Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Commissioned Tasmanian Polls

Tasmanian state election season is heating up with regular policy announcements (at least from the government) and rumours that the election could be called this weekend for March 3 (what, not the same day as South Australia again?  Surely too good to be true!)

I expect we will have some public polling before too much longer so we can see if the Liberals have recovered from an utter stinker from EMRS late last year, but in the meantime the shady forces of commissioned polling are out there doing their stuff.  This week Tasmanians were treated to not one but two rounds of robo-bombardment.  A diabolically odd anti-pokies question left many scratching their heads (especially pokie opponents) while reports of the warm fuzzy niceties of the other poll on offer sparked Twitter responses like this:


OK, there was actually only one response like that, but this poll even asked voters if they liked Tasmanian political leaders as human beings!  It also asked if voters thought Jacqui Lambie was good at her job, which came as a surprise to me, because I didn't know she had one anymore.  

MediaReach Liberal Poll

Anyway, the long and cuddly robopoll has seen the partial light of day first, and what this is is a MediaReach internal poll commissioned by the Liberals, with a sample of a whopping 3,000.  Methods details are bereft - I've seen a claim it only canvassed landlines, but I constantly see the same claim about other pollsters who ceased doing so years ago - so there's not much more to say about it yet.  

Now, I'm not sure if ReachTEL weren't available (they're prim and proper about refusing dual commissions if they have a conflict in a market) or if the Liberals just don't trust them anymore, but MediaReach was a novel selection indeed.  This pollster hasn't been seen in Tasmania before and its only previous testable public results have been in the NT, where it was out by about five points 2PP in an electorate poll and a territory election poll.  So what do we know about its accuracy in the Tasmanian or indeed any similar context?  Diddly-squat.  Add to that that it's a commissioned poll that wouldn't have seen the light of day had the Liberals not liked the result, and the only weight I can aggregate it at is zero.  Still, it will be fascinating to see how it scrubs up on election day.

Actually, if I did aggregate this poll it wouldn't make much difference anyway.  Oddly giving results to two decimal places (not that there is anything actually wrong with that) the poll has the following results:

Liberal 41.12
Labor 34.29
Green 12.81
Lambie Network 6.19
leaving 5.59 for others.

Compared with my most recent published state aggregate (from the EMRS piece), the poll has the Liberals up 2.2 points, Labor down 2.7 and the rest more or less exactly where I do.  If these results were accurate, they would most likely point to the familiar story of polling over the term reasserting itself - seats could go 12-10-3 or they could go 13-10-2, and it probably comes down to Lyons.  (Speaking of which, has anyone actually heard from Fraser Brindley?  I've seen no media from him since he was endorsed back in April.)

And that's the perfect story for the Government in terms of the line it wants to play: that only the Liberals can win majority government, but that the election is close enough that every vote matters.  Liberal strategists are reported as claiming they could hold up to 14 seats, but this poll doesn't provide support for that.  Assuming uniform swings, they would need about 49% statewide to retain three in Franklin.  

Not only would the Liberals not have released these numbers if they were much worse, but they probably wouldn't have released them if they were much better either, since nobody would have believed them.  The numbers are therefore totally convenient, but that doesn't mean they are wrong.

(The Mercury's report on this poll, by the way, contains a howler.  The results it claims to have been ReachTEL polls in 2010 and 2014 were actually from the real elections.)

The other thing is that not for the first time, the Liberals are finding that their internals have Premier Hodgman doing better in the beauty contest than the nasty stuff we've been seeing from EMRS.  (As noted in my articles on EMRS, if one treated EMRS as equivalent to Newspoll, one would have sound historic reason to declare Rebecca White Premier already, but luckily for Hodgman the two are not the same.)  The MediaReach apparently has Hodgman up 48-41.4, which by Newspoll standards would denote a struggling Premier rather than a stuffed one, but without any benchmark for MediaReach, who knows?

