Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

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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92 Responses to “Crimes against Psephology: Christopher Pearson –you’re nicked.”

  1. I was similarly gobsmacked by Pearson’s total misunderstanding of swing, two party preferred results, past elections and preferences. However, as I work in the media, I usually find it best to let people baste in exposing their own ignorance than roasting them in public.

    But another point about Pearson saying how poor Labor’s Queensland vote was at 52%. From memory, that would still be Labor’s best result at a Federal election in Queensland for 60 years.

    It was truly a silly article.

  2. […] be the worst example of the traditional media reporting on polling data that I have ever seen. But this may be the best example of a blogger clubbing the so-called journalist to death with his own stupidity that I have ever […]

  3. Avidwatcher said

    Great post – it’s articles by Pearson’s & co (Albrechtson) that causes people to refer to The Australian as the “Govt. Gazette”. HOward govt that is.

  4. Possum Comitatus said

    My mind just boggled over Pearsons rubbish- especially considering the tut-tutting lecture about polling The Oz dished out to all and sundry back in July.

    On another matter Antony, have you been arrested yet for distributing a prohibited substance?
    Because that little electoral pendulum gizmo of yours is the most addictive thing made for a very very long time.

    Spouses will be writing into you soon with letters starting “Before your pendulum, my husband used to spend time with the family……” 🙂

  5. Greensborough Growler said

    The great thing about being an opinion editorialist is that you don’t need to let inconvenient facts get in the way of your prejudices.

    You just ignore them or misrepresent them.

    Pearson is just another self indulgent twat hoist on the petard of his own stupidity.

  6. bryce said

    I wonder does Pearson really believe what he wrote or whether he was just trying to pull the wool.
    The former would show him to be a complete twat and the latter a complete liar.

    I think he’s both.

  7. That’s alright Possum. I’d spent six months mis-reading your site and referring to you as Possum Coitus. Not ever having watched West Wing, Tony Jones had to set me right on your pronunciation and meaning.

    We’ll add some more features to it before the election. In particular, one would be to load poll results so that people don’t have to play around with the sliders. That would also allow us to put in swings greater than 10% if required. I’m loath to increase the swing on the sliders because it is probably unlikely to be needed, and it also makes them harder to fine tune. We’ll probably also add variability on the sitting member factor, and once nominations are finalised, we will add donkey vote in as well.

    And there will be a complete set of Senate calculators once nominations close and group tickets are lodged.

  8. Stig said

    I need to get more popcorn, and possibly more skewer sticks for the roadkill. This is getting funnier every day.

    The Pearson piece can only be the Lib cheer squad trying to gee up the troops. No other explanation fits. Anyway, I predict a complete absence of climbdowns in the post-election daylight.

  9. Possum Comitatus said

    Antony – possum coitus… that’s funny.When you called me that over at Pollbludger I thought you were taking the piss!

    And how can it possibly come to be that anyone with an appreciation of politics hasnt watched the West Wing?

    I’m sure there’s crimes against that sort of thing.I just picked up the complete 7 series box set on Amazon – 154 episodes on 49 DVDs of superficial but witty goodness to re-live all over again! That, the election, and a widespread outbreak of nuttery in the print media…. I’m truly in heaven.

    Looking forward to the new features, The variability on the sitting member factor sounds intriguing.What’s the swing you built into the retiring member effect.Is it different for various seats or is it uniformly around that 1.5% mark?

    (But I’ll leave your senate calculator alone – that way lies madness for this possum).

  10. Possum Comitatus said

    Stig – An acute bout of irony has broken out everywhere over the last few weeks.I’m with you – more popcorn.Hysteria makes for great entertainment.

    Elections and media coverage as a brutal contact sport has never been funnier!

  11. Peter Fuller said

    I have just done some back of the envelope calculations to assess the circumstances in which the Government might be returned with a low primary vote. If they were to get their figure up to 41%, and making a heroic assumption that preferences go no better than 55-45 to Labor, The coalition could only reach 48% 2PP, if Labor’s primary fell below 44%.
    These estimates all involve assumptions extremely favourable to the Government: that 48% 2PP might be sufficient for them to scramble a win, that the preferences will move markedly in their favour from what appears to be the case currently, and that Labor’s primary will fall significantly from the stable minimum which it has maintained for nine months.
    My take on Pearson is that he is absolutely innumerate; otherwise, if he has even the most basic grasp of the relationship between primaries and 2pp, he couldn’t possibly believe the crap he has written.

