Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tasmania 2018: How Woodruff Won Franklin

It's been a hideous few weeks for the Greens - they lost votes and a seat in Tasmania, were thumped in the Batman by-election and were remarkably anonymous in South Australia.  The party is now facing serious internal recriminations over these poor results.

However there was one rather nifty save amid all this, and before I move on to the other house of the Tasmanian parliament (there are two Upper House seat contests coming up in May) I want to post the instructive Hare-Clark details of how Rosalie Woodruff (Green) managed to retain her seat in a very close contest with Nic Street (Liberal).  This article is naturally rather mathsy and has been rated Wonk Factor 4/5.

Had the Liberals succeeded in Franklin the Greens would have been reduced to one seat.  (Note that this would not have actually stopped Cassy O'Connor from having motions debated - she's advised me that the House of Assembly doesn't require seconders for motions - but I expect it would have been a miserable time for the party anyway.)  As a result of not quite getting there, the Government has only a one-seat majority, so had better hope there are no backbench rebellions in this term!

Given what the government was polling last year, it's pretty amazing that they got as close to holding this seat as they did.  The seat was on a 2014 margin of 2.6% over Labor, but the Labor vote rose to over two quotas, meaning that the only way the Liberals could win the seat was by taking it from the Greens.  In 2014 the Liberals had been very nearly two quotas up on the Greens, so they needed the Green primary to fall and to do so by enough to compensate for the inevitable leakage off Premier Hodgman's massive personal vote.  It turned out that the Green vote in Franklin actually did fall more than the Liberals, but they were able to hang on anyway.

On election night, it appeared to me that while it was going to be extremely close, Street was slightly the more likely of the two to win.  The Liberals had a lead of around 500 votes on party quotas (after deducting their two quotas needed to elect Will Hodgman and Jacquie Petrusma) and while they were obviously going to lose a lot of votes from Will Hodgman's surplus, they were also going to gain nearly as much on preferences from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.  Beyond that point, they were a little more exposed to leakage in terms of the number of votes likely to be thrown from their minor candidates, but also Liberal votes don't tend to leak as much as Green votes, so it seemed that the Liberals should still win by 100-200 votes.  But it didn't turn out like that.

As shown by the scrutiny sheet, this is how the battle panned out through the various exclusions and surpluses:

(The count moves from left to right and the numbers on the bottom are just different events - surpluses, exclusions, and part-exclusions.)

The Liberal tally started ahead but initially dropped because of leakage from Will Hodgman's surplus.  Leakage from minor Greens candidates put the race back to even before the Shooters preferences propelled the Liberals to a 672 vote lead.  However, this was mostly lost immediately on leakage from the other remaining Liberal, Claire Chandler.  After the exclusion of Labor's Kevin Midson, Street then led Woodruff by three votes, but the final throw (Alison Standen's surplus off preferences from Midson) gave Woodruff victory by 226.

Another way of looking at it is in terms of the battle between candidates Street and Woodruff:

Street was effectively the third Liberal on a ticket lead by the Premier so his starting primary vote was a lot lower than Woodruff's.  Here the main gains are for surpluses and exclusions from each candidate's own ticket (so the Hodgman surplus and the Chandler exclusion are Street's biggest gains while the exclusion of second Green Richard Atkinson's is Woodruff's).  Although the Liberal Party had a sizeable lead after the Shooters preferences, that vote was split between two Liberal candidates.

A breakup of the different preference types is very instructive concerning what kinds of votes contributed to the result.  Here I refer to a preference vote as "leaking" if it comes from one candidate in a party, could go to another candidate from the same party, but instead goes to another party or exhaust.  Where there is no remaining candidate from the same party, I simply refer to it as a "preference".  So, for instance, the votes from Kevin Midson that did not flow to Alison Standen "leaked" out of the Labor ticket, while those that flowed from Midson to Standen may not have included all five Labor candidates (and might even have originated somewhere else), but at least stayed within the ticket at that point.

The rates at which votes leaked from both the Green and Liberal tickets were not unusual.  What was unusual was the very small share of the leakage that went from each of these party slates to the other.  10% of all Greens leakage in Franklin went to the Liberals; this compares with 19% in 2014 and 42% in 2010.  14% of all Liberal leakage went to the Greens; this compares with 21% in 2014 and 20% in 2010.

With so few leaks from the Liberals going to the Greens and vice versa, the leaks had to go somewhere.  And with only one fourth-party candidate in the mix (and not for all that long) where they went was overwhelmingly to Labor.  This had the effect of continuing to push up Labor's excess over their second quota, such that Labor started just 738 votes over their second quota, but by the exclusion of Midson they were 2193 up (768 was from Hext (SFF) and 687 was net gain on leakage from other parties.)  As a result, votes coming out of the Labor ticket became much more important than they seemed at the start of the count.

Woodruff gained 395 over Street on the Labor votes (including both leaks and the preferences at the end) and won by 226, so had Labor gone substantially backwards on net leakage, she probably wouldn't have made it.  But she also benefited from a change in the behaviour of those Labor votes.

As I noted on the postcount thread, in most cases in the past where Labor preferences have been thrown at the end of a count they have advantaged the Liberals over the Greens. The same is true for Labor leakage in Franklin - over the last four elections almost three quarters of Labor exclusions have seen more leakage to the Liberals.  Yet at this election leaks from all three excluded Labor candidates (Barnsley, Chong and Midson) favoured the Greens over the Liberals.

This probably has a bit to do with what kinds of candidates they were - Barnsley and Chong were both female candidates who are extra-likely to appeal to Green-ish voters (Barnsley from her public service and anti-smoking background, Chong from local government), while Midson, while male and of the Right, is also young.  Indeed, Chong was the one Labor candidate at the 2014 election from whom leaks favoured the Greens.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Just as Labor's pokies policy and generally left-wing campaign took primary votes directly from the Greens, so I believe there would have been plenty of voters who mixed and matched from the Labor and Greens tickets, rather than voting for all of one then all of the other.

The other thing notable here is that Street really struggled through the count to consolidate the Liberal votes under his own name.  A lot of votes (including Liberal votes) were pooling with Chandler rather than Street, and this meant they got another opportunity to leak when Chandler went out.  Partly this reflects the struggle that MPs elected mid-term on recounts often face in getting their profile high enough by the next election. In this case Woodruff was in the same position, but she had had a bit more prior profile-building, eg as the party's federal candidate in 2013.  There was a view that Street's social issue views (as demonstrated for instance in his excellent sheep speech) might get him over the line, but those views most often would have appealed to those with strongly left-wing views who were too committed to the destruction of the Hodgman government to preference any Liberal.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 South Australia Election Wrapup And Postcount

In doubt Mawson (ALP leading but outcome difficult to predict)

Expected result 25-19-3 or 26-18-3
Expected Legislative Council result 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 SA-BEST, 1 Green

This thread will provide some general comments on the South Australian election and will also follow the post-counting in the few seats in doubt.  The post-counting comments will not be updated all that regularly as I took three days off work to follow the Tasmanian post-count and should probably get back to earning some money.  I'll try to check every day or so to see if there's anything worth noting.

The Liberal Opposition led by Steven Marshall has won the election, and is more or less certain to have an outright majority.  If it did fall short in a seat somewhere because of some freakish postcount result, Troy Bell could be counted on for support.

This is only the seventh case since 1969 of an Opposition winning an election while the same party is in power federally; for the previous six see here.  On the other hand, it confirms two other historic patterns: that governments no longer seem to go on forever (it is now 32 years since any state or federal government older than 16 years was returned) and that unpopular state premiers don't get re-elected.

At least on the figures for the classic (Labor vs Liberal) seats, the Weatherill government appears to have received a small swing back to it from its somehow winning 2014 2PP of 47%.  On raw figures the swing back is 1.7% but after declaration votes I expect it to drop back to around 1.2% (I may attempt a 2PP estimate at that time). However, much of the swing to the government was wasted in safe seats such as Croydon, Elizabeth, Kaurna, Playford and Reynell.  As a result the swing back does not seem to have delivered any net seat gain at all.

Much will be said about the failure of the SA-BEST party, which started off polling incredibly well but continued to tank through the campaign and has won at most one seat.  Following a similar failure by One Nation in Queensland the issue will be whether minor party uprisings are failing because of mistakes by the parties in campaigning, or whether the two-party system is so stacked against them when it comes to single-seat contests that they have no chance.

Poll Accuracy

This was a rather bad election for opinion polling.  The final Newspoll had the Liberals on 34% but the Liberals are currently on 37.4% and likely to finish close to 38% should postcount patterns from 2014 hold.  While the continual sliding in the SA-BEST vote meant that SA-BEST was probably still shedding votes even after the final poll was taken, the Newspoll overestimated third parties generally, also having the combined Greens and Others vote around three points too high.

Whether the final ReachTEL was any better is hard to say.  Perhaps it was, but the innumerate presentation of the poll by clueless Sky News presenters lumped the ReachTEL "undecided" vote (in reality voters with a soft preference for a party who should be allocated to that party) in with Others.  Had they not done this, it's possible the poll would have shown a more accurate picture of the total major party vote, though it is unlikely it would have had the major party gap any more accurate.  Once upon a time ReachTEL used to promptly publish full details of its media polling on its site and it's a pity this is generally no longer done.

