Possums Pollytics

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Archive for the ‘Voting behaviour’ Category

Why Labor Won

Posted by Possum Comitatus on December 4, 2007

Just when we thought it was safe to open up The Oz on a Tuesday, the first Newspoll of the New Order is released.

First up, the fun stuff.

Unfortunately there wasn’t any voting intention question, which is a bit of a pity as these first post-election voting polls are always good for a bit of a laugh, but we do have a question on “Which of the following do you think would be best to lead the Liberal Party“.


Aquaman (so called via the comment of David R – Turnbull is a little bit green, a little bit blue and one would add a little bit wet to boot) defeated Uncommitted as preferred leader and was nearly twice as popular as the Doormat-in-Chief, Spanky Nelson.

The canonical couplet of Abbott and Bishop rounded out the ‘top’ contenders.

Do you get the feeling that Nelson is in for a long, hard slog?

A more interesting question that actually gets to the point of the post, was on whether people voted for a party or against a party as their primary motivation in the election.


This goes to the very heart of the cliché that ‘Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’. Clearly in this election, that cliché has marginal relevance.

This result suggests that the electorate voted for Labor on the basis of merit rather than against the Coalition because they were fed up with them. Yet this Newspoll isn’t some weird survey result thrown up in isolation; if we remember back to the internal Liberal Party Crosby Textor research and look at the issue positioning overall, and which specific issues were driving the vote of the major parties, Labor was winning vote share on the issues that mattered to the electorate.

This is further reinforced if we look at the Newspoll question also published today on which issues the electorate believed were important in terms of deciding their vote.


Just as that Crosby Textor research showed back in June, the dominant issues in driving the vote were nearly all Labor issues.

So we have a majority of respondents saying they voted for Labor rather than against the Coalition, the major issues that were driving the vote were nearly all owned by Labor at the end of the election campaign, and that ownership was not a new phenomenon, but something which occurred way back in December 2006 after Rudd gained the ALP leadership – it was consistent over nearly a 12 month period.

This is important because it gives us the empirical data we need to determine the observable reality of why the Howard government was defeated – and this observable reality is running completely contrary to an awful lot of political commentary out there at the moment.

The government didn’t lose the election, their failed campaign strategy didn’t result in an ALP government by accident, the electorate didn’t say “it’s time to give the other side a go“.

However, nor was it a rejection of the Howard government either. The dislike of the Howard government didn’t drive the election result – far from it.

The election was won by Labor on the merit of the arguments and political positions Labor produced. It was a vote FOR a party, but more importantly a vote FOR the policy positions and stated directions that the ALP had produced. It was a vote for change, substantially on the basis of the issues.

This is a complete empirical slap in the face to those in the commentariat that have been rabbiting on with superficial twaddle over Rudds “Me-Tooism”. That was always a shallow, vacuous substitute for what was actually occurring in the campaign.

Far from simply copying the Howard government as some nonsensical small target strategy, Rudd embarked on a process of agreeing with Howard on those issues that could lose him net votes were he not to do so, and disagreed with Howard on those issues where to do so would win him net votes. This strategy effectively neutralised and/or minimised any remaining Coalition strengths, and highlighted the differences between Labor and the Coalition on all of the issues that were actually driving the vote – it crystalised out the differences that would deliver for the ALP.

And deliver it did – the strategy that so confused most of the commentariat delivered government for the ALP, and it delivered government on the basis of issue dominance.

There were a couple of Journo’s out there that got a little shirty about this article in Crikey that I wrote during the campaign, an article that effectively said exactly what I’ve said here.

Well the data is in – suck it up fellas :mrgreen:

Moving right along from that small moment of self-indulgence, there was also an amusing little piece in The Oz today – another addition to the growing family of “Oh yes, we’re all sorry now”.