  12. Bushfire Bill said

    Have to agree with you on the pseph aspects of Pearson’s article, Possum. It was atrocious. Viewed in the light of the GG’s recent hissy fit about “amateurs”, doubly so.

    Sadly it is there where you and I part ways, to wit:

    West Wing is the most boring, fake, full-of-itself show ever broadcast on television. I can’t stand it. Fit only for falling asleep in front of.

    Can we still be friends?

    Now, agree with me that Band Of Brothers is the greatest war series ever made (especially as I view it, on a 3 metre wide cinema screen) and there’s hope for a middle ground.

  13. Possum Comitatus said

    BB – you hate West Wing!?!

    You’re breakin’ my heart mate! It might be superficial, it mught be vomit inducing in its overall plasticine characters – but the dialogue! It’s the dialogue!

    I’ll go with you on Band of Brothers – but for pure quality for war and politics drama, I’ll see your BoB and raise you an “Over There”.

    Now *_THAT_* was a production.


    The problem with the theory of low major party primaries means a minor party has to pick them up.The Dems arent going to be making a resurgence, which leaves only the Greens or FF.Even under the most optimistic expectations from the minor party point of view, I just cant see them chewing through a primary vote of the size that would get the Coalition back in with a Lib/Nat high 48.x % TPP vote share.That would mean either FF has to start getting votes from heaven, or the Greens start majority preferencing the Libs!

  14. Enemy Combatant said

    Wonderful number on Christopher “The Psephologist” Pearson, PC.

    Voila! Episode 65. All has been revealed. Thought it might have had something to do with the feisty furry critters that keep popping up in Auntie’s Sideshow. The tough one doesn’t take any nonsense either.

  15. Pi said

    Any chance of forwarding that article to someone at Fairfax? I’m sure they’d love to re-print it.

  16. Possum Comitatus said

    They’ll see it Pi – there’s no worries about that, but Fairfax looks down at us “online commentariat that doesn’t own Newspoll” like the majority (but certainly not all) of the print media.And some how I dont think Fairfax would really want to stick their noggins in the middle of the bloggers vs MSM war version 3249.

  17. dave said

    Pi wrote :

    Any chance of forwarding that article to someone at Fairfax? I’m sure they’d love to re-print it.

    My thoughts exactly. It and other articles by Possum need to made more widely available to the public

  18. dave said

    Possum how about an interview with barry cassidy on Insiders or on lateline ?

  19. Crispy said

    Poss, surely Crikey will give it a run. They love your furry butt to bits over there. Great piece btw. Oh it is to laugh.

    Bushfire Bill, you are so sadly wrong about WW. Aaron Sorkin is a god and I wait sadly for him to give me a ring and ask me over to his place to help him write something. No luck so far.

    You’re right about BoB however. Isn’t the surround sound awesome too? The boys are in Australia working on a South Pacific version of the series btw.

  20. Regarding republishing by Fairfax et al:

    This is a great story for it’s intended audience – US!

    It is is a non-starter as far as the rest of the population is concerned.

    Story is:
    1. Howard govt is on the nose in the polls (like no-one knows that).
    2. Opinionated idiot at Newscorp gets it wrong (who cares?).

    Possum’s analysis of CT polling got the wider circulation is deserved, but this, while technically excellent, is a non-starter as far as the traditional media are concerned.

  21. Rx said

    You tell him, Possum!

  22. Possum Comitatus said

    Spot on Peter.

    Crispy – I’m actually working for Crikey over the election.I knocked this article up yesterday and was going to hold it off to be part of my stuff for Crikey should the election be called this weekend.But that hasnt happened so up she went here.

  23. Pi said

    The only reason I suggested it was because the Australian did a quite personal attack on a fairfax reporter recently…

    Payback’s a bitch.

  24. carbonsink said

    Why take Prozac when you can read the Possum?

