US off-year elections minus five days

Will Biden’s ratings slide damage Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey? Also featured: gerrymandering latest and Sunday’s election in Japan.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Elections for governors of Virginia and New Jersey, and two federal House by-elections, both in Ohio, will be held next Wednesday AEDT. Polls close at 10am AEDT in Virginia, 10:30am in Ohio and 11am in New Jersey. If 2020 vote counting patterns are repeated, I would expect early results in Virginia to favour Republicans, but in Ohio to favour Democrats.

I believe there will also be legislative elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, and local government elections. The highest profile of these is for New York City mayor, which Democrat Eric Adams is set to win after narrowly winning the Democratic primary earlier this year.

Joe Biden’s ratings continue to slide. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, he’s now at 51.0% disapprove, 43.7% approve (net -7.3); his net approval has dropped a further 2.3 points since my last article, two weeks ago.

Economic concerns explain Biden’s current problems, with headline inflation up 5.4% in the year to September. In the September quarter, US GDP grew at an annualized 2.0% (0.5% in quarter on quarter terms), disappointing analysts who expected higher growth. The economy was up 6.7% annualized in the June quarter.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of Virginia polls, Democrat McAuliffe leads Republican Youngkin by just 0.1%, down from 2.5% last fortnight. A Fox News poll out Friday AEDT had Youngkin leading by eight points; while Fox News is very right-wing, its polls are well regarded. Biden won Virginia by ten points in 2020. In New Jersey, four recent polls gave Democratic incumbent Murphy a four to 11 point lead (Biden by 16 in 2020).

Democrats have been unable to make progress in advancing either the bipartisan infrastructure bill or the Democratic infrastructure bill through Congress. It is not likely that either of these infrastructure bills can pass before next Wednesday’s elections.

US gerrymandering: there are no good guys

Every ten years, a US Census is conducted, and maps for US House seats are based on the Census. But the US has no national body like Australia’s AEC to draw boundaries. While some states, notably California, have an independent commission, most states allow politicians to draw boundaries.

If one party has control of both chambers of the state legislature and the governor, they can gerrymander away, though occasionally courts will intervene. Seats must have equal numbers of people, but can have ugly maps.

In comments to my last article, I posted a proposed Democratic gerrymander of Illinois that would create a 14-3 Democratic split of Illinois’ House seats (13-5 previously with Illinois losing a seat).

2020 and 2010 were both Census years. Republicans’ big victories at the 2010 midterms gave them full control of many populous states, and enabled them to draw maps that allowed them to comfortably retain the House in 2012 despite Democrats winning the popular vote that year by 1.2% (see my 2012 report for The Green Papers).

But Democrats are no innocents. Republican control of the New York state senate in 2010 kept Democrats from gerrymandering NY, but Democrats won the state senate in 2018, and are likely to aggressively gerrymander NY for a far more lopsided split than the current 19-8. Democrats would love to gerrymander California (currently 42-11), and I have seen comments that suggest they could wipe out Republicans with a gerrymander. But California has used a nonpartisan commission since 2010.

Democrats justify their gerrymanders by arguing that Republicans do it too, and that unilateral disarmament would cost them seats. But by continuing to gerrymander, Democrats undermine the case for electoral reform.

Japanese election on Sunday

Japan’s elections have been boring, as the conservative LDP and its Komeito allies have governed since 1955 with only two brief interruptions: 1993-94 and 2009-12. In 2017, the 465 total seats were elected using 289 first-past-the-post seats and 176 proportional seats. Polling for Sunday’s election indicates another easy win for the LDP. This is an election for the lower house only; upper house elections are held separately.

US off-year elections minus three weeks

November 2 elections in Virginia, New Jersey and two US House seats as Biden’s ratings fail to recover. And can Democrats pass their infrastructure agenda?

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Most US states hold their elections concurrently with federal elections, but a few hold theirs in November of an odd year; federal elections occur each November of an even year. State elections this November 2 include contests for the governor of Virginia and New Jersey. There are also two federal House by-elections in Ohio.

In Virginia, which Joe Biden won by 10.1% in 2020, Democrat McAuliffe is ahead of Republican Youngkin by just 2.5% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate. Biden won New Jersey by 15.9%, and two September polls gave incumbent Democratic governor Murphy a nine to 13 point lead.

