Photo finishes

Progressive updates on late counting in the seats that will determine whether Scott Morrison governs in majority or minority.

A full display of the election results, with complete booth figures, swings and probability estimates, can be found here.

Monday, June 3

The four day break in counting in Macquarie ended with all one-way traffic for Labor: postals broke 154-125, out-of-division pre-polls 103-87 and absents 88-66, putting Labor’s lead out from 282 to 348. Antony Green has called it for Susan Templeman, and Templeman has claimed victory. A few hundred votes still to mop up, presumably tomorrow.

Friday, May 31

Still nothing from Macquarie.

Thursday, May 30

No counting was conducted in Macquarie today. I believe the few remaining scraps are likely to be tidied there today, with there not being enough there to overturn the 282 vote Labor lead. The only hope for the Liberals now is a serious error turning up in the full preference count.

Wednesday, May 29

Happily for Labor, my supposition that there wouldn’t be too many absents left in Macquarie was misplaced – a new batch today broke a handy 402-259 their way. The latest batch of out-of-division pre-polls also surprised in breaking 316-170 for Labor. This extends Labor’s lead from 67 to 282, and there wouldn’t be much more still out there than 500 or so pre-polls and 300 postals – unless I’m still wrong about absents, in which case Labor’s lead should widen further.

If any doubt remained in Cowan, it was dealt with by today’s 1456-1061 break to Labor on absents, along with 106-87 on the latest postals. This pushes the Labor lead from 825 to 1239, which means Labor’s lead here is actually greater than it is in Eden-Monaro and Lilley.

Tuesday, May 28

Labor finally took the lead in Macquarie today, emerging with a 67 vote lead after trailing by 39 votes yesterday. This was thanks to a stronger batch of absents than yesterday’s (505-438 to Labor), a slight gain on out-of-division pre-polls (483-477) and rechecking of ordinary votes, which cost the Liberals 27 votes and boosted Labor by six. However, there can’t be too many more absents left in the can, and the Liberals could hope to claw back about 40 votes on remaining postals, of which I would guess there are about 300. That leaves the result in the hands of maybe 1000 further out-of-division pre-polls. These have slightly favoured Labor so far, and did likewise in 2016, but batch results can vary considerably depending on where they are sourced from.

Macquarie is the only seat still seriously in doubt, as Labor’s Anne Aly stubbornly maintains her lead in Cowan. Today it went from 810 to 825, as a batch of out-of-division pre-polls favoured her 896-881. Their might be another 2000 absents and another 2000 out-of-division pre-polls to come, of which the former have favoured Labor while the latter have split exquisitely evenly. The Liberals would need at least a 55-45 split in their favour.

Monday, May 27

Macquarie remains close in every way, with today’s count dominated by a 493-471 split in favour of Labor on out-of-division pre-polls, and absents going 471-469 to Liberal. Together with rechecking, the net effect is to reduce the Liberal lead from 57 to 40. The result hinges mostly on perhaps 1800 outstanding absents, which can vary significantly in their behaviour from batch to batch. In Cowan, out-of-division pre-polls give the Liberals only a very slight boost, reducing the Labor lead from 833 to 810. The Liberals will need about 57% out of maybe 6000 outstanding votes, few of which are postals, the only vote type on which they have come close to doing that well.

Saturday, May 25

Only minor additions to the count today, but that’s enough to be significant in Macquarie, where the Liberal lead is now down from 71 to 46. A batch of declaration votes broke 108-73 in favour of Labor, offsetting a net Liberal gain of 10 from rechecking. Labor’s lead in Cowan is up from 813 to 833, mostly due to a batch of absents that broke 383-352. In Bass, out of division pre-polls broke 167-123 to Labor, reducing the Liberal lead from 699 to 656 (there were also tiny changes from rechecking). In Lilley, Labor’s lead went from 879 to 901 due to rechecking and out of division pre-polls, the latter of which broke 449-427 their way.

Friday, May 24

The small number of provisional votes were counted today in Cowan, and they behaved typically in giving Labor a slight boost, of 211-184. However, the advantage was outweighed by rechecking, with the Labor lead ending the day at 813, down from 839. But with only handfuls of postal voting yet to come, the Liberals are going to have to do unusually well on absents and out-of-division pre-polls.

