Over 2/3 of One Nation preferences went to LNP at Longman byelection

A political eternity ago, five byelections were held on July 28.  On August 30, the electoral commission provided detailed preference flow data.

Labor won Longman by 54.5-45.5 against the LNP, a 3.7% swing to Labor.  Primary votes were 39.8% Labor, 29.6% LNP, 15.9% One Nation, 4.8% Greens and 9.8% for all Others.  67.7% of One Nation voters preferenced the LNP ahead of Labor, a massive increase from 43.5% at the 2016 election.

Labor also had weaker flows from the Greens, winning 76.5% of their preferences, down from 80.7%.  However, Labor won 59.0% of preferences from Other candidates, including 81% from the DLP.

At the 2016 election, One Nation recommended preferences to Labor ahead of the LNP in Longman; at the byelection, they reversed their recommendations.  However, I believe the largest factor in the One Nation shift is that they were perceived as an anti-establishment party in 2016, but are now clearly a right-wing party.

One Nation’s preference flows in Longman vindicate Newspoll’s decision to assign about 60% of One Nation’s preferences to the Coalition, rather than the 50-50 split that occurred at the 2016 election.

Labor won Braddon by 52.3-47.7 against the Liberals, a 0.1% swing to Labor.  Primary votes were 39.3% Liberal, 37.0% Labor, 10.6% for independent Craig Garland, 4.8% Shooters and 4.0% Greens.  74.3% of Garland preferences favoured Labor, just above 73.7% from the Greens, while Shooters preferences split evenly between the two parties.

The Greens to Labor preference flow was low in Braddon as the Greens were at the top of the ballot paper, thus receiving the “donkey vote”.  As the Liberals were listed before Labor, they benefited from donkey votes who voted Greens.

The Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie defeated the Liberals by 57.5-42.5 in Mayo, a 2.6% swing to Sharkie.  Primary votes were 44.4% Sharkie, 37.4% Liberal, 8.9% Greens and 6.1% Labor.  Over 78% of Labor and Greens preferences flowed to Sharkie.

The Liberals won the two party preferred vote in Mayo against Labor by 55.7-44.3, a 0.3% swing to the Liberals since the 2016 election.  This result implies that over two-thirds of non-Labor/Liberal voters (most of them Sharkie’s voters) preferenced Labor ahead of the Liberals.

The WA seats of Perth and Fremantle were not contested by the Liberals.  In Perth, primary votes were 39.3% Labor (up 2.0% since 2016), 18.8% Greens (up 1.7%), 9.5% for independent Paul Collins and 6.7% Liberal Democrats.  In the distribution of preferences, Collins came within 0.4% of pushing the Greens into third, despite starting 9.3% behind.  Labor defeated the Greens by 63.1-36.9 after preferences.

In Fremantle, primary votes were 52.6% Labor (up 11.6%), 16.5% Greens (down 1.2%) and 14.1% Liberal Democrats.   The Lib Dems overtook the Greens by 0.5% in  the distribution of preferences, with Labor winning by 73.3-26.7 against the Lib Dems.

Overall, Labor had strong performances in Longman and Fremantle, but did not do very well in the other seats.  The Greens failed to benefit from the Liberals’ absence in Perth and Fremantle.

Turnout was just 64-66% in the WA seats, with no Liberal candidate.  In Mayo and Longman, turnout was 84-86%, and in Braddon it was 90.4%.

Analyst Kevin Bonham has a detailed review of the polling at these byelections.

 

ReachTEL 50-50 tie in Wentworth, and where Morrison could have problems

A byelection is likely to be held in Wentworth in October after Malcolm Turnbull resigns.  A ReachTEL Wentworth poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted August 27 from a sample of 886, had a 50-50 tie between the Liberals and Labor, an 18% swing to Labor since the 2016 election.

There were two primary vote scenarios.  In the first, the Liberals had 41.9%, Labor 31.5%, the Greens 15.6% and One Nation 2.3%.  The second scenario included two prominent independents, who each had 11-12%, with the Liberals on 34.6%, Labor 20.3% and the Greens 8.9%.

While seat polls are inaccurate, the loss of Turnbull’s personal vote, and the anger of well educated voters at his ousting, could make Wentworth close.