In a piece headlined “APOLOGY TO GEORGE NEWHOUSE“, The Oz states:

Apology to George Newhouse

On Saturday morning November 24, 2007, I (Caroline Overington) had an encounter with the Labor candidate for Wentworth, Mr George Newhouse, in circumstances that I sincerely regret. I hope that Mr Newhouse and I can put this incident behind us and I wish him all the best.

The Australian regrets any embarrassment Mr Newhouse has endured and also wishes him well.

I hope that The Australian also regrets the embarrassment Overington caused to their not insubstantial brand.

That’s what inevitably happens when journalists confuse their roles and attempt to become a player in the political process rather than the intermediary between political events and the publics’ interest in them.

While this whole fiasco was a disgrace from its deplorable start to its pathetic finish, what hasn’t received enough attention is the thuggish behaviour that Overington carried on with, to a small political blogger who had the audacity to poke fun at her stupidity.

There were plenty of things said about Overingtons behaviour on the big political blogs that can easily defend themselves and wouldn’t be intimidated by that kind of bullying windbaggery – but none of them to my knowledge heard a whimper out of her. For whatever reason – she chose to pick on the small guy.

Thankfully the small guy wasn’t taking any of that crap.

This is also a good lesson out there for political bloggers generally – only converse with people that have grievances or people that you don’t necessarily trust, via email. When people know that there will be a record of their correspondence, they are more likely to keep it in their pants.

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Posted in strategy, Voting behaviour | 55 Comments »

A Jump in the Wayback Machine

Posted by Possum Comitatus on December 2, 2007

Way back in the annals of history, when the blog first started in May 2007, one of the first things I did was build a very rough election prediction model – and it’s probably worth going back to have a quick squiz at it because we’ll be dealing with it here. What was interesting about that model was that it was more explanatory rather than predictive and it looked at relationships between variables over the entire 11 year period of the Howard government.

As a result it turned up some pretty interesting results, the most interesting being that the standard variable mortgage rate over the first 6 years of the Howard government actually had a positive statistical relationship with the government’s primary vote, meaning that as the standard variable mortgage rate increased, so did the government’s primary vote. It wasn’t until the second half of the Howard government’s reign that the relationship reversed itself, whereby the relationship between the cash rate and the ALP vote became positive. Yet, over the entire period of the Howard government up to May, the relationship between the mortgage rate and the government primary vote was still positive, albeit getting weaker with every rate rise (because, as we know – for the previous couple of years the actual relationship between rates and votes had reversed itself)

Back in that very first election model, we forecast ahead using some assumptions about the variables involved. We assumed that the satisfaction ratings of the two leaders would remain the same (which they basically did) , and assumed that the interest rate to disposable income ratio would continue on its medium term growth path (which it basically did too).

I just went over the model again, but this time feeding in the changing values of the variables as they occurred. So as the satisfaction ratings changed each month, those new values were fed into the model, but I maintained the internally generated vote estimates as the lagged values.

As a result, if we compare the original May forecast, with the updating forecast and the actual Newspoll monthly average results over the period of May to the election we get firstly on the ALP primary vote:


And secondly on the two party preferred forecast:


Currently, the AEC has the ALP two party preferred election result on 52.9% and the ALP primary on 43.7%

What I find amazing here is that this very early explanatory model projected forward produced far more accurate prediction results than the last model I did just before the election. Both the updating model and the original model in May that used the assumptions about satisfaction ratings, both ended up being close to the actual election result with the May model predicting 53.7 and the updating model predicting 52.8. The Newspoll monthly average for November ended up at 53.5

On the primaries, the May model ended up with 45.6, the updating model with 44.5 and Newspoll at 46.2. The updating model ended up being only 0.1% out on TPP terms, and 0.8% out on primary vote terms. The May model with the assumptions was only out by 0.8% on TPP terms and 1.6% on primary vote terms.

I’m actually quite amazed that it worked so well, considering it forecast out 6 months into the future.