As for seat polling, the YouGov-Galaxy series during the campaign did correctly predict the winner in nine out of eleven polls taken.  (I count a 50-50 2PP as correct if the margin lands within two points either way.)  However some of these were easy targets and the average error on the winner's 2PP is currently running at just over four points.  These errors aren't confined to the non-classic contests affected by the SA-BEST nosedive, with 5-point errors also in Lee and Morphett.    The less said about the pre-campaign seatpolls, the better.

As for statewide 2PP polling, I can't comment on it because there wasn't any.  One would have thought this was a fine opportunity for someone to test whether respondent preferencing could obtain an accurate outcome; apparently not.


ECSA is expediting postcounting in Adelaide, Mawson, Newland and Heysen, so we should get progress on them on Monday; for the rest things won't get serious until Tuesday.  The most important thing to know here is that post-counting in SA typically favours the Liberals.  In 2014 their 2PP rose by an average of 0.5 points per seat.  There were only six classic seats where it fell at all, and in four of these the drop was trivial (Light with 0.5% was the largest Liberal fall).  There were some seats where the Liberals gained greatly on the 2014 postcount, such as Giles where they gained three points.

In a few seats - but fewer than I feared - the ECSA has the wrong pair of candidates for the two-party count and will have to realign the two-party count (when this will happen I don't know).  This is the case in Gibson and Morialta, and possibly in Hartley where Nick Xenophon could be overtaken by Labor on Greens preferences.  Looking at the 2016 federal election, I've found that Labor candidates gained on Xenophon candidates using Green preferences in most but not all cases, with the maximum gain rate being about 0.4 votes/preference.  In some cases, Xenophon candidates gained (Greens voters aren't big card-followers), so Xenophon isn't certain to be overtaken.  In Heysen it's unlikely on that basis that Labor would get into second.

Seats that I - at some stage -  consider to be in any significant level of doubt (or just interest) will be listed individually with comments below.  Because of the large size of the postcount and the potential for the redistribution to interfere with post-count patterns it is possible new seats will be added to this list.


This seat was barely mentioned all night but finished with Rachel Sanderson (Lib) leading Jo Chapley (ALP) by just 67 votes (50.22% 2PP).  In 2014 the Liberals gained by 0.77 points in the postcount so if anything like that happens again they will win easily.

Sunday 4:45: Antony Green has tweeted that Labor are now 125 ahead, following corrections during checking including a significantly incorrect figure at one booth. That lead would be unlikely to survive the postcount based on past patterns.

Monday night: Sanderson has gone to a 539 vote lead (51.5%) and while that doesn't include absents yet so there is some room for recovery that is pretty much the end of that one.


This is a greatly redistributed seat where Leon Bignell (Labor) is trying to hang on despite it having a notional Liberal margin of 4.2%.  As widely expected he's given it a very good shake and at the end of election night leads by 387 votes (51.19% 2PP).  That might sound enough but the difficulty for Bignell is that his seat includes redistributed parts of the seat of Finniss, where there was a 1.4% shift in post-counting in the Liberals' favour in 2014.  I suspect that one particular ex-Finniss component that is now in Mawson, Kangaroo Island, might have had a lot to do with that.  This one is worth keeping an eye on to see what the postcount shift is in 2018 with the possibility of it being enough to turn around Bignell's lead.

It is easy to project this as a win to the Liberals' Andy Gilfillan if one assumes that a larger post-count means a larger swing to the Liberals, especially given the areas now included in the electorate, but generally in my experience this assumption is unsound.  Postals are the main cause of Liberals gaining in post-counting, but it is actually prepolls that continue to increase.

Monday night: The gap closed to 189 votes (50.5%) for Bignell on postals and prepolls that have been counted - that should be the worst of it but doesn't necessarily mean that he is safe yet.


This is another redistributed seat where religious conservative Labor MP Tom Kenyon has had his seat turned into a notional Liberal marginal.  At the end of election night Kenyon trails Richard Harvey (Lib) by 298 votes (50.93% to Liberal) and the ABC coverage reported he had conceded.  However, conceding doesn't affect the count.  In 2014 the Liberals made a 0.3% gain on the 2PP during the postcount; one expects something similar this time as well and that the Liberals will win the seat easily, but just in terms of the reasonably close margin I'll keep an eye on it in case Labor makes any progress.

Update Sunday evening: addition of "ticket votes" (these are votes that would otherwise have been informal but are saved by the savings provisions) has boosted Harvey's lead by 90 votes, eliminating any remaining chances here.


There was briefly a glitch in the ECSA computer display that had SA-BEST flipping from 52-48 behind to 52-48 ahead on Saturday but it has now been reverted.

Legislative Council

Figures in the Legislative Council race currently stand at: Liberal 3.779 quotas Labor 3.562 SA-BEST 2.268 Green 0.720 Conservatives 0.423 Lib Dems 0.291 Animal Justice 0.256 Dignity 0.239 (etc).  Eight of the eleven seats will be decided by full quotas.  Then the remainder will be decided by partial quotas unless somebody can catch somebody else on preferences.  But there's no reason to believe the Conservatives could catch up to Labor on preferences on the current numbers.

The current lead for Labor's fourth seat over the Conservatives is 1.16%.  While this is likely to come down on post-counting it is highly unlikely to be reduced to zero.  On that basis it is very likely the result will be 4-4-2-1, with the Conservatives losing the seat they won under the name Family First.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018 South Australian Election Night Live


From base of notional 25-19-3 seat distribution:
Apparent Liberal gain: King
Possible Labor gain: Mawson (in some doubt)
In doubt: Adelaide (Lib ahead), Newland (Lib ahead)
Outcome: Liberals have won, almost certainly in majority, most likely result 25-19-3 or 26-18-3.

Note: I will try to clear comments tonight but don't expect replies

Updates (Refresh for latest)

11:42: The ABC has turned off the projection, meaning that some seats that were projected as easy wins have dropped back into in-doubt status.  Of these Adelaide is the closest with a current real margin of just 67 votes.  Here in 2014, booth votes went 51.6% to Liberal but declaration votes went 54.5% to Liberal.  So while the seat can be projected to about 51-49 we have to wait and see if the pattern repeats.  Some doubt can also be entertained about Newland, where we have a 50.9-49.1 margin on booth votes, but in 2014, declaration votes were overall weaker for the Liberals than booth votes, and this time there will be a greater proportion of declaration votes that are prepolls.  Note that in each of these cases I am not necessarily matching exactly the same voting areas, which creates some further issues.

10:51: More serious doubt about Mawson now, dropping to 50.4% on the projection.

10:48: Heysen is clearly a Liberal win now whatever the exclusion order so that's 25 for the Liberals

10:30 Current upper house figures in quotas - Lib 3.79 ALP 3.53 SAB 2.32 GRN 0.68 CON 0.43.  Without much doubt that would be 4-4-2-1 if it stayed that way, but need to keep an eye on whether Labor drop back significantly below the Conservatives.

9:48 Labor's lead in Mawson has been chopped in half so that one is in doubt.  On the Liberal list, Adelaide with an actual count of 51.4% and a projected 50.6% hasn't been called into question but is worth keeping an eye on.

9:34 With the Liberal primary tracking towards 38% it is now reasonable to start asking why both major polls had the Liberals on only 34% (albeit in the ReachTEL case without redistributing undecided).  This is starting to look like a statistically significant failure.

9:32 Tom Kenyon has conceded Newland.

9:30 A quick look at the Legislative Council.  With 16.1% counted the Liberals are on 31.8%, Labor on 28.8, SA-BEST 19.2, Green 5.7, AC 3.6, LDP 2.5, AJP 2.2, Dignity 2.  On those numbers the Liberals would win four seats, Labor three, SA-BEST 2, the Greens 1 and there would be a drawn-out contest for the last one between Labor, SA-BEST and the Conservatives (who have polled poorly).  Based on Senate patterns Labor would have a good chance but perhaps this would be different this time. Let's see where the numbers land with a lot more counting.

9:17 SA-BEST have fallen behind on the two-party count in Heysen anyway.

9:14 At a very rough estimate based on the classic seats, I have the 2PP swing at about 1.1% to Labor.  This seems to have delivered no net seats because much of it is being wasted in ultra-safe seats like Croydon, Elizabeth, Kaurna and Playford.  It suggests strongly that preferences shifted to Labor's detriment and that the SA-BEST flow could well be below 50-50.

9:03 This is only the seventh time in the last 49 years that an Opposition has won government while the same party is in power in Canberra.  For the previous examples see What Kills State Governments: Age Or Canberra.

9:02 I have not called a Liberal majority yet because of doubt about Newland but I expect the Liberals will win it.

8:57 Looking at Heysen, currently the gap between SA-BEST and Labor is 5.3 points and the Green vote is 12.2%.  Ignoring other parties, that would require Labor to gain at .42 votes/Green preference.  Looking at the 2016 federal election results, there were no seats where Labor gained on NXT at quite that rate.  In a few they gained at 35-40%, in some at lower rates and in a couple NXT beat them.  (Greens voters are not big how-to-vote card followers.)  I suspect that SA-BEST will remain ahead of Labor on current figures.  A bigger issue for them could be the overall two-candidate situation which looks very close.

