Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Archive for September, 2007

My, What a Big Swing You Have.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 30, 2007

The quarterly Newspoll has been out for a few weeks now, so it obviously must be time to do a few seat projections with it like we did with earlier quarterlies.

This time we are going to use the marginal/safe government/safe ALP seat breakdowns in conjunction with the State based breakdowns to not only give us a list of seats and the margins they would be on should the quarterly Newspoll be right, but also some idea of the marginal/safe government/safe ALP vote in each State

So to start with, we’ll draw up a basic table consisting of all the data we need.

  NSW Vic Qld SA WA Total seats Newspoll Swing
Marginal 11 13 7 6 5 42 8.3
Safe Coalition 20 14 19 4 8 65 11.6
Safe ALP 17 10 2 1 2 32 7.1
Total Seats 48 37 28 11 15 139  
Newspoll Swing 9.2 11 9.1 9.4 4.4   8.8

What this shows is the number of marginal, safe Coalition and safe ALP seats in each state, the recorded Newspoll swings in those seat types (on the right) and the overall state swing recorded by Newspoll on the bottom. The 8.8% swing in the bottom right hand corner is the overall national Newspoll swing.

Note here, that I’m only using 139 seats – the seats in these 5 states (that Newspoll use for their breakdowns), however I have taken the 2 independents (Windsor and Katter) out of the mix.

Next up we need to make an assumption. We need to assume that the proportion of the national swing compared to the marginal and safe seat swings is uniform across Australia. Hence, nationally the ratio of the marginal seat swing to the national swing is 8.3/8.8 = 0.94, therefore we will make the assumption that the ratio of the marginal seat swing in NSW divided by the NSW State swing is likewise 0.94.Using this, we estimate that the marginal seat swing in NSW is 0.94 multiplied by the NSW state swing of 9.2, giving us a NSW marginal seat swing of 8.65%.Once we do that for all the states we end up with.

  NSW Vic Qld SA WA
Marginal Seat Swing 8.65 10.34 8.55 8.84 4.14
Safe gov Seat Swing 12.14 14.52 12.01 12.41 5.81
Safe ALP Seat Swing 7.45 8.91 7.37 7.61 3.56
State Swing 9.2 11 9.1 9.4 4.4

However, these swings are a little overblown. For instance, there are 48 seats in NSW. If we multiply those 48 seats by the NSW State vote of 9.2 (in the top table) we get 441.6 swing units. However, if we multiply the NSW marginal seat number by the NSW marginal seat vote, and do the same for the safe seats, we end up with 464.7 swing units. Hence the swing is slightly overcooked in the second table. So we’ll simply adjust the swings in the second table by the ratio of the swing units calculated in both tables e.g. Marginal seat swing in NSW = 8.65*(441.6/464.7) = 8.2

Doing this for all states gives us:

Swings NSW Vic Qld SA WA
Marginal 8.2 9.9 7.2 8.3 3.7
Safe gov 11.5 13.8 10.1 11.6 5.2
Safe ALP 7.1 8.5 6.2 7.1 3.2

What is interesting here is that if we calculate the swing units horizontally rather than vertically using this table, what we find is that the estimated swings in the marginal and safe government seats are actually slightly smaller than the Newspoll estimate, and the Safe ALP swing is a point or 2 higher less than a point higher than Newspoll estimated. But for our purpose here, which is to identify the seats the Newspoll quarterly suggests would change hands, our result will actually be a conservative estimate. We will essentially be underestimating the result.

[Update: calculating horizontally we end up with 8.03 vs. 8.3 for marginals, 10.8 vs. 11.6 for safe government seats and  7.2 vs. 7.1 for safe ALP seats]

Now we have our swings, we can simply apply them to the 139 seats and see what comes out.

There are 49 seats in total that would change hands according to Newspoll in these 5 states; 16 in NSW, 11 in QLD, 5 in SA, 2 in WA and an enormous 15 in Victoria (which gets back to my constant wondering about WTF is going on in Victoria over the last few weeks).

The results below show the Seat, the State its in, the ALP two party preferred result at the 2004 election (adjusted for the 2006 redistribution) and the projected Newspoll vote.

Division State ALP 2004 TPP Projected
Parramatta NSW 49.17 57.39
Wentworth NSW 47.49 55.71
Lindsay NSW 47.08 55.30
Paterson NSW 43.68 55.22
Eden-Monaro NSW 46.73 54.95
Cowper NSW 43.25 54.79
Robertson NSW 43.13 54.67
Bennelong NSW 45.87 54.09
Dobell NSW 45.16 53.38
Hughes NSW 41.45 52.99
Page NSW 44.54 52.76
Gilmore NSW 40.59 52.13
North Sydney NSW 39.96 51.50
Macarthur NSW 38.85 50.39
Warringah NSW 38.71 50.25
Greenway NSW 38.65 50.19
Bonner Qld 49.49 56.69
Moreton Qld 47.17 54.37
Herbert Qld 43.76 53.87
Longman Qld 43.25 53.36
Petrie Qld 42.55 52.66
Flynn Qld 42.28 52.39
Hinkler Qld 41.66 51.77
Blair Qld 44.31 51.51
Dickson Qld 41.11 51.22
Bowman Qld 41.1 51.21
Dawson Qld 40.01 50.12
Kingston SA 49.93 58.22
Wakefield SA 49.33 57.62
Makin SA 49.07 57.36
Sturt SA 43.2 54.84
Boothby SA 44.63 52.92
Deakin Vic 45.03 54.9
McMillan Vic 45.01 54.9
Corangamite Vic 44.68 54.5
La Trobe Vic 44.17 54.0
McEwen Vic 43.58 57.4
Gippsland Vic 42.3 56.1
Higgins Vic 41.24 55.1
Dunkley Vic 40.62 54.5
Kooyong Vic 40.42 54.3
Goldstein Vic 39.97 53.8
Menzies Vic 39.33 53.2
Flinders Vic 38.89 52.7
Casey Vic 38.65 52.5
Wannon Vic 37.63 51.5
Aston Vic 36.85 50.7
Hasluck WA 48.18 51.86
Stirling WA 47.96 51.64

For the national total, you can add the two Tassie seats and Solomon from the NT for a total of 52 seats changing hands.

