Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

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Last Post at old address for RSS feed readers

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 13, 2008

This is mostly for those reading the site via RSS – a quick heads up that this will be the last feed you’ll receive from this site. If you want the feed for the new site, you’ll have to wander over HERE .

For everyone else, this site will soon automatically take you across to the new one.

Latest post at the new site: US Election – The Rational Realignment.


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Thunderblogs are Gooooooooooooooooo!

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 11, 2008

I’ve always wanted to say that :mrgreen:

Click through.

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Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 11, 2008

This place is in stasis pending something that will happen very, very shortly (insert appropriately suspenseful  music)

Any comments made will disappear into the ether – never to be seen again, so it might be wise to hold them off for a little bit.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments »

The Expansion of Human Knowledge Needs You!

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 6, 2008

Andrew Leigh and his partner in investigative crime Alison Booth are currently doing some research on racial attitudes in Australia. They’ve developed this really spiffy online implicit association test and they need people to go and have a play with it.

It really is spiffy – all you need is two fingers to take the test and a spare 5 minutes. Having just done it myself, and thinking about the timing issues involved in the test framework, the results will be fascinating when they’re finalised.

So hop to it – Andrew, Alison and the expansion of human knowledge need you to click this link pronto and do your bit for furthering social science research in this country. Because if you won’t, who will? :mrgreen:

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

WA Election

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 6, 2008

Today is the day for WA, with a Newspoll out in The Oz showing the election to be neck and neck. Throwing those Newspoll results into the longer Newspoll view for WA State politics, we can update our charts.

Vote Estimates and Better Premier Rating

Satisfaction Ratings

Net Satisfaction Ratings

The Newspoll taken over the 10th to 14th of August didnt publish satisfaction ratings for the new leader of the Opposition, yet the current values are actually on the chart – they’re just clustered around Carpenter’s ratings.

Net Satisfaction for Carpenter at the moment is -6%, or -6.7% once undecideds are removed.

For the WA Opposition, net satisfaction is sitting on -3%, or -3.6% once undecideds are removed.

While the polls say it’s tight, the betting markets all have Labor around $1.30 and the Coalition sitting between $2.30 and $3.00.

Since I know about the intricacies of the WA State electorate slightly less than I know about 17th century sponge cake making – WA homeboy William Bowe at Pollbludger is the one to read.

Down in the Lyne by election, Oakeshott will win on the primary vote alone and over in Mayo – one of the more peculiar seats in the country, they too are voting for a new member, and it’s hard to imagine it would be anyone else other than the Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs.

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McCain gets Impalined

Posted by Possum Comitatus on September 5, 2008

This was me in Crikey today.

With the Democrat convention and the Palin choice making for an event ridden week in US politics, the big question remaining is “Did it make a difference?” – And that’s a question we can probably answer, yet the answer is one we may not be expecting.

The Gallup Daily Tracking polls since the beginning of August tell us all we need to know about the way the “Convention Bounce” played out for the Democrats, where the period of the convention itself is shaded in the chart below.

But the problem with the bounce in polling that usually occurs with political conventions in the US is that it tends to only be a bounce, and one that quickly washes out of the system. Yet the complicating factor here is the Palin effect, where the announcement of Palin as the McCain Veep choice seems to have benefited both the Republicans and Democrats in the polling, making us question whether the current Democrat polling levels are solid because of a public reaction against Palin, or merely a post convention balloon that has yet to deflate because of all the Republican Convention hoo har.

Thankfully we have other tools at our disposal here for digging deeper into the way the politics are playing out – the markets. My esteemed colleague Richard Farmer takes the odd dig at me for being a betting market skeptic. It’s not that I’m a skeptic, but rather, if we are going to look at the markets, we need to do it properly – preferably with large amounts of number crunching and plenty of spiffy charts.

If we look at the chart above, but this time replace the McCain Gallup tracking with the current Intrade “Democrat as President” market (that can be read from the right, below), we find something interesting.

As the polls for Obama went north, the markets became cynical and went south, yet reacted strongly for the Democrats with the Palin announcement, suggesting that the Palin effect is floating the Democrat vote and preventing any post convention deflation in Democrat public support that might ordinarily have been expected.

