Thursday, May 28, 2015

Would Wood Waste Waste The Seat Of Franklin?

There's a law called Betteridge's Law that says any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word "no".  This article is certainly no exception.

Regrowth after logging and burning, showing burnt "wood waste" in the foreground.

It's a polling trope as old as the hills.  Some issue that virtually no-one was hitherto believed to know about or care about is suddenly the subject of startling polling revealing that Party X needs to support it or brace itself for double-digit vote losses.  It's a concept that thrives on the unhealthy symbiosis between activists/lobbyists and journalists (the journalist gets a free story complete with new polling while the activist/lobbyist gets their press release put out as news, usually with no outside scrutiny of the polling involved).  And it seldom if ever amounts to the proverbial hill of beans.

The latest in this unfortunate genre has been an article (Bill Shorten faces a Tasmania Wood Waste Wipeout - Google for article title if paywalled) declaring that polling shows Labor headed for a dire fate in Tasmania if it opposes the inclusion of wood waste in the Renewable Energy Target.  This is based on a ReachTEL poll conducted for the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EMRS: Liberals Regain Ground And Would Be Returned

EMRS: Liberal 46 Labor 29 Green 19 Ind 6
Interpretation (provisional): Liberal 47 Labor 32 Green 17 Other 4
Seat distribution based on poll: Liberal 13 Labor 9 Green 3
Aggregate of all recent state polling: Liberal 13 Labor 10 Green 2

A new EMRS poll of Tasmanian state voting intention was released earlier today.  The headline figures show the Liberals up four points since February, Labor down five, the Greens up four and the remainder down 3.  These changes are statistically significant and suggest strongly that the Liberals have recovered ground since last year's slump (see previous instalment)

They also provide further evidence that a series of Morgan samples (see Wonk Central: Morgan's Tasmanian State and Federal Sampling), that have shown the major parties roughly level, are very strongly "house-effected" in Labor's favour and are not reliable.

EMRS tends to favour the Greens at Labor's expense and as a result the 19% vote shown for the Greens is not reliable; even the 17% that I have adjusted it to as an interpretation score probably reflects a good sample compared to how the party is actually travelling.  The poll was taken from 19 to 22 May (Tuesday to Friday last week) and thus most of the sample was taken after the announcement of the resignation from parliament of Greens Leader Kim Booth.  It's possible there would be a goodwill bounce for the Greens on account of that result.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Happens In Kim Booth's Recount?

(NB added May 26: The recount will take place on June 9.)

Tasmanian Greens leader Kim Booth suddenly announced his resignation from parliament on Wednesday. This decision follows the very recent death of Booth's father, but with family time and party regeneration cited as motivating factors.  (Some have suggested he was jumping before he was pushed as leader, but if so he did well at acting happy about having decided to go.) As with Christine Milne there are now many effusive tributes to Booth's career flowing, as well as trolling from the odd party-pooper, and a few joyful if slightly unhinged celebrations of the party's (supposed) impending demise.

Booth's headkicking style has contributed many memorable moments to Tasmanian politics, most notably the "shredder" affair in which he brandished a reconstructed shredded document in Parliament shortly after its existence was denied, removing a Deputy Premier.  His bad-boy purist-rebel image was such that Greens' advertising at the last election showed Booth (who was often at risk of losing his seat) grinning with the slogan "There's only one thing worse than having Kim Booth in Parliament, and that's not having Kim Booth in Parliament".  And now, we'll find out just what that is like.  I suspect there will be many of my readers who greatly admire his contribution, and others who cannot stand him and will be pleased to see him go. For my own part, I've enjoyed the few times I've talked with Booth in person during his 13-year career in state politics.

Unlike with Milne, at the moment I don't have the time to write a long analysis of Booth's tenure as leader, and there's not that much to say anyway.  Booth is the first Tasmanian Greens leader not to actually take the party to a state election - they only contested one Upper House seat and local councils on his watch - and their popularity seems to have stayed at about the level of the 2014 state election, or maybe recovered very slightly.  (More on this from EMRS very soon).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Is Independent Australia Independent Of?

Quality control, consistency, accuracy and editorial skill.

At least, if my own encounters with its opinion-polling coverage are any guide.

According to its "About Us" page, Independent Australia is "a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the environment, Australian politics and Australian identity".

Further on:

"IA supports quality investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of voices.  It believes Australians are short-changed by the mass media - and so dedicates itself to seeking out the truth and informing the public.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future.  A country that is fair and free".

Which all sounds well and good, as troubled as the often pretentious use of the term "progressive" in the left has often been.  IA also claims to support independent candidates and oppose partisanship, though the waters here are slightly muddied by its endorsement of the curious so-called "Australian Independents" party.  But the real problem starts when we get to this:

"IA also features an exclusive weekly column by the Australian literary legend Bob Ellis".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Poll Roundup: 2015 Budget Polling

2PP Aggregate: 51.8 to Labor (-0.5 in a week, closest since last October)
Labor would probably win election held "right now", with small majority or in minority

Apologies for the boring heading.  I was going to call this piece "Poll Roundup: Budget Less Than Random Noise" but passing judgement on a week of polling with only four of the six polls released would have been risky, and thus it proved once Morgan came out.  With two polls implying a budget bounce to the Coalition and three implying no change, my aggregate moves to its best position for the government since the week of 20 October last year.