8:38 So looking at options for a Liberal majority.  I'm assuming that from their 27 notional seat list there are two won by the crossbench, and a swap of King (gain) for Mawson (loss).  Ignoring Dunstan where there are no figures there are four of the remaining 25 for which there has been doubt - Elder, Heysen, Newland and Waite.  There is still doubt about Heysen but at present they're holding the rest.

8:34 ABC now projecting Labor just ahead in Liberal-held Waite (unexpectedly) but this is off some very Liberal-friendly booths; we have to see if that holds up with more counting.

8:27 A bit of life in Elder which has come back below 51% to Liberal.

8:14 There is a large swing against the Liberals in Waite, but they are holding on there so far.
From the Liberals' notional 27, they're losing two to the crossbench (Mt Gambier and Frome) for 25.  They're currently ahead in King and currently losing Mawson.  There's an exclusion order question on Heysen.  (Labor have improved in Lee now.)  So currently the Liberals are hovering around 24-25, we have three crossbenchers and Labor 19.

8:06 ABC has Labor ahead in the notionally Liberal seat Mawson, so that's one Labor might yet pull back.

8:04 Liberals ahead now in another Labor marginal, Lee.  There was a big late betting plunge in Lee and King. 

Geoff Brock doing OK in Frome so far so it looks like the three expected crossbenchers are all holding.

7:59 Now we have more trouble for Labor - they're behind early in one of their marginals, King.

7:56 I agree with Antony that Xenophon is in trouble in Hartley and he's not out of the exclusion-order woods either.

7:54 Heysen has an exclusion order issue - SA-BEST are not far enough ahead of Labor currently to avoid being swamped on Greens preferences and knocked out.  We need to keep a close eye on the relative primaries here to see if SAB can even win this one.

7:52 Colton has turned around with more booths in the 2PP so Labor is no longer winning it.  At this stage there is no seat that is changing on a 2PP basis.  Labor must start taking seats from the Liberals on a 2PP basis or the Liberals will win, probably outright.

7:51 In Giles, an exclusion order issue is looming, but on early figures Labor could be too far ahead for it to matter.

7:48 Frances Bedford bolting in in Florey, so that's one off Labor's pile to the crossbench.

7:47 SA-BEST doing quite well in Heysen which was always one of their most likely seats.

7:37 At this stage Labor aren't in trouble in any of their 20 notionally held seats, but given that the Liberals notionally hold 27, they need to win some notionally Liberal seats to hang on.  At the moment they are leading in Colton according to the ABC but that is a projection off a very pro-Liberal set of booths so I am suspicious of it.

For the Liberal part, we can knock off one for Mt Gambier where Bell is winning easily, but he can be treated as Liberal anyway.

7:30 I am especially interested in the notionally Liberal ALP-held seats (Newland, Mawson, Colton, Elder). Early ABC estimates are encouraging for Labor in Newland and Colton.

7:23 ABC projection suggests a pattern that the majors are both doing a few points better than the final polls and SAB and Others worse.  On that basis, a very close night ahead.

7:18 Troy Bell, ex-Liberal, doing very well early in Mt Gambier.

7:15 Mawson, another potential SAB target, distant third there too.

7:09 Davenport was a potential SAB target but for now they're a distant third.

6:56 SAB competitive in Finniss where they appear to be running second, but they need the Liberal primary to come down a few points.

6:46 The early ABC projections are positive for Labor in terms of the state vote but off 0.1% it's too early to take much notice of that - probably comes to a large degree from uncompetitive electorates.  By the way I recommend following the ABC site as it is easiest to see all the electorates at once - just with the usual concern about preference projections that are not real votes.

6:34 Some very early booths in, as usual rural ones that are strong for Liberals, so the state totals will take a while to settle down to anything vaguely meaningful.

6:16 Betting continuing to plunge on the Liberals, now down to $1.42 after not being favourites until today.

6:10 An exit poll has been reported by Nine with a 36-31 lead for the Liberals and a mid-teens figure for SA-BEST.  On these figures the Liberals would have good chances of winning.

Opening Post
Welcome to my attempt to post live comments on Batman and South Australia simultaneously.  Polls are just closing in SA.

Last night I chickened out of trying to pick a winner based on the public polls, which suggest a very close contest unless SA-BEST preferences split strongly one way or the other (something which there seems to have been very little real attempt to sample.)  Today the vibe from informed commentators seems to have been very much in favour of the Liberals and there was a big betting plunge in their favour in certain seats.  Against that Labor has claimed their internal polling points to a result of about 21-21-3-2, which more or less matches a reasonable read of the public polls and causes me to cynically suspect this read is therefore wrong.  But we will see!

This count is going to be messy and probably even worse than Queensland's.  There will probably be seats in which the final two are not known with certainty or even confidence tonight, and SA also has infuriatingly slow counting of postals and pre-polls, which don't get done til early in the working week.  Perhaps we will know the result tonight (more or less) or it might string out for several days or even until preferences are distributed in some seats.

I'll be keeping an eye on the ABC coverage but also keeping a watch for "bolter" seats with exclusion order issues that are easily overlooked.  Please keep in mind that figures on the ABC coverage are likely to include estimates that may not be real votes, especially as concerns flows from SA-Best.

I'll try to keep this page on SA time but will probably fail!

2018 Batman By-Election Live

Note: I will try to clear comments tonight but don't expect replies

Summary: CALLED - Kearney (ALP) retains

Updates (Refresh for latest)

11:56 Ben Raue has essential reading on the pattern I pointed out earlier, with one of the more dramatic booth swing maps we will see - the Greens made good gains north of Bell Street in Labor heartland, but Labor made gains south of Bell Street in the areas where Labor was supposed to be demographically extinct.  Successful Labor campaign or Green self-sabotage?

11:50 We are converging inexorably on the 53-47 of the Lonergan seatpoll (which was taken before the Bhathal dossier story broke widely).  At present there is an error in the booth of Northcote West in which the 2PP figures have been reversed; after that we're on 53.00-47.00.

8:39 With Labor up to 52.7% projected 2PP with 53% counted (and with the Greens having done a big job on prepolls in the actual election too) it would be extraordinary for the Greens to come back, especially as they had no party-postal effort.  I'm assuming Kearney has won this and switching to South Australia from now on.

8:05 51.7% projected 2PP with 37% counted to 2PP.

7:50 The swing is bobbing back and forth so that the projection has come down to the 51s.  It looks like Kearney is winning but I don't think 51.4% projected 2PP should be called just yet off 30%.

7:42 Kearney tracking upwards now, towards the 53-47 of the dreaded Lonergan!  If this was a normal election-night seat we would have just about lost interest in it by now.

7:36 I'm looking to the booths coming in and I keep finding the Labor and Green primaries are relatively constant with last time.  The AEC now has a +0.7% swing to Labor, this might come down towards zero when more booths hit the 2PP, but big prepoll booths are going to be important later tonight if the battle is still close.  At the moment it seems Kearney is doing well.

7:24 And yep, while I was doing that Kearney took the projected 2PP lead.

7:22 Eight booths in for primaries and Labor is doing OK on primaries in these now (a +0.5 swing matching just the Labor and Green primaries) so it will be interesting to see what happens as a few more hit the 2PP.

7:12 Five booths in and I now have the swing based off primaries back to practically nothing (0.7% to Greens) which is about the same as the AEC's 2PP projected swing off three.  The pattern so far is that the swing is slightly to the Greens in the Labor booths and slightly to Labor in the Greens booths.  Will be interesting to see where we're at when some of these booths hit the 2PP.

7:10 A third pro-ALP booth in and I now have the swing based off primaries at about 3.6% to Green similar to the ABC's 3.2%.

7:00 Two pro-ALP booths in.  In terms of the primaries for these two booths I have Labor leading 710-568 cf 644-468 last time, which is close enough to make things rather interesting, a 2.4% swing. Bear in mind also that the Liberals preferenced Labor last time and are not running, so that would seem to be a good start for the Greens, but we'll need to see swings come through from the 2PP counts and also from Green booths.

Opening Comments

Polls are about to close in the Batman by-election so I'm starting my live comment thread.  This thread will run in tandem with the South Australian election live thread (bearing in mind that SA is half an hour behind Vic) but if it becomes clear who the winner is then I'll scale this one down and switch to South Australia.

It's pretty basic really, 1% swing for Greens to win, but we need to pay attention to where the votes are coming from.  The pro-ALP north might swing differently to the pro-Green south and there is also the possibility that the southern parts of the pro-ALP north swing differently to the northern parts.  (This is the demographic-creep-over-the-hipster-proof-fence idea).

Early in the campaign I vaguely favoured the Greens, but I found that people were presenting very reasonable arguments based on past voting patterns as to why Labor should win.  However that demographic-creep theory was still the potential killer for any pro-Labor argument.