For the US House by-elections, Biden won the Ohio 11th by more than 60%, while Donald Trump won the Ohio 15th by 14% according to Daily Kos elections. While both districts are expected to be held by the incumbent party, swings from the 2020 results will be interesting.

Many expected Biden’s ratings to recover from Afghanistan, but this has not occurred. Two months since the fall of Kabul, his ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 49.6% disapprove, 44.6% approve (net -5.0). Biden’s ratings are worse than for any past president since Harry Truman at this point in their presidencies except for Trump and Gerald Ford, who took over after Richard Nixon resigned.

I previously suggested that Biden could suffer long-term damage from Afghanistan owing to undermining his core strength of competence. Other factors are the continuing US COVID crisis and inflation in the economy. In four of the five months from April to August, real disposable personal income contracted. Biden’s RealClearPolitics net approval on the economy is -5.6.

If Biden’s ratings do not recover, they will be a problem for Democrats in the November 2022 midterm elections, in which the whole House and one-third of the Senate is up for election.

Can Democrats pass Biden’s infrastructure agenda?

In my introduction to live coverage of the German election, I covered key US Congress votes on infrastructure, the budget and the debt limit. Congress has procrastinated both the budget and debt limit fights until at least December. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell came to a deal that would raise the debt limit enough that the US will not default until at least December.

Democrats control the House by 220-212 and the Senate 50-50 with Harris’ casting vote. But it takes 60 votes for most legislation to pass the Senate as this is needed to shut down filibusters (get “cloture”). Despite McConnell’s support for the debt limit increase, the cloture vote was 61-38, just one above the required threshold. Republicans were opposed by 38-11, so McConnell’s leadership could be under threat if he makes further concessions.

Democrats want to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIB) that previously passed the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority and a Democratic infrastructure bill (DIB) that would rely on a special process called “reconciliation” to circumvent the filibuster.

The problem is that House progressives won’t vote for the BIB before the DIB has passed the Senate. And two Democratic senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, are resisting the DIB. Manchin has the excuse that WV voted for Trump by 39% in 2020, but Biden won Arizona by 0.3%, and it has been trending Democratic.

A major problem for Democrats is the Senate, where there are two senators per state. The US has become far more polarized along rural/urban lines in recent times. Analyst Nate Silver said that 52% of the US overall population is in a big city, suburbs or small city, while 48% is either rural or in a small town or exurban. However, the average state’s population is 61-39 towards rural, exurban and small town areas.

Late counting updates

With counting final for the September 14 California recall election, Democratic governor Gavin Newsom defeated Recall by a 61.9-38.1 margin, down from 63.9-36.1 after election night. The Newsom margin is the same as in the 2018 regular election, but down from Biden’s 29-point margin in California.

The Liberals won an additional seat at the September 20 Canadian election, after a Quebec Bloc win by 286 votes in one seat became a Liberal win by 12 votes after a recount. The Liberals won 160 of the 338 seats, ten short of the 170 required for a majority.

California recall live; Canadian and German elections minus six to 11 days

Democrat Newsom set to defeat Recall – live commentary today. Conservatives fall back in Canada, and polls stable in Germany. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Live commentary

12pm Thursday: With all election day votes counted, No to Recall leads by 63.9-36.1. Late mail and provisional votes will be counted over the next four weeks. When everything is counted, Newsom is likely to exceed his 61.9-38.1 margin in 2018, but fall a little short of Biden’s 29-point California margin in 2020.

4pm As the election day vote comes in, Newsom’s lead is dropping slightly. But No to Recall still leads by 65.7-34.3 with an estimated 66% in. Remember that counting will continue for about four weeks after today.

1:50pm CNN finally CALLS it for No to Recall. In 2018, Newsom won the governor’s race against a Republican by 62-38. Can he exceed that margin? Polls did not have him far enough ahead.

1:42pm No to Recall leading by a massive 67.5-32.5 with nearly 8 million votes in. Margin likely to decrease a bit as election day votes come in, but 17% of election day votes are already in.

