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two decades of Newspolls

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  Cutouts from top left, anticlockwise: Moir (SMH),  Leak (OzNicholson (Oz) Golding (Age)

March 28 My bets: Howard in Bennelong

Yesterday's Crikey reported that Centrebet had closed its Bennelong books. According to Christian Kerr, 

Sources say itís because the money for "any other candidate" and "McKew" was flooding in on the back of speculation that the one-time $1.16 favourite, John Howard, would be scratched from the event.

I must admit to contributing to the flood. 

On 13 March, I put $30 on Maxine McKew @ $4.25 and $10 on "any other" @ $14.00. Then, a week later (after what I interpreted as a strange Prime Ministerial performance on 7:30 Report) I threw another $140 on Maxine @ $4.25 and $60 on "other", which had shrunk to @ $8.50. 

As you can see, I've weighted it so that I get about the same return irrespective of either of the two outcomes (but nothing if Howard wins Bennelong).

The beauty of this bet is that even if Howard does contest, there's got to be a 50% chance he loses the seat. It also covers the alternative of Bennelong going the way of Wills in 1992 after Bob Hawke's retirement - independent.

And then there are the old bets. If the PM does step down, it's difficult to see them going with anyone but Costello, but I do urge the partyroom to consider the Defence Minister.

Dodgy IR analysis in the Oz

The Australian, never shy with its pet causes, wins the month's silly analysis award for this piece on the influence of IR at the NSW election. They've oddly overlayed federal boundaries on state results in five seats targeted in the anti-Workchoices campaign to find pro-Labor swings in "only" two federal electorates. 

Apart from anything else, obviously for something to be an issue it need not actually produce a swing, just partially negate one the other way.

Workchoices probably didn't "decide" the election, but those ads with audio of Debnam saying he'd hand IR to the feds were pretty powerful. The fear of change often is.

March 27 On Backflips and IR

Like most politicians, John Howard isn't averse to the odd backflip. Devotees of the ludicrous "conviction politician!" narrative make virtue of this by explaining that it too is part of his success: he astounds his foes by flicking the switch from conviction politician to populist.

It comes down to a simple equation. A backflip is worth performing if (it is calculated) the resultant political downside is outweighed by the negatives of staying the course. Backflipping on Iraq would be catastrophic to the electorate's view of the PM, and so won't happen. But last year's Snowy Mountains sell-off tipped the other way.

What about Workchoices? Poor old Joe out-of-the-loop Hockey has categorically ruled out any retreat, which on past experience might indicate this very thing will be announced within days. 

Maybe not that soon, but perhaps we might expect some sort of back-tracking that, although minor, is presented as more substantial. An occasion for Howard to say: "Workchoices stays, but I've made this important concession, I've listed to the community. If employers don't like it, well, that's tough."

March 26 NSW election wrap

As Peter Debnam noted, Saturday's result was the first pro-Coalition swing in the state since 1988. As graph below, beginning in 1988 and ending last Saturday, shows.

We can add that, outside of Western Australia, this was the closest result in any state since 2002, and the worst state Labor re-election effort since 1993. But it was still a large win, a bit larger than Howard's 2004 re-election. Overall, the state-wide vote was closer than most expected, but not the seat count.

The post-mortems are flying out, and they're pretty much identical to those for all the other Coalition state losses over the last few years: oppositions must not make themselves the issue, they must release more policy. Government won't fall into your lap. (How many times must we tell them?!) 

What else can commentators say? No-one really knows why state Labor governments keep winning at the moment. The economy is surely a large factor.

The opposition leaders can't all be duds. Maybe Debnam was a dud, but duds win elections sometimes.

Here's a classic post-hoc analysis; historians can sometimes be like that.


Pru thanks Nifty  

As Pru Goward intimated this morning on radio, the 'O' (for optional) in front of 'PV" (preferential voting) keeps her competitive in Goulburn, because many Labor votes are exhausting. Under CPV she would have conceded already. 

(She didn't really mention Neville Wran, but he introduced OPV in NSW.)

March 25 NSW election is over

A two to three percent two party preferred swing to the Coalition has yielded a net seat or three. So Labor will end up with 52 to 54 seats. The Coalition primary vote improved by 2.5, while Labor's went down three points and is below 40. Greens up a bit.

Galaxy with 53 to 47 was the most accurate of the final polls.

Pru Goward currently a smidgin ahead in Goulburn

Queanbeyan polling station

Popped across the border yesterday and took pictures of a polling station, below. Click any picture for larger version, use brower's back button to return to here.

March 24 Election day in New South Wales

Newspoll in The Australian says 56.5 to 43.5. Primary numbers 42 to 35, and as usual Newspoll's "she'll be right" preference allocation favours Labor. Let's interpret it as 55.5 to 44.5.

Imre Salusinszky correctly points to Newspoll's star turn in Victoria in 1999. But in 2003 in NSW the pollster's final result, published on election day, gave the Carr government a thumping 60.5 to 39.5; the actual result was 56.2 to 43.8.

