of the government’s handling of the matter is little changed, with 70% rating it good (up two) and 12% poor (steady). Small-sample state breakdowns provide a further increment of support for the notion that the Western Australian government has done best out of the crisis, with the good rating at 84% and poor at 6%, with other states ranging from 67% to 79% on good and 8% to 13% on poor. Queensland respondents were most likely to say their government was moving too slowly in easing restrictions, although even here the result was only 23% compared with 63% for “about the right speed”. The poll was conducted online from Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1073.

Elsewhere, yesterday’s declaration of candidates and ballot paper draw for the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election revealed a field of 14 candidates. Along with Labor candidate Kristy McBain and Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs, there are starters for the Nationals (Trevor Hicks, who won a preselection vote on Saturday), the Greens, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Liberal Democrats, the Christian Democrats, Help End Marijuana Prohibition, the Science Party, Sustainable Australia, something called the Australian Federation Party and three independents.

Darwinian selection

Labor moves to save the Northern Territory’s second House of Representatives seat ahead of next month’s determination of state and territory seat entitlements.

The post below this one features Adrian Beaumont’s latest updates on the polling situation in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Back on home turf, I have two updates to relate.

The first involves the calculation of the states’ and territories’ House of Representatives seat entitlements for the next parliament, which will be determined next month on the basis of yet-to-be published quarterly population figures from December. Barring a sudden change in population trends in the last quarter of last year, this will cause Victoria to gain a seat for the second term in a row, boosting it to 39 seats — a return to where it was when the parliament was enlarged in 1984, before a lean period for the state reduced it to 37 in 1996. It is even more clear that Western Australia will lose the sixteenth seat it has had for the past two terms, reflecting the waxing and waning of the mining and resources boom.

Relatedly — and to get to my main point — the Northern Territory is also set to lose a seat, unless something comes of Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s announcement last week that she will introduce a bill to guarantee the territory its existing two seats. The territory just scraped over the line with 1.502 population quotas at the last determination in 2017, rounding up to an entitlement of two seats, and has since experienced a continuation of relative decline since the resource boom halcyon days of 2009 — and even then its population only amounted to 1.54 quotas.

The Northern Territory was first divided into its current two seats of Solomon and Lingiari in 2001, but its claim to a second seat has been consistently precarious. It would have reverted to one seat in 2004 if not for a legislative fix to change definitions in a way that put it over the threshold, which received bipartisan support partly because both major parties imagined at that time that they could win both seats. This proved a forlorn hope in the Coalition’s case, with Lingiari having remained with Labor at all times and Solomon having fallen their way in both 2016 and 2019.

As a result, Solomon and Lingiari have consistently had the lowest enrolments in the country, at a shade below 70,000 at the time of the 2019 federal election, compared with an average of 110,755 in the mainland states, 98,644 in the Australian Capital Territory (which gained a third seat last year) and 77,215 in Tasmania (which maintains the constitutionally mandated minimum of five seats for the six original states). Conversely, a single Northern Territory seat would have an enrolment far greater than any other, with the unfortunate effect of under-representing its indigenous population, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total.

My other update relates to the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election, for which nominations close on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph ($) reports four candidates have nominated for the Nationals’ Eden-Monaro preselection, to be held on Sunday: Trevor Hicks, deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang; Fleur Flanery, owner of Australian Landscape Conference; Mareeta Grundy, a dietician; and Michael Green, a farmer from Nimmitabel. The Greens announced on the weekend that their candidate will be Cathy Griff, a Bega Valley Shire councillor.

Leadership polling, Eden-Monaro latest, yet more on COVID-19

Scott Morrison settles in at a lofty approval rating perch, as hordes of candidates descend upon Eden-Monaro.

Firstly, as per the above post, don’t forget to give generously to the Poll Bludger’s bi-monthly donation drive. Now to an assembly of recent events in the worlds of polling and Eden-Monaro:

• The Guardian reports the latest Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which find Scott Morrison’s approval up a point to a new high of 65% and disapproval down a point to a new low of 26%, reflecting continuous improvement since a nadir of 39% and 52% in February. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is 53-23, compared with 50-25 last time. Albanese stands at 43% approval, up one, and 30% disapproval, up three. These numbers have been used to update the BludgerTrack trends, which can be see on the sidebar or in detail here, showing Morrison now at a plateau after his recent ascent.

