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The Mystery that is the Polls

Because I find it difficult to comprehend how it is possible that a government who has governed so abysmally, stuffed up so many policies, NBN, NDIS and many others; had 3 leaders in 6 years with individuals openly fighting with each other, who cannot decide whether it is conservative or Liberal, had daily Trumpish like chaos during its tenure (and continuing), can be so close to winning the next election.

I would have thought that any government as corrupt as this one would be so far behind that a bad loss would be inevitable.

I cannot help but at least try to understand what is the mystery of the polls.

The only explanation that readily comes to mind is that because we have been in an unofficial election campaign for some time now that the tightening which traditionally gives us a more accurate guide to how people will vote, has come early?

Let’s take a step back and take a look at this week’s polls.

On Monday, Newspoll had Labor on 52 and LNP 48. A move of 4 points to the LNP.

Note. A month ago Newspoll had Labor 8 points ahead. In real terms, this means that within a month, after the budget or when the election became a reality, millions of people changed their vote. How is that possible?

Some 18 months or so ago Newspoll changed the way they counted preferences costing Labor 2%

IPSOS had Labor on 53% and LNP 47. No move

On Tuesday, Essential had Labor on 52 and LNP 48. No move. Which is normal for them.

Roy Morgan had Labor on 52.5% and L-NP 47.5%. 2.5% swing to the LNP. Morgan is the only one that does face to face interviews.

Is it possible that because we have been in an unofficial election campaign for some time now that the tightening that always occurs has come early?

I asked this because a degree of tightening normally takes place after an election is announced. In this case, I suspect that because we have been in election mode for so long we will see little movement from now on.

Another factor that doesn’t receive much attention is that the cohort known as the swinging voter has no doubt broadened and could be as high as 40%. We also have the young voters who registered during the Marriage Equality survey and those who have turned 18 since. Most would vote Labor.

The only way to get a real picture of what all the polls mean is to lump them all together over a period of time.

The last time The Bludger track did this was on 30 March and they had Labor Leading 52.9 – 47.

This would mean a comfortable win to Bill Shorten.

On my previous post for THE AIMN, a comment was made by “Alcibiades.” He gave a very succinct view of how he thought the election would play out. I thought it worth another run.

At present the LNP has 73 seats to Labor’s 71, meaning they don’t have a buffer against losses.

Actually it is LNP 73 seats to Labor 72.

As a result of the ~200,000 new & early enrollments just of youngins onlyonto the Electoral rolls just prior to & post the 2016 election & the ‘own goal’ of the Marriage Equality ‘Survey’, that translates to an absolute minimum of 3 plus seats to Labor.

Or to put it another way a minimum ~0.7% plus swing even if everybody else voted the same as for 2016(Not going happen).

These new & pre-enrollments are routinely not captured by pollsters or for that matter not commented on, considered or even remembered. Very odd.

Hence in reality LNP 70- seats to Labor 75 plus seats is ‘conservatively’ closer to the start point. With an embedded minimum swing of ~0.7% plus before considering under-represented polling.

The riven incompetent Coalition must win 6 or 7 seats minimum, whilst losing none nationwide to attain majority government.

Labor … 1 seat. For a third term Federal government to win 6+ seats & lose none would truly be … miraculous.

Because the seats in contention are limited to a relatively small subset of contestable seats, which now actively include traditionally ‘safe’ Blue Ribbon seats in VIC, NSW & WA, Labor could get over the line with a ‘smoothed’ National 2PP swing of only ~0.7%, whereas the swings in the contested seats would be dramatically higher.

Dutton’s chances of retaining his seat are barely one in three and diminishing. Labor will probably secure 90 plus seats on the current under-represented polling, which is inaccurately, based on the then 2016 preference flows.

Simply put, the Coalition lost 14 seats in 2016 and scraped over the line with one seat on a primary vote of 42% against a 2PP swing to Labor of 3%+. They have polled 36-39% primary vote ever since.

They have lost 51 Newspolls in a row. That will be further compounded by proportionally lower diminished preference flows.

If they talk coal or Adani they may score a few votes in QLD, but their vote in VIC will be even more catastrophic and so on.

Further cannabilisation of 2-3 of Coalition seats is likely independents/minors.

On current ‘conservative’ 4.4% plus national 2PP swing (excluding 0.7%+), that’s comprised of State swings of:

QLD 7.1%
NSW 3.9%
VIC 1.2%+
TAS 3.7%
SA 3.4%
WA 5.7%
ACT 3.9%
NT 0%

As one wit on twitter put it:

I’m spending my future tax cut in advance now, to buy not one, but two brickbats!