  25. Tad said

    Hi Possum,
    Have been loving your site in recent months–never thought psephology could be so addictive. As a Greens member, your analysis of the ALP primary vote has clarified a lot about why we’ve been hit since Rudd came in. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that!

    i had a laughing fit after reading Pearson at the cafe yesterday. What a moron. But after watching the inane attempts at electoral analysis on The Insiders this morning I feel despairing about all the media’s ability to tackle this stuff. Their weekly poll average is a giggle and the serious way in which Barry talked about Sportingbet odds was surreal.

    But on Pearson and the right-wing brigade in and around the Coalition: I suspect the mangling of the data is more about creating those magical “win expectations” than anything else. If they know that they’ve lost the election, any whacky ruse to get a few people back on the Liberal boat must be worth a try. I’ve also noticed that the Tele and the the Oz have ramped up anti-Rudd criticisms. I figure they’re keen to minimise Rudd’s majority in case the population thinks that a massive landslide actually gives him a mandate to make progressive reforms after the Howard years. Perish the thought that we deserve change.

  26. swio said

    Maybe The Australian should hand over its poll analysis to the oz blogosphere. We have four great poll watching blogs, all written by people who can, apparently unlike The Australian, work out which of two numbers is bigger. It could hardly be worse than what’s there at the moment.

    I don’t know how we got so many great poll blogs in Oz. Must be something to do with our love of sports and gambling. Its great.

    Getting back to Pearson’s point, Where does the government have to be at the start of the election to have a shot of winning? Or put another way, What’s the biggest 2pp margin improvement ever acheived during a Federal election campaign?

  27. Baz said

    Lovely peice of work Possum. I had a hilarious ten mintues this morning reading Pearson’s article, and your response gives me a great opportunity to relive it in more glorious detail.

    As for the Australian, I think they (and all the print media) are under considerable pressure from the rise of the internet. Six months ago the speculation was that youtube and their ilk would be the major development. Imagine their surprise when the biggest development has been the rise of highly professional private outfits like your own, pumping out intelligent and thought provoking work that they should be providing. With the exception of the odd smear article, every single meme discussed this year by the commentariat has been discussed for at least a month beforehand on the internet. Instead of picking up their own sad game, they resort to haughty attacks from on high. From a personal perspective, this has been the first election where the internet has really shown how it can add to the general debate.


  28. kiwipundit said


    Thanks for your excellent debunking of Pearson’s very dodgy electoral “analysis” – not even the Libs private pollsters would be as wildly optimistic as Pearson!

    I think “Crimes against Psephology: Christopher Pearson –you’re nicked” should be compulsory reading for some of the irrationally pessimistic posters on the Poll Bludger site (eg. Call the Election Please) who despite strong evidence to the contrary are convinced that “dumb voters” will get “cold feet” and let the Coalition back in for a 5th term!

  29. Lomandra said

    WW is political porn for social democrats. Oh oh oh if only it could really be like that. (And yeah, Crispy, if Australian screenwriters could get gigs like that, I’d still be writing for TV. But plant science is far gentler and lovelier.)

    Frabjous stuff, Possum, you big star. Don’t you go forgetting us little people as you hit the big time.

    You should be on Insiders. You’d give far more sensible analysis than the ideologue geese they generally employ.

  30. Monica Lynagh said

    Much appreciated, Possum, as was your feedback on Pollbludger re: funding sources. As of today, 4 more people are aware of both your good furry site and Pollbludger and the benefits of visiting same. I’ve already corrupted everyone I can at work.

  31. MorningDude said

    Did I hear right this morning and Insiders did a similar thing to Pearson in asserting things are no longer that bad for the government?

    I’m certain I heard Barrie Cassidy say that after they averaged out the polls and taking into account the last poll that Labor will only win one Queensland seat (can’t remember which, I didn’t pay much attention).

    OK I found the link to the transcript and the seat is Blair. Surely Insiders is engaging in the same shonky psephology as Pearson? http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/content/2007/s2040808.htm

  32. MorningDude, he wasn’t talking about the polls. He was talking about the betting markets. The seat by seat betting marlets have been out of whack with the nationwide betting market for some time.

  33. Mate said


  34. Possum Comitatus said

    For some reason Antony – Askimet keeps identifying you as spam.So if you wonder why your comments arent coming through instantly, its just because you are obviously selling porn based cut priced mortgages with free Viagra prescriptions. 🙂

    That said, the Askimet spam bin is a privilege to be in, I end up there myself every second post 😉

  35. Unicorn said

    Another error that Pearson made was to claim that Labor needed to win 17 seats to form Government. In fact that number is now down to 15 given that Tony Windsor has stated he would support the party with the most seats so a 75-73-2 result would be enough.