Posted in Election Forecasting, Voting behaviour | 6 Comments »

More on The Narrowing

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 30, 2007


We know that there was a slight narrowing in the last week of the campaign via the published polls and we’ve also heard that the same phenomenon was occurring in the internal tracking polls from both sides – at least until the bogans of Lindsay were unleashed

A good question is what was occurring that was driving people back towards the Coalition at the end of the campaign?

The Coalition set piece campaigning was pretty dismal, and was hardly eyeball grabbing stuff – let alone inspirational. So do you think it was the advertising campaign? If so, what message do you think would have resonated in that last week to drag a few points back for the Coalition?

Also interesting was that once again the small “L” liberal vote in seats like North Sydney threatened to move to Labor but come Election Day it never eventuated. These really are the folks that seem to tell the pollsters one thing and then do another thing at the ballot box.

In terms of the State breakdowns of the published polls, Qld seemed to be the only state where the vote was pretty stable at the long term level the polls were suggesting.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Posted in Voting behaviour | 128 Comments »

Chilling Steadiness and Deadly Intent

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 20, 2007

Don’t you just love that cracker of a line from Peter Hartcher about the behaviour of the polls?

As a new day dawns, the institution of Newspoll Tuesday – campaign edition, comes to a close.

And what new excitement does the Newspoll bring us on this solemn occasion?

None at all – its more of the type of business as usual that Peter Hartcher described so well.

The headline figure gives us a TPP estimate of 54/46, with the ALP down 1 and Coalition up 1 since the last Newspoll.


On the primaries we have the ALP down 2 to 46, and the Coalition up 1 to 41, giving us the following (thanks to George P. again). These results come from a survey of 1696 people giving us an MoE of around the 2.5% mark.


The Greens vote is at their highest level for a long time, at 7 points matching their 2004 election result of 7.2. The non-green minors are stuck on the same 6 points they have been for the last 4 polls.

So Newspoll Tuesday – ‘campaign edition’ ends with the same more of the same that it’s been delivering for weeks.

But the one thing I wanted to show you all today was the long term trend since the 2004 election. If we take the ALP two party preferred vote between November 2004 and November 2006 and run a linear trend using a simple regression through that period, and then we project that pre-Rudd trend through to today – look at what we find:


The ALP two party preferred vote is currently at its long term, pre-Rudd trend.

Now isn’t that interesting.

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , | 25 Comments »

The Headline Forecast – regression prediction model.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 16, 2007

I’ve finally built the model to forecast the ALP TPP result. This gets a little stats heavy, so I’ll try to walk those folks through it that might find it hard going as best I can, but I’ll answer any questions you have in the comments.

What I used to build the forecast is the monthly average of Newspolls going back to 1996 when Howard was elected. The reason I use the monthly average is that it dampens a lot of the noise in the individual polls, and gives us a time consistent series of data that can be used for long term analysis.

I don’t trust the preference allocations for Newspoll, so what I did was construct my own based on the preference distributions for each election and let the preference flows adapt over time between elections, so the two party preferred vote from polls straight after an election used nearly all of the preference distribution from the previous election, polls from halfway between elections used a preference allocation based on half the previous election and half the next election, and polls just before an election had nearly all of their preferences distributed as they were at that impending election. For the 2007 election preference distribution I’ve simply used the 2004 preferences (which may slightly underestimate the ALP TPP, but not by very much).

The model itself is a regression model built specifically to forecast one month and only one month ahead.

The model is a little unorthodox because using polling data in a model is a little unorthodox to begin with, but the important thing here is that it works – even if it suffers a little econometric impurity in the process.

The variables I’ve used are split into two types.

Firstly, Dummy Variables – which are variables that have a value of zero or a value of one. What they let us do is measure how the level of the ALP TPP vote changed as function of specific periods time that represent events when we regress the ALP vote against them. You can get a gist for how they play out here:

The Dummy variables I’ve used are:

Dummyhhmoon – which is a dummy variable representing the Howard “honeymoon period” in 1996 as well as 2 months after every election. It has a value of one for the first 12 months of Howards government as well as for the two months after every election other than 1996. At all other times it’s value is zero.