The last factor is called “The Lord’s instinct.” It’s totality unreliable but it suggests the baseball bats are still behind the front door just waiting to let this government know what they think of it.


“According to the latest polling, the worse the government governs, the more popular they become.”

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  1. Jack Cade

    We are a nation which ‘rode on the sheep’s back.’
    Voting suggests there was more than ‘sheep-back riding’ going on.
    There used to be a law in SA against ‘abnormal’ sexual activity with animals. The law was only repealed in about 1986 or so. Presumably ‘normal’ was okay.

  2. Greg

    Australians have a short memory span , they make excuses about political stuff up’s . The LNP’s latest rants about Utes and electric cars are beyond laughable since they themselves had announced their plan to have more electric cars in Australia and already put to tender charging stations . The photo op at Toyota promising to help protect their jobs was more than hypocritical since they are directly responsible for the closure of the Holden and Ford manufacturing plants in Australia . People seem to have forgotten the devastating ecological and finactual losses of the darling basin, billions of dollars wasted and the minister in charge didnt even get a talking to . The $70+ billion spent on the 3rd world NBN that can barely be given away for near free . The $10’s of billions of dollars on detention camps to keep 2000 odd out off the country . Every single thing this coalition has touched has exhausted the finance of the country without a goal in sight .. It is beyond belief they could have this must support

  3. John Lord

    The Poll Bludger updated its combined averages ton Wednesday. It shows that Labor leads 52.6-47.4

  4. David1

    I recall a post here some weeks back suggested, always follow the betting markets when trying to judge the outcome of an election. This morning Sports Bet odds were……

    Labor @ $1-16

    Coalition @ $4-85

  5. Carol Taylor

    Everything is very difficult for the average person, flat wages, job insecurity and insecurity means that people become fearful of’s about sticking with the mob that you know. Then you have the mix of progressives who complain that Labor needs to do more (aligned with ‘not good enough from the Greens) all feeding any scare campaign – because by hell, the moment Labor does attempt anything forward looking, in jumps the Liberal/MSM machine with a scare campaign. Labor is therefore battered from all sides – from the ultra conservatives and their MSM backers on one side to the progressive Greens on the other saying ‘not good enough’. Just imagine what just a week’s worth of fluffy interviews, positive headlines and ENCOURAGEMENT from the left side of politics might achieve.

  6. Vikingduk

    So, the smirkjerk calls the 18th as baseball bat day, our chance to consign these shits to the bin. Perhaps anyone fearing a Phoenix rise from the lnp might like to follow the brick with a smirk’s twitter feed. Judging by the replies happyclappersloganbogan is dead meat, leaving labor odds on favourites. Please.

  7. OldWOmBat

    Sadly I believe the reason the polls are so close is that it reflects the self-centredness that afflicts this country. In general there is little thought for the other person, principally the denial, and even dismissal of those less fortunate by those of us will plenty. It all plays into the hands of fringe parties that pretend one thing but really only want to eat at the trough of the current rulling classes and who, if they gain powere, will then deny others of simple demcratic freedoms – a lesson seen many times before but again one that goes unhheded by the masses.

  8. James O'Neill

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, it should always be born in mind that all polls have a margin of error of at least 2%. Therefore variations within that range over any given months or weeks are merely a statistical fluctuation without substantive meaning. What one looks to is the longer term trend line, and that is so clear as to be beyond comment. Like John, I think that the voters are waiting with baseball bats, just as they did in Victoria.

  9. Jack Cade

    If you Poll 1000 or so people, why is there a ‘margin of error’? Didn’t the pollsters listen, or not understand the answer? Or do they allocate the ‘dont knows’ or the ‘independents’ and smaller parties in some arcane method?

  10. Alcibiades

    There has been a 3-6% collapse in the LNP Primary vote since one week after the 2016 election. This is a sustained desertion of the Coalition ‘base’ for the entire term of this Parliament. The real rot for the LNP started in the first six months of 2015, under Abbott & ‘the Empty Seat’ contest.The ‘base’ ceased donating to the LNP. They have essentially been bankrupt State & Federal for ~4 years now. Where is that factoid captured by the pollsters accurately ?

    Why is the Coalition drop in their ‘base’ primary vote important ? Because it means they lost rusted on supporters, probably many who voted non LNP for the first time in 2016, even under Turnbull. Since 2016 3-6% minimum more of their ‘base’ has refused to even consider the LNP for this entire term ?