Then there was the Bhathal dossier thing which exposed that the Greens have a problem with internal purists who prefer their party to lose than the "wrong" sort of Green to win.  And then in the last few days there was the ALP tax policy announcement.  Amid all that and the Tasmanian election I never got around to declaring a favourite (except that I told one person on Twitter that I thought Labor would win).  There was only one public poll I saw, a landline-only Lonergan (53-47 to Labor) which was such an amusing enterprise it would be funny if it was dead right.

I think if Labor loses the tax policy timing announcement will be blamed and Bill Shorten will come under fire, while if Labor wins the tax policy will get no credit and the Greens' internal issues will be blamed.  So the timing of the announcement makes no sense, unless it was a Hail Mary because Labor thought they were losing.

Bring on the votes!  (Note that a lot of the booths are large - several hundred votes to four figures but there are a couple of little ones that with any luck might report inside the first hour.)

Updates will scroll to the top - refresh now and then for new comments.  

2018 SA Election Late Polls And Other Comments

SA: Newspoll and ReachTEL 34-31 on primary votes to Liberal
No predicted winner - too close to call

On Saturday night I will be attempting to live-comment the SA state election and the federal Batman by-election at the same time starting from 6:30.  Really this shouldn't be too hard, since Batman is just one seat, so I hope it will be useful.  They will be on separate threads and I will be trying to give each about equal attention to start with, though if Batman can be called quickly I will wind it down and switch to focusing purely on South Australia.

A Few Quick Unpleasantries ...

Rant warning!

I have made an SA-election-related colour change to the boundary of my site, putting up SA-BEST colours as a personal protest against the Labor Party's decision to preference Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives third on their Upper House how-to-vote card (the Liberals of course are preferencing them second).  This should not be taken as an endorsement of SA-BEST as such (indeed I suggest South Australians vote how they like and ignore my foreign interference), but it is an endorsement of ripping the Labor upper-house how-to-vote card into tiny pieces of confetti and then posting it to SA ALP HQ with an appropriate message.

I am, as always, disgusted that a supposedly progressive party anywhere in Australia would preference the religious right in this manner.  It seems that some sections of Labor never learn and never stop playing these clueless whatever-it-takes games no matter how many times the religious minnows win them (Steven Fielding, Bob Day etc etc.)  The payoff is Conservatives preferences in Labor's marginal seat of Lee, and split tickets in Light and Newlands, but whether anyone minded to vote Conservative will be fooled by all this or even follow the card at all we will see.

Fortunately the Upper House preference recommendation is likely to be very weakly followed, based on experience of the 2016 Senate election (at which really only the Liberal Party had strong how-to-vote follow rates, and those parties that played these stupid hack games generally found nobody much followed their card). But for an even remotely progressive party - or even a centre party as SA Labor would probably claim to be - to endorse a religious right party like Bernardi's is wrong.

Righto, back to psephology ...

Final Polls

The Sky News ReachTEL has come out with primaries of Liberal 34 ALP 31 SA-BEST 16 Others 19. Frustratingly, the Others figure apparently includes "undecided" (as irregularly defined by ReachTEL), but the undecided rate isn't yet reported, and there is a 2PP figure stated (but apparently only for the undecided voters) - typical garbled and useless Sky poll reporting.   This ReachTEL might be taken as implying that SA-BEST are continuing to slide dramatically, but it's also notable that SA-BEST polled poorly in the Climate Council state ReachTEL at the end of January.  There after accounting for the undecided voters, the numbers were Liberal 36.4 Labor 28.4 SA-BEST 19.2 Other 15.9  -  much lower for SAB than others around the same time.

The Newspoll has also come out - at the same time so we can't accuse them of herding - and it also has a low result for SA-BEST, with Liberal 34 ALP 31 SA-BEST 17 Greens 8 (Others 10).  The Newspoll is adjusted for SA-BEST not running in certain seats (so it is compatible with a statewide vote of, say, 22) but it is unclear whether the ReachTEL is. At least we know that for Newspoll the undecideds have been removed. 

My model for SA-BEST still has them able to win 2-3 seats off Newspoll's adjusted 17% (it has them ahead in Kavel, and Heysen and competitive in Mawson, Finniss and Giles) but as noted before these models are a little prone to overestimate third-party success.  And if the ReachTEL is not adjusted then the picture becomes even bleaker after aggregating the two (though I'll note the old Newspoll was much more accurate than ReachTEL in 2014.) On this polling the party is looking at a handful of seats at best, perhaps none - so not such a different outlook to One Nation in Queensland. It might not be so chaotic a night as expected.

Upper House

I'll be commenting on the Upper House results during the postcount and possibly on election night depending on whether there's enough counting progress to say anything useful.  11 seats (half the Upper House) are up for grabs so the quota is 8.33%.  The system is now similar to NSW's - optional preferential above the line, so the final seats will be falling on a lot less than a full quota.  The trap here is to remember that SA-BEST can poll Upper House votes even in seats where they're not contesting the Lower House (though perhaps that will deflate them slightly in those seats).  Based on the recent Newspoll a result along the lines of 3 Liberal, 3 Labor, 3 SA-BEST, 1 Green, 1 Conservatives would make sense, but on tonight's ReachTEL it might be more like 4 Liberal and 2 SA-BEST.  The seats being vacated are 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, Kelly Vincent (Dignity), 1 Green, 1 Conservative.  Under the new system it will be difficult for other parties to win (at least if their vote shares are anything like as low as last time), but if SA-BEST has indeed crashed to the high teens it might be possible for a micro-party (possibly Dignity) to get up from a few percent.

Lower House How-To-Votes

How-to-vote cards can be downloaded from the ECSA website, and Peter Brent has also prepared a very useful summary of who the major parties are preferencing out of the other major party and SA-BEST in each.  Labor are splitting their preferences with SA-BEST ahead of Liberal in 18 seats, Liberal ahead of SA-BEST in 17 and a split ticket in Hartley, where Nick Xenophon is the SA-BEST candidate.  The Liberals have preferenced SA-BEST over Labor in every seat except for preferencing Labor in Newland and Unley and a split ticket in Hartley.

William Bowe (paywalled) has noted that the SA Greens have for some reason preferenced the Liberals ahead of SA-BEST in 15 of the latter's 36 contested seats, however the SA Green vote is low and Green how-to-votes struggle to alter the flow of Green preferences by even 10%, so the impact of this should be small.  What I have noticed is that in the seats that I assessed as competitive for SA-BEST (modelling approach described loosely here - and I'm counting anything where that model says SA-B is within 3% of making the final two and within 3% of winning the two-candidate race), SA-BEST nearly always has the preference of the party likely to be excluded first.  The Labor preference decision has mostly hit SAB in seats where it is not competitive anyway.  So if SA-BEST could get the statewide low-20s percent result of the recent Newspoll then the party could conceivably win as many as a dozen seats.  The vibe of the thing in commentary in the commentariat is overwhelmingly that this won't be happening.

It isn't really clear what the SA-BEST candidate for Newland, Rajini Vasan, has done wrong to deserve being put last by both the majors, as searching online I could not find evidence of anything controversial involving her.  However, the ballot order may have something to do with it:

Both parties have adopted designs that allow their voters to easily "donkey" most of the ballot, presumably to minimise the risk of voter error (although SA has a partial savings provision in that regard).  These kinds of semi-donkey how to vote card orders are common, and in my view they provide a rather strong argument for using rotating ballot papers.  Genuine donkey voting in single-member electorates with party names shown on the ballot is typically a fraction of 1%, but the proportion of voters following major party HTVs is well into double figures (even in SA where the major party vote will be so low).  So, if a major party preference decision between the other major and a third party contender is based on ballot order, that's a potentially massive random advantage.

(A cheaper but in several ways less practical alternative to rotating ballots would be to require parties to submit their HTV order prior to the draw for positions.)

Seat Polls Vs State Polls

This is another election where the summary position from seat polls is different from the picture of the statewide polling.  With the exception of the seat of Taylor (an ALP vacancy) the SA-BEST vote in seat polls has been generally worse than would be expected after adjusting the NXT Senate vote to match the Newspoll.  In cases it is much worse, such as Mawson where the party should be in the low 30s, not the 20% of the recent Galaxy.

It is tempting to aggregate the seat polls and use that aggregate to cover for the paucity of state polls, but past experience should make us very wary of doing this.  At the 2013 federal election, for instance, seat polls displayed large skews to the Coalition compared to the national polls, but the national polls were right and the seat polls were wrong.

So what might happen?

It looks like SA-BEST are going to flop, and we may even get an outright winner, but even with these late polls I can't tell which way this is going to go.  The polls make it too close to call.

On the primary figures given, it really comes down to the SA-BEST preferences.  It baffles me that pollsters haven't even attempted a state 2PP with the evidence increasing that SA-BEST are in third place and will be excluded in the bulk of seats.  It would be necessary to use respondent preferencing, which is unreliable, but SA-BEST have open how-to-votes everywhere, so perhaps for them respondent preferencing would actually work.

If the SA-BEST preferences break as per the 2016 federal election, then on the current Newspoll primaries Labor should win about 51.5% 2PP (maybe 51% if we assume Conservative preferences are a bit worse than Family First) and on that basis would be likely to hold government.  For 51% 2PP, Labor wins the 2PP on average in about 25-26 seats and should at least be able to form minority government after dropping Florey and, say, one to SA-BEST.

