Saturday, February 28, 2015

New South Wales Roundup: Is Even This A Bridge Too Far?

Time to kick off some NSW state election analysis, much of it in broad and general terms.  I haven't done the usual seat-modelling yet; that will follow in a week or two.

Feds Will Destroy Everything

A common theme on this website is the massive influence of which party holds power federally on state elections.  While this impact is not obvious in every election, and isn't even present in a few, there is a long-established pattern that is the very first thing anybody looking at state elections needs to know.  Once a party has been in government federally for any length of time at all, it starts tending to shed seats in state elections.  This process continues until it has lost most if not all of the states, and not long after that it will probably lose federally as well.  A new federal government comes in with massive majorities in many states, and then starts losing those.  Rinse and repeat.

Since the Liberal-National Coalition came to power federally it has faced four state elections, winning only Tasmania where an ancient Labor government could not escape retribution for a deeply disliked coalition with the Greens.  This happened while the federal government was still relatively new.  However, the Coalition has also lost office in Victoria and Queensland and failed to win in South Australia.  The Victorian result was no surprise, SA was a vaguely forgiveable case of electoral geography 1, 2PP vote 0, but the Queensland result was an earthquake.  The government that had won office with a record majority only three years earlier, almost wiping its predecessor out of Parliament, was sent packing (by one seat) with a 14% swing against it.  The LNP's aggressive and divisive born-to-rule approach in office had done it no favours but things would have been very different had Julia Gillard still been in the Lodge.

With declining levels of rusted-on adherence to both major parties, there's just no such thing any more as a win so big that you cannot possibly waste it in a single term.  That applies especially when the prevailing wind from Canberra is not in a party's favour.  In fact, the idea that a seat margin at one election determines the seat margin at the next is overrated anyway - what winning big really does is just gives a party a lot of seats in which it has new personal votes.  It turns out that in NSW even that doesn't apply much this time around.  So is there such a thing as an election that is too hard to lose, or is nothing actually safe in state politics anymore?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Poll Roundup: Coalition Polling Improves, Abbott's Doesn't

2PP Aggregate: 54.6 to Labor (-1.1 since last week)
Labor would win election "held now" with a massive majority

Quite a lot has happened in federal politics in the last fortnight.  Shortly after the last round of polls (most of them disastrous for the Coalition) were released, there was a leadership spill attempt which Tony Abbott survived by the unconvincing margin of 61-39, even without any declared challenger.  This was followed by various declarations from the PM that he would be changing his spots, and then a steady flow of medium-level gaffes and leaks that mostly suggested otherwise.  None of this shows any sign of stopping, with new revelations about internal problems in the party (often arising from the Loughnane/Credlin conflict of interest) now arriving more or less daily.

Abbott was even the subject of a major article in The Australian, alleging that he had informally proposed sending 3500 Australian troops into ground combat against the so-self-labelled "Islamic State" in Iraq - an allegation that at this stage hasn't been verified by any named source.  Abbott's denials of the claim seemed somewhat coded, but maybe Abbott just wanted to be sure he didn't deny saying something he might have said in jest or as a brief thought-bubble. The polling fortnight ended with Abbott again focused on terrorism issues ahead of a major statement yesterday.

This week's polling

This week has seen a substantial improvement in the Coalition's 2PP polling.  When the Newspoll result (53-47 to Labor compared with 57-43) came out many observers, including me, expected that the change was almost entirely random poll-to-poll noise, but while the size of the shift back to the government wasn't replicated by other polls, its existence was.  Essential moved one point from 54:46 to 53:47 and Morgan moved two from 57:43 to 55:45 (by last-election preferences).  Considering that Morgan leans to Labor by about 1.5 points (my own estimate of the average gap has now come down to 1.3), that makes its result quite similar to the other two.