1:25pm Dave Wasserman has CALLED it for Newsom and is off to bed (it’s 11:25pm on the US East Coast).

1:17pm No winning by almost 70-30 after over 5 million counted.

1:13pm No to Recall winning by 64-36 with over 2.2 million votes in already.

1:07pm No immediate call, but the exit poll has a wide margin for No. The first results from San Diego have No leading by 60.6-39.4 from over 800,000 votes.

12:52pm Wednesday Polls close in eight minutes. There is an exit poll. If that exit poll shows No to Recall winning by about the same0 margin as in pre-election polls, the recall is likely to be called as soon as polls close.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The final FiveThirtyEight aggregate for today’s California recall election shows Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom leading Recall by 15.8%, out from 10.1% last week and just 1.2% three weeks ago.

Newsom has been able to make this election a contest between him, and the likely winner of the replacement vote, radio shock jock Republican Larry Elder. With no prominent Democrats contesting the replacement vote, Newsom’s lead over Recall has rapidly increased in a Democratic stronghold.

Early mail votes will be released soon after polls close at 1pm AEST. Given the polling, it is likely that the election will be called for Newsom once we see these votes. Election day vote counting will go until the evening AEST. California keeps counting late mail and provisional votes for four weeks after election day.

The FiveThirtyEight aggregate of Joe Biden’s ratings has him at 49.2% disapprove, 45.9% approve (net -3.3); his net approval is up half a point since last week. Biden last week announced vaccine mandates to combat COVID. In a Morning Consult poll, voters supported requiring all employers with over 100 employees to mandate vaccination or weekly tests by a 58-36 margin.

People’s Party rise hurts Conservatives in Canada

The Canadian election is next Tuesday September 21 AEST. Canada uses first past the post to elect its 338 members of parliament.

In the CBC Poll Tracker, the Liberals have regained the lead with 31.9%, followed by the Conservatives on 31.3%, the NDP 19.4%, the Quebec Bloc 6.6%, the populist right People’s Party (PPC) 6.4%, and the Greens 3.3%. Last week, the Conservatives had 33.5% and the PPC 4.8%.

Under FPTP, small parties on the left and right spoil their better aligned major party’s chances. The Tracker has the Liberals seat lead over the Conservatives out to 151-122 from 140-133 last week, with 35 NDP and 29 Bloc.

Most of Canada uses staggered poll opening and closing times, in which polls in the trailing time zone open and close an hour earlier than those in the leading time zone. The exceptions are polls for seats in Atlantic Canada. Here are the Canadian poll closing times next Tuesday AEST:

By 9:30am, polls in the four small provinces of Atlantic Canada (32 of the 338 seats) are closed. Newfoundland (seven seats) closes 30 minutes earlier. At 11:30am, the large majority of polls close. At 12pm, all polls are closed in Canada, with British Columbia (42 seats) closing.

Polls relatively stable in Germany

The Politico poll aggregate for the September 26 German election has the centre-left SPD leading with 25%, followed by the conservative CDU/CSU on 21%, the Greens 16%, the pro-business FDP 12%, the far-right AfD 11% and the far-left Left 6%. The overall vote for left parties leads the overall right by 47-44 (48-44 last week).

I described the German electoral system in my previous article. Parties that either win at least 5% of the party vote or three of the 299 FPTP seats receive a proportional allocation of seats. The Left party is close to the 5% threshold in current polls, but won five FPTP seats in 2017. If they hold three of these seats, they will qualify for proportionality. It is unlikely that the SPD and the Greens will win enough seats on their own for a left majority, so this is crucial.

Conservative government ousted in Norway

At Monday’s Norwegian election, Labour won 48 of the 169 seats (down one since 2017), the Conservatives 36 (down nine), the agrarian Centre 28 (up nine), the right-wing Progress 21 (down six), the Socialist Left 13 (up two) and the Red eight (up seven). The Conservative PM conceded, and it is likely Labour will govern with support from the Centre and Socialists (89 seats for that combination exceeding the 85 needed for a majority).