If the SA-BEST preferences break more like 50-50, then that's a Labor 2PP around 49.5-50.  And that's the zone where either side can win with more or less equal chances, though a hung parliament becomes rather likely.

If the SA-BEST preferences break to the Liberals, then Labor should lose.

There is a fascinating Newspoll question which asks voters which way Nick Xenophon should jump if he gets the balance of power.  He ought to worry about actually getting any seats first, but 52% say he should support the Liberals while only 28% (lower even than the Labor primary - what?) say he should support Labor.  That might be taken as an indication that preference flows will be carrying a time's-up factor, but even still it is a strange result.  Another it's-time result comes from ReachTEL which says "After 16 years of Labor in office SA needs a change of government" (59% agree 27% disagree).  The problem with this question is that it presents one side of the argument in isolation, which is not how voters think about elections.  If the question was "The South Australian Liberals are not ready to govern yet" that might also get a positive response.

I should again mention a few of the big polling picture stories that I always follow.

Firstly, my pet federal drag theory says that governments that are opposite to the party in power in Canberra only lose about 15% of the time.

Secondly, however, incumbency effects (both state per the same link and federal) say that governments that have been in power longer are more likely to lose, especially these days.   Somewhat cautiously, I previously assessed the SA government's historic chance of survival on this basis at 50-50.

Thirdly, there's the history that unpopular State Premiers are toast. Jay Weatherill's last two Newspolls have had netsats of -21 and -20.  Only one state Premier has ever won after recording that or worse at any stage of a term, and that was much further out from the election than this.  Weatherill's small lead over Steven Marshall in a two-way question (5 points), also puts him in an uncomfortable position (see historic graph here) though David Bartlett (Tas) was the one winner from a very similar position.  However, when we look at the polling of those unpopular state Premiers who made it to elections, it was usually obvious that they were going to lose.  If a Premier is unpopular but his party is competitive, then isn't this just like the 1993 federal election?

My modelling provides no basis for tipping a winner in this election (it comes out on average with 21-22 seats for each major party and a crossbench that might do anything), and I think that predicting someone to win when there's no basis for having the foggiest is pretty useless.  (If the prediction is wrong it hasn't helped the public, and if the prediction is correct then it looks like you knew what you were doing when you didn't, which is worse.)  The last SA election was a genuine surprise but there were always reasons for thinking it was closer than the betting markets said.  This one appears to be very close to a genuine tossup - either an ancient and unpopular government continues or a struggling Opposition wins while the same party is in power federally - so it should be a fascinating night to see which way it falls!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Keating Aggregation 1990-1993

A bit of a special feature for today ...

25 years ago today Paul Keating's Labor government won re-election against the odds, having battled a recession and fallout from the mid-term removal of the previous Prime Minister Bob Hawke.  Among all Australian elections, 1993 stands out as an oddity, the one that breaks almost every predictive election model that can be thrown at it.  If you want to get a feeling of just how unexpected it was, check out Lateline from a couple of nights before.

It is easy to forget that in office Keating was a very unpopular Prime Minister, widely considered arrogant and abrasive, and blamed for comments about "the recession we had to have".  He did not poll a single positive Newspoll netsat in 109 consecutive Newspolls on the job.  Yet history has been kind to him, in part because of this alleged electoral miracle.

Polling aggregates for all Australian terms back to 1996-1998 were available on the old Crikey Poll Bludger site (see sidebar of this Wayback archiving).  Some of the older aggregations there became possible after I recovered a large stash of historic Morgan data, also via the Wayback Machine.  But I have never yet seen an aggregation for 2PP polling over the 1990-1993 cycle, so about a year ago I decided I would prepare one and release it on this day.  And here it is.

Data sources are polls published by Newspoll, Morgan (mostly face-to-face with the occasional telephone poll), and, from the start of 1992, AGB McNair (a precursor of Nielsen).  My thanks very much to John Stirton for the later data.  Methods are a simplified version of my current 2PP aggregate, so this is a last-election preferences aggregate running off the 1990 election.  The 1990 election itself had seen a substantial preference shift as Labor ramped up its efforts to obtain Green and Democrat preferences (saving its skin by so doing) but 1993 did not. 

For this aggregate I've ignored all published 2PPs completely (rather than try to wade through which were last-election and which were respondent-allocated or something else; for most of the Newspolls there were no published 2PPs at all) so I've just calculated my own from the published primaries.  The AGB McNair face-to-face polls displayed a significant house effect relative to Newspoll and Morgan for much of the cycle; I've adjusted for this by simply applying a 0.7 point correction to the aggregate for the whole period they ran over, except when their most recent phone at the time was a phone poll.

So here it is:

Basically the re-elected Hawke government got no honeymoon to speak of and was soon behind.  It fell into the low-mid 40s by late 1990, with the recession clearly affecting government polling even before it was officially declared.  At the point marked 1 above, Paul Keating declared that Bob Hawke had reneged on an agreement to stand aside for Keating during the term, and launched a challenge against Hawke's leadership.  This was defeated and Keating went to the backbench.

Initially Hawke recovered in the polls, though at no stage was his position better than about 48-52.  In November 1991 Opposition Leader John Hewson launched the Fightback! package.  Hawke was seen as unable to respond effectively to Fightback! and government polling collapsed.  (The worst polls of the term were recorded here, including one which I convert as 59-41 to Coalition.)  Bob Hawke was removed as Prime Minister (point marked 2 above) and Keating took over.

Government polling was still sluggish at the start of 1992 but recovered markedly from mid-March.  Now and then the odd poll would even have shown Labor in the lead, had 2PP conversions been more widely practiced at that time.  However on the whole Labor continued to trail until late 1992.

In November 1992 (point marked 3) there was a sudden flip in Labor's favour, which the aggregate smooths out as less sudden than it probably was.  In a fortnight there was an eight-point swing in Newspoll and a four-point swing in Morgan, and in some following polls Labor leads as large as the equivalent of 56-44 were seen.  (AGB showed no real change through this time, but had already had Labor ahead.)  As well as rising opposition to Fightback!, a major cause of the flip was the election of the Kennett Liberal government in Victoria in October 1992, leading to enormous protests in Melbourne against its agenda.

Fightback! was taken to the panel-beaters and relaunched in December 1992.  Initially the relaunch was successful and the Coalition moved back into a small lead.  But in the last weeks even this came undone.  It is disputed what impact the infamous birthday cake interview ten days out may have had, and those disputing it tend to argue that even the final polls did not show Labor winning.  But on my conversions, in most cases, they actually did.  (Though the final aggregate reading comes out at 49.8, which would probably have been enough to win anyway, I convert the final Newspoll and Morgan as both 50.7% 2PP to Labor - the end result was 51.4).

Had polling aggregation been widely used during 1993 it's likely aggregators would have taken too much notice of Labor underperforming its polls in the previous cycles, and expected it to happen again.  So I am not sure whether aggregation would have been much of a predictive tool, especially not at the end of such a changeable campaign.

I hope this trip down polling memory lane has been of interest, and that it serves as a useful reminder that even when governments are behind in polling for nearly all a term, that is no guarantee that they would lose.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

SA Election: Some General Modelling Comments

Note to media of all kinds: this long weekend (10-12 March) I am not available for in-person interviews.  My phone will be switched off most of the long weekend - you may be able to get me on Saturday morning or Monday night, or if you leave a message with an after-hours number I may be able to return your call at night on Saturday or Sunday.

Note to posters: Comment clearing may be slow and replies slower for the next few days.


The two-week gap between this year's Tasmanian and South Australian elections means I will at least be able to do live comments on South Australia.  However, the Tasmanian campaign hasn't done wonders for my ability to devote energy to the SA contest.  I may be able to do another piece with more detailed modelling on South Australia next week, but I'm not sure I will have time for this yet.  This piece just makes a range of general comments that I think are important to trying to model the outcome.

The Backdrop

Historically, the two most important factors in understanding state election results have been the age of the government and whether it is the same party as the power in Canberra.  (See What Kills State Governments: Age Or Canberra?) Young governments tend to be re-elected and governments that are the opposite party to the party in power in Canberra tend to be re-elected.  Here we have a government that is of the opposite party to the party in power in Canberra, and at a time when the federal Liberal government is unpopular, but the state government is also very old.  Labor have been in power in SA since 2002 and are going for five in a row.  The last two state governments to face an election at about this age (NSW in 2011 and Tasmania in 2014) were smashed.  Not since Queensland 1986 has a state government older than this been re-elected. 

After being thumpingly re-elected in 2006, Labor "should have" lost in 2010, but held on by an extraordinary feat of sandbagging that allowed them to confine their losses to just two seats despite an 8.4% swing against them.  The body charged with administering the state's infamous "fairness clause" concluded that Labor's win despite losing the 2PP 48.4% to 51.6% was down to campaign factors rather than an unfair distribution of votes, so didn't do anything about it.  Then in 2014 Labor lost the 2PP even more heavily (47:53) but clung on in minority.  The Liberals might have been expected to get more swing back in those seats that had been sandbagged in 2010 but were on the whole unable to do so. 