    That creates a polling conundrum … previously (lifelong ?) ‘rusted on’ voters are reluctant to admit they do not intend to vote for their former party & therefore misrepresent their voting intent out of various degrees of shame, anxiety, public or spoken denial (even just to a stranger such as a pollster calling out of the blue).

    Combine this with youngins who in the majority do not have landline phones, the preferred & primary method of Newspoll & others, skews the polling result. Therefore from 2013, but mostly from start 2015 to 2016 election voting intention is probably under-represented, as proven by the ‘unexpected’ 3.13% Labor swing in 2016. Since 2016, from the first post election poll ’til today it has gotten worse as again a further 3-6% of their ‘base’ has deserted the LNP. Primary vote. Collapse in primary vote is directly proportionally compounded by accompanying drop in preference flows. A ‘double hit’ to the 2PP vote results.

    Landslides are rarely accurately predicted by the pollsters due the above social & psychological factors.

    The recent Newspoll was a gross anomalous outlier. A single poll in isolation means nothing. The trend of the polls over time is the best general indicator. And the sustained aggregated trend is ~3%+ to Labor compared to 2016, & a collapsed Coalition primary vote of ~4.3%, from 42% down to to 37.7%.

    National 2PP polls are also less accurate re seats in contention as compared to State by State polling (Individual seat polls are usually worthless). Newspoll conducts these quarterly. Roy Morgan, using a preferred polling methodology, preference analysis & limited inbuilt bias, used to provide the most accurate polling, including State by State. However just prior to the 2016 issuance of writs for the election, they were ‘bought out’ and ceased to provide any ‘publicly available’ polling. Alas, cannot any longer have faith in one off Roy Morgan polls … ‘out of the blue’.

    Punters, and we are a nation of punters, are only interested in picking the winner, so they follow the ‘form’, read the analysis & the ‘political’ form guides and in far far greater numbers than any or all opinion poll(hence more representative) , without being asked manipulative polling questions, lay their hard earned on the likely winner. The punters, via the Bookies, rarely get it wrong.

    Bookies have, post budget, opened odds for the Leader of the Opposition post election. Best odds are :

    Scott Morrison 1.50
    Josh Frydenberg 3.00
    Peter Dutton 4.50

    The Coalition must win seats whilst losing none to even have any prospects at all. Forget the national 2PP, where are these needed ‘individual’ seats the Coalition is ‘likely’ win ?

  11. John Lord

    Alcibiades. The young’s have a week to get their name on the list.

  12. Henry Rodrigues

    Alcibiades……. My thanks and gratitude for being able to judge the whole election outcome and probabilities because of your number crunching abilities. Well done .

  13. Kaye Lee

    Looking at betting odds in individual seats is interesting. In Corangamite, held by Liberal Sarah Henderson for the past six years, Labor is $1.10 and the Coalition is $6. In Deakin, held by the odious Michael Sukkar, Labor is $1.60 and the Coalition $2.20.

  14. Rossleigh

    John, thanks to the Marriage Equality plebiscite a large number of young people registered…
    One tends to suspect that it wasn’t so they could vote against same sex marriage. One also tends to suspect that they won’t be voting for Yoyo ScoMo…

  15. Alcibiades

    John Lord,
    Excluding the above norm additional ~200,000 early and pre-enrollments. The youngins are invigorated, motivated & passionate, the Climate Change school strikes demonstrated that admirably, and that was a single ‘issue’ only.

    Keys AEC statistics re the 2016 Coalition ‘win’, in falling over the line by 1 seat(14 seat loss) :

    816,000 Estimated eligible Australians were not enrolled (This compares to an estimated 1.22 million in 2013)
    Overall participation rate of 95%. (This compares to 92 per cent in 2013)

    Participation rate for 18-24 year olds was 86.7%.
    254,432 Estimated 18-24 year olds were not enrolled. (This compares to an estimated 400,000 in 2013)

    Within the broader youth category, the participation of 18 year olds had risen from around 50% in 2013 to over 70% in 2016.

    Re the Marriage Equality ‘Survey’, arguably ‘the largest, most successful enrolment campaign since federation‘, ~90,000-100,000 yougins enrolled early or to vote in the final seven days prior to rolls closing. The proportion of new enrollments was ~11.8% of all AEC roll updates. In total ~840,000 Australians had either enrolled early, or for the first time or updated their details. The AEC at the time described it as ‘Extraordinary’ & a ‘Record high’ of enrollments.