Yet even this headline Intrade market doesn’t tell the full story, in fact, it’s not a very good metric to use at all – if we want to get to the real guts of public expectations in the market, we need to look at how things play out collectively in the individual State Intrade markets – after all, the US election is effectively the combined result of 50 separate, but interdependent electoral contests. Electoral College votes are the only game in town.

For a few months now I’ve been running a weekly 100,000 trial simulation based on the State Intrade markets that not only adjusts for the fact that US States aren’t independent events, but also adjusts for the dodgy nature of the long probability tails of political markets – you can see more about the simulation and the methodology soon here at Crikey, but for the moment, here are the results from the overnight Intrade numbers.

That last chart tells us the probability of the Democrats winning at least any number of Electoral College Votes – simply choose a number from the bottom, trace it vertically until the bar ends, then trace horizontally to the left to find the probability of the Democrats winning at least that many ECV’s

So far this year, the simulation results have been a leading indicator of the headline “Democrat as President” market, and are far more attuned and sensitive to political events as they unfold. Redoing the simulation again using the last two days worth of Intrade data, we can see clearly that the Democrat Convention dragged the markets down, but Palin is quickly becoming McCain’s nightmare.

Firstly, we need to have a squiz at the comparisons between the Democrat as President headline market probability and the simulation probability using State market data – the highlighted region on the right of the following charts shows where the data moves from its usual weekly period, to a daily period starting last Sunday:

Since Sunday, the combined State markets have moved strongly to the Democrats, lifting the simulated probability of a Democrat victory from 58.7% to 64.9%. Yet the week before, the Democrat Convention actually dragged the Democrats down. The headline “Democrat as President” market probability on the other hand, well, it’s still having a nap – but if history is to go by, that will change soon and catch up with the simulation.

If move on to the Electoral College Votes that are currently allocated to the Democrats in the State markets (remembering folks, it takes 270 to claim the Presidency), as well as the simulated Electoral College vote allocation we get:

Again, the Democrat Convention drove the markets down, but the Palin announcement has lifted the Electoral College vote numbers for the Democrats up from 293 on Sunday, to 311 today, with the simulation results all measuring a large, broad, State by State movement toward the Democrats every day since the Palin announcement. 26 States have actually moved to the Democrats since Sunday, with Missouri, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Montana and Florida all moving by more than 5%.

More importantly for the Democrats though has been the way the Palin announcement has stalled the two month Republican recovery in public opinion and market expectations, giving momentum back to Obama and returning the Republicans to the electoral position they were experiencing at the beginning of August.

It wasn’t the Democrat Convention that has become the Republican’s problem – in 5 days, the McCain campaign has been Impalined.

UPDATE – 7th September:

The last few days worth of Intrade market data have been updated with some serious movements in the markets and polls. Click through to see.


In other news, one of the best Qld political journos, Dennis Atkins, writes a regular column in the Courier Mail called “Party Games”. Dennis has become courageous enough to turn it into a blog, and not merely a faux blog. Worth checking out.

And finally, for something completely unusual:


Win a double pass to a preview of The Modern International Dead. Simply email info@griffintheatre.com.au and quote ‘POSSUMS POLLYTICS WIN PREVIEW TICKET’ to go into the draw. Valid for previews only and subject to availability.

The Modern International Dead

by Damien Millar

They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Andy Warhol

From the winner of the 2007 Griffin Award and stage adaptor of Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures), comes an inspiring new work for the stage.

Told with humour and courage, this enthralling kaleidoscope of personal stories features a stellar cast including Belinda McClory , Ian Meadows and Colin Moody.

Against a backdrop of miraculous visions and terrible repercussions in Rwanda, secret facilities in Iraq, landmines in Cambodia and political cleansing in East Timor comes the extraordinary stories of some very unique Australians setting out to bring relief and assistance to a troubled world. But when politics impedes progress, and reality shatters aspiration, the only consistency is compromise.

So what keeps these individuals risking their lives and going back time and time again? And when duty is done, what does it actually mean to do good in the world?