Getting back to why Victoria is acting unusually, that big swing has to be going somewhere. If we look at the ALP primary vote measured quarterly, in the 4 states that are swinging big we get:


It’s become a case of the rise and rise of Victoria, starting from the introduction of Workchoices at the beginning of the second quarter 2006.


There’s been a bit of confusion over how to read this, which is my fault for not explaining it properly.

This is just like the national pendulum where a certain swing, if it were uniform, would deliver so many seats.

The only difference is that this is 15 pendulums instead of one, where each State has 3 pendulums – marginal seats, safe government seats and safe ALP seats.

Just like the national pendulum, there will be seats that will swing less than the average swing, but as a result there will be other seats that will swing more than the average swing to balance out the weight of what makes up the “average swing”.

So if you see a few seats in the list above that give you a “Holy Smokes Batman” moment , it may be that the seat in question wasn’t (according to the Newspoll data) actually swinging that much, but other seats in its category would have to be swinging more than the average to take the weight.




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Posted in Election Forecasting, Polling, Voting behaviour | 99 Comments »

The Narrowing

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 27, 2007

Today I thought we might have a look at the grand old wives tale of pollypunditry, “The Narrowing”. – The inexplicable tightening of polls when the election is called.

Not being a great believer in fairy tale determinism myself, preferring reason backed by the copious use of data to derive meaning from polling behaviour and thus rational explanations for voter behaviour, I’m somewhat bemused by the almost religious qualities that some pundits give to The Narrowing.

But before we get into this, it would be good to take a small overview of the general behaviour of polling data first, as this will come into play later on.

To start with, let’s look at the primary vote of the two major parties since April 1996 using every published Newspoll. The vertical black dotted lines are the elections of 1998, 2001 and 2004 respectively.



The obvious thing that stands out here is how noisy these buggers are. In any given 3 or 4 poll period, you can have poll results falling within a 6 point margin. This, of course, is to be expected simply as result of sampling variation – the dreaded margin of error. As a result, these polls are generally too noisy to use for nearly everything.

Instead, let’s look at the monthly average of Newspoll for the Coalition primary over the same period of April 1996 through to September 2007.


This gives the Newspolls the valium treatment and they become far easier to work with. There is still noise in there, but as you can, it’s been seriously reduced.

By using the less noisy monthly averages of Newspoll, it also makes it easier to see some interesting behaviour in the series. Notice how the series is very “peaky”? Public opinion reacts to the events of the day, but these peaks also suggest an overreaction. Tampa/S11 is a good example here. When those two events occurred, the vote reaction was to rally to the government, but that rally also contained an overreaction component – the bandwagon effect which gave the government a very short polling peak before that bandwagon effect washed out of the system, taking the vote down with it. This is polling overshoot and you can see its effects everywhere throughout the polling series of both the Coalition and the ALP. It normally takes a few months for that overshoot to wash out of the system after a big movement.

On the ALP side, the same thing can be seen observed with leadership changes. When Rudd assumed the leadership, the polling overshot by a couple of points into the low 50s as a primary vote before the herd effect, the bandwagon effect, washed out of the system and the ALP primary settled down into its long run level of 47 that we still see to this day.

Now armed with our knowledge of sampling variability and polling overshoot, we can move on to the next issue that must be taken into account when measuring “The Narrowing”. That issue is the polling movement in the months preceding the campaign.

Remembering back to our quick squiz at the governments advertising campaigns in the lead up to the last two elections, we found that the primary vote of the Coalition made large recoveries in the period of the taxpayer funded advertising blitz.


This is important, not only because it can drive party political momentum into the campaign (as it did against Latham) but can also be used to boost any underlying movement to the government (such as was occurring with the Tampa/S11 episode in 2001). These advertising campaigns assisted the government greatly in setting their final pre-campaign period support level from which to launch into the campaign itself. The 1998 election wasn’t renowned for its massive advertising blitz (at least compared to the last 2 elections) although it did have some GST stuff (I think – can anyone clarify?), and the One Nation effect not only clouded any advertising bounce, but generally made that election rather unusual to begin with. So we havent thrown that graph up.

Now keeping all that in your thought orbit – lets move on to The Narrowing.

We’ll look at every election since 1993.The way we’ll do it is simple. First we’ll show the monthly Newspoll primary averages leading into the campaign (to show us momentum) where the second last observation, and sometimes third last observations are the month(s) in the campaign itself, and where the final observation is the election result. So for 1993 we get:


Notice how the long term momentum was with the ALP and against the Coalition, and carried through the campaign period into the election itself? On primary votes there was a superficial narrowing, but nothing that wasn’t already happening anyway. Over the medium term, the ALP primary from November 1992 through to the election result simply oscillated around 44.