Dummylatham – which has a value of 1 for those months Latham was leader and a value of zero for all other periods.

Dummyrudd – which has a value of 1 for the months Rudd has been leader and a value of zero for all other periods.

Dummyworkchoices – which has a value of 1 since November 2005 when Workchoices was in Parliament and the union campaign against it revved up.

DummyElection which has a value of 1 for the month an election is on and a value of zero at all other periods. I use this as an interactive dummy variable so I can emulate special election campaign effects with long term satisfaction rating changes.

Secondly, the other type of variables I use in the model are:

ACNALPTPP(-1) – which is the previous months value of the ACNielsen two-party preferred vote for the ALP. By using ACN, I can effectively anchor the forecast to the less volatile ACN series, while still using the Newspoll estimates and its qualitative data estimates in a consistent way without running into too many “house effect” issues that may be occurring in the Newspoll weighting.

PMDISAT(-1) – which is the previous months average of the Prime Ministers dissatisfaction rating using Newspoll data.

OPPRIMARY(-1) – which is the Oppositions primary vote in the previous month using Newspoll data. This lets the forecast ALP TPP vote adapt to the size of the ALP primary vote.

Then these two, which are probably the two most important variables in the model and fill very specific rolls.


What this represents is the difference between last months PM dissatisfaction rating and last years PM dissatisfaction rating, but is only modelled during the month of an election.

So what it effectively does is modify the forecast of the model only in months that an election is on, and does so on the basis of the size of the long term change in the PMs dissatisfaction rating.

Similarly, our other complicated variable is:


What this represents is the recent medium term change in the Opposition leaders satisfaction rating. It’s the difference between last months satisfaction rating and the satisfaction rating of 3 months ago – but is only modelled during the month of an election.

What it effectively does is modify the forecast of the model only in months that an election is on, and does so on the basis of the size of the medium term change in the Opposition leaders dissatisfaction rating.

What these two variables do is simulate the process of voters coming to a conclusion about who they will vote for in the month of the election, using long term changes in satisfaction and dissatisfaction with each party and its leader. It allows for “it’s time” factors and “he has certainly improved over the last year” and “he’s getting worse as time goes on” and “he wasn’t what I thought he was like” type factors to be accounted for in terms of the way they influence voter movement in an election, but through an error correction type mechanism.

So the Election Forecasting Model is:


And we’ll use ordinary least squares regression to do the number crunching which turns out as:


What is important here is that all of these variables are statistically significant. This model explains about 76% of the variation in the Newspoll estimate of the ALP TPP vote since 1997, but it’s built with the aim of being more accurate for the election date than it is at other times via those two long looking variables.

Onto more of the forecast stats:


That’s mainly for the stats people that shows the model does its forecast job extremely well, with very little overall error.

The forecasts this model produces don’t exhibit a lot of the polling overshoot that Newspoll experiences when a new leader comes along, or a Tampa and S11 shocks the system. But it still tracks the changes in the TPP vote for the ALP as we can see with the following graphic:


The blue line represents the forecasts the model produces for each period, whereas the red line shows the actual Newspoll TPP vote for the ALP that the model is attempting to predict. The model misses the troughs and peaks of most of the big volatile movements in the ALP vote because the underlying dynamics of satisfaction ratings, primary vote level, and importantly, the slow moving ACNielson in the previous month don’t support the overactive Newspoll during these periods.

So how good is the model using previous elections?

In 1998, the model predicted an ALP TPP of 50.82 whereas the actual result was 50.91

In 2001 the model predicted an ALP TPP of 49.15 whereas the actual result was 49.07.

In 2004 the model predicted an ALP TPP of 47.23 whereas the actual result was 47.20.