    Some have argued that the young were highly motivated re the ‘Survey’ yet apathetic re elections. Given the stats for 2016 & the School strikes, somewhat doubt it. Even if that was accepted, they must now, enrolled, ‘compulsorily’ vote. An unaccounted for paradigm shift ?

    AEC statistics re the electoral roll & enrolment rate as at 31 March 2019 :

    587,790 Estimated eligible Australians are not enrolled (This compares to an estimated 1.22 million in 2013, 816,000 in 2016) A 96.5%participation rate.

    Participation rate for 18-24 year olds now ? Now north of 70% enrollment rate compared to 2016 by what % ? Where did the 228,210 reduction in not enrolled since 2016, given proportional increase in population, come from ? Pollsters have captured, considered or factored in any of this ?

    In addition, in simple terms, a higher enrollment & especially participation rate is less than advantageous for the Coalition. They & Murdoch & the corporate MSM prefer & encourage voter apathy as a strategic ‘narrative’. Oops ?

    Indeed, still seven more days to go before the rolls close. 🙂

  16. John Lord

    Rossleigh. Labor were laughing all the way to the booth about that. But how many of the eligibles will sign up within a week. Nor have I seen any adds to suggest they do.

  17. John Hermann

    Incidentally John, the Liberal party’s elected members are not confused about whether they are conservative or liberal — they know they are conservative. The point is that the word “Liberal” is a misnomer, used intentionally to deceive the unthinking and unsophisticated sections of the electorate. When the party was created by Menzies and his colleagues it was a quite different party to what it has now evolved into. There were genuine liberals (sometimes referred to as “wets”, to distinguish them from the “dries”) in the older party. However the wets got out of the party a long time ago. It is notable that even Malcolm Fraser resigned from the party in disgust, with the comment that it had become far too conservative for his taste.

  18. Kaye Lee


    Projections from polls are based on preference flows from 2016. Methinks this time around it could be a very different story.

    Is it too early to feel relief that I will only have to listen to Coalition Ministers talking shit for a bit over five weeks?

  19. Rossleigh

    Yes, Kaye Lee, if you’ll forgive the imperfect analogy. Using 2PP from the previous election is a bit like saying that because someone moved in with Malcolm when George Clooney wasn’t available, but we can presume that even though they said they’d still prefer George Clooney we expect that they’ll still stick with Scott because – even though he moved in without asking when Malcolm left – he is an Australian just like Malcolm so once the Clooney fantasy is dashed we can expect that they’ll be more than happy with ScoMo…

  20. Alcibiades

    Kaye Lee,
    Merely attempting an objective(?) analysis of the current/past polls considering likelihood & probability, yet not only the polls, but taking into account the various pollsters methodologies, reliability/accuracy, inbuilt bias due methodology(limited strategic manipulation(?)), yet also other complementary & contradictory indicators re data/history, funding, prior election, etc, beyond the polls themselves, which is not considered nor commonly reported on. Was out by one seat last election.(Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future potential performance)

    Calculations, accepted on trust/faith, just like statistics, in isolation, are merely but one incomplete part of the whole. What is the explanation for the completely apposite poll aggregation tvs Bookies odds ? The worsened unrelenting sustained ‘trend’ since 2016 ? How can the disconnect be explained ?

    Where are these mythical actual additional electorates the Coalition must win, whilst losing none ? Will anyone name them ? This would actually entail a swing, against all indicators combined, to the Coalition of ~0.8%+ compared to 2016. Or a reversion, a swing against the poll trend of at least ~3.9%+ ?! How/Why ?

    The most accurate polling is the internal party polls commissioned by the major parties, quarterly, then monthly, then weekly as an election approaches of the individual electorates ‘in play’ or ‘at risk’. Roy Morgan is the go to for this. The costs are exorbitant as the polling day approaches. Likely also informed numerous departing Ministers etc re pre-poll departures, as well as the ongoing mutiny by the Notionals, & the uncounted dodgy partisan pre-election ‘appointments’ over the previous days & months.

    An unforeseen event or events, could tip the table. That is what Turnbull waited for & as a result exposed himself as a shallow narcissistic puppet in doing so. HappyClapperSloganBogan Scott NoMoralsNone has been a hopin’ & a prayin’ for an event/events up ’til the last moment … events have occurred, yet not in the Coalitions favour, so far.

    Five brutal, dirty weeks yet to come, alas it is not over until the plus size Diva sings, or Antony Green calls it.