By 67-24, Wentworth voters thought the national energy guarantee should include an emissions reduction target.  By 69-10, they thought Scott Morrison would do less to tackle climate change than Turnbull, rather than more.

 

The Poll Bludger conducted a regression analysis of the two party swings at the 2016 federal election.  Education was the most significant explanatory variable, with a higher proportion of high school graduates associated with better swing results for the Coalition.  Well-educated people liked Turnbull, but are unlikely to warm to Morrison.

At the next election, Labor is likely to have better swing results in seats with high levels of educational attainment.

On August 28, The Australian released aggregate data from Turnbull’s final three Newspolls (all 51-49 to Labor).  In these three polls, Turnbull overall had a net -10 approval rating, but his best ratings were among those aged 18-34 (a net zero approval).  In Victoria, Turnbull had a net -5 approval.

Labor led by 54-46 in Victoria, and Labor and the Greens had a combined 55% of the primary vote among those aged 18-34.  But Turnbull’s relatively high ratings were probably holding up the Coalition vote in Victoria and among young people.  With Morrison replacing Turnbull, the Coalition’s vote in Victoria and with young people is most at risk.

In November 2017, the result of the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage was announced, with Yes to SSM winning by 61.6-38.4.  This result shows that social conservatism has little electoral appeal.  It is likely that there will be far fewer potential Labor voters who would switch to voting for the Coalition under Morrison than the reverse.

Newspoll and Essential both 51-49 to Labor

This week’s Newspoll, conducted July 26-29 from a sample of 1,700, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged on last fortnight.  Primary votes were 39% Coalition (up one), 36% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (steady) and 7% One Nation (steady).  Three of the four days of this poll’s fieldwork were taken before the Super Saturday byelection results were known.

This was the Coalition’s 37th successive Newspoll loss under Malcolm Turnbull, four more than the previous record of consecutive Newspoll losses for a government.  However, the primary vote shift in this poll indicate the Coalition is closing in on a 50-50 Newspoll.

42% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up one), and 48% were dissatisfied (down one), for a net approval of -6, equal with a Newspoll four weeks ago for Turnbull’s best net approval this term.  Bill Shorten’s net approval fell one point to -25.  Turnbull maintained an unchanged 48-29 lead as better PM.

By 40-29, voters thought Anthony Albanese would be better than Shorten to lead Labor.  Albanese led by 34-35 points with Coalition and One Nation voters, but Shorten led by 49-33 with Labor voters and 32-29 with Greens voters.

 

This week’s Essential, also conducted July 26-29 from a sample of 1,022, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged on last fortnight.  Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up one), 36% Labor (steady), 10% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (steady).  Essential is using 2016 election flows, and this poll would be 50-50 by Newspoll’s new methods.

55% thought the parties’ policies were very important to their votes, 28% the parties’ leaders and 27% local candidates.  By 64-21, voters agreed that parties should not change leaders before elections, yet by 56-29 they also agreed that parties should replace their leader if they are unpopular.

28% (up four since April) thought Turnbull the best Liberal leader, 16% Julie Bishop (down one), 10% Tony Abbott (down one) and 5% Peter Dutton (up two).  Among Coalition voters, Turnbull had 51% (up six), Bishop 14% (up one) and Abbott 11% (down six).

19% (down one since August 2017) thought Shorten the best Labor leader, 19% Anthony Albanese (up six) and 12% Tanya Plibersek (down one).  Among Labor voters, Shorten had 37% (up three), Albanese 17% (up two) and Plibersek 13% (down two).

Since November 2017, there has been an eight-point decrease in perception that the Liberals are divided, an eight-point increase in “has a good team of leaders” and a five-point increase in “clear about what they stand for”.  For Labor, there was a seven-point decrease in extreme, a five-point decrease in “too close to the big corporate interests” and a five-point increase in divided.

The Liberals were 30 points ahead of Labor on being too close to the big corporate interests, and 16 points ahead on being out of touch, but they were seven points ahead on having a good team of leaders.  Labor was 20 points ahead on looking after the interests of working people and eight points ahead on understanding the problems facing Australia.   In November 2017, the Liberals were 13 points ahead on divided; now both parties are equal.