It’s actually more accurate at election times than ordinary periods because those two little complicated variables were arrived at to simulate the processes involved in voters coming to a decision in the campaign. 2001 and 2004 were very different elections with movements going in opposite directions during the campaign period, but the model estimated both results fairly accurately by any measure.

I took the approach of rather than building some error correction components into the model for every period, it only needed to be done for specific periods when elections occur. And it’s probably also worth mentioning that the model predicts each months vote based on last months figures.

So what is the forecast for the election?

An ALP two party preferred result of 55.15%

How that will split between the States will come (hopefully) by Monday.

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Posted in Election Forecasting, Leading Indicators, Polling, Pseph, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 91 Comments »

The Polls Have It

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 16, 2007

Two bits of polling to chew through today, an ACN phone poll and a cumulative Newspoll breakdown.

First up we have a new ACNielsen, with the ALP primary down 1 to 47%, the Coalition primary up 2 to 43%, with the minors and others down 1 to 10%.

The headline two-party preferred results have the Coalition up 1 point to 46 for a 54/46 TPP lead to the ALP.

Not much going on there in terms of movement, with 1465 survey respondents giving an MoE of about 2.6%.

Tracking the primary votes over the longer haul we get this (Ta George):


And a TPP history of this:


ACN since August has had 55/45 being the name of the game, coming down from a 57/43 split in the first half of the year.

There’s not much to look at there, so moving right along to the Newspoll breakdown over at The Oz which was taken either side of the rate rise, but before the campaign launches.

The Newspoll cumulative is based on the last two big Newspolls to give a combined sample of 3402 respondents, giving a MoE on the state breakdowns at about 4%. Here I’ll take the first two Newspolls and combine them into one result, then take the last two Newspolls and do the same to get two different polls that don’t overlap (Newspoll is running a two poll rolling average, but I’d rather distinct pieces of polling data here).

Tracking the primary votes over time we get (where week 2 and week 4 refer to the campaign):



Interesting here is that the WA primary has been on an increasing trend for both parties over the last few months at the expense of the minors vote. The other states are showing a fair bit of volatility with that 4% MoE making it hard to tell what’s really going on if anything. But what is probably certain is that the Primary vote for the ALP in NSW didn’t drop by 5% in 3 weeks (nor increase in Vic by 5% over 3 weeks) – that sort of movement just doesn’t happen that dramatically without something like a leadership change, so there’s a fair bit of noise in the series.

Looking at how this transfers across to the TPP:


This would deliver 99 seats to the ALP in a new parliament according to Antony’s spiffy calculator, which is 9 seats more than the number that a national 6.8% swing would deliver using just the national pendulum.

Qld delivers 13, NSW 7, Vic 9, SA 5, WA 2, Tassie 2 and the NT 1.

Higgins would fall in such a uniform state swing and Goldstein would become the most marginal electorate in the country, being retained by the Coalition by 0.03%.

That would be Howard, Turnbull, Costello and Brough all sacked by the electorate leaving an interesting decision for the Libs in terms of who would be leader.

It’s interesting to see the non-capital city blow out from the capital city swings over the last few months – that’s probably an artifact of the Qld swing on the one hand with Qld being rich in regional seats, and the 35-49 females in NSW city seats on the other, which we better explain with the demographic data.



What stands out here is the movement in the female vote back to the Coalition.

Taking this into account with the state swings, we can probably say that Newspoll was picking up a change in 35-49 year old female voters primarily living in NSW city seats (If I were to make a guess). If there is a bit of sampling error in the polls to explain the big jump in NSW, this looks to be the demographic where it occurred. The 35-49 group has moved 7% back to the Coalition over the last few months, with females moving 5% over the period (males only 1%) and NSW moving 5% over the period as well – all back to the Coalition primary. When you take account of the capital city vs non capital city swings from earlier, it seems to be a metropolitan phenomenon.

In terms of primary vote swing since the last election, as close as we can tell, they look like this:

  Male Female 18-34 35-49 50+
Coalition Primary Swing -4% -4% -6% -1% -6%
ALP Primary Swing 8% 8% 12% 5% 8%

So you can get a bit of an idea of the demographics where the minor parties are taking a hit.

