This messy page served as home during the 2001 campaign. Enter at your own risk ...
The November 10 2001 election is over! you might have noticed. I will be rationalising this site and constructing new pendulums (and extending graphs) when (a) I can obtain the required info electronically, and (b) have the required hours to spare.
In the meantime the links above to several pieces added post-election - except Beazley's Diary, which was published before election but includes updates. Also below is a piece published in The Canberra Times and one in The Australian (the latter not strictly on election, but what the heck). As for the rest of the site, if you are one of the .0001% of the population with an interest in things psephological, and wish to see some musings (empirical, non-partisan) from during the campaign, then this is the place for you!
Learn to predict! Deeply impress others with your wise words on election night. See where we are, how we got here and where we might go on November 10. Plenty of other useful, interesting stuff for electoral boffins and normal, well-adjusted people.
It is important to note that while Australians have changed government five times (*) since WWII, there were a further five occasions (*) when they voted for change, but the seats did not fall accordingly. In fact, from the historical record, getting anywhere between 50 and 51 percent of the vote has given a party no better than one chance in two of forming government.
Any grand theories about why and when Australians vote for change must therefore be viewed with skepticism. It has been the case, however, that government has only changed hands when the vote margin was substantial. All the close-run elections ended in favour of the incumbent. Still, there's a first time for everything.
You would have seen an electoral pendulum somewhere. It shows all seats, Labor on one side and Coalition on the other, from marginal to safe, showing the "uniform swing" required for government to change hands. It is a useful tool, but shouldn't be taken too literally.
The inventor of the pendulum in fact made a goose of himself on election night 1987 by declaring, on national television, a Coalition win. At that election Labor did indeed suffer a national swing that, according to the pendulum, would have seen them lose government. But instead they increased their seat majority.
On the one hand you could call that brilliant marginal seats campaigning. But it was also due to changes in party loyalties of the electorate. Labor was offending increasing numbers the "blue collar" vote, while impressing others with its economic respectability. The former tended to live in safe Labor seats, the latter often in marginal ones. An excellent trade-off, electorally.
The following is an email I received about this stuff.
The Professor Pendulum you refer to is Malcolm Mackerras
who I think is
Labor needs a smaller national vote to win than it did in 1998.
The Labor party will probably win if it gets over 49.5%
This prediction is only looking half right. The oft-quoted (by journos) on-paper swing needed by Labor was 0.8 percent, ie they needed 51.8 percent of the two party preferred vote to win the election. This was incorrect. (This figure is just obtained by charting the swing required on a pendulum.)
Labor didn't get my figure of 49.5% (they got a touch under 49.0%), and didn't win. But it looks like they would have needed to hold the Coalition swing down to about 0.5 percent if they were to win. So they missed out by about one percent. And my 49.5% figure should have been 50.5%. But also not 51.8 percent.
So I was more right than wrong. Confused? Don't worry about it.
While conceding probable defeat on election night 1998, Kim Beazley noted the irony of Labor enjoying its best two party preferred support since 1984. When all the counting was over, this was not quite true, being half a percent under that of 1993. But at 51% it was better than 1987, 1990 and, of course, 1996.
See the national graph, above.
It was however a the highest ever vote for a losing party on record. The GST played a large part in this, being more widely detested in Labor held seats, giving them big wins in these, ie "wasting" votes.
It is hard to see them having the same problem this time, with the GST less of an issue, many former Labor supporters voting for the Coalition on "Tampa", and perhaps "moderate" Liberals voting Labor for the same reason.
Instead, Labor's problem will be getting enough votes, full stop. The ALP could probably survive an aggregate national swing of one percent - even perhaps two percent - to the government and still win. This could mean it went from a majority of the vote to a minority - and from defeat to victory. Such are the vagaries of the single member electoral system
See Beazley's Diary, one such scenario.
Of course, if earlier polls these truly are indicative of the result, then it will be very one-sided. In this case, any talk of marginal seats is pointless, as the Government will win them all, and much much more.
But if it's closer than that .....
Country-wide there are more marginal seats than you can poke a stick at, but some are much more likely to change hands. For example, Labor has a much better chance of grabbing those in Queensland than NSW. Many reasons for this, but most simply, Queensland as a whole is much more likely to increase its vote for Labor than is NSW.
Each state's timeline graph has been extracted, like the national one above, for elections since 1980. Current pendulums going into Saturday's election sit next to them. Note, these are for each state's share of national votes and seats. It has nothing to do with state elections. Once again, these musings only apply if the vote is at all close. If the big swing to the governmentt is on, expect to Coalition to win each and every marginal seat and twenty or thirty others.
This site is a living beast. Keep checking for updates.
Email with comments, questions, suggestions, abuse here