Saturday, February 23, 2013

2001: The Final Frontier

Advance summary:

1.  Combined results of all current polling suggest that the Gillard Labor government is now in a worse position than any past winning government - in terms of the amount by which it trails for the time remaining to the election - except for Howard's in 2001.

2.  If Labor does not have a 2PP position better than 46% by late March, it will fall behind Howard's 2001 recovery curve.

3.  It is also possible that very bad polling in the next few weeks would cause Labor to reach a position worse than that Howard recovered from in 2001.

4.  Being in a position from which recovery is without precedent or has few precedents does not mean a party cannot win an election.  However, it suggests they are unlikely to do so.

5.  This article also includes subjective waffle about Labor's current leadership and direction problems and the difficulty finding a clear and competitive way out of the mess the government has got itself into.

Update (25 Feb): It is now debatable whether even Howard's 2001 recovery is a valid precedent for recovery from the Gillard Government's current situation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

EMRS - Liberals locking in support

 Note to Tas or other interested readers: if you haven't already done so please vote in my not-a-poll for Best Tasmanian Premier of the last 30 years on the sidebar.  Looks like the only poll Tasmanian Labor can still be confident of winning!

EMRS: Liberal 55 Labor 23 (-4) Green 18 (+3) Ind 4 (+1)
Interpretation: Liberal 56 Labor 25 Green 15 Ind 4 (Ind figure depending on candidates)
Outcome "if election was held now": Liberal majority win (14-16 seats)

The new EMRS poll is out with a headline rate of Liberal 55 Labor 23 Greens 18 Ind 4.  This is very similar to results polled in late 2011. The Greens have recovered some of the seven points lost last time (a loss which I suspected at the time was caused partly by sample anomalies) but it is still their equal second-worst result in this term of government.  The EMRS headline figure habitually overestimates Green support and the figure from the table with undecideds included (Table 2) tends to provide a much better reading of Green support. 

The very helpful trend tracking on the EMRS website shows that this is the Liberals' equal highest headline reading in this term, matching the 55 in August 2011 and the same in November 2012.  But it is actually better than that for the party because their figure including undecided votes (46 - Table 2) is now at its highest level in EMRS history, compared to the 44 in Aug 2011 and the 43 in Nov 2012.  This suggests the party is increasingly "locking in" the votes it needs to win majority government.  Labor, on the other hand, is if anything shedding votes from the firmer end of its support base, with its Table 2 figure back to a miserable 17%, one point above its all-time low.  The gap of 29 points at the firm end of the parties' support bases is the highest it has been and about twice the size needed for majority government.  While I have assumed in my "interpretation" figure above that the voters who are undecided even after being asked what party they are leaning to will split evenly between the major parties, it is possible it could be even worse than this for Labor.  If the remaining undecided voters break to the Liberals as well then a Liberal vote in the high 50s becomes possible.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Federal 2PP estimate feature added

 (Note: This article documents the experimental phase of the aggregate, which ran from February to September 2013.  For transitional arrangements post the election see here.)

I've just added a subjective two-party-preferred vote (2PP) estimate feature on the sidebar.  The reason I have added this feature is that I commonly get involved in discussions on various sites in which someone is making claims about the likely state of the national 2PP that aren't even remotely credible, or just getting confused about all the different polls and the strange range of values they spit out.  I think a fair few people will from time to time be interested in my view of where things are at, especially when having those kinds of debates while I'm not around.  There are some handy formal aggregators about, but they often take a few days to update and I often find my view a little out from theirs (and usually somewhere in the middle of them all), typically because everyone has slightly different views on the best underlying assumptions.  When I can, I'll be aiming to update this estimate quickly.

The 2PP estimate is not a fully formalised aggregator and is not a scientific test. I'm not at the point of being ready to attempt something like that yet, and while I have a long-running Newspoll rolling-average of sorts for historical comparison purposes, I've only recently developed an interest in trying to gauge the picture across all federal pollsters.  It's just my hopefully informed opinion on the basis of an informal and at this stage loosely defined aggregation process.  The rough assumptions I make in thinking about the national 2PP are as follows.  (Note: Article has been edited to give the current version.  Legacy text appears at the bottom so people can see how this model has developed.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rogues, Recoveries and Irrelevant Portents

Admin note for Tas readers especially: this month I am running Not-A-Poll: Best Tasmanian Premier of the last 30 years.  Please vote (on right) if you have an opinion!  Readers may be surprised to see the Premier of one of Tasmania's least popular governments ever (ie the current one) challenging for the lead, as well as the big lead for the Labor premiers over the Liberal ones, but there are actually quite a few reasons why this might occur.  When the not-a-poll is finished I'll post some comments about the exercise and what it means. Of course, the results are not representative of the general population - and that's even assuming nobody stacks the thing!