  36. Peter Kemp said

    Maybe Pearson will be complaining on election night that:

    1) The Margin of Error among the AEC workers was 10%
    2) They preferred one Party instead of Two Party Preferred.

    In general, same additional posited Pearson theory:
    3) Marginal swingers, while tabulated carefully in Liberal Party dirt files, lead to a deviate result.
    4) A primary vote of a primary producer, also known as a National Party donkey vote, when distributed below the fenceLine is called First Past the gatePost.
    5) A double dissolution followed by a joint, sitting is against the laws of the Commonwealth.

  37. barney said

    Excellent as always Possum.
    Pearson is a pompous prig. Pompous prigs seem to be a significant subset of the coalition media warriors: Flint, Ackers, Jones, Hendo, Bolt et al?

  38. Just Me said

    Brilliant slice and dice, Possum. Lovely end to the weekend.

  39. Gecko said

    What a spanking! A little coitus from comitatus for the Gazette. Excellent!

    Q: Can I use ‘fucktardery’ at work?

  40. Peter Fuller said

    Me #11, Possum #13
    I probably didn’t make myself clear, as I agree with you that the Government’s situation is probably beyond retrieval. The very improbable confluence – Labor’s primary vote falling drastically, Libs/Nats primary edging up and minor party prefs more favourable to the coalition than all the available evidence suggests – still only gets them to 48%. That figure would almost certainly not be enough.

  41. The numbers game and the politics game

    Perhaps one impact of the never-ending election campaign is that the seedier and more sordid aspects of how politics is played are coming more into view. There are a few things bubbling along which are in fact inter-related. Talk It Out criticises the …

  42. Bushfire Bill said

    Youse can’t budge me on WW, but I’ll take all the “We like BoB” action I can get. Yes, the surround sound is awesome. If that’s what war is like then I’m glad my marble didn’t come up in the late ’60s.

    First time we watched it we were on tenterhooks for all 10 episodes. After politely and half-heartedly turning it on for a friend who gave the series to me as a birthday present, we were glued to the screen thereafter. Half the “good guys” don’t survive, which is rare for a Yank war show. When they go down they don’t make speeches. They just kark it, ingloriously. Have since watched the 10 eps 4 or 5 times right through, usually over a weekend BoB-a-thon.

    It was particularly rewarding to see Piers today: whingeing, howling, squealing about his pet Rudd-shredded-the-incriminating-files saga, the Heiner case, not getting a run in the Senate.

    He took on everyone: the GG, the original inquiry head, Rob Borbidge. Piers blamed Labor for preventing the documents from being tabled. He didn’t seem to realise that for Labor to get the government in the Senate on-side in voting to prevent a tabling it must have been a particularly egregious and useless smear.

    With poor excuses for journos like Piers and Pearson haunting the pages of the MSM I think we’re in for a particularly tacky campaign period. The basic point is that they really can’t see how inconsistent they are… attacking first their polls, then their colleagues, then people they assured us were allies (until they weren’t), and ultimately themselves by failing to admit the contradictions made obvious from a comparative reading of their stories from today and a few weeks ago.

    They’re beginning to eat their own. I take this as a good sign of panic and despair in the Coalition ranks.

  43. Galaxy 56:44


  44. Bushfire Bill said

    GooD Galaxy, and ever better Preferred PM and “Team” ratings.

    The headline at News.com says it all:

    “Howard’s team fails to convince electorate”.

  45. Guido said

    I am one of those ‘irrationally pessimist’ people kiwipundit. I’ve seen plenty of ‘in the bag elections’ on both sides which were lost. The election campaign still has to occur and who knows what could happen.

    However I do read Possum to calm my nerves.

    I don’t mind these ‘Howard is back’ article. It may encourage some voters to confirm their vote for Labor.

  46. Christopher's fan club said

    Why waste you time getting stuck into poor Christopher, only true Howard believers and political nerds read his column, the former say how true the later say WTF. The only reason he gets a gig is a sop to all those Phillip Adams haters, creating partisan balance etc. At least Adams is entertaining and expresses his own opinions rather than what his ungrateful patrons would like to hear.
    Our Christopher has really punched above his this time causing all this fuss, you’ll probably get an angry rebuke next Saturday you you chattering elitists you!