California recall, Canadian and German elections minus one to three weeks

Democrat Gavin Newsom now likely to beat recall in California, Liberals slump in Canada after Trudeau’s early election call and Social Democrats surge to the top in Germany.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls close in the California recall election next Wednesday September 15 at 1pm AEST. There is a Yes/No question on whether the governor is recalled, followed by a long list of replacement candidates. If the recall succeeds, the candidate with the most votes is elected.

In my last article two weeks ago, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom led Recall by just 1.2% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, but he has surged since then, and now leads by 10.1%. California is a Democratic stronghold that voted for Joe Biden by 29% in November 2020. Motivating Democrats is likely to be enough for Newsom.

To qualify for a Recall election, 12% of the total votes cast for governor at the last election must sign a petition. Only one governor has been recalled since recalls were introduced in 1911: in 2003, Democrat Gray Davis was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Davis lost the Recall vote by 55.4-44.6, and Schwarzenegger had 48.6% of the replacement vote, well ahead of 31.5% for a Democrat.

Since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden’s ratings have continued to slide in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate. He’s now at 49.0% disapprove, 45.3% approve for a net approval of -3.7%. Biden’s net approval was +6 before the fall of Kabul on August 15.

There are other factors dragging Biden down, like COVID, inflation and illegal immigration. But the clear downward trend since Kabul’s fall indicates Afghanistan is a big factor. US COVID is likely to improve soon, but Biden’s perceived incompetence over Afghanistan could reflect badly on him when Americans consider other problems.

Trudeau’s Liberals slump in Canada

Justin Trudeau called the Canadian election for September 20, two years early. Canada uses First Past the Post to elect its 338 parliamentary members.

The CBC Poll Tracker has the Conservatives leading with 33.5%, followed by Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals on 31.2%, the left-wing NDP 20.3%, the left-wing separatist Quebec Bloc 5.9%, the right-wing populist People’s Party 4.8% and the Greens 3.4%. The Liberals were eight points ahead before the election was called, and their position deteriorated rapidly in the first two weeks of the campaign, but it has stabilized in the last week.

Despite the Conservatives’ narrow vote lead, the Liberals still have a narrow seat lead of 140-133, with 37 NDP and 27 Bloc, owing to Conservative wastage in safe seats. The tracker gives the Conservatives just a 4% chance of winning an outright majority.

In a recent Angus Reid poll, NDP leader Singh had a +14 net favourable rating, the Bloc’s Blanchet -1, the Conservatives’ O’Toole -17 and Trudeau -25. In Abacus, it was Singh +19, Blanchet +10, Trudeau -5 and O’Toole -8.

Social Democrats (SPD) surge in Germany

The German election is on September 26. Germany has 299 single-member seats elected by FPTP, and at least 299 list seats that are used to top-up FPTP seats to ensure overall proportionality of all qualifying parties. Voters cast one vote for their FPTP seat, and another for their preferred party. Parties can qualify by either exceeding 5% of the national “party” vote, or winning three FPTP seats.

List seats are awarded by states, and this results in frequent “overhangs” when a party wins more seats by FPTP than entitled from its party vote, which are compensated by “leveling” seats for other parties. There are usually more than the minimum 598 seats in German parliaments, with the 2017 election having 709 seats owing to the conservative CDU/CSU’s dominance of FPTP seats on a 32.9% vote share.

In the Politico poll aggregate, the SPD now leads with 25%, with the CDU/CSU at 21%, the Greens 17%, the pro-business FDP 12%, the far-right AfD 11% and the far-left Left 6%. The SPD has surged to the top at the expense of the CDU/CSU, and the combined left now leads the combined right by 48-44 (47-45 to the right two weeks ago). The Left is close to the 5% threshold, but could survive even if they fall below as they won five FPTP seats in 2017 – three are needed.

Angela Merkel, who has been German chancellor since 2005, is retiring at this election. In a recent poll, just 20% were satisfied with the new CDU/CSU chancellor candidate, Armin Laschet, compared with between 57% and 71% for Merkel in the four elections she contested.

Canadian and German elections minus four to five weeks

Justin Trudeau calls an early Canadian election and German polls tighten. Also: Biden’s ratings slump after the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

On August 15, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called the election for September 20, more than two years early. Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won the most seats, but not a majority, at the 2019 election, and good polling encouraged Trudeau to seek a majority.