Macquarie could very easily go either way, but only rechecking was conducted today, the effect of which was to reduce the Liberal lead from 131 to 71. Postals to continue to widen the Liberal lead in Bass, now out from 561 to 699, while absents have moved Labor further ahead in Lilley, from 817 to 879.

Thursday, May 23

Macquarie looks like going right down to the wire, with the first batch of absents favouring Labor 476-444, and the latest batch of postals reversing the earlier tide in breaking 259-194 to Labor. That cuts yesterday’s Liberal lead of 196 to 131. In Cowan, Labor’s lead is out from 748 to 839 as the first absents break 941-843 their way. Conversely, the first absents from Bass have broken 836-787 to Liberal, which, together with rechecking, pushes the Liberal lead out from 497 to 561. In Lilley, Labor’s lead slips slightly from 842 to 817 as the latest postals break 875-787 to the LNP, outweighing a rather hefty 275-197 Labor advantage on the first absents.

Wednesday, May 22

Only rechecking today in Cowan, where Labor ended the day 748 ahead, compared with 762 yesterday. Elsewhere:

Chisholm. Another batch of postals breaks 1064-905 to the Liberal, increasing their lead from 1220 to 1379.

Macquarie. The latest postals have broken 524-396 to Liberal, exactly the same proportion as those already in the count, increasing their lead from 68 to 196.

Bass. The Liberal lead nudges from 453 to 497, with the latest postals breaking 517-483 to Liberal together with some slight ordinary vote adjustments on rechecking.

Lilley. A big batch of postals breaks very much like the first, going to 2551-2093 to the LNP, which reduces the Labor lead from 1288 to 842, but doesn’t change the impression that Labor should be able to hold on.

Tuesday, May 21

My election results facility, linked to above, has ended the day less buggily than it began. Developments from today’s count:

Chisholm. Another 3963 postals have gone similarly the first 5413, and in doing so have increased the Liberal lead from 591 to 1220. The trend of absent votes in 2016 suggests Labor should only be able to claw back about 250 there.

Macquarie. Only rechecking done today, nudging the Liberal lead from 50 to 68. Labor should only make slight gains on absent and out-of-division pre-polls, which I think more likely than not to be outweighed by the Liberal gain on outstanding postals.

Bass. I thought the first batch of postals surprisingly strong for Labor, but it turns out postals behaved no differently from ordinary votes in 2016 as well, where usually they lean conservative. Today’s batch, however, went 767-706 in favour of the Liberals, increasing the lead from 392 to 453. Absent votes were likewise bang on the ordinary votes in 2016; out-of-division pre-polls favoured Liberal. So Labor would need to pull a rabbit out of the hat here.

Lilley. A rare bit of good news for Labor, in that it looks an error had been made in the Geebung booth that had it favouring the LNP 1046-830, but which has now shows as 1033-862 in favour of Labor. That boosts their lead from 901 to 1288, which you’d think would be enough.

Cowan. Labor’s lead has reduced from 1006 to 762 on the back of a second batch of postals, which went 1223-1040 to the Liberals – slightly less favourable for them than the first, of which the Liberals got 56.9% rather than 54.0% – and ordinary vote rechecking, which boosted them by 61. However, absents and out-of-division pre-polls in 2016 behaved very much like ordinary votes, and there shouldn’t be a huge mass of postals outstanding, so I would think it likely Labor will hang on.

Monday, May 20

As you can see above, I now have an election results facility in business, albeit still with a few bugs to be ironed out. With that more-or-less accomplished, I should be able to follow the final stages of the count in more detail. It now appears clear that the Coalition has secured a majority, the most likely result being 77 seats out of 151. Counting of postal votes is still at a fairly advanced stage, and these reliably lean conservative, so the trend of yesterday’s counting was in their favour. However, no absent votes have been counted, and these can sometimes go the other way. Furthermore, Kevin Bonham believes he has observed a tendency of the first batches of postals to be more conservative than later ones. With that in mind, here’s the latest mail from those undecided seats where counting progressed yesterday, i.e. all of them other than Indi and Boothby, where I’m probably being overly cautious in not calling them for independent and Liberal respectively.