Directed by Chris Mead (Imago), this is witness theatre at its most compelling. This is The Modern International Dead.

Cast Belinda McClory , Ian Meadows & Colin Moody

Director Chris Mead / Designer Genevieve Blanchett  / Lighting Designer Bernie Tan / Composer/Sound Designer Nick Wishart

Season: 5 September – 11 October

Times: Mon 6.30pm, Tues – Sat 8pm, Sat Matinee 2 pm

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre

TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED THROUGH MCA-TIX. CALL 1300 306 776 or go to http://www.griffintheatre.com.au

So, if you like your theatre political and independent, and happen to be in Sydney – then it might be worth checking out. You may even get a free ticket out of it.

Oh, yeah – Iemma got the boot.

The problem for NSW Labor is will anyone in NSW actually care?

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

Major Announcement

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 24, 2008

This place will be ending and the whole thing moved across to a new home, Pollytics.com

I’ll have more tech capabilities, there’ll be bucketloads more content, it will be funded by advertising and I’ll even be decloaking for the process.

If we’re going to get serious, we may as well do it properly.

So folks, are there any new things you’d like to see, because just about anything will be possible?

Posted in Uncategorized | 60 Comments »

Do State governments suffer with Federal Governments of the same party?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 20, 2008

It’s probably an unanswerable question – sometimes they would seem to, other times not. But the difficulty with measuring it statistically is that you need to go so far back into the past with the data (simply to get enough observations) that you run into the problem of the society you are measuring back yonder being vastly different to the one we have today.

So instead, some food for thought – we’ll measure the changes that have occurred in State polling metrics over 2008, looking at the Primary Vote, Better Premier and Net Satisfaction Ratings.

A lot of these are undoubtedly down to local State government politics, but some may not be. Also note that for the Net Satisfaction value for WA, we couldn’t use the Newspoll released on Monday as it didn’t have any Opposition satisfaction ratings published in it (presumably because of Chairman Sniff standing down from the Opposition Leadership) – so instead we’ve used the April-June quarter reading for that WA entry. Also note that a lot of these results are less than the MoE on the polls – so take low numbers with a grain of salt, but it’s all food for thought anyway.

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NSW Newspoll – Constipation more popular than the ALP

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 19, 2008

Newspoll has released their bi-monthly NSW poll via The Oz – worth having a squiz at.

Pick a chart, any chart – from voting intention, better premier, satisfaction ratings, net satisfaction ratings – any chart at all really and the story is the same; a government that stayed one election too long. The long term trends are about as awful as they get and it looks like the ALP TPP vote is just about to collapse.

What’s interesting here is that an election win is usually a medium term circuit breaker – after an incumbent retains government, the polls usually spike for 12 months or so before slowly eroding over the next few years as the political grind catches up with the government. But with the last NSW election, any spike Iemma may have achieved had not only washed out of the system within 9 months, but all of the metrics bar the Two Party Preferred vote estimates had collapsed.

Unless the NSW government defies 20 years of national polling history – an extremely unlikely event – the TPP will follow the qualitative metrics long term trend down, for it nearly always does.

If you ever wanted to see what the metrics of a textbook case of an untenable government leader looks like, I give to you Exhibit A – just click on them to expand.

The last one is the killer. It shows the relationship between Net Satisfaction and Net Satisfaction calculated with the undecideds removed. The pink line crossed the red line while the undecideds simultaneously decreased in number – that spells bad news.

The undecideds have broken against Iemma – they wont be coming back.

To give you another example of how this relationship has played out, the same thing happened to Nelson federally:

It’s why he’s untenable as well. So the question is whether NSW ALP has the plums to move against a Premier that can only be elected if the NSW Leader of the Opposition is, as the yank saying goes,  found with a dead girl or a live boy.

But even then, she’d be an even bet.

The other question is whether this is driven by public perceptions of ineffective leadership or by a broader public perception of an ineffective NSW Labor government as a whole (or worst of all, both). If it’s the former, there’s room for improvement with a new leader, if it’s the latter then the next few years will be a pathetic spectacle of deckchair rearrangement.