Those votes four years ago translated into 55 seats for Labor out of 93, and a strict reading of the pendulum today would have (net) seat numbers remaining the same. But swings are always diverse, and last November Victoria, for example, swung to the Coalition by about 3.5 percent; as as this Psephos page shows, individual seats ranged from modest movement to the government to double digit swings away.

Final prediction: Labor to win 52 seats

I'm still split, though not down the middle. A small part of me - about one quarter - thinks the poll numbers are very soft, and expects it to be quite close, say Labor winning 47 seats out of 93. However, the more rational three quarters says three recent polls don't lie - this story, appearing in the most read newspaper in the state, appears to seal it - and Iemma will end up with, say, 54.

I herewith split the difference in proportion to strength of feeling, and get (rounded) 52.

There. [Update: looks correct.]

Compulsory voting

Michael Duffy in SMH doesn't like compulsory voting. Probably most Australians today only support it because they have never known anything else, and would be surprised to know how unusual it is internationally.

Michael repeats a bit of hair-splitting I've heard him make on his radio show, that not only must we turn up to the polling station, we must actually register a vote. (I think that's what he's saying, he doesn't really explain.)

The fact is that, in the real world we live in, we are allowed to deposit a blank voting paper. But I reckon the law should be changed to make it clear. 

We could also include a "none of the above" option on the ballot paper. And, my little invention, a couple of lines of "tell us what you think". (I elaborated on this idea to the JSCEM last year; I also wrote this one for the Democratic Audit

And we could move to optional preferential voting, in all jurisdictions - including below the line in STV upper houses, with no minimum number of squares to be filled in, ie just voting '1' gets counted. We currently favour theoretical purity over practicality in our STV, and even first past the post (multi-member) would be better than the current farrago. 

(Michael's public funding argument is also a furphy; if voting was made voluntary and the turnout halved, legislators could simply double the number of dollars per vote.)

March 23 New South Wales election

Nielsen in SMH has 56 to 44, Galaxy poll in the Tele says 53 to 47. Newspoll presumably out tomorrow.

Me in Canberra Times

Yesterday. Most of the points have appeared here. Reference to Downer's better PM rating should be 1994, not 1995; the error was mine.

March 21 The same Newspoll, pt II

Last weekend, Sol Lebovic asked a random 1158 Australians who they would vote for if an election were held then, and they put Labor ahead by a record number, 22 points. Sadly for the PM, Sol chose this same bunch of 1158, at the same point in time, to ask a series of questions about the leaders' personalities. The result, as you would expect: ouch, for Mr Howard.

The bad luck keeps coming. Tables here.

New South Wales seats revisited

In Canberra we get NSW political ads, and I caught two last night. One was Labor, almost masquerading as Green, advising Green voters to vote '2' Labor. 

The second was Liberal, and it not only didn't mention the leader, it left the party out too, instead warning 'don't vote Labor'. Rather sad.

While I'm generally as sceptical of "unpopular" opposition leaders as I am of "brilliant" PMs/Premiers, my penny is finally dropping that - as everyone else already knows - there is something innately unappealing about Peter Debnam, or at least the way he behaves in front of camera.

I therefore revise my Labor seat estimate upwards, to 50 out of 93 ... for now. Final prediction on Saturday.

New political blog in town


March 20 Newspoll says 61 to 39

In The Australian, tables here. Newspoll results apparently do the SMS rounds on Monday evenings, and this might help explain the PM doing an impression of an excitable old codger on 7.30 Report last night (Or maybe his studio earplug was getting feedback.)

Gen Y siding with Howard, oldies drift to Rudd 

According to this qualitative poll in yesterday's Oz. I'm no expert, but my understanding is that qualitative polling can't find which groups are leaning towards which party or politician; it can only determine why. 

Maybe the market researcher, Ipsos Mackay, did quantitative work first. Or maybe their premise was based on a furphy.

On Queensland at the next election

The last time federal Labor got over 50% of the Queensland two party preferred vote was 50.2 in 1990, which translated into 15 out of 24 seats for them. The state swung to Labor by about one percent while most of the country went the other way, and this rare foray into Labor-land (the first since 1961) was largely interpreted as fallout from state government corruption.

The relevance today is, of course, the Libs' current problems in that state (which now has 29 electorates) with AFP investigations and Santoro's share trading. And Rudd's from there.

Queensland will be interesting on election night.

March 19 NSW: my seat bets

I've wagered a few dollars on NSW seats. Not a greatly interesting story, but the details are here.

March 18 That NSW Galaxy poll

Friday's Galaxy poll continues to be reported as showing 58 to 42. This kind of reporting is a worry; if we did have to put a statewide number on it it would be 55 to 45. (See March 16, below)

Debnam's Friday press conference was obviously a gamble. Having everyone believe he's behind 42 to 58 isn't such a bad thing, especially if he puts in a stoic, cheerful final week.