Chisholm. Liberal candidate Gladys Liu extended her lead yesterday from 166 to 591. Postals have so far recorded a smaller swing to Labor, of 0.8%, than ordinary votes, which swung 2.5%. Still in doubt.

Macquarie. The Liberals now lead here by 50 votes, after trailing by 312 yesterday. Postals have so far recorded a 2.2% swing to the Liberals, not much different from ordinary votes. Still in doubt.

Bass. Better news for Labor here, with the Liberal lead narrowing from 437 to 392, and postals surprisingly swinging slightly in Labor’s favour after ordinary votes swung over 6%. Still in doubt.

Lilley. Labor’s lead narrowed yesterday from 1110 to 901. Postals haven’t swung much differently from ordinary votes so far, so Labor seem likely to hold on.

Wentworth. Kerryn Phelps conceded defeat to Liberal candidate Dave Sharma yesterday as a strong trend on postals blew the lead out from 1751 to 2864.

Sunday, May 19

This post will be used to provide regularly updated coverage of late counting in seats that remain in doubt, of which I count seven: the marginal Liberal seat of Chisholm in Melbourne, where newcomer Gladys Liu leads by 166 votes (0.11%); Macquarie on Sydney’s western fringe, where Labor incumbent Susan Templeman is 312 votes in front (0.18%); Bass, where Liberal candidate Bridget Archer holds a lead of 437 votes (0.36%) over Labor incumbent Ross Hart; Indi, where independent candidate Helen Haines holds a 2781 lead (1.6%) over the Liberals in her bid to succeed retiring independent Cathy McGowan; Labor-held Lilley in Brisbane, where Labor’s Anika Wells hold a 1110 vote lead (0.69%) as she seeks to succeed the retiring Wayne Swan; and, stretching it a little further, Wentworth, where Liberal candidate Dave Sharma now holds a 1751 lead (1.16%) over independent incumbent Kerryn Phelps, and Boothby, where Liberal incumbent Nicolle Flint leads Labor by 2183 votes (1.18%). Hopefully tomorrow I will finally get the time to fix the bugs in a results reporting facility that will report results and swings at booth level.

Of swings and misses: episode three

From my paywalled article in Crikey yesterday:

In the wake of its most unambiguous failure at a federal election since at least 1980, Australia’s polling industry is licking its wounds.

The Nine/Fairfax papers have announced the Ipsos poll series will be put on ice, and those pollsters who do return to the field shortly will face catcalls whether they persist in recording a Labor lead we now know doesn’t exist, or only now start detecting a Coalition lead that eluded them through the entirety of the past parliamentary term.

Despite it all though, the pollsters’ performance hasn’t been without its defenders.

Spoiler alert: the latter refers to David Briggs and Nate Silver. But Peter Brent can now be added to the list, up to a point, following a review of the issues raised by the polling failure in Inside Story. Specifically, Brent observes that the primary vote miss was less severe than the two-party preferred; that the difference arose from a stronger-than-anticipated flow of minor party and independent preferences to the Coalition; that herding was less apparent on the primary vote (most markedly in the case of Ipsos’s reading of the balance of support between Labor and the Greens); and that the result was, if nothing else, no worse than the Victorian state election.

Another point noted is the strange consistency with which polls have pointed to extravagant gains for Labor in Queensland before and during election campaigns, only for them to fall away at the end. On this occasion, the falling away as recorded by pollsters wasn’t remotely on the scale needed to predict the result, with statewide polling published towards the end of the campaign landing at least 7% shy of what looks like being the Coalition two-party vote in the state.

The question of geographic variability in the pollster failure seemed worth exploring, so I have put together a table of state and electorate level polling published in the last fortnight or so of the campaign, available below the fold at the bottom of the post. Almost all of this polling was conducted by YouGov Galaxy, whether under its own name or as Newspoll. The only exception was a set of state-level two-party preferred totals from Ipsos, published at the tail end of the campaign by the Age-Herald (which performed rather poorly).