  47. Hannibal said

    I couldn’t agree more about reading Possum to calm my nerves… I gave up reading Pearson months ago. Even then I think it was some sort of self-abuse thing.

    Keep it up Possum. Love your work.

  48. hergs said

    Pearson = owned

  49. bungs said

    Pearson still does not add to his byline that he has been a speechwriter (or a speechwriting consultant) for Alexander Downer. All very well to have your views, but he should state them publicly and openly, not pretend to be unbiased. Interestingly enough, the Foreign Affairs Department actually rejected at least one of his speeches because it was too political…

  50. stevet said

    Pearson makes Akerman look intelligent and tha’s saying something.

  51. EconoMan said

    Hergs, it’s actually:

    Pearson = pwned

    Bungs, if a reader can’t work out reading Pearson that it’s partisan polemic prattle, I’m not sure they will now who Alexander Downer is. Or how to read…

  52. hergs said

    Either way, owned or pwned he is sitting in a corner somewhere

  53. Ancient Mariner said

    Greatings from the The Comintern of the Third Species

    Dear comrade marsupial, the fauna of SA report of vast swings in SA )Grey) not reported in the official state polls. You have been awarded the Order of the Megafauna for outstanding marsupial analysis, in discerning the mega swing in the safe seats. Congradulations comrade marsupial.

    Votes, Votes, every where,
    And all the polls did shrink ;
    Votes , Votes, every where,
    Nor any seat to keep

    The very seats did rot : O Christ !
    That ever this should be !
    Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
    Upon the slimy tv.

    About, about, in reel and rout
    The death-fires danced at night ;
    The water, like a witch’s oils,
    Burnt green, and blue and white.

    And some in dreams assuréd were
    Of the Polls that plagued us so ;
    Nine fathom deep he had followed us
    From the land of text and spin.

    And every tongue, through utter drought,
    Was withered at the root ;
    We could not blog, no more than if
    We had been choked with soot.

    Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
    Had I from old and young !
    Instead of the cross, the Workchoice
    About my neck was hung.

  54. Fagin said

    Bugger having Possum on Insiders, I want to see Possum as a regular guest on Saturday Night Live with Antony Green, which I envisage being similar to Hey Hey It’s Saturday (except about politics – in a light-hearted sense); with a puppet possum presenting the political facts and figures next to the most under-used talent at the ABC – Mr Green (I’m certain that Mr Green can sing and dance too!)

    I can further envisage Antony opening the show with a few gags, then moving on to the ten best reasons not to go out on the town with Glenn Milne etc. Also, there will be a show band –The Number Crunchers or some such. Also… (I could go on for hours, I best leave it there.)

  55. KC said


    Howard’s worry over losing Grey which has a margin of 13.74% confirms your analysis of big swings in safe seats.

    A uniform swing of 14% would see them lose 72 seats, not going to happen of course, but it would be a good way to cleanse the party.

  56. “Bugger having Possum on Insiders, I want to see Possum as a regular guest on Saturday Night Live with Antony Green, which I envisage being similar to Hey Hey It’s Saturday”


    Perhaps more like The (afl) footy show with Antony as Trevor marmalade.

  57. Leopold said

    With the exception of (mostly) Matt Price and the inestimable George Megalogenis, the Oz opinion page is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel for anyone who actually has a capacity for rational, coherent thought. Now that Mr Mumble has sold out ;), it’s good to see others taking up the cudgel.

    And I agree with Bill and Antony about the West Wing. Never been interested enough to watch it.

    PS – If you did go on Insiders, would you wear a possum suit?

  58. watt said

    Come on Insiders You know you want to give Possum a segment.

  59. Mercurius said

    Possum, for you to label the MSM polling commentary as ‘absolute fucktardery’ is an insult to fucktards everywhere.

  60. Loquax said


  61. Possum Comitatus said

    You’re right – there’s so much of the Win Expectations boosterism around at the moment. From the secret squirrel leaked internal Lib polling showing the Libs doing really well in (name chosen seat) through to various spruikers around the place. I think the Libs risk doing damage to themselves in some swinging and undecided demographics by pushing this nonsense too far – it just makes them look foolish.But I suppose it beats begging for votes on the 7:30 Report.

