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Day to Day Politics: Is Newspoll flirting with the figures?

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Statistics can be the most frustrating things with the stories they tell. Even on this blog, my personal stats go through a topsy-turvy journey of up and down readership that depends on the controversy of the day.

Then others post of similar content and figures of astronomical proportion arise for which I have no explanation as to the how and why of it.

And so it is with the latest Newspoll figures. The Government has a disastrous week with a bizarre interview by Barrie Cassidy with Kelly Dwyer and a refusal to apologise for not having a Royal Commission into the banks earlier.

Mind you there is nothing new in that. Their governance in six years of power has been nothing short of deplorable with nothing of any major consequence you could point a finger at. Yet the latest Newspoll shows them almost neck and neck.

How can it be that when one crisis has followed another, week after week, for as long as I can remember that a government improves despite of it?

A Facebook friend of mine put it this way:

“I see that the 31st Newspoll has hit the stands and to my complete amazement the coalition have moved another point closer, the margin is now 49 – 51% TPP to Labor. That is an increase of 2% over the last month. At the risk of becoming a conspiracy theorist are Newspoll playing a little loose with their data. The next Newspoll will be interesting what with all the Banking Royal Commission revelations. I do find these last 2 Newspoll results odd.”

As usual, I go to the best pollster for some explanation; The Pollbludger:

“The latest Newspoll has Labor’s lead down from 53-47 to 51-49, which is the Coalition’s best result since the start of what is now Malcolm Turnbull’s run of 31 successive Newspoll defeats.

This doesn’t reflect much activity on the primary vote, on which the Coalition and Labor are both steady at 38% and 37%, with the Greens down one to 9% and One Nation steady on 7%.

There is also encouragement for Malcolm Turnbull on leadership ratings, with his approval up four to 36% and disapproval down four to 53%, although Bill Shorten also improves by two on approval to 34% and three on disapproval to 53%. Turnbull maintains only a very modest lead as preferred prime minister, of 38-35, out from 38-36 last time. The poll also finds strong support for a reduction in immigration levels, with 56% rating the present level too high, 28% about right, and only 10% too low.

A point that should be noted about the Coalition’s apparent improvement in Newspoll is that at least part of it would seem to be down to an adjustment in their preference allocations, from a model based purely on results from the 2016 election to one which gives the Coalition a stronger flow of One Nation preferences, presumably based on the experience of the Queensland and Western Australian state elections.

The chart below compares the published two-party results from Newspoll with how the raw primary numbers convert using: a) a 50-50 split in One Nation preferences, as they were in 2016; and b) a 60-40 split in the Coalition’s favour, which seems more likely based on state election experience.

It will be noted that Newspoll (the grey line) closely tracked the 50-50 model (the blue line) until December last year when it snapped to the 60-40 model (the orange line).

Also noteworthy is the overshoot of the grey line for the very latest result, which reflects the fact that the Coalition may have been a little lucky with rounding this week.

As Kevin Bonham notes, a calculation from the published, rounded primary vote totals using the 50-50 preferences model yields a 52.4-47.6 lead for Labor – a result that would have generated considerably less buzz than this, the “best Coalition result in 18 months”.”

The question for me is did Newspoll after experimenting with the methodology of counting preferences and finding it beneficial to the Coalition, deliberately change its polling methods?

Otherwise what was wrong with the way they had been doing things for years?

An afterthought

Meanwhile today’s Essential poll, known for its consistency has Labor 6points ahead. Thats more like it when one considers the current political climate.

My thought for the day

“Finding the truth and reporting it is more important than creating a narrative where controversy matters more.”




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  1. babyjewels10

    Two months in a row, the polls have defied logic. I smell a rat.

  2. Pierre Wilkinson

    It simply beggars belief that almost 50% of the population could conceivably believe this moronic bunch of inept incompetents are doing a good job.

  3. john ocallaghan

    Heard Denis Shanahan from the Aust last night explaining how they have changed their polling method to include preferences from One Nation or something to that effect.
    Whatever he meant sounded like bullshit anyhow!

  4. Terry2

    I notice that the coalition spinners are talking-up the creation of one million jobs in the five years since they came to office in 2013.