[Update: Nielsen in SMH has 53 to 47 in Camden, a swing of about five percent. However, primary votes 47 to 41, and Greens on 5, are funny-peculiar in a Labor lead of 6 not increasing after preferences. 

With such a large margin, I'm surprised that this is the sort of seat - housing estates etc - the Libs are hoping to take. Employing a broad brush (the only type available) I suspect such electorates are currently incumbent-lovers - at both federal and state levels.]

NSW Newspoll graphs

Below, updated and rough, are the Newspoll graphs I first posted a month ago, with the two latest surveys included. As before, the 2pps are my estimates. The last pair of points in first graph are actual election result.

The 9-11 March 2007 points correspond with 7-10 March 2003 in first graph. Presumably one more Newspoll to come this week - two if we're lucky.

March 16 Galaxy in NSW says 58 to 42 (a swing to Libs)

In the Tele, at first glace suggests a swing to Labor from the last election (which was 56 to 44). But it was only held in five seats - Camden, Gosford, Kiama, Londonderry and Menai - which collectively voted about 59 to 41 in 2003, so if we take it literally it shows a miniscule swing to the Coalition.

Still, with every poll that fails to show substantial movement to Debnam, the likelihood of me upping yesterday's numbers, some time next week, increases.

Debnam seems to have thrown it all away, anyway.

March 15 New South Wales election prediction

I still reckon it'll be closer than generally anticipated. Several weeks ago, Malcolm Mackerras predicted Labor would lose eight seats from its current 55 out of 93.

Malcolm's record has not been flash of late, but I'm going to go with that for now: Labor to scrape home with 47 seats.

[Equivocation: ok, I suspect I'll be revising my estimate upwards next week. Want to see the final week polls; they might just narrow. Not very logical, obviously.]

March 13 Newspoll in NSW narrower than it looks

In Oz, it says 56 to 44, from primary support of 42 to 37. Online version doesn't have Greens, but at the 2003 election primary votes of 42.7 to 34.4, went to 56.2 to 43.8 after preferences. So yet again it seems (at state level) Newspoll is overstating Labor's two party preferred, and we should probably instead interpret it as 55 to 45 or even 54 to 46.

Revisit last fortnight's comments.

(Yesterday morning, Turks hacked this site, and if you visited you would have seen this [link deleted] and nothing else. The crazy guys have been extricated now, hopefully never to return.) [Update: I've taken link down; a Turkish friend describes them as "anti-Armenian fascists".]

On the radio, wearing my other hat

The other hat being my PhD study. 

Last Friday was 150 years since South Australia's first election under responsible government, and I commemorated it with a five minute talk about some of the subsequent electoral innovations of that colony under the world's first chief electoral officer, William Robinson Boothby.

It was on ABC Radio National's 'Perspective' program, and you can listen or read at the program's website.

The Ruddernaut

With yesterday's Nielsen, and the PM's acknowledgement of bad polls, consensus has consolidated further that Rudd is a mile ahead.

We saw comparisons with Howard in 1995, with Nielsen's John Stirton noting that that was the last time an opposition leader was over 50% in the preferred PM stakes.

Nielsen has no online archive, but Newspoll has a wonderful one, and looking at their opposition leader better PM numbers, none including Rudd had got higher than high 40s. In fact, champion's ribbon still belongs to Alexander Downer in 1994 (with 48), followed by Rudd, followed by Howard, then Hewson (twice) then Rudd, then Downer, then Howard ...

And, as has been noted here, John Hewson was preferred to Paul Keating as PM throughout his losing 1993 campaign, while Howard was not during the 1996 one.

Still the economy, stoopid

In 2004, Mark Latham, in the end, went down mainly because of fears of what he'd do to the economy. Come election time this year it'll largely be decided on the economy again. But if Labor wins it won't be because they were judged the superior economic managers, but that doubts about their economic credentials were minimised.

It'll be: I'm sick of Howard and his miserable bunch, they play politics all the time, but at least they know how to run an economy. I want to vote Labor, but will they make a mess of it? Will Workchoices changes give me a headache; will unions have too much of a say?

One way to ensure a Coalition win would be for Labor to unveil a big ticket economic item - like that advocated by Paul Keating to George Megalogenis a few months ago: huge tax cuts. That would be Latham and John Hewson rolled into one.

March 12 

Nielsen says a huge 61 to 39

In the Age and SMH.

March 7 Nicholson cartoon featuring Paul Keating

Is funny, here.

March 6 Approval ratings

Charles Richardson in today's Crikey kindly refers to a Fin Review piece of mine from last October. See also accompanying notes and table.

Newspoll says 57 to 43

A six percent lead leap that even seems to convert Mr Shanahan to two party preferred. As Greens are down to five from seven at the last election, but Newspoll's notionals don't take such detail into account, Labor's lead is probably overstated a little.

Here are the tables.

Peter Costello

Caught Mr Costello on Lateline last night, where he seemed to have the goose factor turned up to about 9.5 (out of ten; ie high). Heavy breathing, table-thumping, hammy over-acting, it was rather disconcerting.