Later in 2014, in a humiliating result for the Liberals, Labor won the Fisher by-election by nine votes and gained a majority of one.  However this was then lost in 2017 when Frances Bedford quit Labor after being overlooked for preselection.  Labor still had a comfortable hold on government, and former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith had even defected to the crossbench and become a Minister during the term.  

This is the last election at which the "fairness clause" is expected to operate, as it was abolished in a classic piece of last-sitting-day skulduggery at the end of 2017.  The redistribution carried out under the fairness clause is designed to eliminate any skew in converting the two-party preferred vote into seats, so that whoever wins the 2PP should in theory win the election.  However with the possibility of the two-party system being dismantled at this election, it is high time this well-motivated but practically troublesome clause was done away with, before it might have had to face a test it could not even have made sense of.    

Labor needs a 3.1% uniform swing to win the 2PP in a majority of seats, but it should be noted that Antony Green's pendulum (which I am using as a base for the reasons he states) shows a cluster of seats around that margin.  This favours Labor as, if just random variation is taken into account, they should have a 50% chance of winning the 2PP in 24 seats on just a 2.6% swing (49.6% 2PP).  Furthermore, independents offer complications - for instance, Geoff Brock in Frome has backed Labor twice although coming from a Liberal-leaning electorate.

With Labor seemingly looking down the barrel in that the Weatherill government needs to improve its 2PP vote despite having been in government for a very long time, another lifeline has magically appeared.  That is that if SA-BEST take enough seats from the Liberals, the 2PP might not be very relevant, and Labor might lose the 2PP again but still form a minority government with SA-BEST or other crossbench support.

The SA-BEST Situation

Elections where third parties try to break into single-seat lower houses are very difficult to model.  We've had a couple of these in recent years - firstly the Nick Xenophon Team attempt at the 2016 federal election, and secondly One Nation in the 2017 Queensland election.  Both these attempts in the end yielded just a single seat (my forecasts were two and three respectively, but NXT had a few narrow losses and one of One Nation's target seats was snapped up by KAP.)

At the time Nick Xenophon announced he was quitting Canberra to go back to state politics, his intention was to hold the balance of power.  Polls in late 2017 suggested his rebaged party, Nick Xenophon's SA-BEST, was in a ludicrously strong position and might win government outright.  Following this there was a gradual upcreep in the number of seats SA-BEST is contesting, finishing at 36 of 47. (The exceptions: Adelaide, Black, Bragg, Flinders, Florey, Frome, Kaurna, Light, Stuart, Torrens, West Torrens.)  Oddly there is actually no real difference in the party's underlying support (based on NXT results in 2016) between the seats the party is contesting and the eleven it isn't.

Newspoll has been declining to publish two-party preferred results on the grounds of the high SA-BEST vote rendering them meaningless.  With a general perception that traditional pendulum methods are useless at this election, those trying to model it have often turned to Senate data instead.  Check the Tally Room thread which refers to Alex Jago's data derived from 2016 Senate results.  There's also an online model by Jack Larkin, based off statewide vote share, though it seems to give some rather exciting results for SA-BEST.

Senate data are useful but have some limitations.  Firstly, it is somewhat difficult to extrapolate from an optional preferential election to a compulsory preferential one, especially when the optional preferencing involves a very large number of parties.  Secondly, there is a discrepancy between Senate data and state election data.  When I derived notional two-party preferred votes from the 3PP figures posted by Jago I found that these 2PPs were over-compressed compared to the 2PPs from the last election.  That is, the 2PPs one might expect from Senate votes were less variable than those that had actually happened at the last SA state election, by almost a third.

One reason for this is that NXT votes have come disproportionately from strong Liberal areas (indeed if one compares past state 2PPs with Senate NXT shares the correlation is even stronger.) One might expect that they would then flow more strongly back to the Liberals as preferences in those strong Liberal areas, but actually, they don't.  At least as concerns Reps data (though I haven't checked Senate) there doesn't seem to be a link between how Liberal-leaning a seat is and how strongly NXT voters in it preferenced Labor.  So it seems that at the 2016 election, NXT acted as a gateway drug; some voters who had voted 1 Liberal before switched to voting 1 NXT 2 Labor.  But there's likely to be more to it than just that.  I think that maybe some safe seats at state level are parts of less safe seats federally and hence are more hotly contested across the electorate at federal polls.

I've constructed the basics of a model to try to convert state vote shares into an estimate of about how many SA-BEST seats might be won.  In the case of SA-BEST I've used the state seat 2PP results in the past to modify the Senate 3PP results, and then assumed that preferences will flow roughly as per the federal House of Reps election (where there were effectively open how-to-vote preferences between the big three).

This model still suggests SA-BEST could do quite well off its Newspoll vote shares, giving it around nine seats on average.  (Hartley isn't one of them but a Xenophon factor could be installed.)  However, the run of seat polling (for what it's worth) has had SA-BEST trailing or tied in three of these seats, leading to general scepticism about the party winning more than a few.  Back in January it had them winning one seat very marginally outside my win list, but it's possible the SA-BEST vote has come down a little since then.

In the coming week I hope to find time to add in components dealing with preferences based on how-to-vote cards for a more accurate model.  However the track record of such models tending to slightly overestimate third-party success means that I will probably end up agreeing (one way or the other) that SA-BEST are only on for a few to several seats and not more.

The Newspoll Problem

The most recent Newspoll created a slew of misleading reporting that the SA-BEST vote had crashed spectacularly, because it had fallen from 32% to 21%.  Such reporting is potentially a problem if it creates the impression that the party is running a disastrous campaign, and that impression then causes voters not to vote for it.  In fact, the party was polling 27% but Newspoll had rightly adjusted its vote downwards to 21% to adjust for the seats it wasn't contesting (whether by just multiplying by 36/47 isn't clear, though that would be reasonable in the circumstances - some other reports suggest they dropped SA-B from the readout where not running).  What adjustments were made to the other parties to compensate wasn't made clear.  (See Tom Richardson's report based on interviews with Galaxy.)

That's all I have time to add about SA for now, hopefully I can add some more detail during the week - another state poll would be nice!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tasmania 2018: But What Does It All Mean?

Undecided: Franklin - Liberal vs Green - tossup
Undecided: Bass - Labor vs Green vs Liberal - Labor slightly favoured, Liberal chance remote

After the last Tasmanian election, I saw no need to unpack possible meanings of the result, as I thought it was all obvious to anyone who had followed the state's politics through that time.  This one, however, is different, though I certainly won't claim to have all the answers.  A government that seemed to be sleepwalking to a loss of majority has rebounded to the point of suffering just a trivial swing against it.  The Labor opposition did rebound to a degree, but mostly at the cost of the Greens.

Some facts and stats

A few facts about the election first.  For the first time since the 1970s, and the first time for a conservative party since 1912-3, the Liberal Party has topped 50% of the primary vote for a second election in a row.  The charge was led by Premier Hodgman, whose 38.3% is the highest candidate vote since Robin Gray in 1986.  (Hodgman will also break Doug Lowe's 1979 record for the largest number of votes recorded by a candidate, though this record is somewhat meaningless because of population growth. Lowe's record for the highest candidate percentage, 51.2%, may very well never be beaten - and I don't think the fact it was achieved before Robson Rotation really makes much of a difference.)

Contra to Labor leader Rebecca White's claim of having pushed the Government to the edge of defeat (by which she means a hung parliament anyway) this was simply not a close result.  In what turned out unexpectedly to be the most critical seat (Denison), about a 6% swing from Liberal to Labor on the current figures would be needed for the seat to have been lost, making this the Hare-Clark equivalent of a 56-44 pasting at federal level.  Even if the Liberals are reduced to 13 seats, they were still not really close to losing on the night - nor, I suspect, at any time in the final month at least.

The election saw the highest combined major party vote since 1986, and the highest in the era in which the Greens have been a statewide force.  The Greens are currently on 10.03%, though there is a fair chance that absent and other remaining votes will lift them just above their worst-ever score of 10.18% (1998).

In the seats where the Jacqui Lambie Network ran, the swings between Labor and the Greens are very similar to each other: Lyons Labor +5.5 (Greens -5.1), Bass +3.2 (3.6), Braddon +4.1 (-3.7).  Labor gained much more than the Greens lost in only Denison (+8.6, -4.0) and Franklin (+5.9, -2.5).  These are both seats in which the Network did not contest.  Thus the overall results (including a swing of 1.7% to the Liberals in Bass) suggest that net vote transfer between the majors was virtually zero, and that what variation exists in the Liberal and Labor swings by seat was largely determined by differences in the array and performance of Others.

At candidate level, the Liberals have elected Sue Hickey as a new MP replacing their sole retirement, Matthew Groom.  They will probably lose Joan Rylah (if she holds they will instead lose Roger Jaensch) and may lose Nic Street.  Labor will gain Anita Dow, Alison Standen, a new Lyons MP to be determined, and could well gain Jennifer Houston in Bass.  They have also regained David O'Byrne. The only Labor MP in trouble is Madeleine Ogilvie who is presently trailing Ella Haddad by a significant amount.  For the Greens, leader Cassy O'Connor is back, but both Rosalie Woodruff and Andrea Dawkins are uncertain, with Woodruff a 50-50 chance and Dawkins' position more difficult.

