Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Archive for October, 2007

Newspoll MkII

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 30, 2007

An interesting little question popped up in Newspoll, and to fully chew it over properly, it needs to be put in the appropriate context:

ratesandvotes1.jpg ratevalpprim1.jpg

It looks like most people are pretty locked in on this question, with even numbers of ALP and Coalition supporters suggesting that they may cross sides in the event of a rate rise. The alternative is that maybe people don’t realise how they will act until they actually see the money coming out of their bank account.

History gives us a good suggestion here of how people actually react to rate rises as opposed to whatever they may say about how they would react.

The other thing of note on the Newspoll vote was the low minor party support. This gets us on to how the small minor party vote estimates are highly volatile because they are so small.

To highlight this, we’ll go through a two step process. First, if we subtract the TPP vote of Coalition from the TPP vote of the ALP for every Newspoll since 2006, we’ll get a TPP spread. Then if we do the same for the primary votes, we’ll get a primary vote spread. These two together show us how much of the difference in the TPP vote is explained by primary votes. If we then subtract the primary vote spread from the TPP vote spread, we end up with a figure that represents how much of the TPP spread is caused by the minor party vote.

That might sound a little complicated, but it’s pretty easy once you chart it.


If we blow that minor party residual effect up to highlight its movement we get:


What this chart tells us is how much of the TPP spread is explained by the minor party vote. This minor party vote is relatively volatile as a result of it being a small number in a larger pool. For instance, if there was a survey of 100 voters and 40 were voting for party A, 40 for party B and 10 for party C, if in the next survey it turned out that an extra person was voting for party B, the vote for party P would become 41, which is a 2.5% increase, but a 1 person increase in Party C (from 10 to 11) would be a 10% increase in the Vote of Party C.

With the sizes of the polling samples we use in Australia, this effect never fully washes out of the system. So small party votes estimates are, proportionally to their vote size, more affected by sampling noise than the major party votes.

As a result of that, and because TPP estimates are based on the distribution of those noisy vote levels, a fair bit of the TPP spread is quite noisy. Hence the TPP estimates bounce around more than they would be moving in reality.

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 34 Comments »

Newspoll Tuesday…. Again

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 29, 2007

How time flies, another Tuesday, another Newspoll.
The headline figures give primaries on 48/42 to the ALP, with the two party preferred coming in at 54/46 to the ALP.

First up; every Newspoll since October 2006 showing both Coalition and ALP primary vote estimates:


This again is just business as usual, but there is one thing that should keep even the most hysterical media pundits hyperbole in their pants about “The Narrowing”.

This Newspoll puts the minor party vote at its lowest level since 17-19 December 1999, at 10 points. Now the minor party vote has been declining, but 10% is probably a few points too low.

It has actually been the fluctuations in the minor party vote estimates that are behind most of the volatility in the TPP figures over the last 10 months.

Meanwhile, back at the much more stable monthly average figures we can now complete the October numbers and add them to the graphs.


Everything looks pretty stable there. But the same can’t be said for the minor party and others vote as it continues to decline.




Another poll, the same result. ALP primary of around 48, Coalition primary around 40 and a TPP around 56/57 to the ALP.


George has sent in the current primary votes with MoE bands:




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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: | 36 Comments »

Crosby Textor and the Census Data.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 29, 2007

Oh the psephy joy of it all, the Second Release of the 2006 Census data is upon us bringing such sweet, sweet offerings.

After spending a quiet weekend chewing though it, today I thought we might have a squiz at how Coalition held seats in Qld play out in the demographic stakes, taking into account what we know about swinging demographics in Qld from the infamous Crosby Textor OzTrack 33 Research.For those interested in what the CT research had to say about Qld, simply click the thumbnail:


So let’s pull out of the census data the following:

-The 18-24 age group as a proportion of the electorate aged 18 years and over

-The number of Part Time workers in each electorate as a proportion of the electorate aged 18 years and over

-An approximation of Lower White/Upper Blue collar workers (extracted from employment by industry) in each electorate as a proportion of the electorate aged 18 years and over.