Canada has 338 seats elected by first past the post. At the October 2019 election, the Liberals won 157 seats, the Conservatives 121, the left-wing separatist Quebec Bloc 32, the left-wing NDP 24 and the Greens three. Vote shares were 34.3% Conservative, 33.1% Liberal, 16.0% NDP, 7.6% Bloc and 6.6% Greens. The Conservatives wasted votes in safe seats, while the Bloc benefited from only running in Quebec.

The CBC Poll Tracker currently gives the Liberals 34.0%, the Conservatives 30.3%, the NDP 19.8%, the Bloc 6.3% and the Greens 4.6%. Seat estimates are 160 Liberals (ten short of a majority), 111 Conservatives, 38 NDP and 28 Bloc. The Liberal lead over the Conservatives has dropped from eight points to four in the week since the election was called.

At the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to change the electoral system from FPTP, but welched on that promise after winning a majority. There was a bad sign for the Liberals when the Conservatives won the Nova Scotia provincial election last Tuesday. The Liberals were well ahead, but faded late.

Social Democrats gain at CDU/CSU’s expense for German election

The German election will be on September 26. Parties need to clear 5% to qualify for the proportional allocation of seats. The Politico poll aggregate currently gives the conservative CDU/CSU 24%, the centre-left SPD 20%, the Greens 18%, the pro-business FDP 12%, the far-right AfD 11% and the far-left Left 7%. In the last few month, the SPD has gained 4-5 points from the CDU/CSU, and the combined right’s lead over the combined left has narrowed to 47-45 from 51-42.

German polls do not appear to ask for leader approval ratings, only for preferred chancellor. The SPD’s Scholz is leading both the Greens’ Baerbock and the CDU/CSU’s Laschet by double digit margins, probably explaining the shift in voting intention polls. Angela Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, is retiring at this election.

Biden’s ratings slump after Afghanistan withdrawal

A week since the fall of Kabul, Joe Biden’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 49.4% approve, 46.2% disapprove (net +3.2%). Biden’s net approval was +10 in late July and +6 before Kabul. Recent polls have been near net zero, so the aggregate may fall further.

Biden’s drop can also be attributed to US COVID, inflation and illegal immigration. But Afghanistan has been damaging. In a CBS/YouGov poll, 74% thought the removal of US troops had gone badly, although 63% still approved of their removal. Biden’s handling of withdrawal crashed from 60-40 approve in July to 53-47 disapprove.

The Afghanistan withdrawal has been compared to the 1975 US withdrawal from Saigon at Vietnam. New York Times analyst Nate Cohn said former president Gerald Ford’s ratings increased in the months after Saigon.

In Vietnam, over 58,000 US soldiers were killed in action, while 2,500 were killed in Afghanistan. There had been no US combat deaths since February 2020. The far greater US casualties in Vietnam meant the public was far more likely to be willing to accept the costs of sudden withdrawal.

Another problem for Biden with Afghanistan is that the chaos and perceived humiliation for the US erodes the public’s faith in his competence. As an anti-establishment candidate, Donald Trump’s supporters did not care about the scorn of the establishment, but Biden’s competence was a big selling point at the election.

Californian Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall election on September 14. Voters will be asked whether they want to keep or recall Newsom, and who to replace him with. If Newsom loses the recall vote, the replacement candidate is elected by FPTP.

With no primary to select one Democratic and Republican candidate, there are many from both parties, so the winner could have a low vote share. The FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate has Newsom beating Recall by 1.2%. If Newsom loses, Republican Elder, with 19%, has a ten-point lead over his nearest rival.

England COVID “Freedom Day” plus two weeks

A drop for the Conservatives in the polls as UK COVID cases fall. Also: German polls ahead of the September 26 election, and Biden’s ratings and US COVID.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Boris Johnson declared July 19 would be COVID “Freedom Day” in England, the day when virtually all remaining- COVID restrictions were relaxed. Freedom Day only applied to England, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland retaining some restrictions.

Over 88% of UK adults have received a first dose of COVID vaccination, and over 72% have received both doses (fully vaccinated). About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated. The vaccination coverage for the elderly, who are most vulnerable to COVID, explains Johnson’s Freedom Day.