    Swio – to have a chance of winning, the government really needs to be ahead of the ALP on a Newspoll basis. Howard isn’t a good campaigner, and conservative columnists keep saying that the Coalition vote increase during the 2004 campaign was a result of Howards good campaigning rather than being a result of Lathams bad campaigning. I’m not convinced of that – actually, I think its rubbish. Lathams vote deterioration in the 2004 campaign I think was entirely self-inflicted by the Labor Party and that Howard and the Coalition had very little, if any to do with it.

    The ALP seem to be getting higher preference flows in 2007 than 2004.That means that TPP estimates based on the 2004 distribution slightly underestimate the ALP TPP vote (great news for the Coalition supporters reading, I’m sure), but the lower the ALP primary vote gets, the greater the polls that use that 2004 preference distribution will underestimate the ALP TPP. So the Coalition really needs to be slightly ahead of the ALP on Newspoll TPP estimates going into the election to give them a good chance at winning.

    The print media, with the exception of a few brilliant journos like George Meganomics (and a couple of others) have been behind the bloggers all year.

    It wasn’t until the Poll Wars episode that the mainstream print media actually started to take what the polls were saying seriously, even though the blogs had been doing it for months. By the time they’d got around to dealing with the basic headline reality, we’d moved on to dealing with the composition of the vote. By the time they got to the basic composition of the vote, we’d moved on to dealing with the campaigning strategies of both parties in terms of their treatment of that composition of the vote – with things like The Firewall and which individual seats are playing out. The print media are only just catching up to that now.

    It’s fair to say that those guys cant be expected to do what we do because we’re statisticians, econometricians and psephologists whereas they’re journalists. Different skillsets altogether. And we also have a different set of contacts to them.

    And speaking for myself, I treat polls in ways that even the polling companies themselves don’t, because they’ve never had the commercial need to treat public opinion polling from a specific time series approach. Time series analysis is a completely different kettle of mathematical fish to the type of survey analysis that makes up the meat in the polling companies statistical breakdowns.

    On the MsM vs the Blogs issue, I think we’ve all got it around the wrong way in our expectations. The blogs SHOULD be expected to lead the way, because that’s what our specific skills allow us to do. I don’t think this is so much of a case of the print media being behind the ball (although they were on coming to grips with the reality of public opinion), just that for the first time there’s a group in front of them. This is EXACTLY what the internet was supposed to enable. And long let it continue.

    Us bloggers are doing our job. Many have been for along time (Like Pollbludger and OzPol and places like LP – remember, I’m only a newbie here, I started in May)….but because the blogosphere is now getting more prominence, the pressure should be on us to keep up our quality, and not so much on the print media to try and keep up with us. Them keeping up with us is, I think, an unrealistic expectation because we work in completely different ways.

    Hail Ancient Mariner!

    For the Possum Pome I …… er, well thanks!
    I will wear my Order of the Megafauna with pride!

    KC, on the swing in SA.
    One of the interesting things to come out of the last quarterly Newspoll is that the weight of the swing in safe gov seats vs marginal gov seats has shifted by a few points. There seems to be less swing in the safe gov NSW seats (by a few points), but that was compensated by an increase in the SA and VIC government safe seats (with Qld remaining roughly the same).This may reflect the ALP targeting smore safe gov seats down south, and shifting resources in NSW to go after the really doable safe gov seats in NSW. These results would certainly confirm what we’ve been hearing about ALP resource deployment over the last few months.

    And enough about the Insiders already, apart from probably not being able to control the overwhelming urge to beat Piers, Henderson and others over the head with the nearest chair, while such violence would surely make for good viewing and be met by rounds of applause, this possum doesn’t do TV.The lighting dries up my fur.

  62. Biggles said

    a speechwriter (or a speechwriting consultant) for Alexander Downer.

    Ah, this explains much. Anyone who has anything to do with Lexy instantly becomes intellectually bereft. I’m sure moving to Mayo has knocked quite a few points off my IQ ;(

  63. Neil Cammack said

    And the bad poll news continues – the first Nielsen Online poll of the campaign, reported in today’s Age, shows 58-42% 2PP.