Bass ReachTEL (updates to follow)

As for the commissioned ReachTEL of Bass, I have seen that poll and, ignoring the pokie troll-poll section, it's fascinating.  Want a lucky number? 58. I will update this article (in the evenings because of work) with comments on such of it as sees the light.

Thursday: The first media report is out for this Australia Institute poll, which finds the Liberals with remarkably good numbers in Bass compared to the general run of recent polling.  After distributing the 4% undecided (the media report just gives the raw numbers), the poll has the Liberals on 49.4% in the seat, Labor on 27.6, the Greens on 10.5, the Jacqui Lambie Network on 10.1 and others on a paltry 2.3.  ReachTEL polls prior to Tasmanian elections have in general underestimated Labor substantially and overestimated the Greens.  The evidence on the Liberals from past polls is mixed (severe overestimates at federal elections but underestimates at the last state election).  Taking all this into account, the most likely reading of the poll is 3 Liberal 2 Labor.  (If the poll is assumed to be exactly accurate, then the Greens' Andrea Dawkins might hang on given that Labor has no obvious number 2 candidate and hence could well suffer significant losses on leakage.  The Lambie Network would be less likely to win because they would be more exposed to leakage issues and would have nowhere much to get preferences from.)

The poll asked voters to report whether Will Hodgman and Rebecca White are the best people to lead their parties.  Hodgman smashed it on this question with a 72.2-14.9 net result (51% strongly agreeing) while White - who EMRS showed as super-popular late last year - did a little less well at 53-36.9.  As well as Hodgman getting a rousing endorsement from his own party here, there was also a pretty strong tendency among Labor voters to agree he was the best choice of Liberal leader.  A cynic might say that Hodgman's strong result here reflects disdain for his party colleagues, but I've seen a lot of reflexive partisan dislike of opposing leaders in my time and I'm not seeing that for Premier Hodgman here.

The Advocate also mentions the issues questions with "fixing the health system" at 37.3%.  "Ensuring a majority government" scored 21.5 and "getting pokies out of pubs and clubs" scored 10.9.  For completion, education on 9.3% and "creating secure jobs" on 21% were the other options.  Probably, education was disadvantaged in comparison to the other options by not being described dynamically - it is usually in the low double figures in such polls.   The well would have been poisoned for the pokies component of this question by a more contentious question about pokies coming before it, but on the other hand the issues question could underestimate interest in pokies issues since a voter who supports keeping pokies in pubs and clubs would probably have picked another option.

I have included the voting intention results for this poll in my aggregate with a weighting of 20% for Bass only, and they significantly firmed up a 3-2 result in the aggregate, though the Greens are by no means out of it yet.  I'll continue reporting on this poll as results dribble out, but I won't release data from any question that hasn't been at least partly reported in the media.

(Note: I will be rolling out election guide material on Sunday and Monday, if not before.  I have a field trip on Saturday.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Johnston Team Routs The Old Guard In Glenorchy Council Elections

In tonight's counting we've seen the sequel to the Kafkaesque demise of the previous Glenorchy City Council, and it's worth briefly explaining what has gone on, if only so that people understand what a provisional distribution is.

Kristie Johnston has been re-elected Mayor with 86.4% of the vote to 13.6% for sole opponent Steven King.  That election has been declared.  I cannot remember a larger win in a mayoral contest in Tasmania, but there has probably been one.  There have been larger wins in Legislative Council contests sometimes.

Matt Stevenson has been elected Deputy Mayor with 56.4% of the primary vote in a field of six.  That election too has been declared.  The runner-up, Simon Fraser on 13.8%, has finished ahead of two incumbent aldermen.  Incumbent Deputy, Harry Quick, has polled 9.6%, a 20-point swing against his 2014 result.  I am unsure if any incumbent deputy has ever polled such a low primary vote in such a contest in Tasmanian council voting.

What is not finished yet is the aldermanic count.  The TEC has released a sample result based on the counting of 45% of the ballots counted.  Also, those ballots have yet to be checked by being entered again.  This is labelled as a "possible result" only, because if the breakup of the 55% of ballots not yet entered is different then the results may be a bit different.  When this process was introduced in 2014, we reliably saw that the candidates near the top of the winner lists always won, but the interim winners in the last few positions didn't always all make it.