Secondly, we’ll also look at TPP, but measured in a slightly different way. We’ll use the primary votes of the Newspoll estimates and then distribute preferences as they occurred at that election. So effectively we are backcasting preference allocations from the 1993 election onto the primary vote estimations taken in the lead up to the 1993 election. This way, we end up with a more realistic and consistent TPP estimate that reflects more accurately the preference allocations of the time. Also, we’ll add in 6 months of Newspoll monthly averages (calculated the same way), then the first single poll before the election was called, and every Newspoll during the campaign until the election result itself. When the election was called and campaign began is marked with a vertical black line. Doing this we get (and this time the ALP is blue, and the Coalition red – my stuff up in the graph – apologies)


This is interesting because the November and December results look like typical polling overshoot before the estimates settled back into a more modest and realistic level that was consistent with the longer term momentum and trend. Again, there was superficially a narrowing – but it wasn’t as a result of the campaign being called, as the 49% ALP TPP going to 51.4% ALP TPP from the beginning of the campaign to the final poll of the campaign is all simply movement within the margin of error of the polling. The true underlying result ‘probably’ did narrow slightly in the campaign – although the Newspoll estimates cannot say definitively one way or another. What we can say is that the movement in the campaign was consistent with the longer term movement before the campaign.

Moving on to 1996:



Not much can be said about this except that there was absolutely, positively no narrowing at all in either the lead up to the campaign, or during the campaign itself. The numbers did not move for 8 months.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

Now for 1998:



On the primaries, there was probably a slight point or two movement away from the ALP , while the Coalition primary was getting battered around by One Nation and was all over the place – eventually ending up on election day at its long run mean over the period. The TPP figures reflect the Coalition primary vote figures. There’s that big overshoot in June 1998 reflecting the One Nation push, and the final result being very close to the mean vote level over the period of February 1998 through to the October 98 election. During the campaign period itself, there was no narrowing. In fact, using just the polls taken during the campaign, they suggest, if anything, the possibility of a slight widening or a point or so. But at the end of the day that’s just noise and we can safely conclude that the polls didn’t narrow over the election campaign,

Moving right along to the 2001 election:



This polling is interesting for many reasons. The ALP from March to November 2001 were experiencing a slow decline and trend away from their primary vote. That is as clear as day and is consistent with the advertising blitz we showed earlier. The Coalition primary however was experiencing a slow trend towards them, interrupted by the Tampa/S11 overshoot in the polling. It becomes much clearer looking at the TPP figures. The August to September movement is highly pronounced, directly followed by a slow recovery back to a more normal position as the S11 issue washed out of the system. Here there was definitely a narrowing, but one easily explainable. If you look at the TPP chart, you can see clearly the longer term trend between March and August away from the ALP and toward the Coalition – forecasting that forward you end up with something pretty close to the election result.

By the election, the vote for each party had recovered to again reflect that earlier movement after it was interrupted by Tampa/S11.This type of behaviour is extremely common in the financial and commodity markets where you have long run movements getting interrupted by exogenous shocks, whereupon they undergo an adjustment process as the effects of that shock wash out of the system, and the series attempts to catch up, or revert, to where it’s long run behaviour would have ordinarily had it situated. This is a classic, almost textbook example of an impulse response function.

Now on to 2004:




This is pretty easy to explain as well. The ALP was undergoing a longer term trend away from its primary vote while the Coalition was enjoying a trend to it’s primary vote (helped in large part to the advertising blitz and associated pork combined with Lathams implosion).On TPP terms, the vote was pretty volatile, but with the ALP being various levels above 50. What is crystal clear is that far from the vote narrowing once the campaign was called, it blew out toward the Coalition, following what in hindsight looks like a fairly solid , even if volatile trend toward the Coalition that started 6 months or so earlier.

From the last 5 elections, what can we say about The Narrowing?

In 1993 there may have been a narrowing and in 2001 there was a narrowing, but both times that narrowing was consistent with the longer running trends occurring in the vote over the previous 6-8 months. 1993 is reasonably easy to see, even if there was a bit of polling overshoot in the mix, and even if any narrowing was not statistically significant in the campaign.But in 2001 it gets a little more complicated as the impulse response function of the Tampa/S11 exogenous shock on the polling series occurred during the election campaign period itself. But from an econometric perspective – the narrowing is nothing more than a reversion of the polling series to its long run trend via a typical impulse response function

In 1996 the polls didn’t move during the campaign, or at all for 8 months.In 1998 the polls didn’t move during the campaign, although in the period before the campaign One Nation was causing havoc with the TPP and the Coalition Primary. In 2004 the complete opposite of the Narrowing occurred.

So The Narrowing is 2 from 5 at best, 1 from 5 that can be called certain, and where both of those occasions can be explained by the longer term trends and movement occurring in the polling series over the previous months.

While The Narrowing makes for a simplistic bed time polling story and is to be expected to be used by political parties as a weapon for their own electoral self-interest, when it comes to providing actual explanations of electoral behaviour to a broader public, the dogmatic representation of “The Narrowing” as some divinely inspired inevitability is a poor substitute for polling analysis based on the evidence contained within the polling data.

Those who aspire to understand Newspoll properly would do well to spend a little less time proselytizing with faith based arguments and a little more time using the data they proudly claim as their own to provide the type of cogent, rational and evidence based analysis that would better serve the public interest.

Over at the platinum blog of Australian blogs, Larvatus Prodeo, there is an excellent debate going on over this very narrowing here and here, and well worth a squiz.