Below all this is a list of “average bias” figures, consisting of straight averages of the observed errors, be they positive or negative, rather than the absolute errors. This means combinations of positive and negative results will have the fact of cancelling out — although there were actually very few of those, as the errors tended to be consistently in the one direction. The national and state-level two-party results are estimates provided to me by Nine’s election systems consultant David Quin. With no Coalition-versus-Labor figures available from 15 electorates, this inevitably involves a fair bit of guess work.

A few points should be observed. Given that poll trends pointed to a clear long-term trend to the Coalition, pollsters may be excused a certain amount of Labor bias when evaluating polling that was in many cases conducted over a week before the election. This is particularly true of the Newspoll state aggregates, which cover the full length of the campaign.

Another issue with the Newspoll state aggregates is that One Nation was a response option for all respondents in the early part of the campaign, despite their contesting only 59 out of 151 seats. Their vote here accordingly comes in too high, and as Peter Brent notes, at least part of their failure could be explained by stranded One Nation supporters breaking in unexpectedly large quantities to the Coalition, rather than other minor party targets of opportunity like Clive Palmer.

In seat polling though, where the issue did not arise, the polls were remarkable in having understated support for One Nation, and overstated it for the United Australia Party. This was one face of a two-sided polling failure in Queensland, of which the other was a serious imbalance towards Labor in support recorded for the major parties. While Queensland has caught most of the attention on this score, the polls were just as far out in measuring the primary votes of the major parties in Western Australia. Things were less bad in Victoria, but Coalition support was still significantly underestimated.

The only bright spots in the picture are New South Wales and South Australia, where Newspoll just about nailed the Coalition, Labor and Greens primary votes, and got the big things right in four seat polls. While Labor’s strength was overstated in Macquarie, it does now appear Labor will pull through there – for more on that front, stay tuned to the late counting thread.

Continue reading “Of swings and misses: episode three”

Election plus 11 days

Late counting, a disputed result, new research into voter attitudes, Senate vacancies, and the looming party members’ vote for the state Labor leadership in New South Wales.

Sundry updates and developments:

• As noted in the regularly updated late counting post, Labor has taken a 67 vote lead in Macquarie, after trailing 39 at the close of counting yesterday. However, there is no guarantee that this represents an ongoing trend to Labor, since most of the gain came from the counting of absents, which would now be just about done. Most of the outstanding votes are out-of-division pre-polls, which could go either way. The result will determine whether the Coalition governs with 77 or 78 seats out of 151, while Labor will have either 67 or 68.

• Labor is reportedly preparing to challenge the result in Chisholm under the “misleading or deceptive publications” provision of the Electoral Act, a much ploughed but largely unproductive tillage for litigants over the years. The Victorian authorities have been rather activist in upholding “misleading or deceptive publications” complaints, but this is in the lower stakes context of challenges to the registration of how-to-vote cards, rather than to the result of an election. At issue on this occasion is Liberal Party material circulated on Chinese language social media service WeChat, which instructed readers to fill out the ballot paper in the manner recommended “to avoid an informal vote”. I await for a court to find otherwise, but this strikes me as pretty thin gruel. The Chinese community is surely aware that Australian elections presume to present voters with a choice, so the words can only be understood as an address to those who have decided to vote Liberal. Labor also have a beef with Liberal material that looked like Australian Electoral Commission material, in Chisholm and elsewhere.

• Political science heavyweights Simon Jackman and Shaun Ratcliff of the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre has breakdowns from a big sample campaign survey in The Guardian, noting that only survey data can circumvent the ecological fallacy, a matter raised in my previous post. The survey was derived from 10,316 respondents from a YouGov online panel, and conducted from April 18 to May 12. The results suggest the Coalition won through their dominance of the high income cohort (taken here to mean an annual household income of over $208,000), particularly among the self-employed, for which their primary vote is recorded as approaching 80%. Among business and trust owners on incomes of over $200,000, the Coalition outpolled Labor 60% to 10%, with the Greens on next to nothing. However, for those in the high income bracket who didn’t own business or trusts, the Coalition was in the low forties, Labor the high thirties, and the Greens the low teens. While Ratcliff in The Guardian seeks to rebut the notion that “battlers” decided the election for the Coalition, the big picture impression for low-income earners is that Labor were less than overwhelmingly dominant.