Theresa May likely to survive soft Brexit fallout

At the June 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK voted to Leave the European Union by a 51.9-48.1 margin.  In April 2017, the Conservatives led Labour by nearly 20 points in the polls.  Expecting a landslide Conservative victory, PM Theresa May called a June 2017 election, three years early.  Instead, Labour surged in the campaign, and the Conservatives lost their Commons majority.

The Conservatives won 317 of the 650 seats, Labour 262, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) 35, the Liberal Democrats 12 and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ten.  The Conservatives were forced into an agreement with the DUP.

Since the election, May has tended to defer important Brexit decisions, thus keeping the support of both the hard right Brexit faction and the soft Brexit faction within the Conservatives.  However, on July 6, May’s Cabinet met at Chequers, and settled on a soft Brexit, in an attempt to avoid economic fallout from a hard Brexit.

As a result of this decision, two prominent hard Brexiteers – Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – resigned from Cabinet on July 8-9.  The hard Brexit faction of the Conservatives is deeply unhappy with the Chequers deal, and many are demanding May’s resignation.  But can they force May to resign?

To bring on a vote of no-confidence in the Conservative leader, 15% of Conservative MPs must write letters to the Chair of the 1922 Committee expressing no-confidence.  If this threshold is passed, all Conservative MPs have a vote, and a majority no-confidence vote is required to oust the leader.

While hard Brexiteers have the 48 MPs required to trigger a confidence vote in May’s leadership, they are far short of the 159 MPs required to win such a vote.

In parliament, while the hard Brexiteers can propose amendments to Brexit and other legislation, they are powerless unless Labour joins them.  While it is not pro-Remain, Labour’s Brexit policy is to the left of the Conservatives, and there will be few occasions when hard Brexiteers and Labour vote together.

An occasion where Labour and hard Brexiteers could vote together is on a formal confidence vote in the government.  However, hard Brexiteers are right-wing on other issues, and do not want to make Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn PM, as they perceive him to be a socialist.

If a Brexit deal is agreed with the European Union, parliament must ratify the deal.  For their own reasons, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems are likely to oppose the deal.  If the Conservatives were defeated in the vote on the Brexit deal, the UK would crash out without a deal on March 29, 2019.

So if Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems hold to their current position of opposing the Brexit deal, hard Brexiteers can secure the hardest Brexit – but likely with disastrous economic consequences.

A YouGov poll before the Chequers meeting gave the Conservatives a 41-40 lead over Labour.  After the Chequers meeting, the parties were tied at 39% each.  After the resignations of Davis and Johnson, Labour led by 39-37, with the Conservatives losing support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).  This was Labour’s first lead in a YouGov poll since March.  Disillusionment with the Conservatives could damage them further in the coming days and weeks.

A major source for this article is Stephen Bush of the New Statesman’s Morning Call email (though it is more like Evening Call in Melbourne).

Mexican election: landslide for the left

In the Mexican presidential election held on July 1, the left-wing candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by his initials AMLO, won a commanding 53.2% of the vote, with Ricardo Anaya, who led a right-left coalition, in a very distant second with 22.3%.  The candidate of the current governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), José Antonio Meade, was third with just 16.4%.

AMLO’s vote share was the highest in a Mexican presidential election since 1982, and he is the first to win an absolute majority of the popular vote since 1988.  The PRI was dominant in Mexican elections during the twentieth century before they were defeated by Vicente Fox of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) in 2000.

Prior to the election, coalitions were formed that did not necessarily include like-minded parties.  AMLO’s coalition included his own MORENA party and the Labor Party, but also the evangelical Social Encounter Party.  Anaya’s coalition included his own PAN, but also the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement.

Three hundred of the 500 members of the lower house were elected by first-past-the-post, and the remainder by proportional representation. 96 of the 128 senators were elected in 32 three-member electorates based on the states; in these electorates, the winning party won two seats, and the runner-up one. The remaining 32 senators were elected by proportional representation.

In the Senate, AMLO’s coalition won 43.7% of the vote and 70 of the 128 seats, while Anaya’s coalition won 27.6% of the vote and 38 seats, and the coalition led by the PRI won 22.6% of the vote and 20 seats.  In the lower house, similar vote shares gave AMLO’s coalition 312 of the 500 seats, Anaya’s coalition 128 seats and the PRI coalition just 60 seats.