That will give us an idea of how the swings might play out in Qld based on three of those CT identified demographics.

But we’ll also add a couple of other stats. Firstly, the percentage of the electorate that lived in a different Statistical Local Area 12 months before the 2006 Census (called SLA 1+), and proportion of the electorate that lived in a different Statistical Local Area in the 2001 census (called SLA 5+).

That way we’ll get an idea of which electorates are experiencing a changing population over both the short and medium term. Some of these results are really quite amazing and highlight just how rapid some places in Qld are changing – Fadden being the prime example.

We’ll also look at housing affordability via the percentage of median household income that would be taken up by making the median home loan repayment per electorate. This will give us a figure that we can work with to look at the possible impact of interest rate increases.

All of these are based on the current electoral distribution, and we’ll do the Coalition held seats in Qld. So first up just the raw figures:

Division Margin% Housing Affordability SLA 1+ SLA 5+ PT percent 18-24 Lower White/ Upper Blue
Blair 5.7 28.64 9.22 26.08 17.03 12.45 29.52
Bowman 8.9 30.9 13.6 39.08 19.73 11.75 33.89
Dawson 10 28.27 10.35 26.94 16.22 11.86 33.59
Dickson 8.9 28.93 12.23 35.8 21.06 11.29 36.09
Fadden 15.9 36.03 19.72 50.29 19.25 11.91 32.13
Fairfax 12.4 35.54 14.44 40.51 20.87 10.2 27.98
Fisher 11 35.74 14.1 39.19 19.36 10.18 27.79
Flynn 7.7 25.53 11.63 30.4 16.12 11.3 32.2
Forde 11.5 30.72 12.84 38.64 18.12 11.72 34.88
Groom 18.8 28.39 15.8 40.9 18.35 13.82 29.07
Herbert 6.2 27.68 19.5 45.14 17.52 16.87 32.61
Hinkler 8.3 37.25 10.5 32.65 15.86 8.95 22.47
Leichhardt 10.3 30.17 14.9 35.71 18.75 12.11 30.65
Longman 6.7 35.07 14.5 40.79 17.05 11.21 30.71
Maranoa 21 28.27 10.2 28.08 16.7 9.57 24.49
McPherson 13.9 37.26 16.5 43.11 19.95 11.55 29.7
Moncrief 19.5 37.55 17.1 41.64 18.26 13.63 27.24
Moreton 2.8 30.7 16.2 40.72 19.1 16.5 28.21
Petrie 7.4 31.1 13.6 36.2 18.37 11.33 30.69
Ryan 10.4 25.87 17.3 43.99 22.6 20.85 24.69
WideBay 12.2 35.24 11.4 33.79 18.37 8.22 23.95
Qld Average   31.46 14.66 37.76 18.06 12.7 29.7

And now we’ll rank them such that the highest proportion gets the number 1 position, the second highest the number 2 position and so on.

Division HA Rank SLA1+ rank PT rank 18-24 rank Lower White/Upper Blue rank
Blair 15 21 17 6 12
Bowman 10 12 5 10 3
Dawson 17 19 19 9 4
Dickson 14 15 2 15 1
Fadden 4 1 7 8 7
Fairfax 6 10 3 17 15
Fisher 5 11 6 18 16
Flynn 21 16 20 14 6
Forde 11 14 14 11 2
Groom 16 7 12 4 13
Herbert 19 2 15 2 5
Hinkler 3 18 21 20 21
Leichhardt 13 8 9 7 10
Longman 8 9 16 16 8
Maranoa 18 20 18 19 19
McPherson 2 5 4 12 11
Moncrief 1 4 13 5 17
Moreton 12 6 8 3 14
Petrie 9 13 10 13 9
Ryan 20 3 1 1 18
Wide Bay 7 17 11 21 20

We’ll also measure the difference between each of the raw figures and the Qld State average, to give us an idea of which seats are above or below the average State level for each category. So a positive “diff” figure shows how much it’s above the State average and a negative “diff” figure shows how much the figure is below the State average.

