Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

To Marginals and Beyond!

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 27, 2007

In the Pantheon of Polls, Galaxy has consistently been the most favourable to the Coalitions fortunes, showing them to be two to three points better off in their primary and TPP vote than the other polling outfits. Subsequently, Galaxy became the poll de jour for Coalition members, supporters and assorted hangers on – their last refuge in the storm of polling annihilation.

Yet, todays Galaxy poll tears away their last remaining veil of delusion. It has the Coalition primary down 2 on 39, the ALP primary up 3 on 47 for a TPP split of 57/43 to the ALP.

This puts the Galaxy results right between the last Morgan, Newspoll and ACNielson polls -perhaps it’s the start of a larger polling convergence, but only time will tell.

One thing though has now become undeniable; these polls now all reflect the type of Pollycide that Newspolls last quarterly breakdown suggested, with maybe only a slight reduction in its magnitude since the last quarter. Large numbers of seats are looking to change hands – the only remaining question is “where?”

Today we’ll look at the nature of marginal vs safe seat voting movement over the last few years.

To start off, we’ll have a squiz at the marginal seat movement. The most regular marginal seat polling results are done by Newspoll, however there is not a complete series, with large gaps in the polling over the electoral cycle, particularly between elections. So to account for this, I used the actual Newspoll polling in marginal seats, and modelled the missing parts using data from Newspoll, ACN and Morgan. For each series, I simply specced out the best fitting, forecasting regression model (some were complex, some were quite simple) using all of the available data I have (my polling database currently consists of about 55000 datapoints from over 100 series of raw, aggregated and derivated data).I’m pretty confident that the modelling that fills the gaps between the actual Newspoll marginal seat polling is only a point or two off the actual results – but it gives us a useful longer term marginal seat pattern to work with.

Below are the results graphed quarterly – note that “marginal” is defined by Newspoll as being any seat held with less than a 6 point two party preferred margin, which is what I also used in some of the modelling.




The last entry is for the 2nd quarter of 2007.I expect that the primary vote for the Opposition has dropped from its 51 to somewhere around the 47 mark at the moment, while the government primary vote is currently up somewhere around the 38/39 mark…… well that’s what the modeling suggests anyway. Let’s also take a look at the TPP breakdown of the marginal seats according to Newspoll. I didn’t fill in the gaps in this series because there is too much uncertainty to accurately model the TPP results between the gaps:


Over the history of the series, it’s interesting to see the effect of Latham (what will be a recurring theme in this post). When he was elected to the party leadership, he dragged the ALP primary up 6 points in the marginals to put them in a position to dominate the marginal seats at the beginning of 2004.But a few interesting things happened after that. Firstly, while he continued to increase the ALP primary into the 2nd quarter of 2004, it came at the expense of the minor party vote rather than the Coalition primary vote. In fact, both major parties enjoyed primary vote growth in the 2nd quarter of 2004.That should have been a warning sign to the ALP at the time, but apparently it wasn’t.

By the end of the Latham implosion, the Coalition had picked up a 2.5% primary vote swing to them in the marginal seats compared to the 2001 election results and a 0.7% TPP preferred swing. The swing in the marginals was extremely non-uniform in both numbers and composition. You might also notice that the Latham implosion didn’t fully wash out of the system until after the 2005 Budget, but instead of marginal seat voters changing their vote from the Coalition to the ALP, they changed from the Coalition to the minor parties – a long running theme in all of the Newspoll data.

The end result of the 2004 election was to turn 14 marginal seats into safe Coalition seats by pushing them through the 6% safety margin.

These seats were:

NSW: Paterson, Cowper

WA: Kalgoorlie, Canning, Moore

Vic: McEwen, Gippsland, Dunkley

QLD: Herbert, Longman, Petrie, Hinkler, Dickson, Bowman.

Note the number of Qld seats there, they’ll become extremely important in explaining a few things a little further down.

The blowout of the ALP vote in the marginal seats suggests that even if a non-uniform swing should play out in the marginals at the impending election, the size of the overall swing will lead to nearly all of the Coalition held marginals changing hands – Bennelong and Wentworth probably being the safest two Coalition marginals outside of WA because of the local issues involved, with Stirling and Hasluck in WA being the next least likely to fall because of the smaller swing in WA that seems to be happening (that said, I think the WA twins will fall anyway, as will Bennelong – but not Wentworth).