    I have no way of verifying those figures neither do I have any idea how many of those jobs are casual, part-time or full time. I am aware that the daughter of a friend in my local regional area has been unable to obtain any work or training beyond fruit picking and she is planning to head off to the big smoke to find employment.

    I am also aware from government spruiking that our immigration level over the same five years has stood at 190,000 a year or around 950,000 new citizens.

    So have we actually had a jobs bonanza as the Turnbull government maintain or are we just treading water ?

    Tony Abbott made an observation the other day and for the first time ever, I happen to agree with him :

    We’re adding a city the size of Adelaide to our population every five years, and I think that we should significantly scale it back at least until infrastructure, housing stocks and integration have caught up, because just at the moment there is no doubt that high levels of immigration, record levels, are putting downward pressure on wages, upward pressure on housing prices, and they’re making our roads almost impassable.

    I’m certainly not opposed to immigration but we seem to have been using this influx of migrants as a crude tool for growth on the basis that these folk have to consume and thus create economic growth and that thesis is clearly unsustainable.

  5. Jaquix

    Thank you for clarification. Exceedingly dishonest of Newspoll not to flag change is preferences, when announcing result. One Nation was exceedingly overrated in 2 state elections, WA and QLD. Even rusted on Libs are disgusted with Libs for fighting against himding a the Royal Commission.

  6. New England Cocky

    The simple answer is “Yes”. Remember when all else fails “my hypothesis is my conclusion”.

  7. Terry2


    So much of what this government does is taken from the George Orwell playbook in 1984, particularly when it comes to statistics :

    It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head. For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot.

  8. townsvilleblog

    Is Newspoll flirting with the figures? Yes!

  9. Trish Corry

    It’s an odd choice of methodology. Is there any data to show correlation between state and federal voting intention? Too many factors play into state elections, which don’t sit well with me, to convince me this is a rigorous methodology to choose for federal figures.

  10. Wam

    Haha the truth is back. One truth is the poll shows the bank revelations gave trumball’s boys and girls a lift. A second is that Cassidy and the ABC are irrelevant to the majority of Australians. (Even here cassidy is ?? and the rest of the ABC brand is tainted? I, for one, would have no problems dumping ABC 24 as a waste of money and most of my facebook would privatise it) Another truth was that ch9 showed trumball talking down the royal commission as unlikely to discover anything. Wow that is the first fair coverage in my memory. Can labor work on the theme? How about debt??
    ps ‘apparent’ movement what do you need for ‘real’?
    With solid action Labor cannot overcome the economic reality that the voters think the economy belongs to the LNP.

  11. Frank Smith

    Terry, and so it is with employment figures – the Ministry of Plenty chooses the stats that pleases their cause. The employment statistic that tells a more correct story is the hours worked per month. That number has barely increased since 2013 and, in fact, has not kept pace with population growth. That statistic takes into account the result of casualisaton of the workforce and the idiotic definition of “employment” used by the Bureau of Statistics and by Coalition sprukers and spin doctors.

  12. John Kelly

    I suspect some manipulation with the numbers too. Fortunately, Newspoll is but one of at least 3 pollsters feeding us and Essential together with Roy Morgan, should give us a more balanced prediction.

  13. Henry Rodrigues

    Does any sober, intelligent person trust, depend on, anything associated with that bastard Murdoch. Maybe the brain dead 49% do.

  14. Matters Not

    Re correlation between State and Federal figures. Seems to me that the correlation tends to be negative. Political leaders at the Federal level don’t get too excited if their State counterpart loses an election. In Queensland, it was ‘common sense’ for many voters to vote for X at the State and then vote Y at the Federal level.

    I suspect that Anastacia was helped in the recent State election because the LNP was on the nose at the Federal level. Thus if Anastacia had been booted out, Shorten wouldn’t have been too concerned. Except of course it’s always helpful to be in government because of the increased resources available.

    But the reputation of pollsters relies on ‘getting it right’. Can’t see why they would risk that, But the way they changed their preference allocation seems very strange.