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Posted in Election Forecasting, Polling, Voting behaviour | 59 Comments »

Sorry about the IM thing folks

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 23, 2007

This IM thing I have is completely useless.So for anyone that has sent me messages over it – It’s a fair bet that I didnt see a word of it and you might want to resend it. Email or the contact form would be the best bet – at least that gets through.

So sorry about that folks.

From now on, the IM will only be up when I’m actually sitting in front my laptop.So if you see it, you’ll know that I can hear you.

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Crimes against Psephology: Christopher Pearson –you’re nicked.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 23, 2007

The really dismal thing about elections, apart from being inundated with images of some of the most truly unphotogenic people in the country, would have to be the absolute fucktardery over polling that masquerades around as fact in opinion columns.

The latest cab off the rank is that savant psephologist, Christopher Pearson. On September 22, he wrote (if by wrote you mean ‘scrawled a random stream of consciousness from a parallel universe’) an article in The Australian with the humble title “To win the unwinnable poll”.

“Interesting”, I thought….. “Maybe a polemic on what the government needs to do”, I mused.

But alas, as one read through the piece it quickly became apparent that the article had much to be humble about.

The first line was a corker and really set the scene: “The Government is getting near the level of support it needs in the seats where it matters most.”

….which was just the first in a rather long line of WTF? moments that ensued.

We only have to look at the swings in the marginals identified in the quarterly Newspoll breakdown to clearly demonstrate this to be nothing more than an exercise in make believe.

The seats where the government needs support is in the marginals. The ALP have, according to the latest quarterly Newspoll breakdown, 50% of the primary vote in those marginals. That is a 9.2% primary vote swing to the ALP and an 8.3% two party preferred swing in those seats that are supposedly the ones that “matter most”, seats held by less than a 6% margin.

The ALP has an average of 2.3% more vote than it needs to take every single one of the least marginal of those marginal seats, let alone those seats with a margin well under 6%. For the government to be getting “near the level of support it needs in the seats where it matters most” , that swing to the ALP in the marginals needs to be halved – let alone the swing against the safe government seats likewise halving as well, simply to stop the government held seats on 6% – 7% buffers from falling.

After a bit of self indulgent navel gazing and chastising of other commentators for their apparent inability to understand reality, this electoral Man of Letters declared:

It’s often forgotten that his victory in 1998 was achieved with a primary vote in the House of Representatives election of only 39.5 per cent and that Labor won in 1990 with a primary vote of 39.4 per cent. If the Coalition were to wage a dogged campaign concentrating on holding its marginal seats, it could win by maintaining its present primary vote if it also managed to cut Labor’s two-party preferred margin to about two points, as in 1998 when Labor led with 51 points to the Coalition’s 49 and still lost.”

What Christopher Pearson seems to have forgotten is that little thing called One Nation – just how one could forget One Nation is beyond me, but memory loss and delusion do seem to walk hand in hand in the political psychopathology stakes.

In 2007, a primary vote in the low forties will deliver the Coalition exactly nothing but the opposition benches, simply as a consequence of the minor party make up and vote share. The 1990 election quoted was memorable for the high 17.1% minor party primary vote – mostly the Democrats and the Greens, which forced 91 seats to be decided on preferences. Of those 91 seats, the Coalition gained 33, the ALP 57 and Others 1. That was simply a result of the ALP benefiting from a high preference flow from those minor parties – parties generally from the centre left, in an election where the environment was a dominant issue.

In the 1998 election, One Nation was the dominant minor party and being a party from the conservative side of politics, sent a majority of preferences back to the Coalition helping to push Howard over the line in a large number of seats. We can see the One Nation effect on the primary vote of the Coalition by simply graphing the primary vote swing of the monthly Newspoll aggregates (which is simply the difference between the Newspoll primary vote estimate and the primary vote obtained at the previous election).

The One Nation effect is marked and represents the period from the month when the One Nation party formed through to the 1998 election. The blue numbers at the top are the primary vote swing achieved at each election. If we do the same for the ALP primary vote swing we get:

There was little to no One Nation effect on the ALP primary vote. However, the ALP vote seemed to grow at the end of 1997, possibly as a reaction to the Coalitions handling of the One Nation saga. From the primary vote swings we can clearly see that the Coalition primary vote dropped substantially (-7.75%) compared to the small ALP rise (+1.34%). In 1998, the Coalition could win government with a small primary vote simply because the preference flows from One Nation were benefiting the Coalition compared to the ALP – leading to the Coalition winning 62 seats on preferences vs. the 35 seats the ALP won on preferences.We’ve modeled the One Nation effect many times before, and to readers here it is nothing new.

Unfortunately for Pearsons fantasies, preferences are currently flowing between 65-75% to the ALP if we look at the ACNielson and Morgan preference allocation distributions.

So no Christopher – the Coalition cannot win with a primary vote in the low forties in 2007 simply because of the lack of minor party support from the right. The ALP can win with a low primary because of the high minor party preference flow to them that is a function of the political composition of the minor party vote, but the Coalition simply cannot – so let us have no more of that horseshit eh?

The next piece of ignorance to emanate from the pages was this gem:

In Western Australia, the two-party vote has moved from a 50-50 split to 51-49 in the Coalition’s favour, which would help deliver the Government Labor’s two marginal seats in Perth. In Queensland the two-party split moved from 54-46 in Labor’s favour to 52-48.