But while the marginal seats are interesting – let’s get to the really interesting movements; the safe government seats, those government seats held by a TPP buffer of more than 6%. Again, the Newspoll quarterly data left gaps to fill, so I modelled the safe government seat vote over the last few years in the same way as I did for the marginals.


And we’ll throw in the Newspoll TPP safe government seat vote while we’re at it:



A few things stand out here. The long slow decline in the Coalition vote between the last quarter of 2002 through to the third quarter of 2004 being one. Through that period, the Coalition lost 5 points from their primary vote and somewhere around 6 to 7 points from their TPP vote. When Latham imploded, that blew the Coalition out from 47 to 55.4 in their primary vote, and from 54 to 62.6 in their TPP. If Latham had kept momentum, or at least kept the level he was at before the implosion, over a dozen Coalition safe seats would have become marginal and a handful would probably have fallen. However, as a result of the implosion, barely safe seats like Pearce (6.9% margin) blew out to a over a 13% margin, Leichardt (6.4%) to 10.2%, Macarthur (7%) to 11% and things like Parkes (8.7%) out to over 17%.

Yet since then, there has been what can only be described as dramatic movement in the Coalition safe seats back to the ALP, to the point where the ALP is now ahead in these seats in both primary vote and TPP terms. That has probably slipped back slightly in the Coalitions favour since the 2nd quarter of 2007, but only just. However what is really important here are those ex-marginal seats that Latham pushed back into the Coalition safe seat column, especially in Qld.

The swings in the safe government seats are simply not going to be uniform. Seats like Murray, Riverina and O’Conner with margins of 20% or more are safe Coalition territory. At the last election their margins changed from 21.9->24.08, 19.9->20.85 and 19.1->20.39 respectively. They aren’t moving like the 14.6% average safe government seat swing away from the Coalition since the last election. Likewise, seats like Lyne and Berowra would fall with such a uniform swing, but who can honestly say the denizens of the Manning Valley would be turfing out Mark Vaile, or that the folks of Galston and Wisemans Ferry will be kicking out Ruddock?

For these swings to be averaging 14.6% in the safe government seats, and with there being a fairly large number of seats where a swing of that size is demographically bordering on the impossible, that means that there must be a fair number of seats taking up the slack with swings approaching the 18-20% mark or more. This is where Coalition members should be completely shitting themselves, and its where those marginal seats that Latham pushed into the safe seat column are exerting their influence.

But even if they are reverting back to their pre-Latham levels as a starting point, and then swinging like the marginal seats they were before Latham – those swings simply don’t add up to the size of the swing required to balance out the Newspoll polling in conjunction with the assumption that many of those ultra-solid Coalition seats wont swing anywhere near the average.

What would make those swings balance out though is if the Qld seats are swinging, but the marginals are swinging a lot less than the safe government seats. For instance, a marginal seat swing in Qld of only 6 to 7%, but a safe government seat swing of 16-18% would start to balance the numbers out. And there is a decent narrative to support such an argument in Qld. The anti-Latham factor in Qld was big – it pushed a lot of people away from the ALP more so than just about anywhere else. The margin on nearly all government seats be they marginal or safe is significantly inflated by that Latham factor. Add to that the fact that nearly all of the coastal, non Brisbane safe seats have undergone serious demographic and economic change over the last 3 years and Qld has a long standing habit of swinging large when the swing is on, particularly in the regional seats and such an argument starts to look a serious possibility

The other key player influencing the safe government seat swing is NSW.

The last Newspoll suggested that NSW had the largest average swing of all states at 12.2%. In the process of speccing out some of my models, I found myself playing around with all sorts of data. What caught my eye was the results of regressing the estimated safe government and marginal seat series against the various primary votes of the states by quarter, as well as the reverse, regressing the various state primaries on the estimated safe government and marginal seat votes.

What the results started to hint at, and it really is only a hint as there wasn’t enough observations for me to be as confident I as usually like to be with these things, was that NSW and Qld safe government seats were taking most of the weight of explanatory power in any safe government seat analysis and had been doing so since 2000.Likewise, SA, Vic and WA movements were mostly in the marginal rather than the safe seats, SA particularly so – which is bad luck to the large number of commenters on this site that seem to have a long standing dream of Downer losing his seat – bad luck with that guys 😉

I can come up with an arguable explanation of how Qld could be shouldering a large amount of the weight of the swing against the government in their safe seats, but I cannot come up with how it seems to be playing out in NSW.