• As reported in the Financial Review on Friday, post-election polling for JWS Research found Coalition voters tended to rate tax and economic management as the most important campaign issue, against climate change, health and education for Labor voters. Perhaps more interestingly, it found Coalition voters more than twice as likely to nominate “free-to-air” television as “ABC, SBS television” as their favoured election news source, whereas Labor voters plumped for both fairly evenly. Coalition voters were also significantly more likely to identify “major newspapers (print/online)”.

• Two impending resignations from Liberal Senators create openings for losing election candidates. The Financial Review reports Mitch Fifield’s Victorian vacancy looks set to be of interest not only to Sarah Henderson, outgoing Corangamite MP and presumed front-runner, but also to Indi candidate Steve Martin, Macnamara candidate Kate Ashmor and former state MP Inga Peulich.

• In New South Wales, Arthur Sinodinos’s Senate seat will fall vacant later this year, when he takes up the position of ambassador to the United States. The most widely invoked interested party to succeed him has been Jim Molan, who is publicly holding out hope that below-the-line votes will elect him to the third Coalition seat off fourth position on the ballot paper, although this is assuredly not going to happen. As canvassed in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review, other possible starters include Warren Mundine, freshly unsuccessful in his lower house bid for Gilmore; James Brown, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW, state RSL president and the husband of Daisy Turnbull Brown, daughter of the former Prime Minister; Michael Hughes, state party treasurer and the brother of Lucy Turnbull; Kent Johns, the state party vice-president who appeared set to depose Craig Kelly for preselection in Hughes, but was prevailed on not to proceed; Richard Sheilds, chief lobbyist at the Insurance Council of Australia; Mary-Lou Jarvis, Woollahra councillor and unsuccessful preselection contender in Wentworth; and Michael Feneley, heart surgeon and twice-unsuccessful candidate for Kingsford Smith.

• Federal Labor may have evaded a party membership ballot through Anthony Albanese’s sole nomination, but a ballot is pending for the party’s new state leader in New South Wales, which will pit Kogarah MP Chris Minns against Strathfield MP Jodi McKay. The members’ ballot will be conducted over the next month, the parliamentary party will hold its vote on June 29, and the result will be announced the following day. Members’ ballots in leadership contests are now provided for federally and in most states (as best as I can tell, South Australia is an exception), but this is only the second time one has actually been conducted after the Shorten-Albanese bout that followed the 2013 election. As the Albanese experience demonstrates, the ballots can be circumvented if a candidate emerges unopposed, and the New South Wales branch, for one, has an exception if the vacancy arises six months before an election. Such was the case when Michael Daley succeeded Luke Foley in November, when he won a party room vote ahead of Chris Minns by 33 votes to 12.

Photo finishes: the Senate

Electoral reform and an unexpectedly strong election result give the Coalition much the strongest hand it has had in the Senate since it came to power.

At last, some commentary on the Senate count. Only one of the results is in doubt, with New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia all turning in good old-fashioned results of Coalition three, Labor two and Greens one, Jacqui Lambie snaring a seat in Tasmania at the expense of a third Liberal, and the territories behaving as they always do.

The exception is Queensland, where the third Liberal National Party candidate, the second Labor candidate, and the first candidates of the Greens and One Nation are in a game of musical chairs in which one will miss out when the music stops. In actuality, LNP and One Nation are pretty much home and hosed at this point, so the issue is whether the last seat will go Labor or Greens.

Based on the primary vote, it looks like Labor will miss out, reducing them to a single Senate seat, for which the only precedents are the Western Australia and South Australian results in 2013. Labor has only 0.60 quotas spare after the election of its first candidate, adrift of the LNP on 0.76, One Nation on 0.72 quotas and the Greens on 0.68. Probably the leading authority on the count is Ross Leedham on Twitter, who it appears expects Labor to narrow the primary vote gap a little on late counting, and then to take it up to the Greens with preferences.