The government could have given younger people more opportunity to be vaccinated, but they wanted to have Freedom Day during summer, when there are fewer complications from cold weather.

After peaking at over 54,000 daily cases on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, UK daily cases declined to 23,500 last Tuesday. On Thursday, cases rose to over 31,000, but have fallen every day since to below 22,000 Monday. The government and many epidemiologists had predicted daily cases would rise to over 100,000 after Freedom Day.

While cases had nearly increased to their January peaks on July 17, the rolling seven-day COVID death average has only increased to 75. That’s a massive reduction from the horrific January peak when the seven-day average was over 1,200 deaths. The UK’s vaccination program has clearly worked in reducing the severity of COVID for elderly people.

In national polls conducted the week after Freedom Day, the Conservative lead over Labour fell from the high single to low double digits to only two to five points, likely owing to public disapproval of the perceived recklessness of Freedom Day. But with daily COVID cases roughly halving instead of doubling, it is likely that the Conservatives will soon regain a large lead.

German election: September 26

The German federal election will be held on September 26. The conservative CDU/CSU has governed since 2005, with assistance from the centre-left SPD in three of those four terms. Parties require at least 5% to qualify for the proportional allocation of seats.

A few months ago, the Greens were doing much better, and the combined vote for the left parties (SPD, Greens and far-left Left) was just ahead of the combined right vote (CDU/CSU, far-right AfD and pro-business FDP). But the CDU/CSU has since regained ground at the Greens’ expense, and the right is now ahead by about a 50-43 margin. The Left party is at 6-7%, close to the threshold.

While no other party will work with the AfD, any government would need to include a right-wing party on current polls. I believe Germans were dissatisfied with their vaccination rollout, but are now better disposed, as over 51% of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated; the denominator includes children. The recovery of the CDU/CSU has implications for the Australian Coalition’s recovery once vaccinations are at a high level.

Biden’s ratings steady as US suffers “pandemic of the unvaccinated”

Over six months into Joe Biden’s presidency, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate gives him 51.5% approval and 43.4% disapproval (net +8.1%). With registered or likely voters, Biden’s ratings are 51.0% approval, 44.5% disapproval (net +6.5%). Biden’s ratings have been steady, but there has been a little recent decline. On net approval, Biden is ahead of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at this point in their presidencies.

NBC News has two maps, one showing where US COVID cases are rising fastest, and one showing the unvaccinated percentage in each state. There is correlation between these two series, but there have been large rises in Florida and California, which are both close to the fully vaccinated share of the national population (49.2%). Most states with current large outbreaks voted for Trump in 2020, but California is the exception. According to a US ABC hospital survey, 94% of COVID ICU patients were unvaccinated.

An economic danger for Biden is inflation. The US Consumer Price Index has increased 2.9% in the four months to June, for a total increase of 5.4% since June 2020. High inflation undermines wage growth. Most analysts believe current inflation is transitory, and will ease as supply chains are ramped up.

UK Batley and Spen by-election minus one day

Conservatives likely to gain a second seat at a by-election. Also covered: French regional elections and a massive stuff-up on preferential voting in New York City.

Updates

5:30pm If the expected loss had occurred, many in Labour would have been calling for Keir Starmer’s head. So Starmer and his allies will be jubilant at this result.

4:58pm Labour HOLD Batley and Spen. Vote shares were 35.3% Labour (down 7.4%), 34.4% Tory (down 1.6%) and 21.9% for the Workers’ Party’s Galloway. This result is very contrary to expectations of a Tory gain. While Galloway was expected to help the Tories by taking away from Labour, some people who may have voted Tory probably voted Galloway as he was another anti-establishment candidate. Also, the Tory lead in national polls has fallen from low double digits to high single digits. Maybe this reflects the vaccination surge for the Tories finally wearing off, plus the Matt Hancock scandal.

11:55am I need to leave soon, so I won’t be able to post the result until I get back later this afternoon. But local council by-election results look dire for Labour – you can read about them on the Britain Elects Twitter account.

11:50am Friday George Galloway stood in Batley and Spen for the Workers’ Party on a platform to the left of Labour. A tweet from a Daily Mirror correspondent says his party expects Galloway to come second, driving Labour into third.