The data suggests NSW is swinging big in the safe government seats, all of the data points to that and it has to be happening for the Newspoll figures to even begin to balance out (even accounting for Qld).

If any one reading this has any idea at all about how the dynamics of the big swings in NSW safe government seats are working, or where they’re likely to be happening, or how the Latham effect might have played out in seats, or how other issues like housing and whatnot could have some role in explaining the hows and why’s of the big NSW safe government seat swings that must be there- I’d love to hear from you.

Because at the moment – I’m baffled.

On a slightly related issue, since the election is approaching I suppose its time to start putting up some predictions.

Over the last few weeks, especially after churning over the ever increasing amount of data coming out of not only the polling organisations, but the last ABS census – I’m starting to see a few things that I think are becoming pretty solid relationships. Being a Qld’er, I have a better sense of how the data relationships are playing out on the ground in Qld than I do in the other states.

So, at this stage, I’m becoming pretty confident that these 5 safe government seats in Qld are gone:
Herbert, Longman, Petrie, Hinkler, Bowman.

These 2 are probably gone:
Ryan and McPherson (big call on McPherson – I know)

These 6 will have their margins slashed, and one or two may even go down to the wire:
Fisher, Dickson, Forde, Leichardt, Widebay and Fairfax (watch Fairfax)

And the three marginals of Blair, Moreton and Bonner are gone.

That’s 8-10 seats gone in Qld, with maybe 1 or 2 others if it gets really nasty for the Coalition.


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37 Responses to “To Marginals and Beyond!”

  1. Doug said

    What about Victoria?

  2. ShowsOn said

    How can Ryan fall!? I thought it only went to Labor at a by-election because of a protest vote. Have the demographics of Ryan changed that much in just a couple of years?

  3. Possum Comitatus said

    Doug, the data suggests that Victoria is swinging mostly in the marginals with no real evidence of big swings in the Victorian safe seats.

    ShowsOn, I think Ryan is kaput because Johnson is so on the nose in the seat, he’s about as popular in his own party apparatus as equine flu – to the point where I hear that he’ll struggle to man his local election machine properly (unless he starts flying in some of his mysterious Hong Kong support base 😉

    Howard funding 4 to 6 lanes of asphalt through the leafy suburbs of Ryan with Howards Ipswich Motorway bypass proposal is dogging him (especially since it’s a completely stupid idea to begin with), not only in terms of electoral support but local party fund raising capacity.Add to that the swing on in Qld anyway, and I think he’s probably rooted.Ryan will be swinging 6% anyway, add to that these other issues and it’s a seat that will be more likely to fall than not.Ryan is the only seat in my list so far which my views on don’t derive purely from the data, but from what I’ve been seeing and hearing.

  4. ShowsOn said

    Thanks for that insider info. I realise he is a notorious branch stacker, but I thought the Ryan by-election was a complete abberation, and that Ryan would never ever be a Labor seat.

    I didn’t realise that Johnson’s unpopularity ran that deep.

  5. Dinsdale Piranha said

    8-10 seats in QLD. Good lord. Add 3-5 seats in SA to that and: bang, 11-15 seats! Right there you almost have the magic 16.

    NSW looks like it could be a bloodbath as well. 8-10 seats there too, Possum?

    Add a couple each in Tassie, Vic and WA, plus Solomon in the NT: wow.

    On my count that’s the ALP winning between 26 and 32 seats.

    All conjecture, I know; but wow.

  6. Excellent work as always Possum.

    If the next Newspoll and ACNeilson show the same levels of support then we are looking at a set of numbers that would qualify as what I believe is technically known as a complete flaming train wreck. Still you never know what’s going to sail over the horizon out there (or burst out of someone’s pancreas for that matter). Still. Thems some numbers.

    Oh and we can only assume the bright spark in (insert random foreign minister’s name here)’s office who set the stripper story running is now staked out on an anthill naked and covered in honey. They’ve got some mean ants in the bush ’round Canberra. I should know. I grew up setting fire crackers under them.

  7. Martin B said

    McPherson is a big call. Never held by the ALP in its history, requires nearly 14% swing to fall and most of that built up before the last election.

    Do you have any more details about the effects that you are seeing here?

  8. Aristotle said

    Here’s Centrebet’s pricing of those seats for an ALP win:

    Bonner 1.27 Moreton 1.42 Blair 1.85

    Herbert 2.00 Bowman 2.40 Hinkler 2.80 Petrie 2.85 Longman 3.55 Ryan 5.75 McPherson 11.00

    Dickson 3.70 Leichhardt 3.75 Forde 6.50 Wide Bay 9.00 Fairfax 10.00 Fisher 10.00

  9. EconoMan said

    I’d be interested to know Possum if you have backed up any of those calls with some hard-earned? Ryan and McPherson in particular have juicy prices for ‘probably gone’.