Fourth parties have again failed to get near winning a seat, though at times the Jacqui Lambie Network was on track for a seat or two in polling.  The highest vote by a candidate outside the big three was recorded by independent fisherman Craig Garland (Braddon) who may yet break 2000 votes in a campaign that he says cost him $800.

The History

This election was very similar to 2006.  In that election, the Lennon Labor government was widely being completely written off on the basis of bad polling, and was at odds of $9 to retain its majority, but beat the Liberals by 17.5 points having been ahead by as little as three points in an EMRS poll a few months out.  This time the odds were even sillier and many informed observers helped themselves to the $15 available on Liberal majority government.  The 2006 campaign - which was nastier than this one - also featured claims about the result being "bought" by business interests campaigning for majority government.

Media coverage of the election included a few hung-parliament nostalgia pieces dealing with minority governments past, in which key players from those days trumped up their legacies and sanitised the cross-party tensions that existed.  A recap of the 2006 election would have given voters a much better idea of what to expect.

The Mystery

The one thing that is hardest to explain about this election is why Labor painted a target on itself by supporting the complete removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs.  As a strategy, it was successful in removing votes from the Greens, but it failed dismally to connect with working-class voters especially in the north of the state.  Whether the policy was even capable of being sold to such voters is dubious but in any case I think Labor had no idea how to sell it.

Frequently this sort of thing happens when a party's stated reasons for holding a policy aren't their real reasons.  Whatever the reasons, Labor's desire to vastly restrict the pokies industry made the party a sitting duck when it came to the argument that Labor didn't care about working-class jobs, really had not changed from the party that governed with the Greens in the parliament before, and would probably do so again.   The policy seems to have also generated perceptions of class contempt (middle-class for lower-class) and (in my view valid) concerns that Labor and Green ideologies in the state don't take personal freedom seriously.  (The same charge can be levelled against the Liberals, but at least they seem to understand the concept, even when they selectively ignore it.)

It is possible Labor was looking at internal poll numbers that suggested the EMRS polls of late last year were wrong and that the Liberals had a large voting lead locked in, so that attacking the Greens may have made sense.  However unless Labor knew they were already losing, it is difficult to see why this high-risk gamble was taken. As well as the money thrown at the issue by pro-pokies forces, media focus on the issue created an impression that the election was all about banning pokies, preventing Labor from making health their central message (though I am not sure they would have owned that issue, or education, anyway.) I suspect there is a lot more to come to light about this in the future.

It is interesting to see ALP Right sources blaming the fact that none of their candidates have had straightforward wins on the pokies issue.  The charge is that the policy scared off conservative voters.  In fact candidate factors (in the case of Ogilvie), campaign factors (Butler) and being up against a higher-profile candidate who also had a union background (Midson) probably contributed to the Right's difficulties, but even if the pokies policy was the problem, why then were Ogilvie and Butler early movers on the issue?

This was not the only cause of Labor's defeat.  The legacy of the 2014 election left them with a shortage of incumbents and the campaign generally appeared lethargic and lackadaisical, especially when it came to refuting government claims in the media and advertising.  As a result the government was able to get away even with brazen lies like their one about Labor having always done deals with the Greens in the past.  Person-to-person communication as a campaign strategy is all very well, but the same goes for it as goes for billboards: the voter has to be receptive to what you are selling.

The result is also an object lesson in the value of securing your position while you have the power.  The previous Labor-Greens government did not make a serious effort at reforming donation laws.  Had they done so, they could have been much better placed to take on the pokies issue in a way that at least forced transparency from their opponents.

It is not enough to attribute the result solely to the Liberals' resourcing advantages.  The Liberals displayed impressive unity in office with internal tensions virtually never on public display.  The Liberal campaign was well co-ordinated and responsive to almost every issue that was raised.  There was the last-minute issue of the secretive approach to gun policies, but this had little impact, in part because the changes being proposed are mostly minor anyway.  (In fact, while the media mostly saw this as a massive story, voters may have seen it as a beat-up.)

The Polling

This was one of the more sparsely polled Tasmanian elections, with only a ReachTEL and an EMRS by way of public polls in the last few months, and the fieldwork for those was nine days and 5-7 days prior to the poll respectively.

On current statewide numbers (Liberal 50.5 Labor 32.8 Green 10.0 JLN 3.2 Others 3.6) the Mercury ReachTEL (Lib 48 ALP 32.2 Green 12.5 JLN 5.3 Other 2.1) had no errors greater than 2.5 points, which is a strong performance by the standards of polling in this state.  Also, the JLN vote becomes more accurate (4.1%) if adjusted for them not running in all seats.  The EMRS poll (46-34-12-4-3) had the Liberals 4.5 points too low.  It is possible that there were actually shifts in the Liberals' favour during the final week.

Both polls, and also all internal polls I have seen, overestimated the Greens vote, but only by a couple of points rather than the 4+ points sometimes seen in the past.  Unlike in recent previous elections, these polls got the Labor vote right, while it's possible that EMRS polling tends to underestimate incumbent governments rather than the Liberals specifically.

Polling was extensively and adroitly used by the Liberals during the lead-up to the election to convince the public that only they could win majority government.  This then helped generate the same bandwagon effect seen in poll tracking in 2005-6 (though in that case the evidence that the Lennon government was in trouble was actually much spottier than people remember it as being).  Although the company involved (MediaReach) was virtually unknown, Labor totally failed to counter this polling narrative - probably because they couldn't.  The youngest published MediaReach data (5 and 8 Feb with average results of 46.5-30-12-5-6.5) were close enough to suggest the MediaReach polls were broadly accurate at the time they were taken.  That said, there could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy component in this.

Questions might be raised about EMRS' tracking performance.  When the government appeared to be faltering in the EMRS polls late in 2017, was its standing actually that bad?

Hung Parliament Club

In Tasmania there are still too many commentators and politics junkies who are clearly in the tank for hung parliaments.  This mindset involves not only arguing that minority government is the ideal situation for Tasmania but also overestimating how likely it is to occur.  Hung parliament club no longer dominates the commentariat in the way that it did circa the mid-2000s, but it is still far too prevalent.  The fact is that while hung parliaments in the Tasmanian context may be more open compared to majority parliaments, and often deliver reforming outcomes, they are also unstable.  The instability arises from the Greens' desire to deliver for their supporters in cases where the majors are in lock step - the only way Greens can get outcomes in those cases is through the implied threat to bring down the government.  Meanwhile while major parties sometimes want to govern with Greens support, they also realise that the electorate dislikes it, and this can cause internal instability.

This campaign provided a fine example of the instability of Tasmanian hung parliaments when the Greens threatened to move a no confidence motion against the government because it had not declared its campaign funding sources.  Weeks earlier Cassy O'Connor had been saying that minority government was government for grownups and that the Greens wanted to work for stability.  There is a long history of the Greens claiming to support co-operative stability but only actually supporting it until the major parties trip one of their wires.  Logging quotas, the size of parliament, the performance of the Accord era education minister Peter Patmore, and now pokies donations - these are all examples of issues that have caused the Greens to lose interest in working together over the past few decades, and there will always be more.

I think the one-eyed barracking for hung parliaments by some academics and locked-in Greens supporters simply alienates other voters.  (That's not to say the barracking for majority government is any less one-eyed or any more credible.) At least, if trying to convince voters that hung parliaments work, be honest about their limitations and look for ways that those can be addressed.  Ideally though, I think those who like hung parliaments will most increase their chances of occurring if they just shut up about it, permanently.  The first rule of hung parliament club is that you do not talk about hung parliaments.

The Greens

The Greens have suffered a 3.8% swing against them, following a 7.7% swing against them in the 2014 election, and as a result have now lost more than half their record 2010 vote in two elections.  In this election the party lost more than half its already diminished 2014 vote in Braddon, and close to half of it in Lyons.  Fraser Brindley's weakness as a lead candidate was illustrated by him securing just 43.5% of his party's vote so far, the lowest for a Greens candidate ever.  (The previous record low was 53.3%, and Scott Jordan in Braddon is bobbing around that level.)  But stupid candidate preselections in two electorates are far from the only problem.

The Greens were always facing serious challenges at this election.  Having two out of three MPs elected mid-term is not ideal for them in terms of profile-building, but primarily the party does not do well at elections where there is policy daylight between the major parties.  Their best elections have been 1989 (where the Gray government was a beacon for environmental opposition), 2002 (where the Liberal Opposition was utterly hopeless) and 2010 (where both major parties were boring and there was a feeling of nothing at stake.)  At this election, some Greens voters switched back to Labor (in cases for the first time in decades) because they were impressed with Labor's position on poker machines.  Other Green voters would have switched to reward the party for taking a chance by choosing White as leader.  It shows once again that the Greens voters wander off at the slightest distraction and perhaps a feeling that voting Green is some kind of stern moral duty, not something fresh and exciting, has something to do with this.