If we use WA as an example to show why this is nothing but buffoonery of the most inane kind, in WA during the period from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 2007, the governments primary vote swing has gone from -5.8% to -4.8%, the ALP primary vote swing has stayed the same at +5.3% and the ALP TPP swing has reduced from +5.4% to +4.4%.This would deliver the ALP the two Coalition marginals of Stirling and Hasluck on buffers of 2.4% and 2.6% respectively according to Antony Greens spiffy election calculator. For the government to gain the two ALP marginals, they need a swing TO them, not a swing AWAY from them. On current standing, the Coalition needs a 4.5% swing to them in WA between now and the election to pick up Swan, and a 5.2% swing to them between now and the election to pick up Cowan.

You see Christopher, it’s not about the 50/50 split on TPP that makes the difference, it’s the SWING that matters. In Qld, to give another example to beat the stupidity out of you with, a 52-48 split would represent a 9.1% TPP swing to the ALP. If this was uniform, the ALP would pick up 10 seats in Qld.

Yes, 10. From smallest to largest winning margin they would be Bowman, Dickson, Hinkler, Flynn, Petrie, Longman, Herbert, Blair, Moreton and Bonner.

So please, let us put this type of gross misunderstanding of polling results to bed as well.

Pearson continues:

On these figures, a recapitulation of the Coalition’s victory in 1998 is quite on the cards.

Only if you’re smoking crack Christopher.

Now remember folks, this article was printed in The Australian, the very newspaper that thundered in a self-indulgent hissyfit that “we understand Newspoll because we own it“. They declared that “THE measure of good journalism is objectivity and a fearless regard for truth“, before stating that “Not properly understanding how polls work gives our critics licence to project their own bias onto analysis of our reporting.”

Allowing columnists such as Christopher Pearson to produce articles like “To win the unwinnable poll”, makes a complete mockery of the standards of “objectivity and a fearless regard for truth” that the paper declares is so important to the measure of good journalism. Publishing such articles that, by any objective measure, fall victim to “Not properly understanding how polls work” undermines The Australians self declared superiority of polling analysis to the point of it verging sharply toward hypocrisy.

One doesn’t need to own Newspoll to understand the Yooniverse, but one certainly needs to have a modicum of understanding for the very basics of statistics and electoral history, to produce polling analysis that can be said to have even a mediocre relationship with observable reality. On this point, Christopher Pearson and consequently The Australian, fail.

If The Australian wishes for its political analysis to be seen as national best practice, then it needs to uphold a higher quality of journalistic standard and vigorously enforce stronger quality control over its published content. For as long as articles like Christopher Pearson’s “To win the unwinnable poll” are published by The Australian, the self-declaration on the superior quality of The Australians polling analysis will ring hollow.

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Posted in Polling, Take downs | 92 Comments »

Newspolls for all!

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 21, 2007

Over in The Oz, the latest Newspoll quarterly breakdown by both demographics and seat margins is out – both at the same time.

There is so much data here that rather than give a riding commentary, I thought that I’d just present the data first and do the analysis in subsequent posts. There are a few very interesting things that have already popped up out of the data – mostly reinforcing the view that the Coalition Firewall strategy has been playing out and they’ve been shoring up the base….. but we’ll get to that later.Suffice to say, the stuff floating around on this polling breakdown in the Oz and on SkyNews today is more twaddlish than usual – but we’ll round up those rogues later.For now, it’s on with the show.

Firstly, lets do the marginal seats, the safe government seats and the safe ALP seats:







These results give us the following swings from the 2004 Election:

margswingsprims1.jpg 2ppswingsmarginals1.jpg

Next, we’ll move on to the demographic and State breakdown. All the swings are the difference between the third quarter Newspoll results and the 2004 Election results. On the demographic breakdowns, the swing represents the difference between the third quarter Newspoll results and the best Newspoll estimate of the 2004 election results.









Lots here to chew through, and chew through it we will.

As  something to ponder, the state swings point to around a 43 seat ALP gain.

You can plug these numbers into Antony Greens new spiffy calculator .

Although he only allows for swings of up to 10% ,which plays around with Victoria a bit.Ordinarily you’d think that sized swing would be enough!

Bryan over at OzPol also squeezes the data




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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | 20 Comments »

The Smear O’ Meter

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 20, 2007


There’s just nothing quite like a good smear. The latest addition to the Shock-O-Rama circus is the revelation that Rudd needed a valve change. If you stick your head out the window, I’m sure you’ll be able to smell the public outrage at Rudds deceptive omission hanging thick in the air.



But none-the-less, colourful characters across the land, not necessarily always bald ones at that, continue to ply their tawdry trade in the political zoo. So let’s break out the Smear O’ Meter and see how Rudd is going compared to Mark Latham, and what we can expect in the future.

Looking at Rudds performance on the Smear O’ Meter we see he started out strong. The Inexperience smear soon made way for the Association smear; “I saw Goody Rudd having dinner with the Devil, and the devil was wearing a Panama hat!”. Latham on the other hand, he just skipped the Association smear altogether – a different kettle of fish that bloke. But not to be outdone by previous Labor leaders, Rudd quickly followed by receiving a barrage of the Personal History smear with a quick chaser of the old Family smear. Now we’ve come to the next rung in the ladder of opprobrium – the Health smear.

That’s right good folk, Cardiac Kevin went to hospital.


He had a valve job.


He didn’t tell us!



Well, not quite. But that’s the meme, and as far as memes go that’s pretty tacky.

But if we look at the Smear O’ Meter, we can all see what comes next; the Sex smear.

Now that will be kind of awkward for everyone when you think about it 😉

This hint of rogering provides a nice segue way into something more serious – marginal seat polling, particularly the governments’ current position. It was only days ago we had Howard talking up the governments marginal seat polling to the fearful masses of the party room. “No” he said, “Our polling is good”. “We are still competitive in Eden Monaro” he said, or words to the effect.