    (Thanks Ari for putting them here for convenience!)

  10. Don Wigan said

    Wow! Great stuff, Possum, and keeping us all excited. I suppose I can add to the sum by mentioning my origins in SA. The swing seems to be big there, even if my current knowledge has weakened since I’ve been living in Vic (Corangamite looks a pretty good chance, BTW).

    As might have been noticed, the paper-thin marginals – Kingston, Makin and Wakefield – are gone. The ‘Tiser local polling suggests Boothby and Sturt are in deep trouble, albeit to an oldtimer that seems improbable. Sturt went once in 69 to Normie Foster and even that then was a shock. Sturt’s pretty safe Lib territory and with changing dems regarded as less at risk than Boothby.

    But strange things have been happening there. The Rann success has eroded the bad memories of the State Bank collapse (which had damaged Labor federally and at state level). Labor primary support in SA is now closer to the ‘normality’ of Dunstan and Bannon (at their peaks):ie, pretty high.

    At the same time Lib support, after the privatisations of electricity and water has fallen through the floor. It has probably not been helped by Howard fatigue and Workchoices.

    The two parties going in different directions is one explanation for this turnaround. Adam has pointed out that changing boundaries and dems have made Grey a more or less safe seat. It is no longer dominated by the Spencer Gulf industrial complex.

    However, the changing fortunes of the parties, plus the impact of Workchoices (much bigger in country areas) suggest that Grey is also a possibility.

    So I reckon that’s 3 ALP gains in SA, with possibilities extending to 6. Like you, I don’t see Mayo on the horizon, more’s the pity.

    But with the entire election we may well be entering uncharted waters in the number of government seats falling.

  11. Timbo said

    Further to Ryan, The ALP are running a particularly strong candidate. Very likeable, very high profile. Used to be head of Amnesty in Australia and is an extremely popular university lecturer on Human Rights and Human Services.

  12. Timbo said

    Sorry, International Chairperson for Anmnesty

  13. Leopold said

    I think Bonner, Moreton, Herbert and Blair are probably more gone than your average dodo. The Bomber almost got Herbert in 1998 and 2001 and Labor currently holds the local state seats by huge margins.

    Not so sure about Longman and Petrie, particularly the former. I don’t buy this 54% (or anything like) Labor vote in Queensland – I’ll eat my hat if it comes true. I can buy a big swing in NSW, but up here? With the minerals boom going on?

    And Hinkler I would say is probably safe.

  14. rosa said

    A very important difference between NSW and other States in terms of the swing against the Coalition is this – the NSW Union movement has run a more comprehensive and organised campaign against WorkChoices than any other State. This is because the NSW union movement is more sophisticated, united and cashed up. They started their campaign on 26 March 2005 with an meeting of all union delegates, then pioneered the state-wide Skychannel members hookup on 1 July 2005 which was in every pub in every suburb and country town across the State. This was (at the time) the biggest meeting of union members in NSW ever. NSW unions worked on setting up local groups of union members, not just in marginals – but in many other seats which have gone about organising the Rights at Work message on a local level in their communities. Every victim of WorkChoices in the local media, the bring together of union members from different unions who had never acted in an organised way before in their communities. This has occured continued since mid 2005….when 5% of the coalition primary moved and has never come back. It’s got little to do with the 2005 budget and it’s solidified itself since. The unions in other states have been 12 months behind NSW unions. This is the reason for the NSW vote – lots of hard work at a level that doesn’t show up in the media and is a real key difference between NSW and other States

  15. rosa said

    Oh, and my NSW seat gain to Labor prediction? Definates – Lindsay, Macquarie, Dobell, Eden-Monaro. Likely – Page. Possibly: Bennelong, Macarthur Outsiders: Paterson, Cowper, Wentworth, Hughes…and for a vicious swing back despite the redistribution – Greenway. Six seat gain for the ALP

  16. KC said


    The Australian had a story on (Jackie)Kelly’s battlers changing their votes, unfortunately it has now disappeared from the website.

    However most of the people were small business who said rising petrol prices, interest rates and Work Choices had decreased the amount of spare cash that their customers had which meant less business for them.