Perhaps all the rave reviews over last week's parliamentary performance have gone to his head. He is an odd fellow.

And to be even-handed, here once again, for no reason whatsoever, is the signature tune of his opposite number.

March 5 Newspoll tomorrow

I often go on about the foolishness of reading too much into a single opinion poll, but ... tomorrow's Newspoll should be interesting. More for the way it's interpreted than what it says.

Not Latham but Downer

There've been a few premature (hopeful?) comparisons between Rudd and Latham - eg Latho's famous "troops back by Xmas".

But that doesn't really work. The doubts the electorate formed about Latham (while continuing to greatly approve of him) went to what he would do as Prime Minister, how well he would run the country, whether he would shake up their quiet life.

But the knowledge that Rudd met with Brian Burke in 2005, even if it was a little grubby, must be worth very few votes to the Coalition. The honeymoon had to end sometime.

However, being caught out lying can be very bad for the political health of an opposition leader. Just ask Lord Downer (1994-5), whose first stumble (from memory) was being sprung telling porkies about the timing of a Northern Territory Corroboree. That was much bigger than whatever policy slip-up led to the lie (again from memory, NT Native Title legislation).

It's difficult to see Rudd losing the election if he's still leader, no matter what's thrown at him. But if he's caught out in an incontrovertible lie, he might lose his job before then. 

Then if the deranged Gillard backers get their way, Labor can kiss goodbye to any hope of victory.

I get ahead of myself, of course.

March 2 Something in WA water

Conmen are charmers, they can bung on the vulnerability and openness and convince a person they are their best friend and confidant in the world. 

But a millimetre below the surface they are manipulative sociopaths with little emotional life, incapable of empathy or seeing the world other than revolving around themselves.

We'll probably never know why West Australian Labor politicians are particularly susceptible to such charms. 

(Regarding a certain Queensland one: when your ambition is boundless, maybe by definition you'll talk to anyone.)

March 1 Malcolm, Maxine and Bennelong

In Crikey today, Malcolm Mackerras predicts (subcriber only) Maxine McKew will win Bennelong at the next election. He refers to this piece by George Megalogenis. Much the same reasoning he gave last week before the Labor candidate was known.

A revamp for Mumble, but not yet

From time to time it is suggested that I put in a comment thread so readers can throw in their tuppence; a couple of kind folk have even offered to set it up. This won't happen, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that ... y'know, this  site is about me, not you. 

And there are plenty of opportunities to vent your psephological spleen at excellent places like Bryan Palmer, William the Conqueror, Simon Jackman (although he posts on many things), Andrew Leigh (ditto), Upper House and here's a newie. Apologies to any I've missed. 

However, I am aware that Mumble has lots of limitations, and one day, maybe this year, I will revamp it. In particular, it needs those links to individual postings, so that people can refer to what Mumble said on such and such a date ... if you know what I mean.

A brave new world one day soon-ish. But no comment threads.

February 28 Rudd's ripple in yesterday's NSW Newspoll

My understanding is that Newspoll tacks its state voting intentions onto its federal ones. That is, people are asked who they will vote for federally, what they think of those issues and personalities etc, then there are questions about their state political situation. 

As about a third of Australian voters live in New South Wales and about a quarter in Victoria, they are able to release polls for those two states every two months. South Australia, on the other hand, takes three months to get a decent sample going. That's how I understand it, anyway.

Does this have a "polluting effect", given two and a half months of the Rudd-mania? Perhaps a bit, in which case we might expect to see all state governments riding high in their next Newspolls.

Newspoll preferences pt mxxxiv

In addition, we must always be a little wary of Newspoll preferences. Their question "to which party will you give your second preference?" came a cropper federally in 2004, and they no longer use it for national elections, but they do persist with it at the state level. In addition to pretty consistently overstating Labor's vote these days, the question is extra dodgy in NSW's optional preferential system, where about half the minor party/independent voters' preferences "exhaust" before reaching a major party.

Let us, as we Australians increasingly say, do the "math". The 2003 NSW election saw Labor get 42.7, Coalition 34.4, Greens 8.2 and others 14.7. Two party preferred: 56.2 to 43.8. So a Labor lead of about 8 in primary votes went to about 12 after preferences, ie Labor benefited net 4 percent from preferences.

Yesterday's Newspoll had 45, 33, 7 and 15, two party preferred 59 to 41. A Labor lead of 12 goes to 18 after preferences, so Labor benefits net 6 percent after preferences. And that's with a slightly depleted Green vote.

Hmm. Probably better to look at Nielsen's 57 to 43. (Nielsen, incidentally, not only asks for full preferences but their question differentiates between compulsory and optional preferential. They take their preferences seriously.)

Either way it's a landslide, of course.

February 27 Two thumping NSW polls

Nielsen says 57 to 43, Newspoll 59 to 41. Those are huge leads for Labor, and appear to answer this question with a big fat 'no'.

