For Whom the Inertia Tolls
Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 12, 2007
In-er-tia : the property of polling by which a political party retains its voting level at a state of rest, or its voting level along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force….
…… such as the actions of its political opponents.
Take a squiz at this:
The ALP and Coalition TPP swings, by month, since the last election using Newspoll and where the bottom axis is the month/year:
There is no doubt that Rudd has made an impact upon the ALP vote, but that impact does not appear to be the orthodox narrative that gets peddled around the pages of some of the daily political commentariat.
Back in the pre-Rudd days, those long forgotten days when the Coalition occasionally won a poll (and strangely enough, when I used to be able to get a decent Caesar Salad) – the seeds of the Howard governments destruction appeared to have already been sown.
Bit by bit, polling point by polling point had Puntersville turned on Howard in the years since the 2004 election. The trend away from the government was clouded by the small recoveries, but each recovery continued to claw back less support than they had lost.
Not only can it be seen in the swing graphs above, but it can also clearly be seen in the TPP vote itself. If we regress the Coalition TPP vote on a constant and a time variable that starts at 1 for November 2004, 2 for December 2004 etc right through to 34 for August 2007, and graph the results we get the following:
R-Squared = 0.838 and the time variable has a coefficient of 0.306 with t-stat of -12.9 and a p-value of 0.0000. This tells us that a linear decline in the Coalition two party preferred vote of 0.3% per month explains approximately 84% of the movement in the Coalition TPP vote since the last election, at an extremely high level of statistical significance.
Likewise if we do the same for the ALP TPP vote:
As expected, we get the same result. R-square= 0.838, with the time variable having a coefficient of +0.306.
But if we throw in a Rudd dummy variable that has a value of 0 for the months he wasn’t leader and a value of 1 for the periods Rudd was the leader of the ALP and run the regression again we get:
Here we get an R-squared= 0.87, Adjusted R-Squared=0.86, with the time trend variable having a coefficient of 0.24 and the Rudd Dummy variable coefficient having a value of 2.02.
This tells us that the ALP were gaining 0.24 percentage points a month (and the Coalition losing the same) without Rudd, and that once Rudd was elected leader he brought to the table an extra 2% of the TPP vote for the ALP.
If the ALP TPP was already growing, how can one explain the massive surge in the ALP primary under Rudd?
Simple – the ALP TPP was getting boosted off the back of the preference flows from the growing minor party vote until Rudd came along. After that, the minor party vote declined and many of those votes that ended up with ALP through preferences came across to become ALP primary votes instead. All the while the ALP TPP vote continued to increase as it had before.
Longer term readers here will already know this to be the case. Voters started deserting the Howard government a long time ago, but parked their primary vote with the minors and preferenced the ALP.
If we take the difference between the ALP TPP vote and the ALP primary vote, and graph that difference against the minor party vote – they will follow a similar path and shape if what we are saying here is true.
So let’s do it and see:
Lo and behold.
Which gets us into this nonsense about Rudds vote being somehow “soft”.
The ALP TPP vote before Rudd was soft, as it relied on a large amount of preference flows from a large amount of minor party voters. But now those voters have come across and put their primary vote with the ALP instead of their preferences. That isn’t a soft vote – it’s as hard as it gets. It’s a primary vote. So the next time you read some dullard waxing lyrical about the soft Rudd vote – remember this:
What that person is really saying is that there are a number of voters which could easily switch back, not to the minor parties from whence they came and where they used to preference the ALP, but back to the government that they deserted over the last 3 years, mostly starting after the 2005 budget and whom have gone out of their way to vote for anybody BUT the government.
The voting behaviour running against the government has been inertial. The TPP trends show that clearly, and what the Rudd leadership has done is merely change the nature of that inertia.
Where before Rudd it was just a general retreat away from the government, it is now a general charge to the ALP. It has changed from people not voting FOR the government and letting preferences flow to the ALP via the minors, to people voting for the ALP directly.
For the government to win the election, not only do they have to turn the vote around, but they have to turn around 3 years of momentum running against them in 3 months.
BTW – I’m back now, so I’ll get stuck into answering the comments from tomorrow.