    This was a surprise for Howard to be losing small business owners, but has been pointed out by others before, reduce peoples spare income and business suffers.

    Another item which got prominance was that Kelly owns eight investment houses, this when people were struggling to buy one house and Howard was blaming the states for housing affordabilty, yet Kelly had no trouble buying eight.

    And yet one more in the background is the religous right takeover of the liberal party in NSW. It saw some prominant members get tossed and generated a lot of publicity. People don’t mind religion in politics,but they prefer it to be upfront and not some shadowy behind the scenes unknown.

  17. canberra boy said

    Possum, what you’re saying here is, not surprisingly, pretty consistent with some of the conclusions you drew about a month back when you analysed the quarterly Newspoll data. The Morgan poll last week and today’s Galaxy must have sent shivers through many Coalition members.

    While the inane media coverage has continued to focus on ‘marginal’ seats, the PM’s skill as a campaigner and agenda-setter, and the ‘inevitability’ that the poll gap will close, the polling evidence has shown for months that a swing of much more than 6% is quite possible and many Government seats are at risk.

    To my amusement, I have noticed that a number of non-marginal Government members have only just realised that they need to think about active campaigning. The panic is starting to set in. If the next Newspoll and Nielsen have comparable results, just watch while the Government disintegrates before your eyes.

  18. Enemy Combatant said

    Timbo sez…

    “Further to Ryan, The ALP are running a particularly strong candidate. Very likeable, very high profile. Used to be head of Amnesty in Australia and is an extremely popular university lecturer on Human Rights and Human Services.”

    QUT link says: “Ross Daniels has been involved in regional and international human rights issues and served as the International Chairperson of Amnesty International for four years.”

    While Ross never stated that he thought the Geneva Convention of war was “quaint”, as freshly resigned US A-G Abu Gonzalez did, can anyone remember Ross Daniels screaming long and loud about the bastardry that our very own AG, Phillip Ruddock perpetrated upon men, women and CHILDREN, incarcerating them behind the razor wire fences for years, while Minister Ruddock hid behind a very prominently displayed AMNESY INTERNATIONAL BADGE.

    Did he loudly and relentlessly demand that Ruddock remove the Amnesty International lapel badge or face expulsion be from AI?

    No he didn’t. Ross Daniels took the path of expediency while innocents suffered THE HORROR. Bloody hypocrite.

    Btw, the Amnesty International logo is a burning candle coiled by barbed wire.

  19. Stig said

    I can throw in a few comments on NSW, although it’s pretty much echoing what’s already above.

    The state Liberal party has been publically lurching off to the far right in a very visible fashion. I’m unsure how much interstate coverage this has received, but the use of branch stacking to get the moderates out and the loonies in has been well documented here. A lot of this was playing in the state election, but it has relevance at Federal level too – see the Towke selection then non-selection as a case study.

    The anti-Workchoices campaign in the State election was very effective, IMHO.

    I can’t buy into the Howard “battlers” in Western Sydney gig as being particularly important. Mumble has deconstructed the relevance of this one a few times, pointing out how few seats are at stake in this way. Could be the result of a Sydney-centric press having an inability to get news from anywhere they can’t buy a decent latte 😛

    Another issue in the mix – climate change? I’d suggest that voters in safe urban Lib seats would be quite likely to be engaged in this debate, and it’s obvious that Howard et al have done bugger all about it. I can’t think why this would be confined to NSW though.

  20. Stig said

    Another thought – if the NSW polls are bad for the Federal Libs now, wait until after APEC… The way it’s unfolding seems to be designed to piss as many people off as possible, and the enduring photo images of George and John hugging each other in the chaos are going to be distilled political poison.

  21. canberra boy said

    I think stig has it pretty right on NSW. Let me throw in another factor. The Govt has been comfortable that issues like children overboard, MVTampa, David Hicks, illegally invading Iraq, basing our climate change policy on the interests of coal exporters, detaining Dr Haneef, and invading Aboriginal communities have drawn criticism only from the latte left and so-called doctor’s wives on the Sydney North Shore.

    The Crosby-Textor focus-group work with disengaged swinging voters in marginal seats probably shows that these issues have played well. The trouble is they’ve played havoc with the Liberal heartland – the upper-middle class North Shore and Eastern Suburbs set have been growing more and more uncomfortable and outraged. Add that to interest rate pressures and you have a toxic mix. APEC will be the icing on the cake.