9:15am Even though preferences were entirely optional at this NYC election, just 29.3% of all votes cast for candidates other than Adams and Garcia exhausted. That’s far less than in NSW for eg the Upper Hunter by-election, when over 60% of all minor candidates’ preferences exhausted.

9am Thursday Garcia trails Adams by almost 15,000 votes (51.1-48.9) in the corrected NYC preferential vote with over 125,000 postals still to be added that are expected to favour Garcia. Garcia edged out Wiley by just 0.1% at the second last count.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls for the UK Labour-held Batley and Spen by-election close at 7am AEST Friday. This seat voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7% since 2017), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party. A Survation poll two weeks ago gave the Conservatives a 47-41 lead over Labour.

If the Conservatives win Batley and Spen, it would be their second gain at a by-election this term, following their early May triumph in Hartlepool. Except for 1961, when the Conservatives gained after the winning Labour candidate was disqualified, this would be the first time since 1929 that an incumbent government gained two seats at by-elections.

I believe Labour is in trouble in its seats that voted for Brexit because of education polarisation. I wrote in May for The Conversation that whites without a university education are deserting left-leaning parties in Australia, the US and the UK.

While the Conservatives have been winning in Brexit voting Labour seats, they were rebuffed at the Chesham and Amersham by-election last fortnight. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up a massive 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%), the Greens 3.9% (down 1.6%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%). This seat was 55% Remain.

This by-election was the 15th largest “two party” swing in UK by-elections. The Lib Dems and their Liberal predecessors have benefited in seven of the larger swings, with some others having MPs who switched parties before resigning and recontesting. However, Labour’s vote share appears to be their lowest at a by-election they contested.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned on Saturday after pictures of him kissing his female aide were published by The Sun on Friday. Hancock’s major problem was not infidelity to his wife, but that he had advocated social distancing during COVID, but was not distancing from his aide. A national poll taken on Monday gave the Conservatives a seven point lead, down from 11 the previous week.

French regional elections and polling for 2022 presidential election

French regional elections were held in two rounds on June 20 and 27. The Guardian reported that results were disappointing for both Marine le Pen’s far-right National Rally, and incumbent president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République en Marche. Neither party won any regions, as the centre-left Socialists and centre-right Républicains dominated. Turnout was low, with 66% of registered voters abstaining.

The first round of the French presidential election will be held in April 2022. If no candidate wins at least 50%, a runoff between the top two is held a fortnight after the first round.

For the first round, le Pen is just ahead of Macron, by about 27% to 26%, with both well ahead of other candidates who are under 18%. In the second round, Macron is leading le Pen by about 53.5-46.5. That’s well down from Macron’s crushing 66.1-33.9 margin in 2017, though polls understated Macron’s vote then.

Preferential voting comes to New York City!

The Democratic mayoral primary for NYC occurred on June 22 using preferential voting for the first time. As NYC is heavily Democratic, the Democratic nominee is almost certain to win the November general election.

Black former policeman Eric Adams led on first preferences with 31.7%, followed by left-wing activist Maya Wiley with 22.3%, former NYC sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia with 19.5% and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang with 11.7%.

These primary votes reflected the election night count. Over 140,000 votes were added and preferences were distributed on Tuesday (US time), and Garcia was just ahead of Wiley at the penultimate count, before losing to Adams by 51.1-48.9. The nearly 16,000 Adams margin excluded over 124,000 postal votes that are expected to favour Garcia.

But late on Tuesday, the NYC Board of Elections yanked these results. Analyst Dave Wasserman said something was wrong with the 140,000 additional votes, which had low vote shares for the four major candidates – they’re mostly test votes that hadn’t been removed. Maybe we’ll get clearer results Thursday AEST, but currently this NYC election is a massive stuff-up. This will provide ammunition for Trump’s baseless fraud claims.

I will update this article in the next two days to follow developments in NYC and Batley and Spen.

Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

11:24am Saturday A grim Survation poll for Labour in Batley and Spen, with the Tories leading Labour by 47-41.

11:06am Friday The Lib Dems have GAINED the UK Chesham and Amersham by-election from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%).

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.13-49.87 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.