If this female NSW swing is happening (which it may be, just not as much as the data is probably suggesting) it will be interesting to see if the bank notices arriving about increasing mortgage payments makes an impact (especially as surveys suggest it is the female in the family that does the home budget), as well as how the childcare and education policies from each party play out.

As for what’s going on in Victoria – your guess is as good as mine. Those Mexicans have been confusing all year and don’t look like stopping any time soon.

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 40 Comments »

Newspoll Monday

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 12, 2007

Newspoll comes a day early this week, and certainly explains the movement in the betting markets last night.

But before we get into the gory details, it might be a good idea to jump in the wayback machine and revisit last week’s poll.

Today we have the best Newspoll for the government since November, even if it’s only due to a bit of minor party preference noise, but as far as the image goes – a good poll is a good poll is a good poll.

Ordinarily, the popular media outlets would have a couple of stories splashed around hailing a comeback, the not so popular media outlets would probably be going hysterical and the nightly news would lead with the story; Laurie Oakes telling Nine viewers in tones of gravitas that the election is now a competition.

But this is no ordinary week.

Today’s papers are all about the ponies, tonight’s news will be about them as well, Wednesday’s papers will be all about the ponies and interest rates, Wednesday night’s news will probably be all about an interest rate rise, Thursdays papers will certainly be – and then the media attention and narrative turns to the first polls after the rate rise (assuming there is one).

Where does the best poll for the government in 12 months fit into that cycle? Well, it doesn’t. Not as far as normal people are concerned. But the particularly nasty piece of bad luck in this sequence of unfortunate events for the government is what is likely to come next.

The headline two-party preferred result of Newspoll has been bouncing around an awful lot lately – it’s almost become the great oscillator.

This week’s Newspoll figures have the problem of slightly undervaluing the preference flows the ALP receives from the minor parties, meaning that it’s more likely than not that the next Newspoll will probably fix that up. These slight rounding problems and sampling volatility of the minor parties all come out in the wash over a few polls.

When you combine that with the ALP primary looking rock solid at 47/48, it’s almost expected that in the next poll or two, the two party preferred headline figure will show the ALP increasing its lead – simply as a result of the high ALP primary vote combining with this minor party sampling error and rounding issues.

But should that happen, the headlines will undoubtedly scream “Interest Rate Backlash!” as some new 55/45 poll shows the ALP gaining a two point lead from the previous poll, the best poll the government had enjoyed for 12 months, but one which no-one paid attention to because the ponies were on.

So what do we get?

That exact thing happening.

ALP leads 48/40 on primaries for a 55/45 two party preferred lead.

And the headlines?

Rate hike hurt Coalition

Rate rise hits Howard

…etc etc

If only this weeks Lotto numbers were that easy. The graphic for the TPP looks like this:


The primaries look like this (thanks to George)


And again, for the umpteenth week running it’s business as usual. There doesn’t appear to be any discernible interest rate effect flowing through yet as this 55/45 is what would have been expected to occur anyway this week or next, since the last result was caused by minor party noise.

On a different note, has anyone else noticed that Glen Milne is starting to sound like the official historian for the Labor Party social pages? We’ll have to start calling him Comrade Confidential pretty soon.

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | 56 Comments »

The race against the cashrate clock

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 8, 2007

Since the interest rate rise is the news of the week, I thought we might go over the timing issue of how long it takes for a rate rise to flow through.

The big problem here is that the rate rise doesn’t coincide with the polling cycle in a consistent manner, so sometimes polls will be taken a day after the rise, sometimes nearly a fortnight after the rise – and for us here trying to get a statistical grip on whether the rate rise will come through in the next three weeks, well it all becomes a little cloudy.

But first, let’s go to what we do know.