    I will not be at all surprised to see North Sydney (approx 10%)& Warringah (11%) fall, and huge swings in Bradfield (17.5%)and Mackellar (15.5%). I’m pretty convinced Bennelong will fall as will Wentworth.

  22. Possum Comitatus said

    Thanks guys – while it might appear that I’m not answering these comments, I’m certainly taking in what’s been said.It’s an invaluable help and gives me ideas of what to look for and where, so we can nail down these bloody NSW swings.So thanks again guys, and keep ’em coming!

  23. Don Wigan said

    One other observation (which your pseph studies havr confirmed, anyway, but it’s worth restating) is that there’s no consolation for Howard in porking the marginals.

    It’s a popular myth that if you can hold your marginals, a loss of vote in safe seats isn’t going to matter. (That is, unless it’s a crash as happened to Kennett in 99 and might be happening now.)

    I don’t think that’s going to be a factor this time in these marginals because of the high Labor primary vote. Marginals are mostly marginal because they are close to the middle of the road politically. When I looked at them in earlier elections, the primary vote for each of the majors wasn’t all that different from the national primary. So I’d suggest even specific targeting isn’t going to do much good when Labor’s primary is around 47%.

    If they’re very lucky and clever (and they’d want to give it a lot more thought than Mersey Hospital)they might shave 1 or 2 points off the primary. But if all this does is bring Labor down to 45, the seat’s still gone unless it’s a 3-cornered regional contest where the coalition can keep a tight preference flow.

    I don’t want to get ahead of the game, but I can’t see where the recovery’s going to come from.

  24. Stig said

    I’ve just been reading over your post again. One thing that occurred to me was the inferred use of 2001 as a baseline of “normal” voting intentions, which ws then affected by the Latham implosion. As pointed out by the Piping Shrike’s blog, the 2001 vote was in the shadow of the September 11 attacks, which combined with the Tampa had a a massive effect on voting – hardly normal voting circumstances. Howard was in serious trouble before those events happened. It’s as if there’s been a 6-year hiatus on voting intention, with the trend picking up where it left off in early 2001; except that the government has a lot more baggage and the opposition is a lot more energised.

    We’ve now seen the effect of the War on Terror come and go, and the Latham effect come and go. Would these effects have been particularly pronounced in safe Lib seats? Quite possibly. Perhaps there’s a lot of naturally conservative voters who regard those effects as now being history, and are a lot more focused on issues such as summarised by canberra boy, where they regard this government as having behaved in a radical right-wing fashion rather than a conservative fashion.

    The problem with this story remains in explaining why it is happening in NSW and not particularly elsewhere…

  25. ruawake said

    My thoughts on Fairfax, I live in the electorate. It is a very different seat to what it was in 2004.

    About 8,000-10,000 people new to the electorate. Many new houses, a lot with negative equity.

    A decent candidate when compared to Ivan Malloy (Ivan’s probaly a good bloke but his campaign was abysmal).

    The ALP vote has been sneaking up the Bruce Highway at a state level.

    An outside chance. Alex Somlyay would be having the odd sleepless night.

  26. Avidwatcher said

    The Latham effect took awhile to wash through in 2004/05 but can you tell me why in NSW seats like Parramatta (Ross Cameron’s sex scandal aside) and Richmond went away from Howard at that election. Was it just a delay to Latham’s implosion and what of those seats this time around? will they go further away from the Coalition?

  27. Paul said

    But, how is this all playing with those yet to register to vote? What do the under 21’s think? Are they engaged yet? Will they register?

  28. canberra boy said


    I don’t think what I am saying applies to all coalition safe seats in NSW – its just the North Shore and Eastern Suburbs where you have a concentration of the wealthiest, highest income earning people and highest property prices. Many of these people are executives in the finance, information & communications, advertising and other large corporations, or they are leading doctors or lawyers. While they are political conservatives and on the right in traditional class terms, they are educated, the economic beneficiaries of globalisation and active participants in a global culture. Many of them hold liberal social views, and IIRC voted for the republic. Perhaps the best way I can put it is that they are the opposite of Pauline Hanson, and a government which has gone a long way down the Pauline Hanson path has completely lost them. If I had the time I’d look at the Meganomics data against these electorates, but unfortunately we don’t have any useful polling info on this subset of electorates to match up with the demographics.

  29. Ryan in Queensland is quite close socio-economically to the North Shore; average income is quite high, extremely high amount of tertiary graduates, and was one of the two Qld electorates which voted “Yes” for the republic. (The other one was Brisbane.)