To get a sense of how preferences are likely to behave, I have wrangled with the data file from the 2016 election, to produce “four-party preferred” measures for the various minors and micros who will be excluded from the count. This only uses above-the-line votes, and uses Australian Liberty Alliance preferences for Fraser Anning’s party, Family First’s for Australian Conservatives, the Renewable Energy Party’s for two micros with “climate” in their names, and the Health Australia Party for an anti-vaxxer party. Some very small parties that couldn’t be matched are ignored.

With these results used to project the preferences of the small parties, the Greens’ lead over Labor extends slightly, from 1.1% to 1.3%. This is somewhat contrary to the assessment of Kevin Bonham, who used preference guesstimates to conclude Labor would close the gap but not by enough. These estimates look like they might be on the high side for Labor, and I have further credited the Greens with some fairly heavy duty preference flows from micro-party minnows Bonham hasn’t bothered with.

Two complications arise from the United Australia Party, which will be the last party excluded before the conclusion. One is their how-to-vote card, which recommended a second preference to the LNP and a lower order preference to Labor. This renders unreliable the projection I have extrapolated from the tiny Palmer United Party vote in 2016, which gives One Nation too many Palmer preferences and the LNP too few. However, I’m projecting both to do well enough to win seats in any case.

The other is the possibility raised by Kevin Bonham that either the LNP or One Nation will make a quota before the UAP is excluded. If the former, UAP votes following the how-to-vote card will end up with Labor instead of the LNP, potentially making them competitive in the race against the Greens. However, I’m projecting the LNP to be fairly well short of a 14.3% quota with 13.0% at the point where the UAP are excluded, with One Nation also just shy at 14.0%.

With all that in mind, I’m going to work on the basis of a result of Coalition three and one seat each for Labor, One Nation and the Greens in offering the following summary of the state of the Senate post-election.

New South Wales. With the Coalition on 2.72 quotas, Labor on 2.11 and the Greens on 0.60, the result here looks sure to be three, two and one seats respectively, unless One Nation on 0.35 quotas can do something astounding on preferences. Jim Molan has clearly failed in his bid to have below-the-line votes overturn his demotion on the Senate ticket – he appears to be getting about 80% of the below-the-line votes, which could be generously estimated to account for 10% of the total. That would leave him with about 3% of the vote, or 0.2 quotas, to take on Nationals candidate Perin Davey, who will have the 0.7 or so quota surplus left after the election of the second Liberal.

Victoria. Very similarly to New South Wales, the Coalition are on 2.54 quotas, Labor on 2.23 and the Greens on 0.70, guaranteeing a result of three, two and one. Way behind the Greens on 0.20 quotas apiece are Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party and One Nation. Hinch’s failure is something of a surprise, his 2.8% vote share being well below the 3.7% recorded by his party at the state election last November. Presumably the 2.5% United Australia Party vote, modest as it was, came largely at his expense.

Western Australia. A clean result of Liberal three (2.93 quotas), Labor two (1.96 quotas) and Greens one (0.82 quotas). One Nation polled a reasonably solid 5.5%, but not nearly as well as the Greens, who recorded an insurmountable 11.7%.

South Australia. Three Liberal (2.63 quotas), two Labor (2.16) and one Greens (0.78), with One Nation too far behind the pace on 0.32.

Tasmania. Two Liberal (2.21 quotas), two Labor (2.17 quotas), one Greens (0.88) and one Jacqui Lambie (0.61).

Of swings and misses: episode two

Talk of a new industry body to oversee polling standards gathers pace, even as international observers wonder what all the fuss is about.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – or the Herald/Age, to adopt what is evidently Nine Newspapers’ own preferred shorthand for its Sydney and Melbourne papers – have revealed their opinion polling will be put on ice for an indefinite period. They usually do that post-election at the best of times, but evidently things are more serious now, such that we shouldn’t anticipate a resumption of its Ipsos series (which the organisation was no doubt struggling to fund in any case).

