Friday, June 28, 2013

Rudd Replaces Gillard

"Being prime minister isn't a job you have a shot at and then you come back again if you think you've learned a lesson" - Gary Gray, Feb 20 2012.

Indeed not, Mr Gray.  The last egomaniac to pull that little trick off lasted only seventeen years the second time around.

This post discusses various polling history and projection aspects of the replacement of Julia Gillard with Kevin Rudd.  Of course, this major event has rendered a lot of poll-based projections that were premised on the idea of a Gillard prime ministership at the election void, and all over Australia psephologists are scurrying like spiders to repair their webs.

Historical Aspects

Kevin Rudd is the fourth Australian Prime Minister to recapture the role after losing it, after Deakin (twice), Fisher  (twice) and Menzies.  Fisher and Deakin played musical chairs in an era before majority governments were the norm (though Fisher later lost an election outright before winning the next one outright).  Menzies lost the support of his party and resigned, then led his party back from opposition.  Rudd is the first departed PM to return to the post without an intervening change of government.

Even at state level, the recapture of the top job (as opposed to the Opposition top job) is rare in the modern world.  It was common in the chaotic nineteenth and early 20th century state parliaments, such that NSW has had three five-time Premiers.   Since the 1950s, however, only Eric Reece in Tasmania (1972, recovering government against a short-term Liberal minority that collapsed during its term) and Don Dunstan in South Australia (1970, ditto).  So Rudd is the first leader at state or federal level for 41 years to lose his job and recover it, and has done so in difficult and unusual circumstances (albeit with a huge assist from the hung-parliament situation and the generally hapless self-marketing and trust problems of his successor's regime.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nothing To See Here, Just The Future Of Free Speech In Tasmania

(Update 27 Sep: This has been resolved now, see updates at bottom of article)

Today, or at least in the next few days, the Legislative Council may determine the future of free speech in Tasmania when the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2012, passed on party lines by Labor and the Greens late last year, finally makes it to the top of the pile.

Of particular concern is the proposed amendment to Section 17.  This amendment, which ostensibly deters bullying and redresses inconsistent aspects of existing legislation, would make it an offence to ridicule, insult, offend or humiliate (as well as "intimidate", which I have no problems with) someone on the basis of their political or religious beliefs, affiliations or activities, assuming that the person doing the offending (etc) could have reasonably known their comments might offend (etc).  There is not even any caveat to protect comments of such a sort if they are public acts done in good faith for the public interest.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mayhem in the Marginals 3: Mayhem Everywhere

Advance Summary
1. A new multi-seat poll by JWS Research again provides seat loss projections for Labor that are above what is expected based on national polling and the assumption of uniform swing.  The poll projects losses of 32-35 seats, while national polling points to a loss of around 26.

2. State-of-seat issues may have some influence on this difference, but it is unclear whether the main finding of about six expected extra seat losses is sound, or whether it may result from the polling method having a slight house effect.

3. The pollster's claim that "marginality analysis" adds another three expected seat losses for Labor is unsound as it is based on false assumptions that seats within a given bracket would swing uniformly.  

4. In particular, the firm projects the loss of five Labor seats within the 6-9% bracket by very small margins.  In practice, it is more likely that some of those seats would fall and some not.

5. The poll's findings that voters do not want Kevin Rudd to challenge for the Labor leadership do not demonstrate whether voters want Kevin Rudd to become Labor leader, because the question design is flawed and too restrictive.

6. The poll's core finding that seat losses will be worse than modelled by a "uniform swing" (national pendulum), or by assumptions of uniform swing at state level, is consistent with results from other polling sources.

7. However all of the polling sources producing this finding are open to a similar range of reservations.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

ReachTEL - State Labor Back To The Lifeboats

ReachTEL (Tas State): Lib 52.5 ALP 19.7 Green 15.6 Other 6 Undecided 6.3
Interpretation: Lib 57 ALP 22 Green 17 Other 4 (Other perhaps higher)
Outcome based on this poll "if election was held now": Liberal Victory (c. 15 seats)
Projection based on all polling: 14-8-3

We have reached a useful milestone in Tasmanian polling since, for the first time since the last state election, EMRS has competition from another poll that is commissioned by the media and that is not merely an internal poll released by the party.  Historically it has been a long time since we have seen public polling by someone other than EMRS, apart from during an election campaign.  Indeed, the Mercury-commissioned ReachTEL is to my knowledge the largest poll of state voting intention ever conducted in Tasmania.