    Maybe it will fall.

  30. Stig said

    canberra boy – that’s a reasonable take on the wealthy & professional sub-set of the electorate. This sub-set would be most concentrated around Sydney and Melbourne, with substantial numbers in other capitals, I’d think. It could be that there’s enough of a concentration around Sydney to be making a particular impact on previous Lib heartland votes? I’ve not checked ABS or other demographic info.

    Calling this sub-set politically conservative but with liberal social values sounds about right.

  31. Eric said

    The census data (all free from ABS) can come in a variety of geographic levels, including electoral districts (although probably on the 2004 boundaries).

  32. Leopold said

    On the Queensland seats you mention:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say I reckon Mal Brough will hang on in Longman barring a national swing of 7% or more, which I continue to think unlikely.

    Herbert though I think will definitely be one of the first 10-20 seats in any swing across to Labor. I reckon Peter Lindsay would have been a dead duck in 2001 but for Tampa and 9/11 (slipped away by 1.4% from memory). Blair too is a ‘probable’ Labor gain. I would expect Bowman to fall before either Petrie or Longman.

    Hinkler I would say will probably be okay for the Nats; Flynn may be more touch and go.

    More broadly: it’s been clear to all who avoid Dennis-tinted sunglasses that the government was not the all-conquering juggernaut it was portrayed as in 2002-03 (barring the war period between March and May 2003). Labor just needed a credible leader who didn’t scare primary votes back to the Coalition to make 2004 a winnable contest. 2007 may actually be harder than 2004 in some ways – the focus on IR will be a negative IMHO.

    In terms of whether Labor wins this time, I’d say it depends on things I can’t really assess: Labor’s current lead owes something to warm fuzzy feelings about Rudd by people who aren’t natural Labor voters – will those hold up under a savage Liberal assault on unions/Garrett/Gillard wall-to-wall Labor etc? And secondly, on whether ‘inexperienced’ and ‘unknown’ cut when it comes time to enter a polling booth in ways they don’t over a phone in a poll. Beyond my ken, but even at this late date I’m still not persuaded either a) Labor will win, or b) that Rudd was the best choice. Call me stubborn. 😉

    PS – Polls say 55-45. To people who say that’s unbeatable, I note the recent achievements of Beattie, Schroeder, Ahern, Gallop etc in achieving turnarounds of that magnitude without any extraordinary events to help them.

  33. Possum Comitatus said

    Thanks all for providing some rationales for the hows and whys of NSW swings.Very much appreciated – especially the union campaign info and the descriptions of what’s happening in the individual seats.

    So if we have:
    – the strong union campaign being particularly effective in some areas on top of the generic displeasure at Workchoices

    – the NSW Liberal party letting incompetence sneak into their organisational capability as a result of their internecine warfare, combined with the damage that does to their brand name generally

    -some of the more affluent areas taking a big interest in issues like climate change, and that feeds back into the Coalitions previous electoral campaign strategies that alienated to some degree parts of their Liberal heartland

    – mortgage burden pressures creating voter anger, particularly since NSW has the most leveraged households.

    And possibly a couple of local issues, does that explain the large part of the big swings in the safe NSW seats?

    Avidwatcher, that’s a good question about Parramatta and Richmond.Richmond is probably due to the long continuing power of demographic change in the area, but Parramatta is a quirk.Maybe the folks of Paramatta were just channeling their inner Bogan at the last election and liked Latham? 😉

    Canberra Boy, unfortunately the Meganomics data has a lot less to say than I thought it would.I pulled it apart completely and the really interesting data relationships get lost in the electorate aggregations.

    If we had that same data for the 2004 and 2001 elections, we might be able to use some panel data techniques and work out relationships between the variables and adapt for any interesting fixed or random effects.But at the moment, it doesnt seem to actually say much that we dont already know anyway.

    Leo, The thing about those previous comebacks of Beattie, Ahern and Gallop was that they were playing to a very particular audience.If we take Beattie for example (and ignoring the fact that he had an opposition at the time where the party room meetings could be held in a telephone booth!), Beattie played to Qld’ers in a very Qldish way.If someone did the same thing in NSW, it wouldnt work – it’s a different electoral market.Howards problem here is that the things that might work in Qld would tend to alienate NSW voters and vice versa.That puts him in a bit of a bind – he has to come up with a national narrative to make inroads into that support gap, and that’s never been done before in the time frame available.Even when Keating won in 1993 after trailing in the polls by similar margins 8-12 months out, he reduced that gap substantially before the Hewson implosion pushed him over the line at the end.