    I agree that Howard’s reputation as a campaigner is overstated. It was generally agreed that he lost all the TV debates against Beazley and even Latham – he must be dreading having to face Rudd.

  64. Not sure about this, but I think that in 1998 One Nation’s preference policy was designed to give the impression of being even-handed whilst actually favouring the government. Weren’t the seats in which they gave preferences to Labor either Labor seats or ultra-safe Coalition seats? They preferenced to Labor in Wide Bay but to the Nats in Hinkler? This contributed to Labor’s final 2PP vote being wasted.

  65. Greensborough Growler said

    Anyone writing about polls needs to pass the Psephology for idiots questionnaire:

    Question 1.

    MOE stands for

    (a) A town in Gippsland Victoria
    (b) One of the Three Stooges
    (c) Margin of Error
    (d) How you would might spell a brand of
    champagne if you had not done the spelling
    for idiots questionnaire

  66. ““Maybe a polemic on what the government needs to do” Possum, you seem to do an awful lot of analysis about polling results. maybe you can write a piece about what Howard needs to do to come back from the bad results?

  67. Possum Comitatus said

    It’d be a short piece Nicholas.Retrospective retirement dating back to last year would have been the best option, but even that wouldn’t have guaranteed anything.

    I don’t think Howard can win – that horse has bolted and the minimisation of losses is the only game in town for him now.The first thing I’d do if I were Howard is get those Workchoices ads off the television pronto.Apart from that, you’d need the gritty end of the internal polling results to find clusters of support or soft ALP vote in certain demographics that correlate with key seats.Then focus on them with localised campaigns that are supported by the national campaign (which is the exact opposite of the way these things normally work).

    But to do that properly, one would need all of the internal Coalition polling data.Somehow I dont think they’re going to give it to me 😉

  68. Interested spectator said

    I do love it when Possum takes out the long handled bat. I say: give us more Possum!

  69. chris said

    for Neil Cammack

    I agree he is not a good debater outside Parliament with its biased speaker/s. Little John is just hoping that Rudds replaced heart valve lasts until the TV debate; other wise he might have to debate Julia. I saw her demolish shrek on TV a few weeks back and suspect she she would do the same to JWH in any fair TV debate.


  70. tlc2jon said

    Possum… you are a star! Thanks for giving me a smile on an otherwise dismal day in a hotel room in Manila!

  71. noone said

    ive read it a few times now, funnier each time, great piece.

    I think possum should start up a regular demolishing of the worst journos pretending they know what they are talking about. Could do it in the vein of media watch or the chasers “what have we learnt from current affairs this week”

    would be a good read. 😛

  72. paul said

    So tell me?

    what on earth do we do when the election is over

  73. Greensborough Growler said

    Pick yourself up,
    Dust yourself down,
    And start allk over again.

  74. carbonsink said

    More crimes against psephology in the Oz today. They’re portraying a Newspoll on state-government voting intentions as West’s swingers rallying to Coalition.

    WESTERN Australia is becoming a Coalition stronghold, with growing numbers of swinging voters intending to back John Howard

    This is the GG’s definition of a “Coalition stronghold” (state figures):

    Primaries: ALP: 44 Coalition: 43
    2PP: ALP: 51 Coalition: 49
    Better Premier: Carpenter: 59 Omodei (who?!): 14

    59-14 !!!! Coalition stronghold?!#$#$%#$%#!! Give me a break!

    …and as we know, on Newpoll’s own figures there has been a 4-5% swing to the ALP federally in WA since 2004.

    Desperate times calls for desperate spin.

  75. Richard said

    The lead-in to Tony Barrass’s story linked to above by carbonsink states:

    “WESTERN Australia is becoming a Coalition stronghold, with growing numbers of swinging voters intending to back John Howard.”

    Um, the poll forming the basis for the story has nothing to do with John Howard whatsoever. The poll deals with support for the state parties.

    ”The Australian” can sneer at evil statistically-knowledgable bloggers all they like, but publishing rubbish like this does no wonders for their credibility.

  76. […] latest stuff up from the Australian follows on nicely from Possum’s demolition of Christopher Pearson’s rubbish about how the Coalition are making a fightback. This time, […]

  77. Good gods, again? After Possum just schooled them on what the word “swing” means, they do it again? 2 minutes work will show that 51-49 to the ALP is in fact around a 6 percent swing, and if statewide would see Stirling, Hasluck and Kalgoorlie change hands.
    Putting aside the dodgy nature of applying state results to a federal election…

  78. Leopold said

    I think the main basis of that Oz story is actually internal Liberal polling allegedly indicating the Coalition will hold all their seats and win Cowan in WA – was covered in the Oz yesterday.