In this case, there is a fair chance that we are looking at the final composition of the new Council, because Steven King currently wins the final place by 91.7 votes, and that is a lot to make up with 45% of the sample counted.  There also don't seem to be any obvious exclusion order tricks at the end.  But we do need to wait for the final button press to see if any of the defeated candidates can make a comeback on what remains.

The status of Quick in the count has also caused some confusion.  In the interim sample he is shown as "Remaining in the count".  However, if he remains in that position, he loses.  The term "remaining in the count" means the last candidate left without quota who isn't elected but doesn't have their preferences thrown either - 11th in a race for 10 seats in this case.

In the interim distribution, Kristie Johnston has a staggering 59% of the vote (6.6 quotas).  It may be that an aldermanic vote this high has been recorded on a Tasmanian council but I am not aware of such a case.  The nearest I know of is Terry Martin getting 56.5% in 1999, and that was only an election for half the Council, against a field half the size.

The nearest primary vote to Johnston's is Melissa Carlton's 3%, meaning that the candidate in first has nineteen times the vote of anybody else.  Johnston's surplus in the interim distribution actually elects her most prominent ticket-mates Stevenson and Jan Dunsby, and then the remaining candidates trickle in as others are excluded.  At present, eight of the ten "Team Kristie" candidates win, and only King and Fraser are elected from outside the ticket.  If that holds up, that will make King the sole survivor from the seven-Councillor grouping that dominated the previous Council.  (Four didn't recontest, and Quick and Jenny Branch-Allen are currently on track to lose.)

The results are remarkable even by the standards of the lead-up, but it is worth noting that the Johnston team has run with little obvious opposition outside of their former opponents.  The former majority grouping has been the subject of adverse findings (caution: 313 page PDF link!), and the insurgents have had an excellent run in local media.  Johnston has long had the support of Denison federal independent Andrew Wilkie, and the state Liberal government won't be distressed about this result at all (especially as they can say that they fixed up the mess, and it spares them from having to face Johnston at the state poll in March.)

A few more notes:

* I am not sure why the Greens bother running for this council, at least while Johnston is there competing for their voters.  Their two candidates in this case so far have a combined 1.7%.

* The informal vote on the Councillor ballots currently appears to be extremely low at only 1.3%.  It will be interesting to see if this remains the case or perhaps if obvious informals might not have been included in the initial data entry.  If it does remain this low then a possible explanation is a high number of voters voting 1-10 for the Team Kristie candidates.

* Turnout was quite high at 54%.  Aside from the apparent interest among voters in putting the nonsense of the past few years to rest, it's logical that while this would have been a very bad time for some voters (my concern about holding an election at this time), it would also have been a good time for many who had more time to vote because of time off work.

I'll add a note on the final result when the final button is pressed in a few days.

Final result: Nothing changed in the winner list.  Johnston's final primary was 58.4%. Oh and informal votes finished at 5.3% so my suspicion some were being held back there was correct.  Too high since most would have been unintentional.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Site Review

Another year down in the just-over five-year history of this site.  2017 did not have either a federal election or a Tasmanian state election but there was still a fair amount of interest, especially in the Queensland election.  Indeed traffic by unique pageviews was only down 40% on last year despite the lack of a federal election, and up 25% on the last year without a federal or Tasmanian election (2015).  Moreover, there were more total pageviews than in the last state election year, 2014! Here's the activity graph for the year (the units are sessions per week):


The major event of the year on the site was the Queensland election, and quite aside from Queensland elections being always so interesting, I think the real reason for this is that the flow of information from official sources was very poor.  Other spikes included two rounds of Tasmanian legislative council elections and the Marriage Law Postal Survey, but there was also a continuing run of Section 44 fun that meant there was generally something to talk about in the second half of the year.