Then we’ll total the averages up for each seat to give us a really rough idea of which seats should be swinging the most – the seats with the largest total would have the higher level of dangerous demographics, the lowest total should have the lowest level of these danger demographics.

And we’ll only use the SLA 1+ figure for this since the SLA5+ overlaps the previous election.

  HA diff SLA 1+diff PT diff 18-24 diff Lower White/ Upper Blue diff total
Fadden 4.57 6.56 1.19 -0.79 2.43 13.96
McPherson 5.8 3.34 1.89 -1.15 0 9.88
Herbert -3.78 6.34 -0.54 4.17 2.91 9.1
Moncrief 6.09 3.94 0.2 0.93 -2.46 8.7
Ryan -5.59 4.14 4.54 8.15 -5.01 6.23
Moreton -0.76 3.04 1.04 3.8 -1.49 5.63
Bowman -0.56 0.44 1.67 -0.95 4.19 4.79
Dickson -2.53 -0.93 3 -1.41 6.39 4.52
Fairfax 4.08 1.28 2.81 -2.5 -1.72 3.95
Longman 3.61 1.34 -1.01 -1.49 1.01 3.46
Forde -0.74 -0.32 0.06 -0.98 5.18 3.2
Fisher 4.28 0.94 1.3 -2.52 -1.91 2.09
Leichhardt -1.29 1.74 0.69 -0.59 0.95 1.5
Groom -3.07 2.64 0.29 1.12 -0.63 0.35
Petrie -0.36 0.44 0.31 -1.37 0.99 0.01
Dawson -3.19 -2.81 -1.84 -0.84 3.89 -4.79
Wide Bay 3.78 -1.76 0.31 -4.48 -5.75 -7.9
Blair -2.82 -3.94 -1.03 -0.25 -0.18 -8.22
Flynn -5.93 -1.53 -1.94 -1.4 2.5 -8.3
Hinkler 5.79 -2.66 -2.2 -3.75 -7.23 -10.05
Maranoa -3.19 -2.96 -1.36 -3.13 -5.21 -15.85

The seat where the largest swing should be expected using this method turns out to be Fadden. If you look at the rankings you can see why – Fadden has a large number of new residents, pretty rotten housing affordability and is low-to-middle ranked in the other categories.

Maranoa is below, usually way below, the state average on all measures. Guess there won’t be much going on there come the election.

It’s also interesting to note that some of the seats where we know largish swings are happening, like McPherson, Herbert and Ryan for instance, can be explained to a fair extent through these demographics.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll do this type of breakdown for NSW, Vic and SA using the swinging demographics identified by CT.

So what’s everyone make of the data? Anything catch your eye about any particular seat?

Any further census data you’d like to see on a seat by seat basis?


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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , , | 44 Comments »

Yes, William has eaten his bandwidth

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 28, 2007

It’s true – the minions of BillBowe Baggins and his Pollbludger have eaten the bandwidth dry.

But do not despair fellow pollyjunkies, I’m sure our usual schedule will resume shortly :mrgreen:

[and now it has]

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments »

Howard casts his Shadow

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 28, 2007


One of the funnier things about elections is the briliant photos of opportunity that get thrown up.

This one came from Paul Miller of AAP, published at at the ABC.


Peter Tucker from the Tassie Times, Online Opinion and all round pollyjunkie extraordinaire has a blog well worth visiting at:


Go on … have a squiz – I promise, he only has one head :mrgreen:

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

Why Rates Matter

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 26, 2007


Me in Crikey yesterday HERE

And below:

Yesterdays post “Rates of Gloom” was actually a more in-depth spin-off of this post, so for those of you struggling to follow the stats, this should make everything a lot clearer.

In Rates of Gloom we just modelled the relationship we see below, but also accounted for the effect of leadership changes (the leadership dummy variables) and the honeymoon period that both leadership changes and interest rate rises enjoy (through the time trend variable). Just as the leadership changes of Latham and Rudd increased the ALP vote before it declined from that peak slowly over time as the honeymoon ended, so to with an interest rate rise. After a rate rise, the ALP vote moves up, but then slowly over time it pulls back slightly. There are more complicated ways to model that type of behaviour, but the time trend variable did the job adequately.