The Greens are complaining about the pro-pokies campaign "buying" votes away from them, but this is nonsense - those who were still voting Green at least in 2014 are very unlikely to be susceptible to claims made by the gambling lobby.  Also, the evidence is that Greens voters switched to the other anti-pokies party (Labor), not the Liberals.

Another strange excuse came from several Greens, including Bob Brown for whom no Greens result is ever bad (unless it is recorded by the Rhiannon faction of course.)  This is that there were no major  environmental issues, which the authors of this excuse are delusionally blaming on the major parties for not releasing any destructive environmental policies. This is basically either an admission that over the past four years a Liberal majority government has managed Tasmania's environment very well or an admission that to the extent it hasn't, the Greens are unable to communicate this effectively to voters.  In a time where, for instance, the endangered and remarkable Maugean skate is considered by experts to be probably doomed because of mismanagement of Macquarie Harbour, it's a bit hard to argue it's entirely the former.

There's a widespread perception that the Greens' campaign was more or less invisible, but I think that it was also bad in other ways.  For instance, I saw one massive billboard declaring that the party "CAN'T BE BOUGHT. WILL NEVER SELL OUT", but plenty of previously diehard Greens saw their 2010 deal with Labor as exactly that.

It's clear that the demographic factors that propel the Greens vote ever higher in inner city Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane don't operate to anything like the same extent in Tasmania.  Thus while environmental battles made this their birthplace, they don't have a natural vote floor here, and their vote could in theory sink even lower.  I expect that they'll be back, but if they are reduced to a single seat (that of their leader, who will be widely blamed for this result) then the path back will be more painful than it was in 1998.

The Elephant On The Red Couches

It's worth remembering that this government has had a lot of trouble getting legislation through the Legislative Council, where it had to run the gauntlet of an increasing number of Labor and/or indepedent left-wing MLCs. Currently there are four of each giving the left 8 of 15 seats, and moreover one of the non-left MLCs, Jim Wilkinson, is the President and doesn't normally vote.

This situation isn't very likely to improve for the government any time soon unless there is an unplanned resignation.  Conservative independent Greg Hall retires this year with a vacancy in the new seat of Prosser, so the best hope there is to break even, and one would expect Rob Valentine to be re-elected in Hobart (or if he doesn't recontest, probably someone of similar views.)  Wilkinson is expected to retire in 2019 which will spark a big fight for his seat. The government has already reached out to indicate it will try harder to work with the upper house, but I expect that its more controversial bills will continue to strike trouble.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

2018 Tasmanian Postcount: Lyons

Admin note: Comments received during the day on Sunday on any article will probably not be cleared or responded to until the evening.  

Lyons: 3 Liberal 2 Labor
Re-elected: White (ALP), Barnett (Lib), Hidding (Lib), Shelton (Lib)
In doubt within party: Lambert vs Butler (ALP) for one seat - Butler now ahead and likely to win

And now, my last postcount thread for the day.

In Lyons, we have a clear status quo result.  The Liberals have packed their three quotas nicely with their three incumbents, which would have protected them from any threat from the Greens if there was any threat to be protected from.  Rebecca White has topped the poll with 1.43 quotas.  Labor has nearly two quotas, but its support candidates are a long way behind, with Janet Lambert on 1583 votes, Jen Butler on 1404 votes and Darren Clark on 1254.

Butler and Clark were higher-profile than Lambert but both had accident-plagued campaigns.  The votes that will determine the seat are:

* White's surplus (currently 4382)
* 1470 votes from minor Labor candidates Gaffney and Wright
* 3827 Greens votes (expect about 40% to exhaust)
* 3296 Lambie Network votes (expect maybe 40% to exhaust)
* 2389 Shooters, Fishers, Farmers votes (expect many to exhaust)
* 272 ungrouped votes
* a scattering of leakage and/or surplus from the Liberals, nearly all of which will exhaust

My suspicion is that Lambert might do well here off the Shooters, Fishers, Farmers preferences (since she is, after all, a fisher) and also that she may do better than at least Butler on the Greens votes. However, because of exhaust rates, the White surplus is the big show here.  Absent of scrutineering figures it is hard to say how it might go until the White surplus is thrown, but the matters that damaged Lambert's opponents on primaries might go on doing so in the preference throw.

Updates below:

Monday: I have had indications from scrutineers (a reasonable size sample from several booths) that don't suggest much break between Lambert, Butler and Clark in the White surplus, although there is a lot of booth by booth variation.

Wednesday: Lambert leads Butler by 158 and Clark is 210 behind Butler.  I have seen a lot of scrutineering data on this contest now and it appears that on the White surplus at least, Clark doesn't make much progress vs Butler.  It will also be difficult for Clark to make gains on non-Labor candidates too as these votes will be spraying in multiple directions.  So I think Clark's position looks very difficult.

Assuming it comes down to Lambert and Butler, what I have seen suggests the net break from all Labor preferences could be somewhere around zero and that the out-of-party preferences (especially the Greens) will be important here.

Thursday: I have seen more scrutineering figures (someone I shan't name is being incredibly helpful here!)  There is a bit of a pattern with Greens votes going towards Butler over Lambert, but it needs more confirmation.  If it's real Butler could win though it could be incredibly close.

Friday: Lambert leads Butler by 165 and Butler leads Clark by 215, so not a lot new to see here, as is to be expected when none of these candidates have a lot of votes.

Update Tuesday morning: Lyons had the biggest bundle of late postals (131 added). Lambert leads Butler by 167 and Butler leads Clark by 215.  We'll start the cutup with the White surplus, then exclusions from the bottom up with nobody passing quota for a very long time.

Tuesday lunch: The White surplus has been done and Butler closed very slightly on Lambert, now trailing by 132, while Butler increased her lead on Clark to 456.  That's a slightly better result for Butler than the scrutineering samples, which slightly favoured Lambert on White's surplus.  Lambert's lead looks very shaky at this stage but there is still a very long way to go.  Clark looks out of it.

3 pm: Minor exclusions going on - Butler continuing to chip away at Lambert's lead which is now down to 119 votes.

4:30: Matthew Allen, who was advertised as ticket leader for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, has been outlasted by three of his ticketmates.


10:00 Still plowing through all the minor exclusions, but the first significant one, Labor's Gerard Gaffney is likely to be next after the Greens' Lucy Landon-Lane.  Lambert now leads by 124 votes.

11:20 Gaffney gone and Butler takes the lead by 97.  Clark also made a massive gain and is only 247 behind Lambert, but would have to do most of that on the 1553 votes remaining with Wright, which seems unlikely.  We now have a couple of boring minor candidate exclusions from the Shooters and the Lambie Network, and then the important Wright throw.

11:27: Lambert has made a surprisingly large gain off leaks from the Lambie Network and is now 66 behind Butler.  Wright is being excluded now then the #2 Green Hutchinson, then the final Shooters candidate.  Because of Lambert's fishing connections it will be interesting to see if she gets anything at that point.

3:00: Lambert has retaken the lead on Wright's preferences.  She leads Butler by 95. Clark has failed to pass either Kent (JLN) or Tucker (Liberal) so it's looking likely that Clark will be next out after Hutchinson and Broadby (SF+F), and that Clark's preferences will either decide things or leave a very close race at the mercy of JLN, Green and Liberal preferences.

3:25: Hutchinson gone, Lambert now in front by 105.

5:08: Broadby done and Lambert didn't get much of a break there, leads by 117.  Clark is being excluded now.

5:40: Lambert and Butler will be left in suspense as the TEC has given this one a break for the day.


11:01:  Huge break for Butler on the Clark votes, jumping to 300 ahead.  It is going to be very difficult for Lambert to peg those back mainly on the Green and JLN votes, but we have sometimes seen candidates make such gains on cross-party votes in the past.

The preferences of Liberal John Tucker are being thrown now and will probably put Jane Howlett too far ahead of the Labor candidates for them to both catch her on Greens preferences.  If that's right Howlett will never be excluded and the throws to come are Kent, Brindley and whichever ALP candidate loses.  On the Kent and Brindley throws there will still be Liberals in the count to receive preferences (maybe some of them might get quota eventually!) On that basis my estimate is about 3000 more votes could reach the Labor ticket and of these Lambert will need about a 55-45 split. I did see one small scrutineering sample of Kent's preferences that was stronger than that for Lambert but it was from an area within Lambert's municipal base, so I wouldn't read anything into that.

5:11 After the exclusions of Kent and Brindley, the lead has barely changed with Butler up by 341. However to my surprise, Lambert just got over Howlett so on we go. 7000 votes to throw which will put the three incumbents over quota with just over 4000 leaving the ticket. More than half should exhaust so Lambert would need about a 60-40 split on those that don't (perhaps more).  Seems highly unlikely.

7:04 Howlett is fully excluded and Lambert has made a minor gain to now trail by 311.  Lambert gained 30 out of 719 that left the ticket; there are still 3384 to throw.  So at that rate Lambert might close to less than 200.  Her only hope is that the votes that flow through multiple Liberals behave more strongly in her favour than those that left the ticket.

8:18 All over and Butler has won by 347 votes.