So we have a bunch of 53-ish results a fortnight after a bunch of results in the 54 to 57 range, which in turn came after a period of sparse polling.  This is a rather volatile polling picture and my aggregate still gives a lot of weight to the nasty stuff from 2-3 weeks ago compared to the three milder results this week.  But the combined weight of a 4 point 2PP swing in Newspoll, a 2 point swing in Morgan and a 1 point swing in Essential is enough to knock 1.1 points off Labor's lead.   There's very likely a large random-noise element in the Newspoll shift (with last Newspoll being a bit high for Labor and this one likely to be lower than reality) but to assume it is all random noise is not supported by the behaviour of other polls.  Here's the smoothed tracking graph:

Before I move on to some issues specific to Newspoll, let's assume this is strong enough evidence of at least a probable shift in voting intention back to the Coalition from two weeks ago and consider why it is occurring.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Queensland: Final Results And Poll Accuracy

The final results of the Queensland election are out.  Three years after being reduced to something that could fit in a Tarago, the ALP has won office in minority by what may just be a single seat.  (Katter's Australian Party spent so long milking press cover over their agonising decision on who to support that in the end government was formed without waiting for their decision.)  In one amazing echo, Peter Wellington gives Labor the numbers exactly as he did for a few months seventeen years ago.  In another, Antony Green estimates the 2PP at 50.9 to Labor, so virtually the same as 2009.  It is much as if 2012 just never happened.

There are two competing baseline 2PPs for the 2012 election, one of 62.8% to LNP and one of 63.1% to LNP, mainly depending on how you treat Gladstone.  On the latter the swing comes out at about 14%, on the former slightly less.  There may be slight revisions to the 2PP estimate for this election too, but in any case the swing was not much short of 14%, if at all.

In fact, the LNP were a trifle lucky to get as close to hanging on in seat terms as they did.  If the numbers are plugged into the ABC calculator (and crossbench defector/retiree seats assigned as they fell), it suggests 48-38-3 to Labor.  My own seat model, taking personal vote effects and probabilities into account, suggests 45-41-3 to Labor for that 2PP.  The LNP managed one more mainly because they had more very narrow seat wins.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Liberal Spill And Poll Roundup: The Trouble With Political Jokes

2PP Aggregate: 55.8% to Labor (+3.2 points in three weeks, highest reading of term)
(updated following Newspoll and Morgan)
Labor would win election held now with a massive majority.

The Coalition is now in its worst polling position of the current term
(NB Scroll to bottom of article for updates for polls and other events added from Sunday 8 Feb on)

I've just returned from a week and a half on remote field work, and was going to put out my first poll roundup for the year on Tuesday.  However, all sorts of things might happen by then, so the data might very well be redundant.  I've decided to catch up on the mass of recent polling data first, and then follow up on the early week polling when it comes out.  But first, time for a look back at how (in my view at least) we got here.  My own contribution to the narrative-writing about what is going on now is rather long, so some may wish to skip the next two sections.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Queensland: post-election wrap and postcount comments

Expected seat outcome: 44 ALP 42 LNP 2 KAP 1 IND

This is my thread for Queensland post-counting comments.  For the first week it probably won't be updated more than daily, if that, and probably won't be detailed.  After that if there is any life left I'll have a more serious look at remaining seats.

Thursday 12th 5:00: One of the few remaining close seats, Lockyer, has been declared, with Pauline Hanson missing out again, this time by a feeble 114 votes.  Non-exhausting Labor preferences split over 58% in Hanson's favour against the LNP.

Thursday 12th 3:30: What little chance existed of the Ferny Grove result being wiped has pretty much gone out the window with news that the number of votes exhausting at the exclusion of the allegedly ineligible PUP candidate is lower than Labor's margin in the seat.  This means that the argument that "had all those who voted 1 PUP and stopped instead voted 1 LNP the result would have been different" does not in fact apply and any remaining substance to an appeal will likely be disposed of based on precedent.

Thursday 12th: The LNP have survived by 126 votes in Mt Ommaney; had Labor won this seat it would have a majority for Labor.  Seats are being progressively declared, with most done now, and soon the election will be over.

Tuesday: I've added nothing more because there's nothing to add; all the leaders are keeping their lead and the expected outcome is done and dusted unless someone finds 500 votes under the sofa.  As noted by Antony Green, the LNP cannot try the usual gimmick of the defeated Premier going back to the House to test his support, because the defeated Premier is not a member of parliament, so it should be that Annastacia Palaszczuk is about to be commissioned as Premier of Queensland.  See also now Pollbludger.

Sunday: Chris Foley is too far behind in Maryborough and will be eliminated based on an indicative throw; Labor will win the seat.

Saturday: There are confused reports about whether Chris Foley has conceded Maryborough (he's apparently conceded he's unlikely to win, which is not the same as conceding he's definitely lost, not that concession makes any difference anyhow).  It appears that during an indicative preference throw he is about 900 behind Labor with about 4000 preferences (presumably from PUP) to add, which is a hopeless position.