There’s nothing quite like trying to shore up the gullible. Then along comes Morgan to burst the bubble (62/38 to ALP) with an Eden-Monaro analysis and today we have the ALP playing mischief by releasing UMR polling done on Monday night.

58/42 to the ALP on 2PP with an ALP primary of 51.

If the PM considers that to be competitive, things aren’t looking too good in Camp Conservative.

Not to be left out of the polling avalanche going on, Galaxy also has a Senate poll predicting that the minors will gain the balance of power. I’m not one for Senate polls myself, but some of you folk may find it interesting .

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Posted in Polling, smear | 20 Comments »

And Thus Spake Newspoll

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 19, 2007

My humblest apologies for the delay on the Newspoll low-down; I’ve been organising a few things for the election and will have an announcement about that soon (insert mysterious music)

When the Newspoll rolled out on Monday night, I was expecting to wake up to headlines reading “Howard poised to take Denison” or some equally silly interpretation of polling noise. But no, journos and commentators across the land generally kept it in their pants.

As we’ve been saying for months, the polls are moving about 2 points around a long run mean of 56-57/43-44 on TPP and 47-48/38-39 on primaries. Adding in the final September poll to our monthly aggregate of Newspolls, we end up with:



Again – it’s just more of the same. If you remember back to the last Newspoll when the headline 59 figure came out, we said:

The headline numbers will undoubtedly have the politicians, commentators and pollyjunkies running around like headless chooks in varying states of euphoria or complete panic, depending on ones political bent.

But underneath these headline figures it is nothing more than business as usual.

Nothing has actually changed since March. The nature of polling series is such that they wander a few points around their true level simply because of the probabilistic nature of sampling that occurs with opinion polls.

But so saying, break out the popcorn because the fallout is going to be worth watching

And it really was all rather amusing over the last 2 weeks. They’re fickle, predictable little creatures those pollies.

There were a couple of other interesting bits in the Newspoll. The Coalition leadership question which suggested that Petulant Pete was about as popular as nappy rash and Malcolm Turnbull was about as popular as, well…. Malcolm Turnbull.

But the other bit was on the question of the strength of voter support:


What I haven’t seen picked up anywhere much around the place was talk on these figures (but so saying, I could well just have missed it).

The ALP is ahead by a large margin on primaries, yet these figures clearly suggest that the ALP vote is actually stronger than the Coalition vote.61% of the ALPs primary vote is rusted on while only 58% of the Coalitions vote is the same. The “probably will” voters have the Coalition one point in front 29 to 28.But the Coalition has soft support at 11 compared to the ALPs 10.

But to fully absorb the power of these figures, you have to place them in the context of the true primary vote being close to 10 points higher for the ALP.

So not only is the ALP vote higher, but it is at least as strong as the Coalition vote.

To highlight this, if the “maybe” voters for each party changed between now and the election, representing the best and worse case scenario for each party, the ALP primary would be reduced by 10% (about 5 points) from 47-48 to 42-43.However, if the soft voters for the Coalition all shifted, the Lib/Nat primary vote would fall 11% (or about 4 points)to around 34/35 *.

A scary prospect indeed for the conservatives if we take these numbers at face value, and assume that he who wins the election campaign will make the greatest inroads into their opponents soft vote.The best the Coalition can do if the “soft vote” deserts the ALP is to come roughly equal to the ALP on primaries – only to lose on preferences.


Which gets us back to a question I asked earlier – what happens if Rudd wins the campaign?

These numbers put some meat on the bones of that particular question.

The conclusion from the Newspoll is pretty simple – its business as usual on the primaries, business as usual on the TPP, Howard is the most popular Coalition leader by a powerful lack of alternatives and the Coalition vote is not only dismally small, but considering its size it’s also dismally weak.When your primary is hanging around 39 and you get the rough end of the pineapple on preference flows, 4 points is the difference between a post election result where there’s more party room members than shadow portfolios to divvy out, or close to the the reverse.

* Thanks to BB for pointing out an earlier mistake.

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | 17 Comments »

A Nexus Poll.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 17, 2007

A company called Nexus Research has released a poll of Melbourne and Sydney voters over HERE:

It says the usual type of stuff that has been falling out of the polls since February.ALP primary on 51% and Lib primary on 36% etc etc. It’s amazing how remarkable figures like these all become so ho hum after a while.

But what is really interesting about this poll (deserving of a standing ovation for Nexus Research from pollyjunkies across the land) is the inclusion of an interactive portal through which poll tragics everywhere can analyse the polling results from both this poll and a near identical poll taken in September 2004.

Go on – have a play with it… you know you want to!

Of key interest to me with this polling was the breakdown in voting intention by occupation status. The Crosby Textor Oztrack 33 research indicated that there was a national 14.5% swing against the Libs on the primary vote by part time workers and an 18.3% swing to the ALP on TPP by part time workers back in June.

This Nexus poll not only suggests similarly large movements (the first time we can get verification of OzTracks part-time worker swing), but it also tells us that in Sydney and Melbourne at least, these swings that were apparent nationally in June are still apparent in September.

Back in September 2004, 50% of part time workers surveyed stated that they would vote for the Liberal Party and 35% stated they would vote for the ALP. Yet in September 2007, only 29% of part time workers stated they would vote for the Liberal Party while the ALP vote from part time workers jumped to 53%. These are primary vote figures.