We know that when a rate rise happens, it boosts both the ALP primary vote and the TPP vote, we saw that the other day.

If we use the monthly averages of Newspoll, we can regress the change in that monthly average (if the TPP goes from 52 to 54, the change would be +2 for example) with the change in the cash rate (if the cash rate rises from 6.5 to 6.75, the change would be +0.25 for example). When we do that we find that there isn’t a statistically significant relationship between the change in the ALP TPP vote and the change in the cash rate during the month that the RBA lifts rates. But if we lag the change in the cash rate by one period, where we are measuring the relationship between the change in the ALP TPP vote with the change in the cash rate in the previous month, out pops the following:

Where D(TPPALP) = the first difference of the ALP TPP vote, which is the monthly change in the ALP two party preferred vote
D(cashrate(-1)) = the first difference of the cash rate lagged one period, which is the change in the cash rate in the previous month.


The coefficient on D(cashrate(-1)) is what we are interested in here, and it tells us that when the cash rate lifts by 1 percent, the ALP TPP in the next month jumps by 7 points. So when the cash rate lifts by 0.25 percentage points, the ALP TPP vote increases by over 1.5 percentage points. The t-Statistic and the Prob value tell us that this relationship is highly statistically significant.

The little graph in the mix shows how it plays out, where the black line represents a change in the cash rate in the previous month, and how it plays out with the change in the ALP two party preferred vote. Notice how the black line spikes when the red line spikes? That’s the visualisation of the relationship we are measuring.

So we would ordinarily expect that the ALP would get a boost in December from the November rate rise.

But when we try to bring that resolution of the data down to the poll by poll level, we run into the problem of the polling cycle not being consistent with the RBA cash rate announcements.

If we graph the change in the cash rate (the blue triangles) against the change in the ALP TPP using every Newspoll since the last election we get:


As you can see, when the cash rate changes, sometimes the ALP vote goes up with it, sometimes the ALP vote goes up the next poll and sometimes the poll after that.

The problem here also, is that there is a fair bit of random movement (sampling error) that might be polluting the monthly change in the ALP TPP vote that can’t really be cleaned up unless we use something like monthly averages.

So the big question becomes whether or not the election campaign compresses the reaction time of voters when it comes to a change in the cash rate?

Let me state to begin with that I don’t believe a word of this guff about how interest rates will shift the focus back to the economy and that will somehow benefit the Coalition. I’d like to see some evidence of that proposition, and the Newspoll “better economic managers” results aren’t evidence as there’s no statistical relationship between the Newspoll economic management question and the Coalition vote at all, and only a small, marginal relationship for the ALP.

The big question based on the actual historical evidence is one simply of time – a lack of it for the ALP or just enough for the Coalition.

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Posted in Leading Indicators, Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 87 Comments »

You tell me which is more likely?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 7, 2007

Rates are up. You tell me which scenario is more likely?



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Posted in Leading Indicators, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , | 87 Comments »

Why it’s all about John

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 6, 2007


This was me in Crikey yesterday.

Since February, the Coalition political strategy has played out on the ground as an attempt to focus attention on Rudd. Whether this has been more by accident than design is probably worth pondering as well, but for all the “look at Kevin” programs, not a great lot has been achieved.

From Rudd dining with Brian Burke , his childhood memories, his links to those union blokes that keep turning out the lights, right through to actual policy programs like education, environment and infrastructure initiatives (that we now know, courtesy of the infamous Crosby Textor Oztrack 33, actually worked in the Labor’s favour by highlighting issues that the ALP had position dominance on) – the strategy that actually played out on the ground was one of focusing attention on Rudd.

Yet for all those attempts at focus shifting, and for all electoral diversional therapy involved, the key measures that matter continue to be intimately linked to the performance of John Howard himself.

The Coalition two party preferred result continues to be intimately linked to Howard’s satisfaction rating since the 2004 election.


