Preferences and preselections

More data on One Nation voters’ newly acquired and surprisingly forceful enthusiasm for preferencing the Coalition.

The Australian Electoral Commission quietly published the full distributions of lower house preferences earlier this week, shedding light on the election’s remaining known unknown: how close One Nation came to maybe pulling off a miracle in Hunter. Joel Fitzgibbon retained the seat for Labor with a margin of 2.98% over the Nationals, landing him on the wrong end of a 9.48% swing – the third biggest of the election after the central Queensland seats of Capricornia and Dawson, the politics of coal mining being the common thread between all three seats.

The wild card in the deck was that Hunter was also the seat where One Nation polled strongest, in what a dare say was a first for a non-Queensland seat – 21.59%, compared with 23.47% for the Nationals and 35.57% for Labor. That raised the question of how One Nation might have done in the final count if they emerged ahead of the Nationals on preferences. The answer is assuredly not-quite-well-enough, but we’ll never know for sure. As preferences from mostly left-leaning minor candidates were distributed, the gap between Nationals and One Nation barely moved, the Nationals gaining 4.81% to reach 28.28% at the final distribution, and One Nation gaining 4.79% to fall short with 26.38%. One Nation preferences then proceeded to flow to the Nationals with noteworthy force, with the final exclusion sending 19,120 votes (71.03%) to the Nationals and 28.97% to Labor.

Speaking of, the flow of minor party preferences between the Coalition and Labor is the one detail of the election result on which the AEC is still holding out. However, as a sequel to last week’s offering on Senate preferences, I offer the following comparison of flows in Queensland in 2016 and 2019. This is based on Senate ballot paper data, observing the number that placed one major party ahead of the either, or included neither major party in their preference order. In the case of the 2016 election, this is based on a sampling of one ballot paper in 50; the 2019 data is from the full set of results.

It has been widely noted that the Coalition enjoyed a greatly improved flow of One Nation preferences in the lower house, but the Senate results offer the interesting twist that Labor’s share hardly changed – evidently many One Nation voters who numbered neither major party in 2016 jumped off the fence and preferenced the Coalition this time. Also notable is that Labor received an even stronger share of Greens preferences than in 2016. If this was reflected nationally, it’s a phenomenon that has passed unnoticed, since the flow of One Nation and United Australia Party preferences was the larger and more telling story.

Other electorally relevant developments of the past week or so:

Laura Jayes of Sky News raises the prospect of the Nationals asserting a claim to the Liberal Senate vacancy created by Arthur Sinodinos’s appointment to Washington. The Nationals lost one of their two New South Wales seats when Fiona Nash fell foul of Section 44 in late 2017, resulting in a recount that delivered to the Liberals a seat that would otherwise have been held by the Nationals until 2022. Since that is also when Sinodinos’s term expires, giving the Nationals the seat would restore an order in which the Nationals held two out of the five Coalition seats.

• Fresh from her win over Tony Abbott in Warringah, The Australian reported on Tuesday that Zali Steggall was refusing to deny suggestions she might be persuaded to join the Liberal Party, although she subsequently complained the paper had twisted her words. A report in The Age today notes both “allies and opponents” believe Steggall will struggle to win re-election as an independent with Abbott out of the picture, and gives cause to doubt she would survive a preselection challenge as a Liberal.

• Labor is undergoing a personnel change in the Victorian Legislative Council after the resignation of Philip Dalidakis, who led the party’s ticket for Southern Metropolitan region at both the 2014 and 2018 elections. Preserving the claim of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the national executive is set to anoint Enver Erdogan, a workplace lawyer for Maurice Blackburn, former Moreland councillor and member of the Kurdish community. The Australian reports former Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby has joined the party’s Prahran and Brighton branches in registering displeasure that the national executive is circumventing a rank-and-file plebiscite. Particularly contentious is Erdogan’s record of criticism of Israel, a sore point in a region that encompasses Melbourne’s Jewish stronghold around Caulfield.

Essential Research leadership polling

A belated account of the first set of post-election leadership ratings, recording a victory bounce for Scott Morrison and a tentative debut for Anthony Albanese.

Contrary to expectations it might put its head above the parapet with today’s resumption of parliament, there is still no sign of Newspoll – or indeed any other polling series, at least so far as voting intention is concerned. Essential Research, however, is maintaining its regular polling schedule, but so far it’s been attitudinal polling only. The latest set of results was published in The Guardian on Friday, and it encompasses Essential’s leadership ratings series, which I relate here on a better-late-than-never basis. Featured are the first published ratings for Anthony Albanese, of 35% approval and 25% disapproval, compared with 38% and 44% in the pollster’s final pre-election reading for Bill Shorten.

To put this into some sort of perspective, the following table (click on image to enlarge) provides comparison with Newspoll’s debut results for opposition leaders over the past three decades. The only thing it would seem safe to conclude from this is that Albanese’s numbers aren’t terribly extraordinary one way or the other.

Scott Morrison’s post-election bounce lifts him five points on approval to 48%, with disapproval down three to 36%, and he leads Albanese 43-25 on preferred prime minister, compared with 39-32 for Shorten’s late result. Also featured are questions on tax cuts (with broadly negative responses to the government policy, albeit that some of the question framing is a little slanted for mine), trust in various media outlets (results near-identical to those from last October, in spite of everything), and various indigenous issues (including a finding that 57% would vote yes in a constitutional recognition referendum, compared with 34% for no). The poll was conducted June 19 to June 23 from an online sample of 1079.

Elsewhere in poll-dom:

• Australian Market and Social Research Organisations has established an advisory board and panel for its inquiry into the pollster failure, encompassing an impressive roll call of academics, journalists and statisticians. Ipsos would appear to be the only major Australian polling concern that’s actually a member of AMSRO, but the organisation has “invited a publisher representative from each of Nine Entertainment (Sydney Morning Herald/The Age) and NewsCorp to join the advisory board”.

• A number of efforts have now been made to reverse-engineer a polling trend measure for the last term, using the actual results from 2016 and 2019 as anchoring points. The effort of Simon Jackman and Luke Mansillo at the University of Sydney was noted here last week. Mark the Ballot offers three models – one anchored to the 2016 result, which lands low for the Coalition in 2019, but still higher than what the polls were saying); one anchored to the 2019 result, designed to land on the mark for 2019, but resulting in a high reading for the Coalition in 2016; and, most instructively, one anchored to both, which is designed to land on the mark at both elections. Kevin Bonham offers various approaches that involve polling going off the rails immediately or gradually after the leadership change, during the election campaign, or combinations thereof.