Worth mentioning as well is the misleading nature of the two party preferred vote here. Because NSW has optional preferential voting, preference flows wont be as certain as we would expect them to be, say, Federally. The other problem is that with the ALP primary in the low 30’s, there’s a chance of the Greens outpolling the ALP in a few inner city seats as well as the possibility of Independents doing the same elsewhere – the very notion of TPP becomes a little shabby as a true indicator of political reality with such low ALP primary vote numbers.

With the ALP in the low 30s and the Coalition around 40 – that leaves just under 30% to be picked up by non-majors. But, as always, these things dont happen smoothly -the third party vote will be lumpy; low in some seats, but higher in others to make up the average, and probably high enough in some places to knock the ALP out of second spot at the moment, making the TPP a dubious metric.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

The One Nation Effect – temporary or structural?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 13, 2008

Continuing on from the other day where had a bit of a squiz at a chart of the Coalition primary vote and the havoc One Nation seemed to wreak on it, today we might have a closer look at how the One Nation effect has played out on both parties. We know that One Nation caused the Coalition enormous chunks of grief throughout their brief cameo appearance on the national political stage, to the point where the 1998 election result itself was determined by One Nation preferences rather than silly myths about well targeted marginal seat campaigns. If a handful of One Nation branches decided to preference the other way, or preference at all (or even consistently) in many cases, Australian politics could have had a rather different face over the last 10 years.

To start with, some basic facts would be handy; in the 1998 election, one Nation ran in 135 seats, picked up 8.4% of the national vote and their preferences flowed 53.7% to the Coalition and 46.3% to the ALP.

The tricky bit about identifying the One Nation effect is trying to nail the period of time it was operating while also controlling for any longer term trends that may have been running, as well as trying to pick out any permanent structural change that One Nation may have caused on the primary and two party preferred votes of the majors.

What follows isn’t a definitive look by any means, more of an exploration of the data so feel free to request any equations or relationships that you think might be pertinent here.

Firstly, there’s a big quadratic time trend running through the primary and TPP votes of the majors since Newspoll started back in 1985.


Dunno :mrgreen:

Could be lots of reasons, demography being one of them. But we know it’s there.

So first we’ll run a series of basic regressions where we’ll regress the primary and TPP votes of the ALP and Coalition against a quadratic time trend and a One Nation dummy variable that starts in April 1997 (when the party was created) and continues through to the present. Essentially this dummy variable assumes that the One Nation effect was permanent on the vote levels of the ALP and Coalition. That’s not to say that this assumption is purely or even partially correct, just that it’s what we are assuming for now and we have to start somewhere. The equation for each of the vote types of the majors is given, followed by the visual represnetation. These series are all serially correlated up the wazoo so we can adjust the standard errors to accommodate, but removing the serial correlation itself is an impossible mugs game in survey time series because the underlying human behaviour is in large part driven by it. As usual, all the charts can be blown up by clicking on them.

Coalition Primary Vote:

Coalition Two Party Preferred Vote:

ALP Primary Vote:

ALP Two Party Preferred Vote:

From this, since One Nation was created (and after controlling for the quadratic time trend), the Coalition has lost an average of 6 points on their primary vote, but only 4.3 on their TPP vote. Yet, the ALP has gained 2.8 points on their primary and 4.3 on their TPP.

One possibility that fits well, is that the 2.8 points the ALP gained came directly (over the longer term)  from the LNP. That would leave the ALP needing 1.5 points of the TPP vote to pick up (The 4.3 they gained in TPP minus the 2.8 they gained on the primary). If we then look at the Coalition vote, they lost 6 points. If 2.8 of those went to the ALP, that leaves 3.2 going elsewhere (initially to One Nation, but to other parties since), of which 1.5 of those (46%) flowed back to the ALP in preferences. That would be consistent with the original1998 One Nation preference flows mentioned earlier, which may have anchored the broader pattern after 1998 as the One Nation vote dissipated elsewhere.