A few quick regression equations and a granger causality test on the relationship between these two series suggests that it is the change in PM satisfaction levels that leads to changes in the Coalition two party preferred vote, rather than the two series moving together as a result of third party influences.

The punditry may say that Howard is still extremely popular considering his satisfaction ratings, but with his satisfaction ratings being so intimately linked to the Coalitions TPP vote, that line of thinking quickly becomes a bit a grand non-sequitur in the general scheme of things. His satisfaction only needs to fall small amounts to have a serious impact on the Coalition vote.

The other key measure intimately linked to Howard’s performance is the ALP primary vote via the PM dissatisfaction rating, as we hinted at last week.


Again, after a few quick regression equations and a granger causality test on the relationship between these two series, it is the change in PM dissatisfaction levels that leads to changes in Labor’s primary vote, rather than the two series moving together as a result of third party influences.

What is also interesting to note here is the gap that has recently opened up between these two measures, suggesting the possibility that Rudd is starting to gain support as a result of what the ALP is actually doing, rather than simply relying on dissatisfaction with Howard to deliver them electoral support.

So while all the policy noise and political advertising fills the political brainspace of the nation, when it comes right down to it, this election is still all about John Howard.

The big danger however is that hint in the last chart that suggests that Labor might finally be gaining support on the basis of their own merit. If that relationship starts to consolidate, there will be very little that Howard can do to turn his electoral fortunes around. When you are staring down the barrel of electoral annihilation, that is probably the last thing he wants to hear.

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Posted in Crikey, Leading Indicators, Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Bring Out Your Dead

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 1, 2007

Today we have the quarterly Newspoll you have when you aren’t having a quarterly Newspoll – a sample of 3413 voters taken over the last fortnight, broken down into States, city type and demographics.

The State breakdowns have an MoE of around 4%, the age breakdown around 3% and the capital city vs non-capital city 2 and a bit %.

So let’s take the longer view first, looking at the behaviour of the States since the lead up to the last election, and where the entry for the 4th Quarter of 2007 is todays Newspoll results.



Since the last quarterly breakdown we’ve seen Victoria come back to the fold a bit for the Coalition, Qld moving solidly to the ALP and WA moving a tad to the ALP. But considering the MoE on these things, it looks like we have 4 states bunched up around an ALP primary of near 40 50 (bloody hell, how’d I do that), and WA down around the very low 40s.

The Coalition though is stuck down around the high 30’s and low 40s everywhere except WA. No election is going to be won with those low primaries.

Next up we’ll look at the demographics over time:


Slight movement to the both parties on the primary vote here is the name of the game, with the 18-34 demographic being the biggest mover, with a 4 point jump to the ALP. Maybe noise, maybe not.

Now for the swings.

First up, primary vote swings by State:


Qld – Yikes!

Not that NSW or SA are particularly pleasant for the Coalition either. I reckon the Qld number is a bit too big and the Vic number a bit too small considering what I’m hearing on the ground in both places.

On the demographic front we have:


There’s two big movements here of interest. Firstly the 6 point decrease in the minor party vote that’s gone to the ALP in the 35-49 age group. The other is the 8 point decrease in the minor party vote in the non-capital cities that has flowed to the ALP primary. If that holds, that would have to be a lot of the hippy green and rural/regional independent vote moving across, net, to the ALP.

And finally the big one – the TPP swing by State:


If this were repeated on election night, it would lead to around a 42 seat gain to the ALP and 102 ALP members in Parliament.

Qld alone would, should these state swings be uniform, deliver the ALP government with 17 seats falling up here. NSW is next on 14, then SA on 5, WA on 2, Tassie on 2, NT on 1 and Vic on 1.

Elsewhere the exceptional Mr Meganomics has a great article on some Newspoll data in terms of actual numbers of people over HERE


You can see the results of this in terms of which seats would go by visiting Antony Greens spiffy election calculator, with the results pre-linked in HERE

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Posted in Polling, Voting behaviour | Tagged: , , , , | 81 Comments »

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 »