    But who honestly reckons Rudd will implode? Ye even if he does, if Latham was this far ahead at this time in the last elctoral cycle, he would have won because his implosion didnt reduce the ALP vote by the amount Howard currently needs to reduce it.

    For the McPherson sceptics 😉 I’ll be throwing up a post for that soon, the reasons why I think it’s probably gone will take a whole post to explain, but thanks to the wonders of google earth and available stats, my delusions about McPherson should become a little clearer 😉

  34. stevet said

    Stig & Canberra Boy,

    I think you are wrong. I think the main reason for the shift in NSW is interest rates and mortgage repayments.

    You mentioned that there are not many marginal seats in Western Sydney. True – there are only Lindsay and Macquarie. However, as Possum pointed out, it is seats that are considered SAFE coalition that are also in danger and there is a number of these including Greenway, Hughes and Macarthur, all or some of which could fall on election night if there is a tidal wave happening.

    And, there are mortgage belt seats on the Central Coast such as Dobell and Robertson, both of which look ripe for the picking. Let’s not forget Paterson, which whilst outside of the grasp of Sydney, relies heavily on Newcastle and the mining industry, and has a heavily mortgaged population.

    Based on these figures, I think the ALP will pick up somewhere between 6-10 seats in NSW on election night.

    As for he North Shore, I will be very surprised if North Sydney falls and I don’t think the ALP has a hope in hell in places like Warringah. But, of course, I hope upon hope in Bennelong that Maxine pulls it off!

  35. Stig said

    stevet – interest rates & mortgages – yeah, it’s certainly part of the story. I just can’t see it being the whole story though. I reckon it’s not an issue that fully explains the larger swing in NSW compared with other states. I do agree people here have some horribly unaffordable mortgages, and as Possum notes we have the most leveraged households.

    Dunno if we’ll get an authoritative answer one way or the other. However, one of the polling organisations may even now be gathering up that data though.

    On Bennelong – as a local, I certainly hope Maxine McKew wins too, and will be trying to do my bit to ensure that happens…

  36. stevet said


    I agree, it’s not the whole story. There are also local issues, such as the disgraceful campaign run against the Labor candidate in Greenway at the last election. That is, the targeting of him because he was a Muslim. A few votes will come back to Labor because of this.

    But, that aside, the old part of this electorate that went into the new part from Quakers Hill through to Kellyville Ridge is dotted everywhere with McMansions that cost 400k and upwards. My wife and I took out our mortgage one month after the last election and we were paying $795 p.f., with the next rise factored in it will go to $950 p.f. That equates to a rise of $300 p.m.

    We borrowed $258,000. Imagine if you borrowed double that or more? Especially with Howard’s interest rate comments ringing in your ears coupled with the semantic games he is now playing (e.g. – I said “lower than the Labor Party”).

    I think it will have a devestating effect, and seats like Macarthur and Robertson have a very similar demography. And I think this helps to explain the phenomenon that Possum believes is affecting a number of seats in NSW, both marginal and “safe”.

  37. bmwofoz said


    If I’m understanding the figures the suggested swing in Victoria is in the marginals, okay the are no Liberal seats under 5% so what are the marginals,

    I also find it interesting that if Queensland and NSW (Howard’s Heartland) appear to be swinging hard but Victoria which has never liked Howard and is by nature more socially Liberal isn’t moving as much.

    In 1996 state poll Kennett suffered a 2.8% swing and lost 3 seats and gained one

    1999 State poll Kennett suffered 3.2% swing and lost about 17 seats

    The point being if the polls are right and if I’m reading the analyse by Possium, Newspoll is saying a 9% is on in Victoria but we are to believe this is only in the marginals while at the same time the suggestion is the safe ALP seats are barely moving compared to the figures in safe Liberal seats.

    I’m not saying the predictions are wrong, but is it possible that Election night is going to be very ugly, sure we can play pick a seat but is the Latham/Brealsy effect blinding us to just how on the nose Howard is and suspect has been for a long time.

    Which may explain why sate ALP have been so successful not just winning elections but winning traditional Liberal seats making the prediction for McPherson more believable.

    I suspect if the result comes in as ALP 55 – Liberal 45 and I note the August poll average is predicting that outcome compare to the February and May averages of ALP 57 – Liberal 43, so the Liberals have only improved TPP by 2 points in six months.

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