In 2017 I published 77 articles, down nine on 2016.  The main reason for the slight drop is the reduction in the number of Poll Roundup articles, of which ten came out this year, compared to 18 in a federal election year the year before.  I expanded out Tasmanian Legislative Council previews so that each seat had its own page, but on the other hand I only did one post-count thread for Queensland.  As well as poll roundups, the same-sex marriage postal vote (ten articles) and Queensland (nine) were covered fairly heavily.  I'm pleased to have been able to keep the volume somewhere near previous years in a year when my professional workload again increased.

As usual a number of things got partly written but never finished, sometimes for lack of time or sometimes because I thought better of finishing them or lost my temper with the subject matter.  Pieces started but not yet (and in some cases probably never to be) finished included:

* The Lower House section 44 piece foreshadowed in the most recent Senate piece.
* Does Voting For One Nation Help Labor Win Elections? (Answer: Very rarely.  Somebody tell Turnbull that we do have preferences in this country.)
* An untitled piece arguing that the personal life of Barnaby Joyce is a matter of legitimate public interest and commending the Herald-Sun and Daily Telegraph for reporting on it.
* "A Statement About Respectful Debate", commenced on September 9.  This piece was to argue that respectful debate about opposition to same-sex marriage was an unrealistic expectation as opposition to same-sex marriage was both itself innately disrespectful and itself unworthy of respect.
* "The Greens and the Rhiannon Mess" concerning the situation in which Senator Rhiannon was excluded from the Greens party room.  I largely forget where this one was going but it was probably just going to tip a bucket over all involved.
* "The Legislative Council Blocking Bills: Is This A Problem?"  The answer was to be, not when the bills are stupid.
* A media FAQ that was going to answer such questions as "Why isn't my phone number on this site?" (because I don't want to be rung up by retired randoms who don't understand that time matters to working people) and "Am I connected with the University of Tasmania?" (no.)

Top of the pops

The following were the ten most popular articles of the year by number of unique readers:

1. 2017 Queensland Election Postcount (Main Thread)

An easy winner, attracting over three times more unique readers than any other article and ranking seventh in the site's all-time history so far.  This piece followed the postcount in many undecided and often confusing seats in the Queensland state election.

2. Pembroke By-Election: Live And/Or Post-Count

Written largely from fallback internet devices from the town of Miena on Tasmania's Central Plateau, this piece covered the count in the Tasmanian legislative council by-election for Pembroke, spectacularly won by Labor's Joanna Siejka from the Liberals after the Liberal campaign attacked independent local mayor Doug Chipman alleging he was too old for the job.

3. Recent Polling On The Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey

What it says on the label.

4. Legislative Council 2017: Launceston, Murchison and Rumney Live

Followed the count in three Tasmanian LegCo seats with Ruth Forrest retaining Murchison comfortably, Rosemary Armitage holding Launceston narrowly and Labor's Sarah Lovell unseating "independent liberal" Tony Mulder in Rumney.

5. Postal Plebiscite: Australia's Biggest Bad Elector Survey

As the graph below shows, this one attracted modest interest in April then suddenly went a bit viral months later.  Covered some issues with a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage at a time when it was but a twinkle in Peter Dutton's eye.



6. Section 44: Could Parry Peril Unelect McKim?

This piece covered the bizarre potential for the forced resignation of Senate President Stephen Parry to unelect Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim.  It ended up being a non-issue because Jacqui Lambie was wiped out as well and the Section 44 special count minus both of them no longer replaced McKim with One Nation's Kate McCulloch.

7. Legislative Council 2017: Pembroke By-Election 

Preview of the exciting, not to mention incident- and policy-rich, Pembroke contest.  Correctly flagged Labor's Joanna Siejka and indie Doug Chipman as the serious chances, but underestimated the success of the Liberals' age-attack on Chipman in trashing both his vote and their own preference flow.

8. Marriage Law Survey Turnout Is High ... But Not That High!

Covered the progressive release of ABS turnout estimates for the marriage law postal survey, compared with some polling that seemed to be over-representing politically engaged voters and hence overestimating turnout.  Turnout did eventually finish much higher than I initially expected, but those polls still had it too high too early.