So if you read this post first and keep the above in your thought orbit, for those of you not big on the stats side of things it should make Rates of Gloom a bit easier to follow.


With interest rates and widespread navel gazing about the political consequences taking up the media-space, today instead of picking the verbal lint from our bellybuttons over the issue, how about we go to some spiffy little charts that sum up perfectly the millions of words that will be written over the next month.

First up, let’s run the RBA cash rate against the PM dissatisfaction rating over the period 1999-2007, using Newspoll monthly averages for the latter:


Now how is that for a snazzy little leading indicator!

Next up we’ll run the cash rate against the Opposition primary vote over the same period using Newspoll monthly averages:



One word sums that up – Ouch.

Now for the relationship between the Opposition primary vote and the PM dissatisfaction rating:


And that sums up the debate – three graphs are worth a million words.

The only question becomes whether interest rate increases lift the Opposition primary vote directly, whether it increases the Opposition primary vote via PM Dissatisfaction or whether it works via both channels?

As far as the Coalition is concerned however, it’s probably a moot point.


I was just informed of a pretty spiffy site:

Soapbox is a unique Australian political archive of
federal elections, bringing together key historical documents and
audio-visual material, and making them available to students, researchers,
journalists and the general public.”

It’s a cracker of a site if you are into historical election material. Very, very, very much worth a visit:


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Posted in Crikey, Leading Indicators, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , , | 65 Comments »

Rates of Gloom

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 25, 2007

It’s equation time!

So how important is the cash rate on the Oppositions primary vote?

We’ve modelled this before over here in terms of the effect a rate change has on the primary votes of major parties and how long it takes for that effect to flow through, but today we’ll take a different approach entirely.

What we’ll do today is make a simple model that can explain the effect (if any) the cash rate level has on the ALP primary vote by taking into account the ALP leadership and any linear time trends that may be floating around in the mix.

So to start with we’ll be using the period from 1999 through to the present, and the basic model we’ll be looking at is:



ALP = the ALP primary vote at time t (where t is the month).
Cash Rate = the RBA cash rate at time t.
Time = a time variable that has a value of 1 in January 1999, 2 in February 1999 etc right through to its current value of 106 in October 2007.
DummyRudd = dummy variable which has a value of 1 for the periods of the Rudd leadership and zero for all other times.
DummyLatham = dummy variable which has a value of 1 for the periods of the Latham leadership and zero for all other times.

So what we are modelling here is how value of the cash rate explains the level of the Oppositions primary vote, but where we also account for the two leadership periods of Latham and Rudd having an effect, as well as allowing for a linear trend to manifest in the vote.

Once we run the regression model, our results come out as:


Which, for the non-geeks can be visualised as this:


[Note: I’ve ignored the autoregressive nature of the polling series so that the results can be better visualised for the non math-geeks here]

The “Fitted Primary Vote” in the graph is our modelled vote based on the regression equation.

So what to make of it?

For every 1 point increase in the cash rate, the ALP primary vote increases by 3.5 points. So if rates were to rise by 0.25 in November, the ALP primary would be expected to rise by 0.9 points, or around 1 point.

It also suggests that the Rudd leadership (or what has happened during the period of the Rudd leadership) has boosted the ALP primary vote by around 8 points, and that Latham boosted the ALP primary vote by about 2.5 points (which is fair enough considering that Latham took over from the dire polling position Crean had created).

All up, our variables explain about 75% of the movement in the ALP primary vote over the period 1999 through to the present.

If we now run the equation again, but this time using the ALP two party preferred vote, remove the time trend variable and use the period from December 2002 through to today (simply because my TPP figures before that are in a database that I’ve stuffed up and need to rebuild 😉 ) we get:


This gives us a visualised model of:



Again, our variables here explain about 75% of the movement in the ALP two-party preferred vote, the cash rate has nearly identical influence on the TPP here as it did to the primary vote in the first equation, Latham again lifted the TPP vote about the same as he lifted the primary, but this time the Rudd leadership has increased the TPP vote only around 3.5%. This is expected as remember the ALP TPP had been growing constantly since the last election, it was their primary vote that got the big boost under Rudd.

So all up, if rates rise by 0.25 points, the ALP can expect their primary vote to increase by about a point, and their two party preferred vote to do likewise.


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Posted in Election Forecasting, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , , , , | 53 Comments »

Coalition of the Stiffed

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 25, 2007


Me in Crikey yesterday HERE.

And have a look around the Crikey bunker while you’re there.


The “It’s Time” factor seems to be on the tips of politically fashionable lips everywhere at the moment, but what is interesting with the whole “It’s Time” thing is the underlying dynamics of it that have been going on over the last 6 years or so.

One of the more well argued theories about the Howard government is that there has been two Howard governments, the one that went from 1996 through to the Ryan by-election of 2001, and the one we’ve had since. The former was the fiscally prudent, measured and relatively cautious government, the latter is the big spending, whatever it takes, wedge first & clean up the mess later government. The Responsible vs. Populist faces of the Howard administration writ large.

There is some compelling evidence of this theory if we look at the three measures of government support in the polls; the government primary vote, Howard’s preferred PM rating, and Howard’s satisfaction rating.

If we chart these three measures against each other starting from the 1996 election through to the present, you can see clearly how the dynamics between these three measures over the two Howard governments changed quite dramatically. For this we are using Newspoll monthly averages.


Between 1996 and just before the 2001 election, the three measures walked in relative lockstep, yet from the 2001 election onward, where Tampa and S11 played havoc with the polling, the story has been dramatically different.

People clearly became more satisfied with the way Howard was doing his job, and his preferred PM ratings increased to a level far higher than was the case over the first 5 years of his government. The primary vote however became relatively disconnected from these qualitative measures. The pursuit of a populist face delivered in the areas where one would expect – the qualitative ratings.

On the Opposition side of the ledger, a completely different dynamic was playing out:


If we take 2003 for instance, it really is quite a feat to have a higher primary vote than a satisfaction rating. The vote during that period probably represented the absolute baseline primary vote level of the ALP, the real deal True Believers if you will.

Yet the problem with being a populist government is that you end up fighting nearly all of your battles on the populist front. If that’s where you shift the PR focus, that’s inevitably where the electoral competition plays out. We witnessed that with the Latham leadership – the reading of books to rugrats and the politician’s superannuation issue. But the problem with populism is that the nature of what is popular and what captures the public’s attention shifts with time. And like most peddlers of fads, unless you keep changing with the times and keep feeding fresh popular initiatives into the system, public attention starts to wane and people start switching off. Worse still is the possibility that the public start seeing the populist initiatives for what they really are. Porkbarrels and scare campaigns only work for so long, they might give you the short term boost, but they also destroy your longer term core credibility if their electoral razzle-dazzle becomes passé or time shows the electoral stunts to be nonsense.

Another problem with the populist approach is that what is popular for some is anathema to others. Think the race dog-whistle and how that plays out in Fairfax compared to North Sydney. Think reconciliation and how that plays out in North Sydney compared to Fairfax. Populist policies have a tendency to give with one demographic hand and take away with the other. But after a long enough period, there’s something to dislike for everyone. People have good memories when it comes to being on the wrong side of a wedge, the losing side of a porkbarrel or the neglected side of a voting demographic. That alone reduces the long term power of the populist approach.

People remember when they’ve been screwed far more than they remember when they’ve been electorally smooched.

That gets us onto how that effect plays out and there’s two little graphs worth having a geek at. The first is the government primary vote charted against a cubic time trend via a regression equation. What the cubic time trend allows us to do is create a line of best fit onto the government primary vote that takes into account its honeymoon period and its 2001-2004 populist revival:


The regression equation that created that line explains around 50% of the movement in the government’s primary vote over the period of 1996 to the present. As we can see, the trailing off since 2004 has become pronounced. It also reflects pretty well the consequences of playing on the populist front for too long. When you combine that with the public impact of hard policy issues like Workchoices (in terms of both experience and perception), being on a hiding to none is hardly a surpise.

The next little graph worth looking at is a quadratic time trend charted against the government primary vote for the period since the 2001 election, where the populist change of the government began.


Which highlights the key problem that the government is experiencing; the populist approach to government has political blowback as an inevitable consequence.

You might be able to get a short term boost out if it, you may even be able to suck a few years worth of support out of it, but it will always kill you in the end as a “Coalition of the Stiffed” starts building against you.

Having an Opposition Leader that is more popular than a piece of mouldy cheese and doesn’t look like he’ll lead the country to Armageddon just allows the fallout to manifest more brutally than it ordinarily would.

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Posted in strategy, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Would anyone have the balls?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 25, 2007


Me in Crikey the other day here:


If you were a political party that was behind in the polls for what seems like an eternity, had trouble finding traction and had been outmanoeuvred on the issue management of the day for 10 months straight by your opposition – well things would be looking grim. You would probably find yourself in the position where the widespread expectations of loss would be fuelling low levels of morale in the organisation, to the point where it would be delivering poor numbers of campaign volunteers to do the legwork at the coalface.

Such widespread expectations of loss would probably even result in some of your most dependable, local campaign donors suddenly finding better things to do with their money.

But most disturbing of all if you happened to be such a political party, would be the lack of a simple narrative that your hand fed chooks in the media could credibly use to counter such a disastrous cycle of events and perceptions, allowing the gloom to perpetuate.

So if you were such a party – what would you do?

One of the first things that most political parties do when faced with such a situation is to break out the kero and the matches and indulge in a bit of good old fashioned self-immolation and retribution – we’ve seen attempts at that sort of behaviour in the not too distant past.

But for us Crikey Pollytics readers, a far more sophisticated demographic altogether; we would probably look to do something a little more constructive.

One of the first things I’d do if I were such a political party is sacrifice a medium sized advertising campaign and reallocate that money, in some appropriately deniable form, back into the membership and get them to place bets with bookmakers on marginal seats and those not so marginal seats that look to be in danger of falling.

To reinforce the artificial reality, I would hand feed some selective, fabricated “internal” polling numbers to members of the Fourth Estate that I was confident would regurgitate those figures in toto to a wider public.

In one simple, relatively low cost stroke not only would the results, if appropriately timed, targeted and executed to the thinner individual seat markets, suddenly provide a comeback narrative for the teachers pets in the gallery, replete with quotable internal polling backed by betting market prices, but it would also generate its own short term momentum including a window of opportunity which could be used to launch a large policy initiative; an initiative that could attempt to convert some of that simulated support into actual support.

Such an artificial pump-priming of momentum would, of course, melt away like a spring frost if the policy initiative failed to deliver votes, and the betting markets would soon sweep away the impact of the cunning plan by the simple weight of money over time if the simulated support didn’t transmute into something more tangible.

But if your goal was simply to generate some short term momentum from which to launch, say, a larger political campaign of some description – it wouldn’t be a bad plan.

I wonder if any political party would ever have the balls to try it on?

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Posted in strategy | Tagged: , , | 17 Comments »

The Dog Ate My Narrowing.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 23, 2007

Newspoll Tuesday started off with a bang. A 1706 sample poll giving the ALP a 58/42 headline TPP result.

The primaries are running 51/38 against the Coalition and the big result is “No Change”, just as it’s been since the beginning of March. But since when has the absence of change ever stopped us from ranting endlessly about these polls.

With a 1706 sample, the MoE should be about 2.5%, but Newspoll says 3% so who am I to argue – could be the weighting variance causing that, or maybe Newspoll just cut and paste the usual minutia into their output which you can find in The Oz HERE.

[George informs us via the lovely Ms Marks of Newspoll , that the MoE is indeed 2.5%]

But let us first look at the beauty contest – the infamous preferred PM numbers that we were assured, not that long, would lead to better times for the Coalition.

Rudd is up 2 to 50, Howard is down 2 to 37.Looking at these numbers since November 2006 using the monthly Newspoll average series we get:


Remember the story “Howard Checks Rudds March”? The lecture we were all given by those that own Newspoll about how the Howard resurgence was imminent because of the Preferred PM measurement? You’re lucky if you can remember, because you don’t seem to be able to read it any more on The Oz site. The original story appears to have been replaced with this.

So I thought we’d just mention it again – for the sake of nostalgia and all 😉

Moving right along to the satisfaction ratings, Howard’s down 4 to 43 and Rudd is up 3 to 63. Looking at the monthly Newspoll average ratings over the period since the last election we get:


And not to be left out, the dissatisfaction ratings for each:


Now we move onto the main game – the primary votes, again using the Newspoll monthly averages, followed by the two party preferred vote:






So what to make if it all?

That growth in the ALP primary vote since May could be dangerous. So saying it might just be noise, but if I were a political party, I’d rather have noise of that shape than noise of the shape the Coalition has been experiencing since May. Are the Rudd honeymooners coming back to the Rudd camp after playing tootsies with him but leaving in the March-May period?

Could be – too soon to say, but something to keep an eye on anyway.

The other question to ask is where the hell did The Narrowing go?

We were assured it would have turned up by now. Calling the election was supposed to be the circuit breaker…. Well, so we were told. Then again, the budget was supposed to be circuit breaker and didn’t that just go smashing.

There was also something in the poll to feed our inner Crosby Textors; Newspoll asked a question today of “Which political party do you think will win the Federal Election?” and the results were 52 to the ALP (down 5 since August) and 30 for the Coalition (up 2 since August). “Win Expectations” are still killing the Coalition as per the June OzTrack 33.
Another economic management question popped up in the Newspoll of the type we analysed the other day in “Does Economic Management Influence The Primary Vote?” Sure enough, the regression results hold with the ALP increase in the economic management question (up 4 to 37) walking hand in hand with an increase in their primary vote. Also remember back then, we found no relationship between the answers to the “which leader do you think would better be more capable of handling the economy” question and the primary vote of the Coalition – despite some commentators in certain newspapers making claims to the contrary with zero evidence to support the proposition.

Finally, there was another question about those dreaded soft voters, and three cheers to Martin O’Shannessy for including them again.


Just like it was the last time these questions were asked, the ALP vote is slightly stronger than the Coalition vote.

So let the analysis begin. I’ll probably post an update later in the day.



George sent a fabulous little pic showing the Newspoll primaries since the beginning of the year, complete with the shaded MoE.


Since March, the ALP primary looks like its been stuck somewhere around 47/49 with the Coalition primary vote stuck somewhere around 38/39 since June.




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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: | 136 Comments »

The Nifty Nematode.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 22, 2007

There’s not a great lot to say about the debate except that Rudd stuck to his script and did all the things we thought he would; he answered the “why change government” question with leadership and plan for the future phrases, he bridged back to those two issues on nearly every question regardless of the topic, and he managed to do it as a coherent narrative. And Rudd made a lot of the debate about Howard himself as we thought he might. Howard has clearly become identified as a key weakness in the focus groups.

Howard on the other hand started fraying at the edges as time went on. His union attack looked anemic and his economic management argument in terms of focusing on previous achievements without adding anything solid to future directions played into Rudds hands as a clear differentiation between the past and the future -a silly thing to do with your most powerful issue.

At the very end, when Howard tried to co opt the phrase “education revolution” as his own, and then started talking about the 3 R’s as a restoration of standards said it all. It reinforced a lot of the reasons why voters have left Howard.

But the real action of the night was with the worm. There’s a powerful reason why the Liberal party didn’t want the worm anywhere near Howard, and seemed to go out of their way to stop it (although the details of what actually went on there seems to be rather murky – it just might have been the National Press Club spivs chucking a hissyfit… time will tell).

But on the Liberals extreme dislike of the worm, it’s not just that Howard usually performs poorly in these debates and the worm reinforces that perception, that’s the least of Howard’s problem with the nifty nematode. The real problem is that as soon as the camera cuts to him, the worm automatically starts dropping, before he’s really said a word.