This might turn into the missing demographic link in the polls, and if the ABS would pull their finger out and release the 2006 Census data on occupational status, we could indeed scare the seven shades of shite out of sitting government members everywhere by looking at the proportion of their electorates that are part time workers.

But alas, we’ll have to wait a little longer to have that fun.

Another thing that keeps popping up lately is the notion of the dreaded “soft vote”. The problem I have with these soft vote nostrums by various commentators is that they aren’t turning up in the data. Oztrack 33 back in June had the soft vote equal for each party on 5%.I’m hearing from both sides in all sorts of seats that voter support isn’t soft – but none the less the dreaded “soft voter” is the cliché you just cant leave home without.

But the last word on soft voters has to go to a stand up comedian named John Withheld posting over at the Poll Bludger.

The voters are waiting for Howard with nerf bats.”



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Posted in Polling, Uncategorized, Voting behaviour | 23 Comments »

Of Sydney Lines and Firewalls

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 14, 2007

Over at The Terror, there’s an interesting article that’s well worth a read.

Liberals on brink of NSW annihilation

Remembering back to last week when we blended together the Crosby Textor research with information about what’s happening on the ground around the country – the obvious conclusion was the existence of a Coalition firewall strategy. Today, the Tele helps us verify that the firewall is alive and well in NSW.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal:

LABOR polling in keymarginals last month was so positive for the ALP that it was redone, only to return the same results;

THE Liberals have started polling the blue-ribbon seat of North Sydney because of fears Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey could fall; and

SEATS with margins of up to 10 per cent have been identified by the Liberals as vulnerable.

This we already knew. We identified the 10% margin as the rough firewall baseline in ‘Capitulation’, we pointed out that the ALP believed they had most of the marginals in the bag and that they were off fox hunting in the safe seats.

Months ago we identified NSW as the State with the most dangerous swings in the safe government seats in our ‘Pollycide‘ analysis.

And back in the beginning of July we identified about 40 seats in play that could be now categorised as marginal for the Coalition in ‘Margin of Terror‘. That seat number was subsequently verified in late August in The Oz.

The article further states:

Liberal Party officials also confirmed they have abandoned plans to target Labor-held seats – to concentrate on protecting sitting members.

They have revealed the level of their concern over Mr Rudd’s growing popularity in western Sydney, with plans to draw a “Sydney Line” as a last bulwark of defence in their national campaign.

“The Sydney Line” eh?

I guess its tough titties then for the members for Page, Cowper, Paterson and Macquarie. Rome will not be sending reinforcements to defend the fringes of the empire, despite weak platitudes to the contrary. If you can’t even see Sydney, you can’t be in any “Sydney Line”…..which is probably fair enough. With the possible exception of Cowper, those seats are cactus for the Coalition anyway.

Eden-Monaro will of course become the capital of pork; it’s mythical (and undeserved) status as the nations bellwether seat guarantees that the denizens of EM will need to reinforce their umbrellas to protect themselves from the porcine falling from the heavens.

Macarthur, Greenway, Dobell, Robertson and Hughes – if push comes to shove, you’re expendable. That’s what happens when you make up the wall – you’re the first to crumble as the call for retreat sounds.I’m sure the esteemed members are quite relaxed and comfortable about it all.

Parramatta is written off as a possible Liberal gain, even though it’s notionally Liberal after the redistribution and Lindsay is apparently just about to be written off by the Libs as well, so they don’t even make it into the mix to begin with.

But not to fear dear representatives of Cook, Wentworth, Warringah, Mackellar, Berowra, Mitchell, Bennelong, Bradfield and North Sydney – The Team still loves ya.

Although the NSW firewall may well resemble a doughnut by the time the electorate is finished putting pencil to ballot, with Bennelong and Wentworth the possible holes in the middle.

This isnt really related, but so worth a squiz at.Its a piece of ALP advertising that will be extremely effective in Qld north of Brisbane.Mexicans might not get the power of it, but as a Qlder, it’s powerful stuff.The tranquil dusk fishing setting, the lifestyle connotations, the juxtaposition of the way Qld always has been vs. what it will become… it’s a highly intelligent piece of political advertising that confronts the most sacred lifestyle dogmas of Qld’rs north of Brisbane everywhere.


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Posted in Polling | 31 Comments »

Name that issue!

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 12, 2007

Since we’ve been talking ‘issues’ lately, what are you folks out there picking up as the current talking point memos of both the major parties?

I can see a few with the Coalition:

Heading in the right direction.

We have a strong and experienced team

The full employment economy.

Labor do things because the PR company Hawker Britton tell them too (started yesterday I think)

The ALP have the usual:

Clever politician

Howards vision of the future goes as far as the next election.

But they seem to have been a bit slack in generating new clichés lately.

I’d be interested if anyone could add to the list as they hear them, it’ll help get a handle on any campaign strategy change by both parties. The first hint of a strategy change comes simply through the message.

Different messages are aimed at different demographics, what I might not hear could well ring like a cowbell with others, so it will be interesting to see how people pick the different messages up.


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Posted in Leading Indicators | 44 Comments »

Running to Stand Still

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 12, 2007

Lounging around at The Poll Bludger last night, a net entity by the name of Scorpio pointed out a fascinating little quote from Lord Downer that he’d found on the Bolters site (speaking of which, what kind of red cordial binge has the Bolter been on lately?)

It comes from a Sky News transcript of an 11 September interview:

“PRESENTER: So Minister just finally, what’s your message to your colleagues – should they stop the speculation, the consideration of ‘what if John Howard went? Should they now all lock in behind the Prime Minister?