Can't find primary votes in either (online) article, but even the dodgiest preference allocation wouldn't alter this story much.

More on Bennelong

The more I reflect, the more I reckon McKew in Bennelong is a stinker of an idea for Labor, on so many levels. It lessens the chances of Labor winning the seat, as Richard Farmer wrote in Crikey yesterday:

"a high profile opponent probably increases the chances of Howard being returned whatever happens nationally. Thereís unlikely to be a protest vote against a man who has led the country for a decade in a successful and popular way when the voters realize that there is a real chance of him being defeated."

It also sends out the wrong signals nationally. One of the few things oppositions intrinsically have going for them is that they are modest, stoic, honest toilers battling the odds etc. Being cock-sure enough to challenge the PM in his own seat - and put it in lights - negates much of this. It makes it look personal and tribal and generates sympathy for the PM. 

And they're guaranteeing the spotlight on  McKew, who would no doubt be an asset in government but is easy to fit up as elitist, chardonnay sipping etc.

Labor is mishandling Garrett, they trashed Kernot, gave David Hill a dud seat and (if you believe what you read) knocked back Turnbull and Nelson. They are crap with high-flyers. Dealing with unionists is so much easier.

February 26 McKew in Bennelong: big mistake?

Is Maxine's hide thick enough to handle what's about to be thrown at her? Would anyone's be? Tony Abbott's on the phone to someone or other as we speak. 

ALP smarties probably figures she'll appeal to ABC-watching "doctors' wives". But celebrities don't particularly attract high personal votes in their own electorates; they turn off as many people as they turn on.

Couldn't they find her a safe seat? Maybe not.

Someone lower profile would have had a better chance of winning Bennelong. 

Rule number one: give the celebrities safe seats. See what the Libs did with Andrew Robb, Malcolm Turnbull and Brendan Nelson.

Maybe Rudd thinks he's "playing with Howard's mind", but it's more likely he's found a way to engender public sympathy for the PM.

[Update: a lively discussion at pollbludger.]

February 25 A proneness to preening

There have been a few pieces in recent days on the Libs getting traction with public perceptions of Kevin Rudd being just a tad up himself. Eg Jason Koutsoukis in The Sunday Age.

(This time three years ago Howard briefly - perhaps with an eye on female voters - tried to tag Latham as "sloppy".)

Would these things make people not vote for a person? Perhaps at the margins, but it's not like Beazley's "ticker" (actually in 1998, not 2001 as Jason has it) or Latham's P plates, both of which went to doubts about the Labor leader's ability to run the country.

Still, no-one likes a smart-arse, and it could get in the way of the message over the next 9 (or whatever) months.

February 24 Galaxy survey of federal support in Queensland 

In the Courier Mail says 55 to 45. Probably most important is that while previous published polls - national ones, one in SA marginals, and this week's Morgan in Bennelong - all had swings to Labor of about 8 or 9 percent from the 2004 election, this one has 12 percent.

So perhaps Rudd's getting extra traction in his home state.

Queensland seats per vote

According to the article, the figures mean Labor "could grab up to 10 seats in Queensland", but if you plot a twelve point swing on the Queensland portion of the pendulum you get around 16 net seats changing hands. [This is what the mini-pendulum looked like last time; I haven't made these yet for 2007.)

Or look at it another way. In 2004, 57 to 43 gave the Coalition 21 Queensland seats to 6 for Labor, plus Bob Katter in Kennedy. One seat was added in the recent redistribution. 55 to 45 falls a couple of points short of a total turnaround, so maybe something like 20 seats for Labor to 8 for Coalition would be a reasonable seat outcome.

Not that such a vote - or anything close to it - can be expected, but even something substantially more modest might reap rewards. The last time Labor got over 50 percent 2pp in Queensland was in 1990, when it got 62 percent of seats with just 50.2 percent of the vote. 

And the last 2pp Labor Queensland majority before that, in 1961, saw them win 61 percent of of seats there with a vote of 50.7 percent.

Sixty percent of the current 29 seats is (rounded) 17, an increase of 11 from 2004.

It is possible that Queensland's electoral architecture favours federal Labor - on the rare occasion they get a decent vote there. 

February 23 Rudd's honeymoon

Yes, Michael Costello still pushes Kim's barrow, but he's correct in the Oz: the only measure that matters, two party preferred, moved the government's way in Tuesday's Newspoll. As he says we shouldn't read very much into a single poll.

(Here is the Peter Tucker piece he refers to.) 

But one more Newspoll movement like that and Rudd's back to the Beazley-esque 52 to 48; another and it's 50 50.

As you know, I put Rudd's chances of winning at about the same as Beazley's if he were still around (and secure in the position) - about two in three. One advantage of a "honeymoon" is that people listen, which evidently makes the PM twitchy. But the same happened three years ago, and eventually all this kerfuffle will die down and we'll be back to reality.

Perhaps one of Rudd's bigger challenges is to keep his self-regard in check. You wouldn't want to see too many more lines like "playing with Howard's mind".