These are the headline figures, which I'll discuss after a small but important diversion:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Federal Labor Getting Smashed All Over Tasmania

 UPDATE 27/6: With the replacement of Julia Gillard by Kevin Rudd the polling in this article becomes (unfortunately) largely obsolete and we will have to wait for fresh polling to see how Labor is travelling in the Tasmanian seats under the new leader.  My view as hinted at before is that because the factors affecting Labor's vote in Tasmania are in large part local, it's possible the contribution of the Ruddstoration to Labor's fortunes will be smaller than elsewhere.

My brief take on the likely prospects under Rudd (without any specific polling):

Bass and Braddon: Labor is still struggling in these seats but now should have some practical chance of holding instead of none.

Franklin: I favour Labor to retain. 

Lyons: The work I did on ReachTEL's record in the Queensland election makes me a bit more cautious about trying to project the seat based on polling under an old leader that showed an apparently extreme swing.  I think this seat would have been lost under Gillard, and still may fall, but new polling is needed before the risk can again be declared severe.

Denison: Andrew Wilkie remains entitled to strong favouritism assuming no adverse preferencing decisions, but if the Labor primary now lifts then the risk to him from adverse preferencing decisions by other parties will increase.  By no means over.

 Federal Labor Getting Smashed All Over Tasmania

...being the sequel to "Federal Labor Getting Smashed In Bass".

The monster Mercury-commissioned ReachTEL, which I believe to be the largest opinion poll in Tasmanian history, is out!  I saw the results on Friday afternoon but under embargo conditions.  The survey includes federal and state polling for each electorate and statewide.  Today I am releasing my federal comments and tomorrow my analysis of the state results.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Prospects for the Tasmanian Senate Race

Note: This is a pre-election article.  Of all the wild scenarios entered into below, the one that never came into consideration was that one of the apparent micro-parties would poll seven percent!  This is what has happened with the last-week rise of Palmer United.  A post-count thread dealing with the Tasmanian Senate spot will be added soon.

Updated Summary 24 August:

* While Julia Gillard was Prime Minister, an outcome of 3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green for the Tasmanian Senate was overwhelmingly likely.  This is still the most likely outcome, but at times since the return of Kevin Rudd, other outcomes have seemed reasonably plausible.

* Polling since the return of Kevin Rudd has suggested the Green vote is softening and a Green seat is no longer guaranteed (though in my view likely).

* A very good above-the-line preference allocation for Family First gives them a chance of taking the third Liberal seat should the Liberals fail to poll three quotas (42.8%) in their own right.  Some other micro-parties are also in remote contention. 

* With declining national polling the chance of Labor retaining three Senate seats in Tasmania appears to be very low.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Newspoll Upfront Exclusion Rates Since 2002

Advance Summary

1.  Some observers think that the proportion of voters who are indicated by Newspoll as "uncommitted" or "refused" gives Labor a much greater chance in the upcoming federal election, because the Government may attract a late swing from undecided voters.

2. The view that there is generally a late swing to an incumbent Government is false.

3. The view that there is usually a late swing to the party that is trailing is true, but it is not clear whether this is because there is a genuine "narrowing" effect, or whether this is because the Coalition tends to outperform its polling and the Coalition has often been the trailing party.

4. It is possible (and logical) that there is a link between increases in the Newspoll exclusion rate and poor polling for Labor, suggesting that when the party is performing poorly more of its voters become "uncommitted".  However, the evidence on this is inconclusive.

5. While it is plausible that undecided voters will move back to the Government and improve its result by, say, two points, this is also something that may not happen at all.

6. The issue of uncommitted and refused rates is only relevant to the margin of an overwhelmingly likely Coalition win (assuming no Labor leadership change).  There is nothing to suggest it is capable of turning the election.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How Common Is A Five-Point Swing In Under Four Months?

Advance Summary

1. The Gillard government now probably needs a swing back in public opinion of around 5% in three and a half months to win the federal election. [Update:  After Monday's polls, it's even more than that.]

2. A recent article by Simon Jackman draws attention to swings of this magnitude, from one election to the next, being rare events that mainly (not exclusively!) accompany changes of power.

3. It is not correct to infer that swings of this size in a much shorter period are even less probable, because in fact 5-point swings within 16 weeks are commoner than 5-point swings between elections.

4. However, 5-point swings in shorter time periods typically result from temporary factors - leadership and event bounces, honeymoon effects, policy mistakes that are corrected, bad patches etc.  

5. Fast swings that have occurred in the leadup to elections have usually washed out of the system partly or entirely by election day.

6. The past history of quick 5-point swings in polling provides no sound basis for belief that even an extreme event such as the S11 attacks or leadership change would save the Government now.  (This does not mean it is impossible, just that there is no precedent.)