• The Essential poll also finds 41% saying Jobkeeper reporting bungle reflected negatively on the federal government, compared with 43% saying it did not. “A third” wanted Jobkeeper broadened in response, along with another 20% who wanted the eligibility criteria broadened, while 45% preferred that it go to reducing the debt. The poll also featured a semi-regular suite of questions on the leaders’ attributes, which have become more favourable for both leaders across the board since January. This is especially so in the case of Morrison, and still more especially in the case of his ratings for good in a crisis (66%), leadership capability (70%) and trustworthiness (66%), which have yo-yoed between the bushfire and coronavirus crises. These ratings will be available to review in detail when the full report is published later day. UPDATE: Full report here.

• A poll by the Australia Institute finds 77% support across the country for state border closures. Labor and Greens supporters are somewhat more in favour, One Nation supporters somewhat less so. The poll was conducted online on May 27 and 28 from a sample of 1005. Small-sample state breakdowns suggested Western Australians were particularly supportive, at 88%, a finding consistent with …

The West Australian ($) had a poll yesterday that recorded a remarkable 89% in favour of keeping the state’s borders closed, with which the state government is persisting in the face of criticism from the federal government and New South Wales government. Presumably the poll had more to it than that, but that’s all there is in the report. The poll was conducted online by Painted Dog Research on Thursday from a sample of 1000.

Eden-Monaro latest:

• With a week still to go before the closure of nominations, the ABC by-election guide records ten candidates and counting, including Cathy Griff for the Greens, Matthew Stadtmiller for Shooters Fishers and Farmers, sundry candidates for the Liberal Democrats, Science Party, Christian Democrats and Sustainable Australia, and two independents. The Nationals have also opened nominations, although they have not traditionally polled strongly in the seat. The deluge has prompted Antony Green to argue that all candidates should be required to produce 100 locally enrolled nominators. This burden is currently imposed only on independents, exemption being a perk of party registration.

• The Australian Electoral Commission has announced its service plan for the by-election, detailing special measures arising from COVID-19. A familiar set of social distancing rules will apply at polling booths, and mobile polling will not be conducted as normal at hospitals and aged care facilities, where “support teams” will instead assist with postal and telephone voting (the latter still only available to the visually impaired).

Eden-Monaro by-election: July 4

A date set for the Eden-Monaro by-election, as the Liberals confirm their candidate and a GetUp! poll suggests local concern about climate changes remains at a high in the wake of the summer bushfires.

Eden-Monaro will be celebrating American independence this year with a July 4 by-election, as announced yesterday by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith. The timeline for the by-election is as follows:

Issue of writ: Thursday, May 28
Close of rolls: Thursday, June 4
Close of nominations: Tuesday, June 9
Declaration of nominations: Wednesday, June 10
Date of polling: Saturday, July 4

Clearly there will be nothing radically different about the way the polling is conducted on account of coronavirus, as Smith noted that the Australian Electoral Commission unusually favoured a date at the start of school holidays, as it would allow ample time for sanitising to be conducted at schools used as polling booths.

The Liberals conducted their preselection on Saturday, and as expected chose Fiona Kotvojs, a beef farmer who narrowly failed to win the seat when she ran at last year’s federal election. Kotvojs reportedly won a 106-27 victory in the party ballot over Mark Schweikert, a Department of Defence official and deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang. According to Niki Savva in The Australian ($), “there is speculation, not denied, that the Liberals, with their formidable state and federal apparatuses, are prepared to spend up to $1m to win the seat, money Labor says it doesn’t have”.

The Guardian reports GetUp! commissioned uComms to conduct a poll of 879 respondents in the seat last Wednesday, but it seems they are being reticent with voting intention figures. However, we are told the poll found 59% holding that the government was not doing enough to address climate change, including 48% who strongly agreed, with only 27% disagreeing, 12% strongly. However, the government apparently scored better on its bushfire response, on which respondents were reportedly “evenly divided”.