The other problem here though is that the One Nation effect may have only been temporary, and that any permanence of it may have simply washed into the larger prevailing quadratic time trend. For instance, if we limit the One Nation variable to operate only through the period of April 1997 when they were created, through to the 2001 election (after which they effectively ceased to be a force) and run the regressions again, we get:

Coalition Primary Vote:

Coalition Two Party Preferred Vote:

This looks visually interesting – with the Coalition losing 4.4 on the primary and 3.9 on the TPP. However, this specification of the One Nation effect throws up something a little weird for the ALP primary vote.

The TPP regression results for the ALP are the same (but opposite sign) to the Coalition (obviously) with an ALP gain of 3.9 on the TPP – but the primary vote ends up like this:

ALP Primary Vote

The ALP gained 4.4 points on their primary vote but only 3.9 on their TPP, suggesting that they were pulling primary votes off the Democrats and Greens without boosting their TPP vote.

The big question is trying to determine how much of the One Nation effect was structural (as in the first set of equations) vs. how much of the One Nation effect was temporary (the second set of equations)?

Finally, it was asked in comments of a recent post if the Coalition controlling the senate had an impact.

The Coalition took control in July 2005. It’s hard to tell if the decline started then, or at just after the 2004 election. You’ll notice a big drop just before January 2006 – Workchoices entered parliament in November 2005.

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Newspoll Tuesday – ‘Where has the decent political Oz Rock gone’ edition

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 12, 2008

Another Tuesday, another Newspoll, another kick to The Nightwatchman.

The Nats are up 1 to 5%, bringing the Coalition up 1 to 38% on the primary vote, sitting behind Labor unchanged on 47%. The TPP remains unchanged from last poll on 57/43 to Labor.

Feeding it into our Pollytrack series – currently running a pooled sample of 3933 for a minimum MoE of 1.56% -we get:

Throwing last weeks polls into our larger local regression series, which has had this Newspoll as well as a new Morgan face to face added since last time, we get:

Currently our regression lines for the primary votes sit on 45.9/39.9 to the ALP, while our TPP lines sit on an ALP lead of 55.7/44.3.

Meanwhile, can someone tell me where all the decent political Oz Rock has gone? Maybe I’m just getting old and listening to the wrong things, but for mine I think its time the world brought back Spy vs Spy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Polls – More than horserace commentary.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 12, 2008

This was me in Crickey yesterday.

If you were to look at the betting markets for the NT election last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ALP had a greater chance of being abducted by the latest outbreak of NT UFO’s than they had of being beaten by the CLP. Yet, with no major pollster running pre-election surveys in the Territory, should we be at all surprised that the markets got it so wrong in terms of the chance of Labor retaining government?

As much as political polling is scorned as reducing important political issues down to little more than horse race commentary, it fulfills one fundamentally important role – it stops people talking shit.

From politicians to columnists, from reporters to your average Joe – political polling encourages all but the learned types at The Australian to keep it in their pants.

With no major polls in the Territory election, information about the election itself was dominated by party propaganda on the one hand and political commentators staring deeply into their navels on the other – usually finding little more than lint as a result, but lint dressed up as profundity none the less. Without polling information, election campaign analysis becomes an exercise in either wishful thinking or what ought to happen — and as we’ve seen in the Territory, theories on what ought to happen were well formed, plentiful, but mostly wrong. There is no substitute for the type of empirical reality that only polling can provide.

It’s a pretty simple rule – you can’t really analyse what you don’t really know.

What makes betting markets valuable is their capacity to aggregate all available sources of information to predict a result, but without polling information anchoring the market to some semblance of reality, without that knowledge of what people are actually thinking on the ground, the betting markets were left drifting in the breeze, ostensibly being guided by lint powered column inches telling us that Labor was a shoe in because, well, that’s what ought to happen.

So should we really be surprised that without political polls running in the Territory campaign, the markets were so out of whack with the result? While the markets may have gotten the end result right, the magnitude of the victory will probably come down to a few hundred votes – hardly the landslide that was predicted, and certainly not justifying 1/14 odds that some markets were offering.

Good information makes good markets, and there is no better information than good, independent polling. It provides far more than fodder for horse race political commentary, it provides certainty and knowledge and evidence for observable reality. And at the end of the day, isn’t observable reality what all good political commentary should be about?

Elsewhere: Cross posted at Larvatus Prodeo

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »