Friday, July 21, 2017

Fishy Prospects In The Seat Of Lyons

ReachTEL Lyons: Lib 42 Labor 30.4 Green 12.4 Lambie Network 10 SF+F 2.7 Others 2.5
ReachTEL polls in Tasmania have in the past skewed against Labor and to the Greens
Seats that would be won based on this poll: Liberal 3 Labor 2 (status quo)

The Australia Institute has released a large-sample ReachTEL of the state seat of Lyons.  Lyons has long looked like the most crucial seat in determining whether the Hodgman Government can maintain a majority at the next state election, as on a more or less uniform swing to Labor, the third Lyons seat is the third to fall.  Polling has long appeared touch-and-go as to whether the party is likely to hold three seats there or lose one to the Greens or maybe someone else.

The commissioned ReachTEL also covers fish farms, which are seen as a significant environmental issue in the leadup to the next election.  I am satisfied that the poll has not been selectively released and also that ReachTEL have a good record in not letting commissioning sources tweak the primary vote polling design.  So while all commissioned polls are to be treated with some caution, and all seat polls always require special care, I'll have a look at what the data from this poll suggest.

As usual with ReachTEL the data require a lot of unpacking.  ReachTEL use a different format to most other polls, by initially giving voters a set of options that includes "undecided", and then allowing those who are "undecided" to say which party they are leaning to.  However the "undecided" in ReachTEL polls would be included in other polls' headline figures, while the truly undecided voters (those not even leaning to any party) are excluded, as they are by other pollsters.



With the ReachTEL-undecideds ("soft undecideds") reallocated, the results of this poll are Liberal 42, Labor 30.4 Green 12.4 Jacqui Lambie Network 10 "Shooters and Fishers" 2.7 Ind/Other a mere 2.5.  I put quotes around Shooters and Fishers because that party should actually contest as Shooters, Fishers and Farmers following a name change.  On these figures the Greens (0.74 quotas) would seem to have good prospects of holding off the Liberals (2.52 quotas) and the Lambie Network (0.60).  However, an even enough split of votes between the three Liberal MPs Hidding, Shelton and Barnett, or a good flow of preferences from minor parties, could still see them all retain.  None of these MPs have been stellar performers for the government but none have been consistently awful either, so it may well be the party can hold a similarly even spread between the three to last time.

However, ReachTEL polls in Tasmania have had noticeable house effects at the last two federal and the last state elections.  They have in all cases had the Labor Party too low (by an average of 3.8 points) and the Greens too high (by an average of 2.7).  They had the Liberals too high at the 2013 and 2016 federal elections but too low at the 2014 state election, so the pattern there is less clear.

If, following that, I adjust Labor upwards to 34.2 and the Greens down to 9.7, the Greens and Lambie Network are now only marginally clear of the Liberals' excess after their second quota.   If one of the sitting Liberal MPs does really badly while the other two hit quota, this could see the Liberals lose a seat to either the Greens or Lambie Network.  But more likely on such numbers the spread between Barnett, Shelton and Hidding would be reasonably even and all three would be re-elected.  Even if the spread was not even, the party might still hold three seats on preferences.  So my seat reading of this poll is Liberal 3 Labor 2.

Even with my adjustment the Labor vote is still not all that might have been hoped for given the honeymoon effect for the leadership change to Rebecca White, and backs reports that internal polling is not yet showing Labor winning three seats anywhere.  The party suffered a damaging-looking row over conscience votes at its recent state conference, highlighting internal divisions over social issues and factional balance at precisely the wrong time.  It will be interesting to see how other pollsters see the party going.

The Lambie Network support in this poll is similar to the party's Senate vote of 9% in the same seat.  However the party is not even registered to contest the election yet and I would be surprised if this level of support holds up once voters realise it is not Lambie herself on the ballot. If the Lambie challenge doesn't eventuate or doesn't amount to too much, these votes will probably be more use to Labor than anyone else.  Still it is hard to lift Labor to the sort of vote required for a boilover three-seat result.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have been trying hard to market themselves as an alternative source of protest vote over recreational fishing issues but this poll doesn't show it paying off much at this stage.  Their best hope will be if neither One Nation nor Lambie Network end up actually running and they are left as the last fourth party of any magnitude standing.

The poll quotes a two-party preferred figure of 51-49 (respondent-allocated) to Liberal.  This should be largely ignored.  It is just an automatic feature of the ReachTEL polling package used to do the poll.  2PP is not relevant to Hare-Clark firstly because not all minor party preferences are distributed (many are either used to win Greens seats or left with the candidate who comes sixth) and secondly because voters only need to vote for five candidates and so a lot of preferences exhaust.  However the 2PP figure is consistent with the idea that if the Liberals can retain a majority, it will probably be by the skin of their teeth.

Adding this result (as adjusted for house effects) into my aggregate of state polling (I've given it a weighting of 20%), the current reading for Lyons is Liberal 41.1% Labor 35.4 Green 12.3 others 11.3. In quota terms, Liberal 2.47 Labor 2.12 Green 0.74 Others 0.68.  At this stage I will leave the aggregate in the sidebar as it is but any further signs of weakness in the Green vote are likely to result in moving the seat to the Liberals, in view of the Hare-Clark issues mentioned above.

Fish Farm Polling

Fish farms are being seen as a possible saviour for the Green vote at this election.  There is a case that the Greens could be in lots of trouble otherwise - the federal party is in crisis because of infighting and eligibility issues.  The state MPs (aside from leader Cassy O'Connor) are probably not high-profile enough and Labor has elected a new leader who is young, female and relatively left-wing.

The salmon farming issue functions partly as an environmental issue and partly as a local NIMBY issue.  The environmental issue is primarily in Macquarie Harbour, where stocking levels have produced local "dead zones" that are seen as threatening the endangered Maugean skate. The NIMBY issue arises anywhere where fish farms are proposed if they are seen as having potential local impacts on recreational fishing or scenery.  In the case of Lyons, a proposed fish farm near Okehampton Bay has been controversial, but this is complicated by the fact that the towns near the proposed farm are far from Green strongholds (and are indeed job-hungry following the downturn in the timber industry.)  Shack-owners concerned about fish farms often don't live in the electorate.

Anyway question 2 of the poll finds that 35% of the electorate, without any prodding, agrees that fish farming companies have "too much influence" on the government.  This sentiment is strongest among Greens voters (63.8% - hardly surprising) but it is interesting that 20% of Liberal voters agree with it.

Question 3, however, is "Do you agree or disagree that the fish farm industry is risking jobs by not investing in future-proofing the industry?"  In my view this question produces a skewed response by inviting the respondent to accept as fact that the industry is not investing in "future-proofing" and then inviting them to draw a conclusion from that supposed fact.  A more appropriate design would be to ask respondents whether they believe the industry is investing in future-proofing, and then asking those who say no whether this is putting jobs at risk.  In such a format I would expect that the don't know rate on the first question would be massive since most voters probably have little idea what "future-proofing" is, let alone whether the industry is engaging in it.  What is interesting about this question is that Liberal voters took the bait almost as readily as Labor voters.

Question 4 asks respondents to consider the impacts of fish farming on other fisheries.  This question may be tainted by the attack on the industry implied in the wording of question 3, but even so it is interesting that 16.9% of respondents consider fish farms to have a positive impact.  I think this points to some respondents thinking about the question in an economic sense and believing that the growth of any industry is good for other related industries.  It might however also point to a kneejerk tendency among some voters to reject the views of the Greens.  This is another question where Greens voters are very much more prone than others to see fish farming as bad.

Other state polling is coming this weekend according to the Mercury!

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