February 21 The gaffe that wasn't

Yesterday morning in Perth, Kevin Rudd called John Howard something like "a danger to national security", before back-tracking somewhat. Today it's been wiped away; I can't even find a link to check the wording. [Update: reader supplies this.]

Imagine if Kim Beazley - or any opposition leader not on a honeymoon - had done that. It would have become the issue, with recurring questions for a day or so.

There you see the advantage of replacing leaders with less than a year to go to the election. 

February 20 Howard's approval ratings

Look at this graph of net satisfaction from Bryan Palmer's Oz Politics. It shows the red Labor line leaping skywards after Beazley's replacement by Rudd.

I continually bag satisfaction/approval, but it probably has more meaning in a PM than an opposition leader, because it must at least encompass some element of satisfaction with the way the country is governed.

The Howard line hasn't changed much under Rudd; it has dipped a little, but reached lower points against Beazley. 

Perhaps we can say that Rudd's popularity hasn't, so far, dented Howard's much.

Malcolm says it's time

In today's Crikey, Malcolm Mackerras predicts "the Liberal Party" (note the generic term in case Howard cuts and runs) losing both the election and Bennelong this year.

Unlike some people, I have a lot of respect for Malcolm's predictive prowess. Yes his recent record has been patchy - eg the 2004 US presidential election, and generally anticipating too-close state results.

However, as this APH paper shows, he was at the forefront in Victoria in 1999, and federally he remains excellent. He was among the few to get 1993 right and then, throughout the next term, consistently predicted Keating would go down.

Anyway, at least he has a go. That's better than keeping schtum and then, after the election, claiming to have always known what would happen.

Newspoll says 54 to 46

Here in The Australian, tables here. Steve Lewis leads with not very meaningful preferred PM and approval stuff, which means that's what everyone else takes from it.

On slippery opposition leaders having bets each way

According to Paul Kelly on Saturday, John Howard plans to nail Kevin Rudd on his tendency to be all things to all people. Deja vu: this was precisely how Paul Keating tried to bell Howard over 1995-6; he never could, people didn't seem to care.

That's what Howard can expect this year. In our less than perfect world, successful politicians - particularly opposition leaders - do have their cake and eat it.

People know not to take their words literally, don't really expect them to do precisely what they said they would once they're in power. It doesn't really have to add up; it's just, you know, the vibe.

February 19 Malcolm in New South Wales

In The Australian, Prof Mackerras's prognosis of Labor losing eight seats, which is at the optimistic end of anticipations for the Coalition. I'm with Malcolm in thinking it'll ... probably be closer than expected.

See, in his pendulum, the paucity of Labor marginals.

See also, of course, the Poll Bludger's magnum opus.

Crikey-Morgan poll in Bennelong

It finds a two party preferred swing to Labor roughly in line with the recent national surveys - nine percent. Note a sample of only 394 has an error margin of five percent.

Nothing online at moment; here's the press release. [Update: now here at Morgan.]

I reckon Howard has only a 30% chance of winning the election (if he's still PM), but about 50% of winning his seat. 

Fifty-fifty are also the odds he'll still be leading his party at the next election.

See also (first posted last year) Shane Easson, who thinks Howard's grip on Bennelong is less secure than most do.

February 17 Independent's Paradise

Australia is an independent's paradise. It has relatively lots of them. This is largely due to the voting system. Proportional representation - which we don't have* - is better for minor parties, but not for independents. First past the post favours the major parties full stop. 

But preferential voting in single member electorates, which we have, is best for independents - and better than first past the post for minor parties. The one exception to this is when the parties/voters put the minor party/independent last, as happened to Pauline Hanson in 1998. She would have won Blair under first past the post. But that's very rare.

More common is a Phil Cleary, who would not have won Wills in 1992 (byelection) or 1993 under first past the post, or a Michael Organ (Green) in Cunningham in 2002. [Update: a reader is pretty sure Cleary topped the primary vote in 1992, although data not currently on hand.] [Up-update: another makes it official: Cleary won the 1992 primary vote 33.5 to Labor's 29.4 and Libs' 27.6.]

Most independents fall into one of two categories. First is the sitting party member who is kicked out of/spits the dummy and leaves a major party. See Bob Katter and, before him, Graeme Campbell. Thanks to incumbency, they often win their first run as an independent on primary votes (and then feel pleased with themselves, forgetting that if it wasn't for the dreadful party they wouldn't have held that seat in the first place).

The other sort of independent has achieved the Herculean task of actually taking a seat from scratch, and the successful ones generally get through on major party preferences.

Peter Andren, in the latter category, was very unusual in winning the primary vote in 1996. Tony Windsor was sort of the same, although he came from state politics, where he had represented the same general area. But his 1991 win in Tamworth was Andren-esque. [Re Cleary above, it's possibly easier for independents to get up at by-elections; not sure what the overall evidence is.]

In 2001 Andren became the first federal independent to win more than 50% of the primary vote. Windsor did the same in 2004.