It's possible that there is really no bounce and that the two good polls are just down to sample noise, but the results are consistent with a slight Coalition gain from a budget that has been fairly well received by voters.  Still it is nothing so far as dramatic an impact as the usual storm of Budget-poll-fuelled commentary might suggest.

This isn't unusual at all; last year's shocker was the exception that proves the rule.  Budget polling is a vast source of excitable nonsense but most budgets aren't a big deal immediately to the average voter; see Mark Graph's first and second laws of budget analysis for more of this.

That's not to say that the noises surrounding the Budget are necessarily meaningless in the long term, and this week we did get some insight into possible election strategies concerning economic management.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greens Change Leaders And Replacing Milne As Senator

Christine Milne resigned last week as leader of the Australian Greens, and was replace by Richard Di Natale before anyone could blink.  Di Natale looks like the safe choice and the one most likely to push for mainstream respectability and continue the trend towards inner-city gains while also pushing for a broad policy focus.  It was all done so quickly - and as usual for the Greens, opaquely - that any public commentary on the best replacement would have been irrelevant.   In my view the most viable and perhaps the only other really viable - and more exciting but also more excitable and hence riskier - choice would have been Scott Ludlam. Others are too low-profile, at too much risk of losing their seats, or at least seen as too far along one end of the moderate/radical spectrum.

Results And Polling Under Milne's Leadership

Christine Milne took over leadership of the Australian Greens from Bob Brown in April 2012.  As shown in this graph of the Greens primary vote by Phantom Trend, the Green's polled vote shed around three points in the first year of Milne's leadership, but the plunge started reversing a few months before the 2013 federal election.  The Greens' result in that election was very disappointing in primary vote terms (down from 11.76% in the House of Representatives to 8.65%) but acceptable in seat terms with the party retaining its House of Representatives seat and gaining one Senate seat.  Since then the party has rebuilt vote share in polling and is currently in a similar position to where it was when Milne took over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Do Proposed Senate Reforms Advantage The Coalition?

(See also Would Senate Reforms Increase The Chance Of A Blocked Senate?)

Advance Summary

1. Concerns have recently been reported that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' proposed optional-preferencing Senate system may advantage parties other than Labor, especially the Coalition parties.

2. The reality is that Labor performs poorly under the current system and sometimes loses seats it deserves to win under it.

3. There is no historical, and no convincing theoretical, evidence that the Coalition loses more seats to micro-parties under the current system than Labor.

4. If anything there is some argument that the proposed changes improve the chances of Labor and the Greens acquiring at least a blocking majority in the Senate.

5. That argument, however, assumes that parties would attract the same vote shares under the new system, when the choice of that new system would actually discourage the scattering of much of the right-wing vote among a huge number of micro-parties.

6. All up there is no evidence that the proposed reforms disadvantage anyone, other than removing chances to be elected from micro-parties that don't deserve those chances anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Poll Roundup: The End Of Newspoll (As We Know It)

2PP Aggregate: 52.3 to ALP (-0.6 since last week, closest for nearly half a year)
Labor would win election held "right now" with small to moderate majority

There is major news in Australian opinion polling this week with the announcement that the joint venture company that owns Newspoll is to be wound up.  The joint venture's shareholders, News Corp and Millward Brown, are pulling the plug because the business is considered "unsustainable".

Newspoll will continue as a brand, but the surveys released under that brand will soon start being conducted by Galaxy.  This is a kind of full circle, since Galaxy's Managing Director David Briggs was General Manager of Newspoll from its inception in October 1985 until April 2004.

What we know so far is that Newspoll will continue to be released about as frequently as now, but how much the new version (which it is tempting to nickname either Galapoll or Newsaxy) will differ in survey design - if at all - is as yet unclear.  I very much hope it will continue asking the same regular questions with the same wording, for the purposes of historical comparison.  However, William Bowe in today's Crikey email has reported that the "telephone component" of the new offering will be conducted by robopolling, suggesting also that there will be a non-telephone component. [Edit: confirmed, online as per current Galaxy federal polling - see comments.] It looks like we are set for not just new management of the Newspoll brand but also fundamentally new methods, such that it should be treated as a new poll.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Legislative Council 2015: Windermere, Mersey and Derwent Live And Post-Count

Derwent: CALLED (6:45 pm): Craig Farrell (ALP) re-elected
Mersey: CALLED (6:47 pm): Mike Gaffney (IND) re-elected
Windermere: CALLED (9 pm): Ivan Dean (IND) re-elected on preferences


Tuesday night: There was quite a lot of silly spinning on election night from various political staffers and so on on Twitter, but not much has made it into wider circulation.  One example that has is this Greens' on-the-night press release, which really has me scratching my head as I try to find a single claim in it that's true.

The first problem with it is the sheer number of errors in the claimed swings, which are actually meant to be from the 2014 state election, although in one place it says 2010.  The press release claims gains in 15 booths and swings against in 1 (I make it actually 11 gains and 5 losses).