Essential Research: leader ratings and protest laws

Discouragement for Newspoll’s notion of an Anthony Albanese approval surge, plus a mixed bag of findings on the right to protest.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll still offers nothing on voting intention, though it’s relative interesting in that it features the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings. Contrary to Newspoll, these record a weakening in Anthony Albanese’s ratings, with approval down three to 37% and disapproval up five to 34%. Scott Morrison also worsens slightly, down two on approval to 45% and up three on disapproval to 41%, and his preferred prime minister read is essentially steady at 44-28 (43-28 last month).

Further questions relate to the right to protest, including the finding that 33% would support laws flagged by Scott Morrison that “could make consumer or environment boycotts illegal”, while 39% were opposed. Fifty-eight per cent agreed the government had “the right to limit citizen protests when it disrupts business”, with 31% for disagree; but that 53% agreed that “protestors should have the right to pressure banks not to invest in companies that are building coal mines”, with 33% disagreeing.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1075 respondents chosen from an online panel.

UK election minus four weeks and Spanish election results

The Conservatives still have a large poll lead as the Brexit Party slumps. Also: the left wins again in Spain; now can they cooperate? Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

Four UK national polls were released last weekend from Panelbase, Opinium, Deltapoll and YouGov. These polls gave the Conservatives a ten to 13 point lead over Labour, little changed from the November 2-3 releases of these polls, although the Conservative lead fell from 16 points to 12 in Opinium. The UK election is December 12.

The fall in support for the Brexit Party is assisting the Conservatives in remaining well ahead of Labour. In Opinium and Deltapoll, there would have been a significant two-party boost for Labour if the UK used Australia’s preferential voting. Those polls previously had Conservatives plus Brexit at 51%, but it is now down to 47%. However, the Conservative/Brexit vote is up three in YouGov to 49%, and down just one in Panelbase to 48%.

My opinion is that, if the Conservative/Brexit combined vote is in the high 40’s or above, the Conservatives will win a Commons majority. If this vote falls into the low 40’s, there will be a live contest. Too many people would be supporting Labour or the Liberal Democrats for the Conservatives to be confident of a majority. If the Conservative/Brexit vote falls to or below 40%, Labour will form the next government.

Last week, there were claims made about Labour antisemitism by ex-Labour MPs Ian Austin and John Woodcock. Alleged antisemitism has dogged Labour under Jeremy Corbyn since 2016, but it does not appear to have hurt Labour electorally. Labour performed far better than expected at the 2017 election, and were competitive with the Conservatives through 2018.

Labour’s 2019 poll crash was caused by the polarisation between Remainers and Leavers. During 2019, Labour has reluctantly become a more pro-Remain party, but Leavers dislike any shift towards Remain, and many Remainers want Labour to be explicitly pro-Remain. Under Theresa May, the Conservatives also crashed in the polls, but Boris Johnson has restored Leavers’ trust in them.

I disagree with the proposition that being explicitly pro-Remain would have solved Labour’s problems. Leavers would have detested such a move, and it would be contrary to respecting the Brexit referendum result. Labour would then have been portrayed as an elitist party.

As I said previously, I believe Labour’s best chance is to keep attacking Johnson’s Brexit deal by highlighting its negative aspects, particularly in regard to the National Health Service. They should attempt to turn the election into a question of whether to Leave with this specific deal.

Left wins second 2019 Spanish election, but can they cooperate?

 Spain uses proportional representation by region, which benefits bigger parties relative to vote share. At the November 10 election, the centre-left Socialists won 120 of the 350 lower house seats (down three since the April 2019 election), the conservative People’s Party (PP) 88 (up 22), the far-right Vox 52 (up 28), the far-left Podemos 35 (down seven), the right-wing Citizens ten (down 47) and the new left-wing MP three.

National left-wing parties won 158 seats (down seven) and right-wing parties 150 (up three), with 42 seats going to mostly left-wing regionalist parties. If the Socialists and Podemos can reach an agreement, they should be able to form a government with regionalists abstaining. But these two parties were unable to cooperate in the last parliament.

Popular votes were 28.0% Socialists (down 0.7%), 20.8% PP (up 4.1%), 15.1% Vox (up 4.8%), 12.8% Podemos (down 1.5%), 6.8% Citizens (down 9.1%) and 2.4% MP. The Citizens’ move to the right backfired; they were attempting to replace the PP as the party of the right.

The Senate is elected by first-past-the-post with four seats for most provinces. The Socialists won 92 of the 208 elected senators (down 31) and the PP 84 (up 30), with regionalists winning almost all the rest. With regional appointees, the Socialists have 110 of 265 senators, the PP 98, Citizens eight, Podemos six and Vox three.

Bolivian president resigns after vote count irregularities

On Sunday, left-wing Bolivian president Evo Marales resigned after “serious irregularities” were found in the October 20 presidential vote count. See my personal website for more.

Newspoll: 50-50

The Coalition’s lead disappears altogether in the latest Newspoll, which also records a resounding bounce in Anthony Albanese’s personal ratings.

Newspoll has turned in a result for its three-weekly federal poll which, if nothing else, shows it’s not letting the May election result prevent it from publishing optimistic-looking numbers for Labor. As related in The Australian ($), the latest poll has the major parties tied on two-party preferred, after four successive results of 51-49 in favour of the Coalition.

The Coalition is down two on the primary vote to 40%, with Labor up two to 35%, the Greens down one to 12% and One Nation up one to 7%. Anthony Albanese enjoys some encouraging movement on personal ratings, with approval up five to 42% and disapproval down seven to 37%. However, Scott Morrison’s ratings are little changed, with approval down one to 46% and disapproval down two to 43%, and his lead as preferred prime minister narrows only marginally, from 47-32 to 46-32.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1682.