9. Legislative Council 2017: Rumney

The most visited of the regular LegCo previews, and correctly predicted that Labor's Sarah Lovell would give Tony Mulder the boot.

10. Queensland 2017 Live

Standard live commentary thread.

The top ten is the same if counted by page views, but the live threads naturally move up the order in that case.

Some other stats

The ten biggest days of the year in order were Nov 26, Nov 5, Nov 27, May 6, Nov 28, May 7, Dec 1, Nov 4, Nov 29 and Nov 30.  Those in late Nov and early Dec were Queensland, early Nov was the Pembroke by-election and May was the regular LegCo contests.

The most popular pieces written in a previous year were the current Field Guide, Why Preferred Prime Minister/Premier Scores are Rubbish, the bio page (might do a new one soon), the previous Field Guide edition, and the aggregate methods page.

The most clicked tags were Tasmania, Legislative Council, pseph, same-sex marriage, Queensland, Senate reform, Western Australia, Newspoll, Ehrlich Awards and silly greens.

The top ten visiting countries (as defined by Google Analytics, which includes quite a few sub-country units) were Australia, the USA, the UK, NZ, Canada, Germany, Japan (+1), Singapore (+1), India (re-entry) and Hong Kong (new entry). I can't be bothered with the visiting-by-population stats this year; it's obvious that lots of people read this site in airports.  125 Google countries visited in 2017 and in all 175 have now showed up, but we're still waiting for the first hits from the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea and Madagascar - the three most populous yet to arrive.  Outside of Africa, the only countries large enough to see on the map that have not scored are North Korea, Paraguay, Cuba, Haiti, French Guiana, Kosovo and Turkmenistan. The least populous units to visit are now Norfolk Island (sorry Google, that's not a country), Anguilla and Cook Islands.

The most visiting cities this year were Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth (+1), Adelaide (-1), Launceston, London (+1) and Gold Coast (new entry).

The most common search terms this year - my name excluded - related predictably to the same-sex marriage survey and Pembroke. Among the odder ones to find their way here were:

1 to 40 lucky number pattern

greens party for the rich

gay exsort line

left wing stealing postal vote

mark mcgowan unpopular (this was on May 30.)

tasmanian nielsen poll

8% of searchers by name misspelled my name, but none by more than one letter.

The biggest hit sources for the year vary quite a bit depending on whether I count them by users or by sessions.  Going mostly by the latter I have the list at Google, Twitter, Tally Room (+1), Facebook, Tasmanian Times (+1), Bing (+3), Poll Bludger (old and new site combined) (-4), The Guardian (-1), Chesschat (re-entry) and The Conversation (re-entry).  If I go by users, Reddit makes the list instead of The Conversation. It may seem odd that Poll Bludger has dropped so low - I believe the reason is that it no longer has a list of links in the sidebar.

Thanks again for all the support through another crazily busy year, especially from those who have donated $$$.

Orders of the year

In 2018 there will be a Tasmanian state election and a South Australian state election.  They will probably, annoyingly, again be on the same day meaning that coverage of the former on this site will eclipse the latter, but I'll try to pay the lingering demise of the two-party system over there some kind of attention.  Late in the year there will be a Victorian state election.  There may or may not be a federal election as well, and there could well be federal by-elections, with Batman currently a plausible prospect.  There will be Tasmanian Legislative Council elections for the new seat of Prosser and the greenish inner-city seat of Hobart, where Rob Valentine is up for his first defence.  I may decide to cover the count for Glenorchy Council in a few weeks' time, though I have no current commitment to be involved with it.  Later in the year there will be Tasmanian Local Government elections, and I may even cover the FIDE (world chess federation) Presidential Election.  I also expect there to be more Section 44 nonsense.  Looks like another busy year!