End of a tale with no particular moral. Alan Ramsey in SMH has more on Andren. (I can't see Andren not winning his redrawn seat.)

[Update: Norman Abjorensen sends in this table, 1946-98, originally compiled by Scott Bennett at APH library. I don't count Hanson in '96 as a non-major candidate; she was more a hybrid)]

*We don't have PR in the House of Reps, where government is decided.

February 16 Garrett gets heavied

Peter Garrett is the shadow environment minister, which has nothing to do with ANZAS or security. Who cares if he doesn't like US bases? Mr and Mrs Average probably have mixed feelings on the issue anyway.

What unimaginative, linear-thinkers some ALP operators are. "Mate, keep it one-dimensional." They're still flopping around inside John Howard's square.

Garrett could have said he accepts the party policy, he's mellowed with age, talked about compromise, the leader and the team and left it at that. Instead they made him say things no-one believes.

They're trashing his political currency. 

Labor is crap at handling Garrett in particular and high profile blow-ins in general.

Punters: Andrew Leigh responds to Feb 9 post


February 13 Garrett in environment ...

My earlier misgivings appear well-founded. An effective proselytiser is one who appears to have weighed all the evidence and come to a conclusion, but everyone knows Garrett's been a believer for decades. While he has great currency in the electorate, most people probably reckon that, if left to his own devices in environment, he would be a little on the extreme side.

Note that he was not among the succession of ALP people to bag Bob Brown's suggestion to phase out coal-mining in one term/by 2010/some time in the future (depending on who you read).

The issue of global warming contains inherent pizzazz, and someone on the grey side like Bob McMullan might have been better. And Garrett would be more effective in another portfolio he would have to learn from scratch - as Turnbull did in environment.

(Still better than Albo, but.)

(And this is a silly beat-up. Garrett's not defence spokesman, and people don't expect insipid uniformity of opinion in any party.)

February 12 ACNielsen says 58 to 42

Here and here. Also something called "approval rating". (Of course most of Nielsen's respondents think Rudd is doing a good job; they've been hearing nothing else recently but that he has Howard "on the run". High approval may actually artificially inflate voting intentions.)

We Warn the Czar: Aussie delusions of national grandeur update

Just heard an ABC journalist breathlessly describe Howard's criticism of Obama as "big news in America". Funnily, not a sign of it on US newspapers' online front pages

[Update: A few readers insist the Howard-Obama stoush is news the in US; some have supplied links such as this on CNN and others note American television segments shown on our nightly news. My response: here's an SMH story about British Airways' baggage charges, perhaps you could find a mention of it on Bert Newton's show, but it doesn't make it "big news" here. 

However, Howard-Obama has now at least appeared at New York Times. Click on the "World" link at left, scroll down, get out the magnifying glass, it's between those two other "big news" items "6 Dead in Canary Islands Tunnels" and "A Deadline May be Extended for Claims in Holocaust Case".

Hoorah, they mentioned us!]

[Up-update: ok the NY Post - still run by Australian Col Allan? - has now used it,  here and here, as a stick to belt Obama. On the other hand, last night on Lateline Martin Indyk, in Washington, informed Tony Jones that the issue "doesn't get a lot of attention here." 

And on Monday an American told ABC Radio

"LISA MILLAR: So how is this debate between John Howard and Barack Obama being played out over there?

PATRICK LANG: It isn't really. It was mentioned in the press, and that was it. I don't think Ö actually, Prime Minister Howard is not a major figure in the United States."

Wash your mouth out!

You're right, this is getting silly. No further correspondence on the issue.]

February 11 NSW election closer than expected? 

Most people expect Iemma to romp home in March. I'm not so sure. [Update: reader alerts me to a couple of pars two-thirds down this, which allege poor internal ALP polling. As for Howard lending Debnam a hand, he might have a conflict of interest.]

For comparison, I've extracted Newspolls from beginning 2002 until the March 2003 election, and for all of 2006. All two party preferreds are my estimates from Newspoll primary support*. As you can see from the first graph below, Labor's vote gradually climbed from a "low" of 50-50 in May-June 2002, then dramatically shot up up in the campaign in March, before settling on election day to 56.2 to 43.8

The latest Newspolls (below) only go to November-December 2006. The 2pp position for Nov-Dec four years ago was pretty well identical to now, and as noted, in the following three months Labor's lead leapt. Maybe that's what will happen now.


But there are a couple of differences between the two time periods. (1) In early 2006 the Coalition was substantially ahead over two surveys, while their worst in 2002 was that 50-50.  And (2), the last two Newspolls have trended down - a little. 

In the leadup to last year's Queensland election, I pontificated that it might be closer than expected - and was wrong. While generally preferring to learn from mistakes, I'm going to chance my arm again, and suggest that this twelve year old government might be in trouble. If so, future opinion polls will continue closing the gap. 

My bets again

So I've thrown a few bucks at Centrebet on the Coalition at the current $4.00 price. Thanks to a 2005 bet, I'm still in the fortunate position of winning either way. 

In total have wagered $225 on NSW election. If Labor wins I'll get back $250 and be a little ahead. If Coalition wins I'll get $400 and be substantially ahead. I'm probably only get that $25 profit, but am less sure of the outcome than most.

The next few opinion polls will probably tell the story. If Labor's gap grows, Centrebet's Coalition money will shoot upwards, and that $4.00 will look poor.

We'll know soon.

*Newspoll didn't publish two party preferreds for data in the first graph. For the second, they got  two party preferreds using the system that proved not-that-great federally in 2004. Mine are allocated using estimates for Green and 'other' preferences flows, making some allowance for exhausting votes under optional preferential voting.

February 9 Betting markets and the genius of punters

Centrebet is paying $1.90 for a Labor win and $1.80 for a Coalition one. These (I think) are shortest Labor odds (ie longest Coalition ones) since around September/October 2001.

Andrew Leigh has a lot to answer for. This "the betting public is better at predicting election results than opinion polls!" shtick has become a standard roll-out for journos and commentators; SMH today two pieces on or alluding to it.

(See also Simon Jackman's take.)

You know, the punters, who had the Coalition at over $3.00 in early 2001, but changed their minds when the government took the lead in opinion polls later in the year. Not too bright in early 2001 (or for most of the 2005 WA campaign), were they?

Or the dills who on New Zealand's election day in 2005 had the Nationals winning? All these positions were based, mainly, on whatever the polls said at the time.

The punters are sheep who reflect the current received wisdom, which is usually correct, but sometimes wrong. 

B-a-a-a-a-h. I'll follow my own judgement, thanks.

February 7 2007 "Dick" by name ...

Had the misfortune to catch American political strategist Dick Morris on 'Lateline' last night. I've never understood why some Labor types, and Australian journalists, think he has anything to teach them. 

Latham thought him the bees knees and he probably reciprocated; his brief, facile insights into today's ALP had Boofhead's fingerprints all over them.

His self-described claim to fame is his responsibility for Bill Clinton's success, but as far as I know he had nothing to do with the 1992 campaign - that was the special result, the one that came out of nowhere to knock off a hitherto popular one term president. As for 1996: are we to believe that if it weren't for Morris, Bob Dole would have won? 

The words "self-promotion" and "spiv" come to mind. Or am I missing something?

February 6 Newspoll says 56 to 44

According to Mr Shanahan, Labor's "best two-party result ... since March 2004."

Steve Lewis notes Rudd's Achilles heel - the dreadful Lemmings who helped put him there. 

Anticipated by Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin in December:

"Rudd comes to the leadership courtesy - at least in part - of the embittered lemmings of the Crean-Latham period who did much of the dirty work of destabilising Beazley for him. He is in debt, in other words, to some of the most dedicated narks and nasties in the caucus."

February 5 Western Sydney!

Glenn Milne in the Oz has a "senior Labor figure intimately involved in campaign planning" conceding that "there's just as much at stake in South Australia [at the next federal election] as there is in western Sydney". This is meant to indicate how important SA is.

There should be no contest: more, much more, is at stake in SA than western Sydney, where only two seats are worth watching - Parramatta and Lindsay. Labor wants to hold one and hopes to take the other. That's the lot, despite the unshakable sentimental attachment to the area in electoral narratives. 

Of the rest of western Sydney, Labor holds the vast majority (a dozen or so seats), Greenway's been redistributed into oblivion and the Libs' grip on the millionaire's playgrounds of Macarthur and Hughes (which is more south than west anyway) is insurmountable.

Meanwhile, as Glenn notes, there are lots in play in SA - seven in fact if you count the two Labor marginals.

February 4 New South Wales poll - iffy preferences?

Taverner Poll in Sun-Herald says 54 to 46 in NSW. At the 2003 election it was 56 to 44.

From the primary votes, those 2pps look a little odd. Taverner has primaries of 39 to 38, a substantial change from  42.5 to 34.6 in 2003. Three and a half percent, give or take, has gone from Labor to the Coalition, and the same number, 23 percent, will vote for someone else.

If you just apply that 3.5 to the two party preferreds (aka distributing the 23 as they went in 2003), you get 52.5 to 47.5 - much more encouraging for the Coalition.

Don't know how Mr Mitchell-Taverner does his preferences, but hopefully he remembers that under optional preferential voting about half of them will probably "exhaust", including Green ones. [Update: I popped him an email, but he hasn't responded.]

(Note: with sample of 626 perhaps they too should earn a semi-Mickey (re below). Maybe we'll make 600 the cut-off.)

January 31 'Tiser poll good for Rudd in Kingston

This one
gets a half-Mickey, for  a sample size of only 592. It shows Labor ahead in the Adelaide seat of Kingston 56 to 44.

We could be finicky and note that this is a smaller swing to the ALP - six percent off the 2004 result - than that shown in last week's Newspoll - eight percent nationwide.

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