Advance Summary

1. Following a very turbulent week in federal politics, this week's polls on average show a small move to the Coalition.

2. The Newspoll showing a result of 56:44 to the Coalition is unrepresentative and probably exceeds the real figure by at least 2 points.

3. The Newspoll reading is probably not, however, a "rogue poll".

4. Over-calling of supposed "rogue polls" is a very common problem in the online poll-watching community.  This article provides many cautionary notes about use of the term "rogue" to describe a poll result.

5. The Government's polling position is now worse than that of the Keating Government in 1992-3 was at the equivalent or any later stage.

6. There are possibly still as many as six cases of governments recovering from worse polling positions than Labor's current position (with the time to go until the election factored in), however in three of those cases the data are very limited and at least one of the others is probably an invalid comparison.

7. Claimed evidence that either the declaration of the election date well in advance, or the chosen election date itself, are bad portents for Labor is not valid.

8. This article concludes with some discussion of contradictory voter attitudes to the economy, which may be posing a major problem for Labor at the moment.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's Green, Tasmanian And Probably Isn't Endangered?

The Miena Jewel Beetle! (Castiarina insculpta)

The MJB: Giving extinction rumours the finger since 2004!
It's only tenuously related to politics, as a classic case of threatened species being considered firstly extinct and then endangered when in practice hardly anything is known about it - a problem which pads threatened species lists (especially Tasmania's) with unjustified or exaggerated listings, creates "green tape" and distorts conservation priorities.  The problem is, of course, that many of these species do not even become the focus of serious research attention until they are listed.  And even so, much of the research is done on an amateur basis, as it was in the recent first known find of the species in numbers, in which I was involved.  In fact, I found the first one of several found by our group faster than I could spot an 11% swing to Andrew Wilkie in the Sandfly Polling Booth!   You can see a rather low quality camera-video shot by me and read some more text about it here.  More pictures (by people who know how to use a camera!) on the Tasmanian Field Naturalists Club Flickr page here.

This post represents my own opinions  facts only.

Update (1 Mar):  See the ABC TV news item here.  Further searches through February have continued to reveal good numbers.  I can add that there was one other live sighting in recent times - by a very experienced entomologist who seems to have never drawn any public attention to the sighting or logged it, but fortunately, he did one day casually mention it to me.  It was at that site where we first found the species, but we've found it to be quite widespread in the area.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Essential: Not Bouncy Enough?

Admin note: Following the farcically misinterpreted Galaxy poll of "best" Prime Ministers of the last few decades (in which a huge lead for Howard based largely on him being the only Liberal in the sample while the Labor vote was split four ways was supposed to prove he was the best), I thought it would be fun to have a "Not-A-Poll" opt-in for "best" Tasmanian Premier!  It's on the right. Vote early stack often! Results are almost totally meaningless and for amusement/interest purposes only.  Ballot order random.

 Advance Summary

1. The regular online pollster Essential Report has recently polled figures that lean to the Coalition compared to other pollsters (by about 1 point or slightly more) and that change very little from poll-to-poll.

2. Essential's two-party preferred results became much less volatile from early to mid 2010 onwards.  Prior to that they had been very bouncy and tended to have a large house effect in favour of Labor.

3. The current lean to the Coalition is a more recent development.

4. It would be expected that Essential would bounce less from poll to poll compared to other polls because of its use of a two-week rolling average, which gives it a larger effective sample size and reduces the impact of random factors on the result.

5. However, even with sample size taken into account, Essential polling in 2011 and 2012 was 30% less bouncy than a simulated "random" poll of similar size, even after assumptions are made that make the random poll less bouncy than such a poll normally would be.

6. This suggests that (i) Essential's scaling system is remarkably effective in reducing poll-to-poll bounce, or (ii) there is a problem with the underlying subsampling methods that is causing overly repetitive results, or (iii) both of these things are happening. At this stage I think (ii) is most likely.

7. It would be easier to trust a poll that produced remarkably constant results if it did not drift off the 2PP average of the other pollsters.

Disclaimer: These are provisional findings relating to a complex modelling question.  They may be amended based on any feedback received.  If so, significant edits will be noted at the bottom of the post. Oh, and this post comes with a Level Three Wonk Alert.  You have been warned!