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Ehrlich Awards For Wrong Predictions

Welcome to the sixth annual Ehrlich Awards for Wrong Predictions.  I have to say from the outset, what a right bunch of wallies we have lined up this year for your amusement.   Around the start of each year here I obtain and provide cheap gratification by outing the most amusingly, instructively or staggeringly foolish calls that I observe in or relating to the previous twelve months, in any field of interest to this site.  The Ehrlichs are named for Paul Ehrlich, who not only lightened his bank balance when losing his famous bet with Julian Simon, but also lightened his credibility by making poor excuses for his defeat.  For the groundrules see the first edition and for previous years click the Ehrlich Awards tab.  A fairly common theme this year involves statements that can be taken literally as simply false claims of fact, but that also imply certain predictions about what will or won't happen down the track (in an election post-count for example).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Best Prime Minister Of The Past 45 Years: Round 5

File:Whitlam Lingiari Image 3.jpg
(image source, licence)
"A conservative government survives essentially by dampening expectations and subduing hopes. Conservatism is basically pessimistic, reformism is basically optimistic."

Excluded: John Howard (13.9%)

I chose this particular quote from the primary vote leader of round 4 of my multi-month best PM Not-A-Poll as a send-off by said leader to the last eliminated Liberal contestant.  Given the left-wing bias of this site's readership and consumers of psephology in general, Howard has actually done pretty well to make it this far, but overachieved by somehow edging out Bob Hawke in round 3, and his elimination in this round always looked extremely likely.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

Queensland 2017: Final Results And Polling Accuracy

Queensland: ALP 48 LNP 39 KAP 3 PHON 1 GREEN 1 IND 1
2PP Estimate 51.2 to Labor (+0.1 from 2015)

It's taken a while but I've finally found some time to put up something about the final results of the 2017 Queensland state election.  I try to always put something out on Christmas Day, though last year nasty weather interfered with that plan.

In a nutshell, the 2017 Queensland election was one where a great many dramatic things could have happened, but virtually none of them did, as the following sections explain:

Hardly any seats changed hands

You don't turn 89 seats into 93 without breaking a few eggs, but the level of seat transfer between the parties at this election was remarkably low.  On a notional basis and ignoring retirements and mid-term defections, just nine seats changed hands at this election, most of them marginal anyway.  The Liberal National Party lost Redlands (1.2%), Gaven (2.8%) and Aspley (3.2%) to Labor, and would have lost Maiwar (3.0%) to Labor as well but the Greens snatched it instead.  Labor lost Bundaberg (0.5% and which was a freak win last time anyway) and Burdekin (notionally theirs by 1.4% but LNP-occupied) to the LNP, and might have lost Mirani (3.8) to the LNP had not One Nation helped itself to its only win.  The LNP also dropped Noosa (6.6) to independent Sandy Bolton, and Hinchinbrook (3.4) to KAP's Nick Dametto.  In Hinchinbrook, Dametto (who according to his party had only been campaigning for four weeks) pulled off a duplicate of Andrew Wilkie's Denison 2010 winning method of coming third and getting everyone's preferences.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Poll Roundup: 2017 Year In Review

2PP Aggregate: 53.4 to Labor (-0.4 since last week, -0.8 in three weeks)
Labor would easily win election "held now"
Average for 2017 53.3 to Labor
By last-election preferences, Labor won all 93 polls this year

The polling year has just about come to an end so it's time for the annual roundup.  Should any further national polls appear I will edit in any necessary changes.

Since the last roundup things have improved slightly for the Turnbull federal government.  Following a brace of 55-ish results to Labor around mid-November, we've had two 53s from Newspoll, a run of 54-54-55-54-53 from Essential, 53s from ReachTEL four weeks back and Ipsos two weeks back (but the ReachTEL 53 came out at 54.7 by last-election preferences), and results from YouGov that came out to 53.1 and 54 by last-election preferences from YouGov.  (As noted further below, YouGov's 2PPs are wacky, so let's ignore them.)  The two 53s from Newspoll and today's 53 from Essential all looked like they were probably rounded down, and so my aggregate now sits at 53.4 to Labor.  Here's the (slightly) smoothed tracking graph: