Possums Pollytics

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Archive for the ‘Polling’ Category

Newspoll Tuesday – Very Bad Things for the Libs Edition

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 9, 2008

Another Tuesday, another Newspoll – this time showing both major’s down 1 in the primary for an ALP lead of 44/37, washing into a two party preferred of 56/44 unchanged from a fortnight ago.

To start with we’ll run through a chart dump of all the polling stuff fit to print:

Next up, we’ll throw this into our Pollytrack, where we also have a new EMC and Morgan Face to Face to throw into the mix with it.

That little data graphic tells us which polls make up the current Pollytrack, the weight they have based on sample size and all the other interesting bits worth having a squiz at. If you look at the Pollytrack lines of the Primary and TPP votes, there is a definite movement back to the ALP that started around the end of July.

If we look at our All Polls series with the loess regression run through it, it becomes even more pronounced.

Rudd’s “honeymoon” ended around mid April, with the ALP primary and the TPP slowly eroding from mid April through until the end of July. Yet since that bottoming out of the ALP vote, the last 5 weeks or so have clearly shown increasing ALP vote momentum with the Coalition primary vote tanking. The Coalition have effectively wiped out 3 months of vote recovery in the last 5 weeks  – with that trend, particularly in their primary vote, this is a Very Bad Thing.

I’ve banged on about this before, where public political opinion exhibits a thing called hysteresis – where the longer a party stays at a given magnitude of vote support, the harder it becomes for that party to move away from that level of support. This hysteresis was how Crean’s leadership of the ALP had an enormous negative impact on their long term vote, requiring both Latham and Rudd to lift the ALP primary vote out of the levels Crean Labor left it in. Ignore the popular narrative on Mark Latham and just follow the data over here to see what I mean on this.

The Coalition cannot afford to go backwards in voting intention, for the larger the drop in their vote share, historically at least, the longer it will take to recover.

In an ideal world, Nelson peaked at the beginning of August and should have been removed then or sometime since. But the Coalition struggles on, frozen over the actions of Peter Costello and have been throwing away their previous gains in voteshare because of the prancing around of a man that isnt even popular with the public.

We now have the data to back up what we’ve expected for a long time on this – Essential Research ran a question in their polling released yesterday that put Rudd and Costello head-to-head on which would be the Better Prime Minister. Rudd romps it home with a two to one margin of 53/27.

That is the Liberal Party savior?  The Liberal Party are letting their voteshare gains be unwound over the petulant actions of a bloke that pulls in numbers like that, numbers that when compared to anyone but Nelson, Crean and Downer are complete shockers?

Yet to make it worse, Costello is already a known quantity – he faces the same problem Hillary Clinton faced in the US where everyone already has an opinion, mostly polarised, and it sticks a great whopping vote ceiling on top of you as a result.

The longer the Libs wait to take out Nelson, the further their vote will fall, the larger will be the hysteresis that sets in, making it a longer period it will take to get back to being competitive. Crean left the ALP taking 2 terms because the ALP dithered. How long will the Libs continue to dither – especially over a bloke that is only popular in the minds of a few hack journos and delusioned party apparatchik’s ?

Elsewhere: Pollbludger and Larvatus Prodeo


Posted in Polling, Pollytrack, Voting behaviour | 19 Comments »

Newspoll Tuesday – Graphdump edition and new Pollytrack methodology

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 26, 2008

Another Tuesday, another Newspoll of psephy goodness via The Oz, this time showing the ALP down 2 on the primary and the Coalition steady for a 45/38 split -washing into the two party preferred for an ALP lead of 56/44, down from the 57/43 a fortnight ago.

Today we unveil a new Pollytrack methodology to plug these numbers into.

Previously we were using just phone polls, but over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting around with different polling aggregations and comparing them to election results to find a more accurate way to do it (and a big thanks goes out to a few folk that gave me access to unpublished polling data to help with the calibration of this thing).

Instead of just using phone polls, we are going to do the obvious and use every piece of polling data we can find to give us rolling super samples calculated weekly. Each Pollytrack calculation is made up of a rolling all pollster average weighted by sample size, that operates over a 5 week maximum window, and where each pollster has only their latest poll contributing to the super sample at any given time.

As a pollster releases a new poll, their old poll result drops out of the rolling window, and gets replaced by their new polling data.

The 5 week window works best as ACNielsen (a monthly pollster) occasionally releases polls 5 weeks apart rather than the usual 4, simply because of timing issues. Using a 5 week window allows us to always have an ACN poll in the Pollytrack mix.

The current Pollytrack mix is made up of Newspoll, ACNielsen, Morgan face-to-face and Essential Research (EMC). Morgan phone polls will also be added when they pop up, but the last phone poll from Morgan was taken over 5 weeks ago, so it drops out of our Pollytrack window.

The beauty of this is that it gives us super samples. Our current sample is 6039, but it has been as high as 7450 in early July, while the lowest it’s been all year was 4158 in early May. That gives us minimum MoEs on this baby of between 1.1 and 1.5%.

On the primary and TPP Pollytrack charts, the minimum MoEs have also been added to the chart itself, giving us a much better handle on the current state of play that includes pure sampling error uncertainty.

Currently, Pollytrack has the primary vote on 45.7/37.2 to the ALP, with the two party preferred running at 56.6/43.4 to Labor. The minimum MoE for this week’s Pollytrack is plus or minus 1.3%.

That now makes Pollytrack by far and away the most accurate tracking poll in the country bar none. Nothing else comes within a bull’s roar of this baby.

(As always, just click the charts to blow them up)

The estimated seat changes are calculated using an assumption of a uniform swing on the national pendulum.

Essential Media have also been added to our Loess regression charts, which now give us:

Currently our local regression series has the ALP leading 45.6/36.4 on the primary vote for a TPP of 57.0/43.0.

Next up, we’ll take a squiz at the Newspoll qualitative metrics.

Finally a squiz at how all the pollsters have been traveling, including the new EMC polls we’ve added to the mix. There were a few numbers out of place in this series previously for the Morgan polls – I had a bit of a brainfart, but that’s all been fixed up.

Things might get a little bit all over the shop round these parts for the next few weeks as I prepare for the site move, so I might run a day or so late on stuff.

But good psephing to all, I’ve got to scurry off and do the latest US Intrade data that should have been completed yesterday.

Elsewhere: Pollbludger and Larvatus Prodeo

Posted in newspoll, Polling, Pollytrack | 17 Comments »

Victorian Newspoll – Eroding Satisfaction.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 20, 2008

Hot on the heels of the NSW bimonthly Newspoll comes another of the Victorian variety – it’s in the treeware version of The Oz, but not yet online.

The Victorian polling since the election is a textbook case of how public political opinion usually behaves over the political cycle (as opposed to yesterdays NSW example). After the last election there was a spike for 12 months or so before slowly washing out of the system as the grind of day to day politics slowly eroded the governments standing.

There’s a couple of interesting things to note here, the first being the long term erosion of the Better Premier rating for the government over the last 5 years. The second is the deterioration in Net Satisfaction levels of both the Premier and Leader of the Opposition since the last election. If that trend of growing dissatisfaction with the political system were to continue, two things would be expected to happen if the Victorian experience plays out like it does nearly everywhere else in the polling; firstly, the minor party vote grows for fairly obvious reasons, but secondly, the political environment tends to change where politics becomes both more vicious and more superficial (think NSW over the last few years, or QLD 6 months before the last election).

It’s a strange relationship, but as the public becomes more cynical of the major parties, so too do the major parties seem to become more cynical in the way they treat the public. I’m sure Old Media has a large role in how that plays out, more easily justifying the cheap, sensationalist route they seem to pursue when the public starts becoming disenchanted with the political system as a whole.

Anyway, that’s enough of my pontificating (it’s starting to resemble a Gary Says moment from the Morgan polls :mrgreen: ) – here’s the charts, just click on them to expand.

Posted in Polling | 1 Comment »

ACNielsen and Pollytrack Expanded

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 18, 2008

The new ACN poll is out today with the ALP steady and Coalition down 1 in the primaries for a 43/39 split leading to the ALP up 1 for a 55/45 two party preferred headline number.

Plugging this into our Pollytrack series – the rolling 3 phone pollster average weighted by sample size – we get (just click on the charts to expand them):

Pollytrack currently has the primaries coming in at 45/39.2 to the ALP with the two party preferred running 55.9/44.1 the same way.

I’ve added two new charts to Pollytrack.The first is the Primary Vote Swing which shows how far the primary vote of each party has changed since the last election while the second shows the two party preferred swing since the last election as well as how many seats that would change according to a uniform swing on the national pendulum.

As always we have our all pollster loess regression series:

And finally, a look at how the ALP and Coalition have been traveling with all the pollsters this year.

Posted in Polling, Pollytrack, Voting behaviour | 4 Comments »

A Few Charts.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 11, 2008

Just thought I’d whack up a few charts of things I’ve been looking at over two-party preferred margins lately.

First up, Newspoll TPP margins for every Newspoll going back to Novemember 1985. Newpsoll had a few periods where they didn’t calculate TPP results in their polling, so I’ve constructed a TPP series using the primary vote estimates and distributing preferences the further away from an election you get, the less the results get distributed according to that previous election and the more they get distributed on the basis of the results of the approaching election (click on these to blow them up).

It’s interesting how election results interrupt the longer running trends – sometimes it’s the dreaded narrowing, sometimes its the opposite.

Next up, if we measure the TPP vote of the winning party for every election back to 1949, as well as the  percentage of seats that the winning party achieved from that vote and chart them with a scatter plot and a trend line (quadratic trend) we get:

This gives us an alternative to the pendulum for projecting how many seats a given TPP vote would be expected to deliver to the victorious party. If we transform those percentage of seats won to actual seats in a 150 seat parliament (which we have today) we get:

Which is really just a bit of fun, although the cluster of results where a party won government by getting less than 50% of the vote makes things a bit more complicated here.

Finally, a little chart on the way that One Nation permanently reduced the Coalition primary vote. It’s again using Newspolls but I’ve also added a quadratic time trend through the results with a regression that has a One Nation dummy variable in it (which starts at the first Newspoll after the One Nation Party was created).

I hope you find it as visually interesting as I do in terms of the pronounced impact of One Nation on the Coalition vote.


The US Election Intrade data has suffered its weekly update, showing Obama getting his second week of probability flight in a row.

Posted in Polling, Uncategorized, Voting behaviour | 17 Comments »

Newspoll Tuesday – Climate Change Edition

Posted by Possum Comitatus on July 29, 2008

As is wont to happen with Newspoll Tuesday and political party room or cabinet meetings, Newspoll once again – in an act of impeccable timing – manages to flick the bird to the party in trouble.

Not merely content with giving the Coalition party room and shadow cabinet meeting a nasty piece of 57/43 Two Party Preferred context to bicker about off the back of primaries running 47/37 the same way (MoE 3%), Newspoll decided to throw in a leadership question, two Costello questions and three climate change questions to boot – the results of which aren’t exactly encouraging for the party but will undoubtedly make for a nice conversation starter come the Coalition meetings today and tomorrow.

But first onto the main game.

Updating our Pollytrack and Loess regression series for the last week, we get.

Since the last update we’ve had a Newspoll addition for the Pollytrack series and a Newspoll and two Morgan face to face polls for the All Polls series. Currently the local regression in the All Polls series shows the ALP leading on primaries 45.2/39.2 with a two party preferred lead of 55.7/44.3 – giving us a difference between Pollytrack and the Loess All Polls series of 0.2% or less for all metrics.

Pollytrack is currently running with a pooled sample size of 3939 for a minimum margin of error of 1.56%.

Next up is a comparison of how the three major pollsters are performing in relation to each other. We’ll do the primary votes of both parties and the TPP of the ALP (since the Coalition TPP is just the mirror image).

You might notice that the Morgan face to face polling has been running a little hotter for the ALP than the phone polls for most of the year, continuing on from last years pattern, while Nielsen has been generally more Coalition friendly than the other pollsters.

Next up comes the qualitative data on leadership and climate change.

On the question of who is best to lead the Liberal Party, Peter Costello must be cheering from his holiday bunker having finally found not just one, but two people he is more popular than.

Costello is way out in front on 41% compared to Turnbull on 24%, Nelson on 18% and that serial candidate Uncommitted rounding out the contest on 17%.

65% of people want Costello to stay in Parliament compared to the 23% that want to see the back of him and 12% uncommitted.

The last Newspoll question is the most insightful though – it asks:

If Peter Costello were to become the leader of the federal Liberal Party, would it make you more likely to vote for the Coalition, less likely to vote for the Coalition or would it make no difference to the way you would vote?

While the headline results have 23% more likely, 15% less likely, 57% no difference and 5% uncommitted (the last being a pretty low number for these things, suggesting that the public has a very firm view of Costello) – the interesting part is the crosstabs on party support.

The Coalition needs ALP voters to shift to the Coalition, yet ALP voters have a breakdown of 15% more likely and 20% less likely. If Costello became leader, he might not lose voteshare, but neither does he look like he would gain much based on these results.

Finally we have three climate change questions with 84% agreeing that Climate Change is occurring and 96% of those that agree believe that climate change is fully or partially caused by human activity.

I guess that’s a big Newspoll “stick that in your pipe and smoke it Nick Minchin”.

On the question of whether Australia should introduce an ETS, 60% say yes regardless of what the rest of the world does, 23% say yes only if other countries do the same, while 11% said No period and 6% were uncommitted.

On the crosstabs, 70% of the 18-34 group says yes regardless of what other countries do, 65% of the 35-49 group says the same while only 50% of the 50+ agree. This is interesting as only 47% of Coalition voters say that Australia should introduce an ETS regardless, which hints at the demographic problems the Coalition is facing and how their vote is getting skewed to older demographics.

And as we’ve talked about before, the Coalition simply cannot win without getting larger numbers of younger voters.

All up, this Newspoll seems to be a slap in the face to Nelson, the Minchin led ETS political positioning and the Coalition generally. Today’s meeting should be a doozy.

Elsewhere: Poll Bludger and Larvatus Prodeo.

Posted in Political Risk, Polling, Pollytrack, Voting behaviour | 34 Comments »

Pollytrack week ending July 19

Posted by Possum Comitatus on July 21, 2008

With todays ACNielsen out showing an ALP TPP lead of 54/46 coming off the back of primaries running 43/40 the same way, we have the numbers to crunch where the Pollytrack was sitting at the end of last week. (WordPress was having a bit of a hiccup when I posted this and some of the images weren’t showing – it’s only a temporary problem)

The ALP primary vote is slowly but surely grinding down, mostly going to third parties and mostly to the Greens at that, with a small and jittery growth in the Coalition primary vote over time. Since we started the series in the week ending May 17th, the ALP Primary has dropped from 46.6 % down to 43.9% while the Coalition has lifted from 37.4 % to 38.9 %. Currently the minimum MoE on this baby sits at 1.56%.

The two party preferred chart shows a similar but slightly less dramatic pattern with the ALP TPP having reduced from 57.2 % down to 55% where it sits today.

Moving along to the Loess Allpolls charts, where we throw in every poll by the three major pollsters and run a local regression through it as the line of best fit we get:

The Pollytrack and Loess Allpolls series are tracking each other almost identically with the current values of the regression lines being identical to those of the Pollytrack series to 1 decimal place – except for the Coalition primary vote where the regression line has it on 38.4 % rather than the 39.6 % of Pollytrack.


The US Election page has been updated for the current Intrade data. This is where the State by State outlook stands at the moment.

And this spiffy toy for the US election is worth a play with (thanks to EC for the heads up)

Posted in Polling, Pollytrack | 12 Comments »

The Coalitions’ Demographic Train Wreck

Posted by Possum Comitatus on July 6, 2008

Back in March over at Australian Policy Online, Ian Watson published a really interesting paper titled “Is demography moving against the Coalition? ”, which was an update of a larger, earlier paper that added new results for the 2007 election period. What Ian Watson did was use Newspoll figures to look at the way different age groups have been changing their voting intention patterns over the period of 1987 through to the present.

What is really interesting about this paper is the dataset it contains at the end – age profile breakdowns on primary voting intention going all the way back to 1987 when Newspoll first started.

It doesn’t take long playing around with the data to realise that, putting it bluntly, the Coalition is facing a demographic train wreck of catastrophic proportions. It isn’t some short term problem that just appeared at the last election and which could easily be dealt with by a bit of vote targeting. Far from it, the impending train wreck is the result of a long slow demographic assault on the Coalitions’ primary vote that has been happening for at least 21 years.

They are losing ground among all age groups under 60, their only strong voting age demographic, the pre-Boomer over 60’s, are declining in number through attrition and will start being replaced by more Labor oriented Boomers over the next decade. As we will see, this pre-boomer demographic is carrying a large weight of the Coalition’s voter support. When that vote becomes neutralised by boomers moving into the 60+ age group, which is expected to occur sometime around 2018-2020, the Coalition primary vote will have lost around 4 to 5 points, perhaps a little more, should prevailing long term trends continue for the next 10-15 years in the same way they’ve played out for the last 21 years.

First up, we’ll just repeat what Ian Watson did and show how various age group voting intentions have been running for the Coalition at each election period since 1987 to give us a bit of a feel for the data. This data is Newspoll data, so the average Coalition primary vote result will be slightly different from the primary vote result that they achieved at each election, simply because of sampling error and late movement, but not by a great deal – it works out as an average of 1.47% mean absolute error.

As there are quite a few age cohorts here, we’ll split the demographics into two groups; the under 40’s and the over 40’s and we’ll also add the average Coalition primary result as well to show which groups are under and over that average.

Notice here that all groups under 40 have had a voting intention less than the average Coalition voting intention for every election since 1987.

Here it starts to get interesting. Up to and including the 1993 election, all groups over the age of 40 supported the Coalition to levels higher than the Coalition average support. But in 1996, the 40-44s were voting under the average, in 1998 the 40-49s were voting under the average, by 2001 it became the 40-54s all voting under the average and by 2007, the 55-59 group was voting just slightly above average but will probably vote below average next election and beyond.

If we play around with the data a bit and subtract the average Coalition primary vote estimate from each age cohorts’ support level for the Coalition, it shows this in starker terms. So, for instance, if the Coalition average was 40% and a particular demographic had only 36% support for the Coalition, they’d get a score of -4.

Again, we’ll do it for both the under 40’s and over 40’s.

From these two charts we can see that it is the over 60’s that are really carrying the weight of Coalition average support here. As the levels of support for the Coalition decline in younger cohorts, it drags down the average Coalition vote, leaving the Coalition more and more reliant on that over 60’s group to shore up their vote. But the problem here is that the over 60’s group is just about to be flooded with Baby Boomers, which will start reducing the Coalition dominance in their most important age cohort.

We can see how this might play out if we use the Newspoll data to track how people born between certain years have behaved over the last 21 years. The problem we have with the data here is that the age groups we’ll track don’t perfectly fit into the age classifications we have – but we can get pretty close on a number of elections. For instance, if we track the 25-29 age bracket from the 1987 election onwards, in the 1993 election that group would be 31-35, but we don’t have that as an available cohort. Yet we do have the 30-34 which is only out by 1 year. At the 1998 election those people were 36-40 years of age, and we can use the 35-39 age cohort for that and so on an so forth.

In the following chart, each age group is only out by a maximum of a year either side of their actual age, so it’s a fairly decent match to give us an idea of how people born in different years have voted over time.

There’s a couple of things to note here. Firstly, I stopped tracking groups when they got into the 60+ age group because it contains too many different ages all bunched together to be useful, so our last age cohort we can use effectively is the 55-59 age bracket. Secondly, you’ll notice a big drop in Coalition support in 1998 by those born between 1938 and 1942. Most of that lost Coalition vote went to One Nation. In 1987 that group voted 7.3% for minor parties and independents, in 1993 it was 6.5%, but in 1998 it was a big 17.3%. In 2001 that vote would have jumped back up to 50+% for the Coalition.

As you can see, those early Boomers born between 1948 and 1952 vote for the Coalition in substantially less numbers than do the older age groups – yet this group has just started to turn 60 this year. By the next election nearly all of that group will be over 60, by the election after that, the 1953-1957 boomers will be starting to turn 60. As time goes on, the Coalitions hold on that over 60 demographic gets further washed out, especially since many of the pre-boomer Coalition supporters in the 60+ group will be increasingly dying out.

If we take these same age groups and do what we did before and measure the difference between the average Coalition vote and the Coalition vote for each age group we get:

We would expect those born between 1938 and 1947 to have increased their “difference from the mean” over the last few elections if we could actually measure it with the Newspoll data, but unfortunately we can’t. However, since that group is reducing in number every year at a faster rate than their younger cohorts, it is slowly allowing the average Coalition vote to fall, and as a result reducing the “difference from the mean” for the younger cohorts.

Looking back over all of the charts, the voters the Coalition are losing aren’t being replaced by younger voters, to the point where it’s reducing the total Coalition primary vote. If the trends that have been happening for the last 21 years continue for the next decade, by 2018 thereabouts, the ALP will simply become unbeatable with TPP results coming in with a an expected demographic floor of around 55%.

(I thought I better bold that point)

So the Coalition has to start appealing to much younger demographics or they will likely find themselves in permanent opposition.

Something for them to keep in mind if they start trying to play political games with the emissions trading system and climate change – issues with large support in the younger demographics.

I’ll do some more with this data later, as well as start applying these results on a seat by seat basis to see which regions face the largest political changes, but I thought you folks might be interested to see how your sub-generation has been voting over the last 21 years or so. I’ll also take a closer look at those born after 1969 in another post.


I’ll stick this chart in here as well since it’s relevant. It’s a basic graphic of the results of the two Newspolls that dealt with climate change and the proposed ETS.

The demographics that the Coalition needs to attract are the ones that have the strongest views on climate change, willingness to pay for it and the benefit of an ETS.

It makes the politicking of the Opposition a hard slog for any long term partisan benefit.

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Posted in Election Forecasting, Political Risk, Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 25 Comments »

Brendan Nelson – Perpetrator or Scapegoat?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 22, 2008

Let me tell you a secret – Brendan Nelson is unpopular.

Are you shocked? Probably not.

Let me tell you another secret – The Coalition’s poor standing in the polls is all Nelsons fault.

Are you shocked at that?  Probably not either, since we hear it everyday. But you ought to be shocked because it probably isn’t as true as its being made out to be.

Undoubtedly the leadership of a party will  impact on the polling results, particularly the voting intention results that a party receives – but to blame all of that failure, or even most of it on the leader is probably a bit of a rough call.

We can see why everything is currently being blamed on Nelson though – the MSM is filled with simple creatures that prefer simple things to talk about, like each other for instance, or each others opinions even more so.

But in terms of the really simple things, there is nothing simpler than very small numbers.

And when we talk about very small numbers in politics, the Nightwatchman’s preferred PM ratings are the most obvious thing to grab on to.

In the politics of polling, there are three variables that take up the mindspace – voting intention, satisfaction ratings and preferred PM ratings.

But unfortunately, the historical, long term, consistent relationships between these variables are rarely paid attention to, so it’s probably worth recapping the statistically significant things we discovered about these variables from last years blogging and analysis.

1. Opposition satisfaction ratings are both covariant (meaning it moves together) with the primary and TPP vote, as well as being a leading indicator of the primary and TPP vote. When Opposition satisfaction ratings go up, on average, the primary and TPP vote moves up with it, as well as moving up in the next period  – not by much, but by a little bit.

2. We also know that Opposition satisfaction ratings are covariant with the Preferred PM rating as well as being an ever so slight leading indicator of the Preferred PM rating.

3.The other thing we know is that the Primary and TPP vote is both covariant with, and a lagging indicator of the Preferred PM rating (meaning that the two measures either move together and/or the Preferred PM rating follows the primary and TPP votes with a slight lag.)

The latter being what started the Poll Wars between The Oz and the better informed blogging community.

The Preferred PM rating is essentially a meaningless beauty contest which has no statistical bearing on the vote. It either moves with changes in voting intention and satisfaction ratings, or lags behind them, and the relationship between the vote and the PPM is pretty tight as far as polling relationships go.

To demonstrate this, let’s make a spiffy chart. We’ll chart the Opposition Leaders Preferred Prime Minister rating against the size of the difference between the governments TPP vote and that of the Opposition. We’ll do it as a scatter plot with a regression line running though it, we’ll use monthly Newspoll averages over the period of the Howard government, and we’ll also mark on the chart where Nelson currently sits in this broad historical relationship (it’s a thumbnail – click it).

Nelsons current position is exactly where we would expect it to be in terms of the size of the governments lead in the TPP vote.

PPM is a function of voting intention, voting intention is covariant with, or a leading indicator of the oppositions PPM rating, and Nelsons current PPM rating sits smack bang on the regression line of the historical relationship.

So all up, there is no useful information here – zip, zilch, nadder. Nelsons PPM is where we would expect it to be with him leading a party currently experiencing a 19 point TPP vote gap.

The satirical coverage that the MSM gives this number is fair enough – it’s at record lows and good for some humour. But to give this number serious coverage is to completely miss the point of what PPM ratings actually are in practice, as well as what their relationship to voting intention really is.

The only marginally important thing about PPM ratings for the Opposition is in terms of it’s compositional make up – things like the the proportion of Coalition voters that prefer Nelson as PM – and even then, it’s simply a reflection of how well Nelson is resonating in his own party and anchored well and truly to the Coalitions vote share.

So moving on from fluff like PPM, let’s look instead at Opposition satisfaction ratings and their relationship to voting intention. If we run a chart the same as above, but this time substitute the Oppositions PPM rating with their satisfaction rating we get (it’s a thumbnail – click it):

As we can see, the relationship isn’t exactly tight between opposition leader satisfaction ratings and the TPP vote difference over the last 12 years, but it’s still statistically significant. The reason for this is pretty simple – new leaders change the satisfaction dynamics in different ways. We can see how that plays out with the following self-explanatory chart (it’s a thumbnail – click on it):

But what is interesting in terms of the relationship between the Opposition leaders performance and the Oppositions vote share is that either Nelson has a higher satisfaction rating than the Coalition vote share would suggest ought to be the case, or alternatively, the Coalition vote share is lower than it should be considering the Opposition leaders current satisfaction rating.

The Newspoll satisfaction ratings come from asking the question:


It is specifically a question on the performance of the Leader of the Opposition.

So the satisfaction/voting intention chart is effectively measuring the performance of the Opposition against the performance of the leader of the opposition.

And on this count, Nelson is certainly performing better personally than the Coalition is performing in terms of their vote share, making me question just how much of the Coalitions poor polling performance is actually Nelsons fault, compared to how much of it is a result of the undisciplined rabble rousing that the rest of the front bench and the back bench pork chops have been carrying on with.

Also worth considering is what would happen to the satisfaction ratings and voting intention if the leadership changed. When we look at the ALP experience over the period in the above chart, if Turnbull or someone else were to become leader, would the consequences resemble Crean, Latham or Beazley Mk 2? – with neither 3 being particularly good.

Crean dragged everything down, Latham peaked and then crashed (and I’ve long had this feeling that Malcolm Turnbull as leader would just be Mark Latham in a Fioravanti suit – but minus the suburban mum bounce) and Beazley had a small boost then a larger decline in the satisfaction ratings, but unusually running hand in hand with a small growth in the primary vote support – but essentially nowhere near enough.

Yet whatever happens, whilst we can all navel gaze over whether Nelson is holding back the party vote share and by how much, the historical polling stats suggest that regardless of what Nelson is doing, the party itself is doing even worse and needs to shoulder a fair amount of responsibility for their own failure rather than blaming it all on one person.

But then, considering the historical way that the Coalition treats their leaders – that’s probably asking for too much. For a party that prides itself on waxing lyrical about the importance of personal responsibility being shown by the community, they seem to have distinct aversity to ever taking any themselves.


And on another thing – I am still doing my age attrition model for projecting the vote share hit the Coalition is facing in about ten years – but I stuffed it up and had to start from scratch. But it is coming!

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | 10 Comments »

Putting the Newspoll in perspective and US election updates.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 17, 2008

Mr Mumbles again donned his secret squirrel cape and has the good acorns on todays Newspoll over here:

Primaries are running ALP 46/33 leading to a TPP of 59/41.

But to throw all these polls in perspective – let’s chart every poll taken so far in 2008 (by Morgan, Newspoll and ACN) and run a Loess regression through it as a line of best fit.

What is really noticeable here is that the drop in the ALP primary vote over time has been greater than the drop in their two party preferred – and larger than the rise for the Coalition primary vote that started around day 110.

The Greens and “others” vote have been the beneficiaries of this falling ALP primary, letting it flow back the ALP in preferences for TPP terms.  As we found last year, we often get a bit of noise in the minor party vote changing the TPP headline number by a few points here and there, but currently we are getting small movements in the minor party vote that is keeping the TPP numbers where they are and changing the underlying primary vote composition of the polls.

To see this, we only have to look at the ALP primary vote in the context of both the Coalition and Greens+Others vote. To do this, we’ll chart the ALP vote as inverted (meaning it decreases as you go up the vertical axis on the left) and chart the Greens+Others and the Coalition Primary normally on the right hand side axis . To see where the votes are shifting to, if the lines move together, then votes are shifting between ALP and the other party on the chart, if they move in opposite directions then that isn’t happening.

Up until the beginning of May (the 3rd Newspoll), voters were moving between the ALP and the Coalition as well as between the ALP and the Greens minor parties.

For the following two Newspolls votes were only moving between the ALP and the minors, and finally in the latest poll, votes moved from the Coalition to the minor parties.

We can also see this playing out in the satisfaction ratings.If we look at the satisfaction ratings of Rudd vs Nightwatchman  and how they’ve changed over time, Rudd at the moment has his second lowest satisfaction rating recorded this year by Newspoll at 59%, while the Nightwatchman has satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings that haven’t moved a jot. As voter dissatisfaction has increased for Rudd, votes aren’t moving to the Libs as a result, they’re moving to the Greens and preferences are flowing back to the ALP two party preferred.

If we chart both the ALP TPP vote and the ALP primary vote against Rudds satisfaction level, we get:

We expect satisfaction ratings and vote levels to move together, but the satisfaction rating is having a much larger influence on the ALP primary than the TPP.

This is because most of the change in the ALP primary vote is moving to the minor parties,- these voters might not be impressed with what Rudd is doing, but they are refusing point black to support the Coalition.

On the Coalition side, they just recorded their lowest primary vote of the year at 33% driven by some movement from them to the minor parties – which is a bit unusual and probably a sampling artefact rather then any true indication of a large change in Coalition primary vote support. But regardless, I cant imagine we’ll be hearing any more Honeymoon is over stories this week, let alone Rudd in danger of being a one term wonder from the shallow end of the commentariat pool.

In other news, the most accurate aggregation of polling around, our Pollytrack series currently has the ALP leading 56.9% to 43.1% in TPP terms,  off the back of primaries running 45.1%  to 37.4% to the ALP – all with a margin of error or 1.56% and a sample of 3938

Over at the Pollytics US Election page, all the Intrade data has been updated and now includes large Monte Carlo simulations to get a better idea of the probability spread on the Electoral College Votes by State, as well as cumulative frequency charts of these simulations to show how the probability of the Intrade market has changed over the last month for every electoral college vote number –worth a squiz if your nerdy.

Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

The Parallel Universe of Opinionatas

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 3, 2008

This was me earlier in Crikey today.

Petrol prices have ended the Rudd honeymoon” proclaimed Dennis, Rudd’s honeymoon was “well and truly over” declared Gerard McManus, while Clinton Porteous got stuck into the Journo Juice and questioned “whether Kevin Rudd will be a one-term wonder?“.

It was hard to find an article during the week that didn’t have the phrase “political crisis” scrawled in it somewhere – the government was in a crisis over Fuelwatch, over leaks, over threatening the public service; even over Brendan Nelson’s parliamentary performance, of all things.

We had Glenn Milne on Agenda (replacing his Comrade Confidential hat of trawling through the private lives of politicians, for some new headgear as a political theatre critic) telling us that Labor needed a Costello or a Keating because they were in danger of not cutting through in Parliament. Yeah, because we all know how 5 second grabs on the nightly news of aggressive boofheads yelling at each plays out in the wider electorate. No wonder Laura Tingle looked like she wanted to slap him. No wonder David Speers looked like he was thoroughly going to enjoy it if she did.

Yet today’s Newspoll has the ALP two party preferred stuck exactly where it was before this manufactured media melodrama began; 57/43 riding off the back of a one point reduction in the ALP primary to 46 and the Coalition primary stuck on 37.

The world of the Opinionatas – a sort of deafening echo chamber of electoral ignorance and lemming like commentary- has never been more irrelevant to the wider public. Costello was right when he told them that they don’t need politicians around to generate noise, they can just make stuff up among themselves. Which is all too often what happens, and the public can see right through it.

One would think that the Newspoll reality being incompatible with what passed for last fortnights fictional narrative of a government in trouble, would have invoked a little reassessment amongst the guilty, perhaps even a little humility, at the very least a reappraisal of the authenticity of the narrative itself – you know, when you’re talking shit and it becomes pretty obvious, it might be time to stop?

Alas no – not in the rarefied air of political punditry where attachment to electoral reality isn’t a KPI. “Petrol has blown up in Kevin Rudd’s face“, says one pundit this morning, in that sort of Japanese soldier on a deserted Island refusing to believe the war is over kind of way.

To do something novel here and add a bit of fact to this tawdry spectacle – this is what the areas around Brisbane and Sydney would look like under a uniform swing to Labor of 4.3% given by Newspoll – the pink seats are Coalition seats that would fall to Labor, 23 in all across the country.

The mathematical reality is far removed from the commentary.

There’s a reason the Morgan Polls continually have journalists near the bottom of the list when it comes to the public’s opinion of professions. It’s also not surprising that a large majority of people think the media is biased. When these headline act Opinionatas repeatedly lose touch with how issues play out in the only place that counts – the electorate – and when that electorate sees acres of rubbish being rammed down their throats that bears little resemblance to their lived experience and their own views, it’s no wonder their opinion of journalists everywhere, good and bad, suffers as a result.

And a lot of it comes back to these Piñatas of public opinion, dangling out there on a limb, swaying in a political breeze of their own imagining.

Could someone please hit them with a stick and give us the lollies.

If not for our sake, or for Gawds sake, or for the sake of Tarago drivers with a wheelchair and five kids in the back everywhere – then at least for the sake of a credible national media landscape.


Crikey also has some questions on this running in their Media Forum that might be worth a look if you’re a Crikey subscriber or if you wish to join up for one of their trial runs.


And another thing – Dont tell me Dennis turned his comments off again?

It’s a pity – they’re always the best bits of the article.

There hasn’t been a comment since 10:35am and it’s 2:50pm as I write this.

Oh well – there’ll always be another 40 allowed through for the next one before it becomes too embarrassing.

Small Update:

As of 4:17pm there was a small trickle let through.

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Posted in Crikey, Polling, spin | 51 Comments »

Heads up to all – What The People Want

Posted by Possum Comitatus on May 21, 2008

Just a quick heads up to readers, Graham Young of Online Opinion fame (among many other things), also runs qualitative polling research and is releasing some of the results from his latest round of polling on the budget


It’s worth a squiz.

Posted in Polling | 4 Comments »