  21. Kronomex

    Scummo’s “truth campaign” was not only shot down in flames and crashed into the volcano of LNP bullshit it sank straight to the centre of the planet and we’re not even halfway into day 71…oops…day 1 of the electioneering.

    Five lies just for starters –

    “He commended his government for delivering the “first budget surplus in more than a decade”, saying the Liberal Party would keep unemployment down, secure borders and guarantee funding for schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

    He then took aim at the Opposition, painting the Labor leader as untrustworthy.

    “You will have the choice between a government that is delivering a strong economy and will continue to do so, or Bill Shorten’s Labor Party, whose policies would weaken our economy,” Mr Morrison said.

    “It’s taken us more than five years to turn around Labor’s mess. Now is not the time to turn back. Keeping our economy strong is how we secure your future, and your family’s future.”

    He accused the Labor Pary of “turning a $20 billion surplus into a $27 billion deficit” and “turning strong borders into weak borders”.”

    Lies abound and everything happens in the future. And there is, of course, no mention of the more than doubling of the national net debt to $350 billion plus…blast, I keep forgetting the LNP mantra.

  22. New England Cocky

    @ OLD WOMBAT: Have you considered the possibility that the recent polling results were so abysmal for the LNP misgovernment that they were deliberately edited to show little change from the previous polls?

  23. Keitha Granville

    I agree OldWombat – far too many voters think only of themselves, they care not for the sick, the old or the disadvantaged. And even less for the planet.

    I have one friend who votes Liberal, she says she doesn’t like Bill. I laugh at her, seriously, choosing a government on the basis of that is pathetic.

  24. Jack Cade

    I was interested to see in yesterday’s Adelaide Advertiser an opinion pieces whiich summarised Morrison as a blockhead who thought we were all as stupid
    As he is. That is an incredibly brave article from
    a Murdoch serf.

  25. johnyperth

    Living in Perth, the last WA state election Newscorp poll had both the Labor, and, LNP neck and deck.

    All other polls had Labor ahead to win the election, but, just.

    The WA media was saying if Labor was lucky to win it would rely on the cross benches.

    The result??

    Labor had its biggest win in history!!

    Everybody was asking how Newscorp polls were so wrong??

    My answer is that Newscorp polls are conducted in Conservative suburbs with different questions opposed to the other polls!!!

  26. Wat Tyler

    I am extremely cynical about the media in this country. I look forward to the polls and admit that I get a sinking feeling when the Coalition ‘surges’, as the Adelaide Advertiser put it. Aussies like winners, and the psychology behind the media treatment of polls is that there are enough people – generally uninterested in politics but nevertheless voters – who are prepared to bandwagon.
    There was a suggestion that staff on the Courier-Mail were unhappy about the editorial pushing the 19/20 Coalition budget and lauding the treasurer. I see no merit in this sudden ‘conversion’. I see them realising that the ordure might hit the airconditioning and wanting to appear ethical. That makes then even lower in my opinion. Plus ‘their’ ABC has suddenly stopped inviting ex-Coalition toadies on every single panel on The Drum, featuring Guardian people instead, as if to suggest ‘Look, we are our own masters.’ Bollocked they are!
    Get ready for a month of sudden Labor scandals from 10 years ago. We even see it is Britain, with the ‘anti-Semite’ charges against Corbyn – a man who has been fighting against anti-Semitism all his life – funded by Netanyahu.
    Don’t kid yourselves that we make our own minds up. The last time we were allowed to think fir ourselves was 1972, and we know how that panned out.

  27. David1

    Wat Taylor…excellent points, agree with them all. I am waiting for Murdoch’s mongrels to unleash with venom on Mr Shorten, as night follows day it will happen. I hope Labor are ready.
    I also hope the ALP have someone reading these columns, they will find the majority of comment refreshing and not attack dog like.

    Even those who do not agree with aspects of Labor’s stance do it moderately and without offensive intent.

  28. Paul Davis

    My first thought on the ‘loom’ was gosh everything old is new again. I remember the newspapers warning about chain letter scams back in the 1960s but they were an ancient revival even then. Through the 70s 80s and 90s we had Amway style pyramids, ‘seats on the plane’ schemes and even into this century people have been harrassed by family and friends wanting to progress to ‘diamond’ status in some new american or asian ‘everbody wins’ scam. However on second thoughts regarding social media and its gormless devotees, why has it taken so long?

    Like a McShouty promise the enducements are too good to be true.

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