You see, John Howard has never been particularly popular. But this reality flies in the face of the carefully constructed image that Howard has projected in the media over the years. How many times have you heard “Howard is still popular with the electorate despite being behind in the polls”, or the “The PMs approval rating suggests that the voters aren’t waiting around with baseball bats” type thing.

The problem with these types of statements is that they are using as evidence, the results from unrelated questions. Satisfaction and approval ratings are about how many people are satisfied with the way the PM is doing his job, not whether the public like him or not.

The worm though – when it starts to drop before Howard has finished speaking a word, it tells it like it is, and has done so every time it makes an appearance.

Too much worm exposure risks the penny dropping – Howard isn’t popular, never really has been and the danger of such a thing is that it could quickly generate its own nasty momentum.

For anyone that doesn’t live in Canberra, or actually walks around in the normal world that doesn’t have a singular focus on politics, this is nothing really new. Even those stronger supporters of Howard might say that he’s done an alright job, but they rarely say Howard himself is anything other than a slippery politician that they don’t much care for. But it’s one thing having most people knowing he’s unpopular – it’s an entirely different thing altogether should people start talking about it too often, particularly through the media.

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Strategy Spotting in The Debate

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 21, 2007

With the debate on tonight, there are a few things we should all be looking out for.

The first is the answer to the big question:

For the ALP it will be the question of “why voters should change government?”

“New Leadership” and “plan for the future” is the simple message the ALP seems to have adopted to answer that question, so it will be surprising if they change from that line of attack in the debate.

For the Coalition, the question will be “Why stay with the incumbent?

With the long, broad momentum being in the ALP court, it’s more important for the Coalition to answer this question well.

The Coalition has been all over the shop over the last few months on this, so we should all keep an eye out for what short, simple but sharp message they use to answer that fundamental question.

Next up is the small handful of issues that each party wants to fill the mindspace of the electorate.

You’ll be able to identify these issues, as nearly every answer to a given question will be bridged back to them. If the question is “What is the biggest challenge for Australia?” – the answers will be bridged back to union dominance, plan for the future, economic management, education revolution etc.

So keep an eye out for those – that will tell us the template of the campaign for the next few weeks.

Another thing that I think will be interesting is how each side angles for the “values voter”. I personally think that Howard is in trouble with this group, so it will be interesting to see if Howard and Rudd deliberately chase these voters in the debate.

Each side will have some identified set of issues to use as a window for the pursuit of these voters that’s been derived from focus group research, so keep an eye out for each side framing an issue in such a way that it appeals to peoples personal moral and social codes and beliefs, often their prejudices.

Examples of this from the past are when immigration gets framed as “we decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”, and the new citizenship test was another example of this. It’s a political appeal to what people already believe about a given issue, so it positions the issue (frames it) for the party in that context.

Also keep an eye out for Howard deliberately attacking ALP strengths. A little while back we were discussing how the Liberal Party strategy of playing to their old strengths appeared to be failing and how they desperately needed a new one to become competitive.

If the new strategy is to tackle the ALP on its strengths, it should be recognisable tonight. We all know such a strategy carries an enormous risk, as previous attempts by the Libs to play in the ALPs issue sandpit (the Budget and the Federal Liberal Council meeting for example) ended up reducing their vote according to OzTrack 33. As the Libs highlighted issues the ALP were well positioned on, it simply reinforced the ALP dominance of these issues and moved the vote toward them.

But such a counterintuitive strategy of attacking the oppositions strengths has been deployed with some success in the US by the Republicans. The basic idea is, if you destroy your opponent on the issues they are strong at, the only thing left for them are their weaknesses.

Something else that might be worth noting is how much Rudd tries to make the campaign about Howard. If Howard has been identified as a weakness, I wonder if Rudd will try to exploit it in a debate, or whether he’ll leave that to advertising and his front bench members?

On something entirely different – do you get the feeling that the Coalition is going to make private school fees and all sorts of other things tax deductible as a way to neutralise the ALP offerings?

This could easily become the tax deductibility election.

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