  15. Egalitarian

    The LNP will be changing their Portfolio deckchairs very soon Michaelia Cash is moving from the Ministry of Plenty to the Ministry of Love?

  16. lawrencewinder

    I cannot understand how this can be accurate… even my dyed-in-the-wool, perennial ruling rabble voter, M.i.L. thinks they stink….

  17. Glenn Barry

    Well the figures don’t have to deviate much to become a propaganda tool.

    Very quickly a counterfeit improvement may become a tail wag dog situation – people question their critical stance towards the LNP in the false belief that others are not finding them so repulsive and you’ve got an actual improvement

    I truly DO NOT LIKE this post truth era

  18. Matters Not

    Assume for the moment that the figures presented are an accurate reflection. (Not an outlier.) Then why the shift? Is it the case that Turnbull et al have become more popular? If so, then what did they do? For that answer I have no ideas. All their moves seem bad choices.

    Or is it the case that Shorten et al have become less popular? That seems a more likely avenue for speculation. What has Labor announced that may have scared the punters? We know that a scared punter becomes, or remains, a conservative voter. Better the devil we know than …. the unknown. The older demographic in particular is susceptible. The majority of this older demographic doesn’t vole Labor but many do – until fear of the unknown is kindled.

    And I speculate that may be the case.

  19. Keith

    I wondered how accurate the recent polls have been also. It is reasonable to expect matters such as those listed would have a bearing on how voters think:

    There is very clearly much antagonism in the LNP in relation to leadership.
    The LNP support the big end of town; they are quick to use the Federal Police against Unions and Labor where no or very little criminal action has taken place; but, slow to act on real criminal action as seen in the Banking industry. ASIC had significant funding taken off it; and now, some are blaming ASIC for the mess in relation to the Banks.
    Universities are expressing concern about lack of enrolments, no surprise when potential students have no idea of course costs.
    Privatisation of post secondary education has led to some very shonky institutions being developed.
    Pushing new coal mines and fracking sites.
    Climate change denial, the LNP will argue differently; but, that’s what NEG and commentary amount too. Frydenberg’s presentation at the National Press Club a couple of weeks ago was well crafted though it dripped bullshit.
    Centrelink clients get a raw deal from the LNP.
    It used to be “All the way with LBJ” now it is all the way with Trump.
    The LNP want small government with little regulation … now look at the mess.

  20. J Marsh

    61 in a row? Not a good look!

  21. New England Cocky

    Uhm … remember the 1% “swing” is within the margin of error! For non-statisticians that means that ANYTHING ELSE OTHER THAN POLITICS COULD HAVE CAUSED THE DIFFERENCE IN NUMBERS … the weather, the colour of the data collectors’ clothes, the weekend sports results, etc, etc, etc …

  22. Kronomex

    Does your party suffer from brewers droop? Is your party suffering from corpse flower stink? Is your party floundering in the polls? Does your party suffer from termites in the woodwork? It Does? Then use Rupert’s (all hail The Murdoch) Dodgy Polling Company when that annoying thing called reality gets in the way. And it only costs your soul (wizened and dried up as it is) to use.

  23. David Stakes

    The Fix is in.

  24. diannaart

    The question for me is did Newspoll after experimenting with the methodology of counting preferences and finding it beneficial to the Coalition, deliberately change its polling methods?

    Otherwise what was wrong with the way they had been doing things for years?

    An afterthought

    Meanwhile today’s Essential poll, known for its consistency has Labor 6points ahead. Thats more like it when one considers the current political climate.

    My thought for the day

    “Finding the truth and reporting it is more important than creating a narrative where controversy matters more.”

    Love your work John Lord.

  25. Brian Kuetler

    The improvement in the polls is down to the fact the electorate know Dutton will be PM soon and they like his “full racist” stylings.

  26. margcal

    I can’t believe that Liberal numbers are so good, be it Newspoll’s 49 – 51% TPP to Labor or Essential poll with Labor 6 points ahead.
    That’s still a helluva lot of turkeys voting for Christmas.
    Actually, I can believe it. I know too many of those turkeys and like M Thatcher, they’re “not for turning” 🙁
    I feel doom approaching.

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