This is a shame, because Ipsos pollster Jessica Elgood has been admirably forthright in addressing what went wrong – and, importantly, in identifying the need for pollsters to observe greater transparency, a quality that has been notably lacking from the polling scene in Australia. In particular, Elgood has called for the establishment of a national polling standards body along the lines of the British Polling Council, members of which are required to publish details of their survey and weighting methods. This was echoed in a column in the Financial Review by Labor pollster John Utting, who suggests such a body might be chaired by Professor Ian McAllister of the Australian National University, who oversees the in-depth post-election Australian Election Study survey.

On that point, I may note that I had the following to say in Crikey early last year:

The very reason the British polling industry has felt compelled to observe higher standards of transparency is that it would invite ridicule if it sought to claim, as Galaxy did yesterday, that its “track record speaks for itself”. If ever the sorts of failures seen in Britain at the 2015 general election and 2016 Brexit referendum are replicated here, a day of reckoning may arrive that will shine light on the dark corners of Australian opinion polling.

Strange as it may seem though, not everyone is convinced that Australian polling really put on all that bad a show last weekend. Indeed, no less an authority than Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has just weighed in with the following:

Polls showed the conservative-led coalition trailing the Australian Labor Party approximately 51-49 in the two-party preferred vote. Instead, the conservatives won 51-49. That’s a relatively small miss: The conservatives trailed by 2 points in the polls, and instead they won by 2, making for a 4-point error. The miss was right in line with the average error from past Australian elections, which has averaged about 5 points. Given that track record, the conservatives had somewhere around a 1 in 3 chance of winning.

So the Australian media took this in stride, right? Of course not. Instead, the election was characterized as a “massive polling failure” and a “shock result”.

When journalists say stuff like that in an election after polls were so close, they’re telling on themselves. They’re revealing, like their American counterparts after 2016, that they aren’t particularly numerate and didn’t really understand what the polls said in the first place.

I’m not quite sure whether to take greater umbrage at Silver’s implication that Antony Green and Kevin Bonham “aren’t particularly numerate”, or that the are – huck, spit – “journalists”. The always prescient Dr Bonham managed a pre-emptive response:

While overseas observers like Nate Silver pour scorn on our little polling failure as a modest example of the genre and blast our media for failing to anticipate it, they do so apparently unfamiliar with just how good our national polling has been compared to polling overseas.

And therein lies the rub – we in Australia have been rather spoiled by the consistently strong performance of Newspoll’s pre-election polls especially, which have encouraged unrealistic expectations. On Saturday though, we saw the polls behaving no better, yet also no worse, than polling does generally.

Indeed, this would appear to be true even in the specifically Australian context, so long as we take a long view. Another stateside observer, Harry Enten, has somehow managed to compare Saturday’s performance with Australian polling going all the way back to 1943 (“I don’t know much about Australian politics”, Enten notes, “but I do know something about downloading spreadsheets of past poll data and calculating error rates”). Enten’s conclusion is that “the average error in the final week of polling between the top two parties in the first round” – which I take to mean the primary vote, applying the terminology of run-off voting of the non-instant variety – “has been about five points”.

Of swings and misses

The Coalition’s parliamentary majority looks secure, as the polling industry starts facing up to what went wrong.

The latest – or some of it at least:

• It is now reckoned beyond doubt that the Liberals have held on in Chisholm, thereby guaranteeing a parliamentary majority of at least 76 seats out of 151. As related in the latest update in my late counting post, I think it more likely than not that they will supplement that with Macquarie and Bass, and wouldn’t write them off quite yet in Cowan. You are encouraged to use that thread to discuss the progress of the count, and to enjoy the reguarly updated results reporting facility while you’re about it.

• If you only read one thing about the collective failure of the opinion polls, make it Kevin Bonham’s comprehensive account. If you only read two, or don’t have quite that much time on your hands, a brief piece by Professor Brian Schmidt in The Guardian is worth a look.

• The three major polling companies have each acknowledged the issue in one way or another, far the most searching example of which is a piece in The Guardian by Peter Lewis of Essential Research. A statement released yesterday by Ipsos at least concedes there may be a problem with over-sampling of the politically engaged, but Monday’s offering by David Briggs of YouGov Galaxy in The Australian was defensive to a fault.

• Note the guest post below this one from Adrian Beaumont on tomorrow’s European Union elections in Britain.