MR DOWNER: Look I don’t think you should be harsh on people thinking about all of our options during a time when they are concerned that our polling is not going as well as, the public polling, is not going as well as they might hope. But on the other hand, I think at the end of the day, they really see John Howard as the best option for the country and the best option for the Liberal Party.”

So Dolly seems to let the cat out of the bag that their own polling is as dismal, if not worse than the current annihilation that Newspoll, Galaxy, Morgan and ACN are all pointing to.

Which gets us back to the Crosby Textor Oz Track 33.

Nothing much seems to have changed between May/June and September in terms of the vote. But what surprised me about the data for June was the low measure of soft voters for each party. At June, CT estimated the soft primary vote of each party as being equal at 5%, with the ALP on a primary of 47% , the Coalition on 35%, the minors on 15% with the undecideds on a lowly 3%.

When this transfers over to 2 party preferred, the figures end up as ALP 58%, Coalition 40% with undecideds on 2%. One third of the undecideds only seemed to be undecided over which minor party to vote for, not where they’ll deliver their second preference.

If those undecideds break 50/50, that’s an 11.74% TPP swing to the ALP, giving them an extra 58 seats on the uniform national pendulum (available on the right under ‘swings for seats’), and delivering them a total of 119 seats in a house of 150. The Victorian seat of Casey would be the last to fall, just ahead of Abbots seat of Warringah with such a uniform swing.

But you know, don’t panic or anything.

So what do they do?

They panic, and in the most destructive way they possibly could – not just undermining their own issue strengths in the process, but launching a full scale assault against them. It’s not as if these guys have a big bag of strengths to begin with mind you, certainly not enough to start destroying them with indulgent little-coups-that-couldn’t.

Recalling the issue analysis in CT, issues were placed on a 2 dimensional graph where the party ownership of the issue is measured on the horizontal axis and the magnitude of the influence of that issue on the vote is measured by the vertical axis. Big squares have highly significant influence (meaning a lot of voters treat it as being influential) and little squares have marginally significant influence (meaning many, but not most voters treat the issue as being influential), lets review the Rudd graph (just click on the image to blow it up).


The Coalition public statements lately, be they interviews, speeches, articles or even policy announcements can nearly all be mapped perfectly to these CT documents. It’s become little more than political finger painting. A sort of politicking-by-numbers of the most transparent kind.

To give an example, “Heading in the right direction” is the latest cliché de jour.

The Right/Wrong direction issue is one of the few that they have strong ownership of. As can be seen in the graph, it’s up around the 43 mark for the Coalition in their positioning. The problem they have though is that it is a low confidence issue of minimal influence on the vote. Their goal is to bang on about it hoping to lift the issue in the public mind, elevate its significance and turn it into a high confidence issue.

Similarly, the “Strong Team” issue has been a popular favourite for Coalition members to wax lyrical about over recent weeks– contrasting their own frontbench with that of the ALPs. As the Coalition already have positioning on the issue, it’s easy for them to repeat it constantly, push it into the public mind and attempt to elevate its influence on the vote. Likewise, “Strong Leadership” has been another.

But over the last few days, the leadership fiasco has been a direct assault on their major attempts to elevate these two issues favourably. This gets us back to the whole “don’t panic” thing. The last 2 days of leadership activity have undermined their last 3 months of issue management, while further bolstering Win Expectations for the ALP and adding to the ALP momentum.

And for what benefit?

None at all.

These guys are running to stand still.

Over the last few months, the issues that the Coalition had good positioning on have been eroded. Interest rate rises would have diminished to some extent their lead on the Interest Rate issue (or at least its significance and positioning), Rudds APEC activity would have pushed the international issues more favourably toward the ALP, and the leadership fiasco would have shunted their Strong Team and Strong Leadership issues.

I’m starting to believe that because the strategy is failing, it will be junked.It will be junked because keeping it will lead to oblivion.

Doing more of the same just means receiving more of the same kinds of polling. The Coalition vote cannot get much lower anyway, the strategy has failed them all the way down to the bottom few percent of their electoral support level.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a complete strategy reversal.

Look for big tax cuts, a few Workchoices backflips, a billion dollar health system injection and something large on education. The public seems to have shifted and the Coalition was caught with its pants down. Minimising their losses by focusing on their existing strong points is failing dismally through both Rudds actions and a large dose of self inflicted wounds.

A strategy reversal might minimise some of the ALPs leadership on issues like health, education and IR for a small chunk of ex-coalition voters while pushing ALP ownership of the issues for continuing ALP voters out further, while big tax cuts would play to their own strengths and might perhaps lure some of that same ex-coalition voting group back.It might be the best opportunity they have to grab a small chunk of their deserted voter base back to minimise their loss.

Back flips might make them look desperate, but it might also stop them looking pathetic, and it’s probably the only realistic chance they have to stop a complete bloodbath on Election Day. Rolling up into a little ball playing firewall strategies while dumping dirt on their opponents is just asking to be kicked.So if we see over the next few weeks stuff like this emerging, we’ll have a fair idea what it’s about.

That said, the next Newspoll and Galaxy will be interesting.


On something completely out of left field and not related to politics, I was perusing my website logs the other day and was looking through the google search terms that directed traffic to the site when I found this doozy:

“Possum Porn”.

You know, each to their own and everything, but that’s pretty niche 🙂

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Posted in Election Forecasting, Polling, Voting behaviour | 29 Comments »

Just a site note

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 9, 2007

My Meebo IM is playing silly buggers.Unless it actually says that I’m online, I’ll never see a word you say.

Email or the contact page would be your best bet.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »