Amid a generally predictable set of recriminations and recommendations, some points of genuine psephological interest emerge from Labor’s election post-mortem.
The public release of Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s report into Labor’s federal election campaign has inspired a run of commentary about the way ahead for the party after its third successive defeat, to which nothing need be added here. From the perspective of this website, the following details are of specific interest:
• Labor’s own efforts to use area-based regression modelling to identify demographic characteristics associated with swings against Labor identifies five problem areas: voters aged 25-34 in outer urban or regional areas; Christians; coal mining communities; Chinese Australians; and the state of Queensland. The variable that best explained swings in favour of Labor was higher education. However, as has been discussed here previously, this sort of analysis is prey to the ecological fallacy. On this basis, I am particularly dubious about the report’s suggestion that Labor did not lose votes from beneficiaries of franking credits and negative gearing, based on the fact that affluent areas swung to Labor. There is perhaps more to the corresponding assertion that the Liberals were able to persuade low-income non-beneficiaries that Labor’s policies would “crash the economy and risk their jobs”.
• Among Labor’s campaign research tools was a multi-level regression and post-stratification analysis, such as YouGov used with notable success to predict seat outcomes at the 2017 election in the UK. Presumably the results were less spectacular on this occasion, as the report says it is “arguable that this simply added another data point to a messy picture”. The tracking polling conducted for Labor by YouGov showed a favourable swing of between 0.5% and 1.5% for most of the campaign, and finally proved about three points off the mark. YouGov suggested to Labor the problem may have been in its use of respondents’ reported vote at the 2016 election as a weighting factor, but the error was in line with that of the published polling, which to the best of my knowledge isn’t typically weighted for past vote in Australia.
• An analysis of Clive Palmer’s advertising found that 40% was expressly anti-Labor in the hectic final week, compared with only 10% in the earlier part of the campaign. The report notes that the Palmer onslaught caused Labor’s “share of voice” out of the sum of all campaign advertising fell from around 40% in 2016 to 25%, and fell as low as 10% in “some regional markets such as Townsville and Rockhampton”, which respectively delivered disastrous results for Labor in the seats of Herbert and Capricornia.
• It is noted that the gap between Labor’s House and Senate votes, which has progressively swollen from 1% to 4.6% since 1990, is most pronounced in areas where Labor is particularly strong.
• The challenge against the election results in Chisholm and Kooyong has been heard in the Federal Court this week. The highlight of proceedings has been an admission from Simon Frost, acting director of the Liberal Party in Victoria at the time of the election, that the polling booth advertising at the centre of the dispute was “intended to convey the impression” that they were Australian Electoral Commission signage. The Australian Electoral Commission has weighed in against the challenge with surprising vehemence, telling the court that voters clearly understood that anything importuning for a particular party would not be its own work.
• The ABC reports there is a move in the Tasmanian Liberal Party to drop Eric Abetz from his accustomed position at the top of the Senate ticket at the next election to make way for rising youngester Jonathan Duniam. The Liberals won four seats at the 2016 double dissolution, which initially resulted in six-year terms being granted to Eric Abetz and Stephen Parry, and three-year terms to Duniam and David Bushby. However, the recount that followed the dual disqualifications of Jacqui Lambie and Stephen Parry in November 2017 resulted in the party gaining three rather than two six-year terms, leaving one each for Abetz, Duniam and Bushby. Bushby resigned in January and was replaced by his sister, Wendy Askew, who appears likely only to secure third place on the ticket, which has not been a winning proposition for the Liberals at a half-Senate election since 2004.
• Andrew Clennell of The Australian ($) reports that Jim Molan is likely to win a Liberal preselection vote on Saturday to fill Arthur Sinodinos’s New South Wales Senate vacancy. The decisive factor would appear to be support from Scott Morrison and centre right faction powerbroker Alex Hawke, overcoming lingering hostility towards Molan over his campaign to win re-election by exhorting Liberal supporters to vote for him below the line, in defiance of a party ticket that had placed him in the unwinnable fourth position. He is nonetheless facing determined opposition from Richard Shields, Woollahra deputy mayor and Insurance Council of Australia executive, who was runner-up to Dave Sharma in the party’s hotly contested preselection for Wentworth last year.