Autopsy turvy

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.

Other news:

• 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.

UK election minus five weeks, US state elections and Spain

The Conservatives have a large lead in the UK polls, but there is still hope for Labour. Also: US state election results and Spain’s second election this year on Sunday. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

In polls taken since the House of Commons voted on October 29 for a December 12 election, the Conservatives have led Labour by seven to 16 points, and would be likely to win an election “held now” with a majority. The good news for Labour is that they are now a clear second, with the Liberal Democrats a distant third.

This will assist in the argument that if Remain voters want to stop Boris Johnson’s Brexit, they will need to vote Labour in the vast majority of English and Welsh seats. The Lib Dems are likely to be “squeezed”; in first-past-the-post, minor parties can lose votes to major parties to keep the other major party out. Labour’s Brexit policy is for a referendum between Remain and a Labour-negotiated deal, which many Remainers have campaigned for.

Even if Labour wins a large share of the Remain vote, they still need to grab votes directly from the Conservatives to be in an election-winning position.  Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing policies are unlikely to appeal as much as in 2017 owing to better economic conditions: 2.0% real wage growth now, versus -0.5% in May 2017.

In my opinion, Labour’s best chance to take votes from the Conservatives is a scare campaign against Johnson’s deal. The National Health Service (NHS), which Labour created in 1948, will be the focus of this campaign. In June, the US’s UK ambassador said the NHS would be “on the table” in a post-Brexit US/UK trade deal. US pharmaceutical companies would like access to the NHS. A hard Brexit would require the UK to negotiate its own trade deals, but other countries would be likely to extract as much as they could from the UK’s weakened position.

On October 31, Donald Trump said Johnson’s Brexit deal could rule out a US/UK trade deal. He also said Corbyn would be “so bad for your country”.  Trump denied wanting to grab the NHS, but he is somewhat untrustworthy. While British opinion is closely divided on Brexit, 67% have a negative view of Trump and just 19% a positive view. Trump’s negative endorsement could assist Corbyn.

On November 1, Nigel Farage said the Brexit Party would run candidates in all 650 Commons seats unless Johnson drops his Brexit deal, which he almost certainly won’t do. The Conservatives have already squeezed the Brexit Party down to around 10%, and at least some of the hold-outs will be people who won’t vote Conservative.

Democrats perform better than expected at US state elections

At US state elections held November 5, Democrats won the Kentucky governor race by 49.2-48.8. Kentucky is a very white, rural, Trumpian state. Republicans won the Mississippi governor by 52.1-46.6. In Virginia, Democrats gained control of both chambers of the state legislature, the House by 55-45 and the Senate by 21-19. Democrats easily held the New Jersey legislature. Also of note: a New York City referendum introduced Australian-style preferential voting by 73.5-26.5.

I wrote for The Conversation Wednesday that a Siena poll of battleground states implies that Trump could be re-elected despite losing the popular vote, as occurred in 2016. The US economy is still performing well. Joe Biden has retaken the Democratic primary lead from Elizabeth Warren.

Spain: left parties’ failure to form government gives right a chance at new election

I covered the April Spanish election here. The centre-left Socialists and far-left Podemos were short of a majority, but appeared to have the numbers to form government with left-wing separatists abstaining. But in July, as covered on my personal website, Podemos abstained from a confidence vote, and the vote was lost. No agreement was reached by the September 23 deadline, and so there will be a second 2019 Spanish election this Sunday.

Spain uses proportional representation by region, which assists bigger parties. Polling suggests that national right to far-right parties (People’s, Citizens and Vox) have a realistic chance of winning more votes and seats than national left-wing parties (Socialists, Podemos and the new Más País). It is unlikely either side will reach the 176 seats required for a majority, with separatists holding the balance of power. This new election is likely to put the Socialists in a worse position than after April.

Call of the board: Western Australia

Another deep dive into the result of the May federal election – this time focusing on Western Australia, which disappointed Labor yet again.

The Call of the Board wheel now turns to Western Australia, after previous instalments that probed into the federal election results for Sydney (here and here), regional New South Wales, Melbourne, regional Victoria, south-east Queensland and regional Queensland.

Western Australia has been disappointing federal Labor ever since Kim Beazley elevated the party’s vote in his home state in 1998 and 2001, and this time was no exception. After an unprecedented Labor landslide at the 2017 state election and expectations the state’s economic malaise would sour voters on the government, the May election in fact produced a statewide two-party swing of 0.9% to the Coalition, and no change on the existing configuration of 11 seats for the Liberals and five for Labor.

As illustrated by the maps below (click on the images to enlarge), which record the two-party swings at booth level, Perth typified the national trend in that Labor gained in inner urban areas, regardless of their political complexion, while copping a hit in the outer suburbs. This will be reflected in the seat-by-seat commentary below, which regularly invokes the shorthand of “inner urban” and “outer urban” effects. The map on the left is limited to seats that are clearly within the Perth metropolitan area, while the second adds the fringe seats of Pearce (north), Hasluck (east) and Canning (south).

For further illustration, the table below compares each electorate’s two-party result (the numbers shown are Labor’s) with a corresponding two-party Senate measure, which was derived from the AEC’s files recording the preference order of each ballot paper (with votes that did not preference either Labor or Liberal excluded). This potentially offers a pointer as to how much candidate factors affected the lower house results.

Continue reading “Call of the board: Western Australia”