    I have to confess, I find it difficult to understand, if the Coalition is winning in Cowan and Eden-Monaro, how can they have their knickers in a knot over Grey and Leichhardt? Mixed messages, much.

  79. Ed the Pseph said

    Great article. What a lot of bollocks the Oz commentary has become. Thanks Possum!

  80. Iain said

    Possum, could you settle a bet for me? When going the tonk do you prefer a 38oz or 44oz bat? I swear that was just a 38oz you used on Pearson, but my mate says Pearson’s reputation wouldn’t have sailed as far over the fence if it wasn’t done with the heavier bat – sort of like Clive LLoyd putting Gus Gilomre out into Vulture Street over the Clem Jones Stand. I reckon you used the lighter bat, but did something special with your bat speed – gripped higher up the handle or something…and you must have known what he was going to lob up, you seemed to have the shot ready to go, and sure enough he put the fruit on the sideboard just so… Shot! Have they found Pearson yet?

  81. Greensborough Growler said

    Apparently, he is big and round and red!

    I hope that helps.

  82. oyster said

    the gg having another shot at the bloggers, i suspect because pearson had a sooky with the editor,
    i imagine pearson would have copped a bit stick from his fellow gg journo’s regarding your pants pulling down and exposure of his polling reading ability

  83. Gavrilo said

    In regards to the Pearson piece and other examples of Government Gazette silliness, could the motivation be found in the following nugget in the Crosby-Textor Oz Track 33 analysis?:

    “Plumetting win expectations have impinged on vote = need to rebuild win expectations and optimism” (page 22).

    Or is this just another woolly-headed, leftist, conspiracy theory?

  84. Gavrilo said

    In regards to the Pearson piece and other examples of Government Gazette silliness, could the motivation be related to the following nugget in the Crosby-Textor Oz Track 33 analysis?:

    “Plumetting win expectations have impinged on vote = need to rebuild win expectations and optimism” (page 22).

    Or is this just another woolly-headed, leftist, conspiracy theory?

  85. Paul said

    Great work possum. Truly the Australian’s credibility has now sunk to an all time low to even have published such a ridiculous article from Pearson. Their recent editorial was just as pathetic and while I usually get the GG for free at Hotels have switched to Fairfax.

  86. Iain said

    Great stuff. The GG really, truly is the most pathetic biased rag attempting to masquerade as a serious newspaper that I have ever had the misfortune to read. Keep sticking it to them, maybe we will get another dummy spit.

  87. Sylvano said


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

    And the results as at 30th Nov 07:
    Bowman : ALP (50.04)
    Dickson: Liberal (50.13)
    Flynn: ALP (50.42)
    Petrie: ALP (51.92)
    Longman: ALP (53.50)
    Herbert: ALP (50.02)
    Blair: ALP (54.84)
    Moreton: (54.73)
    Bonner: (54.60)

    which makes Herbert the only real stand out, with absent, pre-poll and postals being strongly Liberal leaning.

    Great site.

  88. haiku said

    Pearson has taken a potshot at you in his latest column.

    The relevant bit:

    Months ago I argued that the Coalition government could win with 49 per cent of the two-party vote and was violently attacked for my pains in left-wing blogs.

    Which of course entirely misses the point: the Coalition needed to increase its primary vote to increase its 2PP vote – which as it turns out it did. Pearson’s original assertion – that the Coalition could maintain its primary vote and yet increase its 2PP – remains demonstrably wrong.

    But it’s nice to know that a columnistic colossus such as cuckolded Chris reads such humble pages as these. [Hi Chris!! Has Caroline Overington made a pass at you yet? No? Well, obviously there’s that, but it’s not like she’s bright enough to realise …]

  89. CK said

    Fair go, Haiku, having heard Overington on Latelight Live, and having read her articles on AWB I can guarantee she has a first-rate mind and a first-rate wit.

    Her people-skills, though, obviously leave something to be desired.

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  92. 91 Tube said

    91 Tube

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

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