MORENA won a total of 58 of the 128 senators, and 193 of the 500 lower house members.  Labor won seven senators and 61 in the lower house.  Combined, MORENA and Labor won 65 of the 128 senators, and 254 of the 500 lower house seats.  As a result, these two parties alone will have majorities in both chambers of the legislature, and AMLO will not need votes from the Social Encounter Party.

The left’s majority in the Mexican legislature is further bolstered by the PRD and Citizens’ Movement, which were formerly led by AMLO.  These two parties won a combined 16 senate seats and 49 lower house seats.

The president and the Senate have six-year terms, while the lower house has a three-year term.

Liberals win Darling Range (WA) byelection

The byelection for the Western Australian state seat of Darling Range was held on June 23.  The Liberals’ Alyssa Hayden defeated Labor’s Tania Lawrence by a 53.3-46.7 margin, a 9.1% swing to the Liberals since the 2017 state election.

Primary votes were 34.4% Liberal (up 4.0%), 32.1% Labor (down 9.4%), 7.8% One Nation (down 0.9%), 5.8% Greens (down 1.8%), 5.8% for the new WA Party, 4.7% Christians (up 0.3%), 4.5% Shooters (up 0.3%) and 3.3% Animal Justice.  Labor performed badly on preferences due to the larger right-wing minor party vote.

The byelection had been held after the former Labor MP, Barry Urban, had been forced to resign over allegations of fraudulent behaviour.  At the 2017 election, Labor won Darling Range with a massive 18.9% swing.  Given the circumstances of the byelection and some tendency for a correction after a large swing, the Liberals were expected to re-take Darling Range.

A ReachTEL poll for The West Australian, published just one week before the byelection, gave Labor a 54-46 lead in Darling Range.  Polls for individual seats have had large errors in Australia.  The seven-point error in this ReachTEL implies that polls of the July 28 federal byelection seats may not be accurate.

There have been many occasions where governments have suffered large swings against them at byelections, but won the next general election comfortably.  It is likely that most of the swing against Labor was caused by the circumstances of Barry Urban’s resignation.

Conservatives easily win June 7 Ontario election

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province.  The centre-left Liberals had governed for 15 years, but finished a distant third at the June 7 election, behind the Conservatives and the New Democratic Party (NDP) – Canada’s most left-wing major party.  The Conservative leader, Doug Ford, has been compared to Donald Trump.

The Conservatives won 76 of the 124 seats (up 44 since the 2014 election), the NDP 40  (up 17), the Liberals just seven (down 62) and the Greens one (up one).  Parliament was expanded from 107 to 124 seats, and I am using the notional seats held before the 2018 election for seat changes.

Vote shares were 40.5% Conservatives (up 9.3%), 33.6% NDP (up 9.8%), 19.6% Liberals (down 19.1%) and 4.6% Greens (down 0.2%).  Ontario uses First Past the Post.

CBC analyst Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker gave the Conservatives 38.7%, the NDP 35.5%, the Liberals 19.6% and the Greens 4.9% in its final pre-election edition.  There was movement to the Conservatives in the final days, as the NDP slipped from a one-point lead to a three-point deficit.  Three of the four final polls gave the Conservatives four to six point leads.

The NDP had surged from third place at the end of April, when a Conservative landslide looked likely, to a peak position of a two-point lead at the end of May.  The drop over the final few days was probably because many voters were unfamiliar with the NDP’s agenda.  The greater focus on the NDP in the final days damaged their chances.

The Conservatives benefited greatly from the splitting of the left vote between the NDP, Liberals and Greens.  The three left parties combined won 57.8% of the vote, but just 38.7% of the seats.  During the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised to reform Canada’s electoral system, but he abandoned that promise in early 2017.

With the Conservatives currently leading Trudeau’s Liberals in federal polling, it is possible they could repeat their success in Ontario, or indeed the 2011 federal election.  The next federal election is due by October 2019.

Spanish conservative government falls, Italian populist government formed

The December 2015 and June 2016 Spanish elections both produced inconclusive results.  Neither the right-wing parties (the Popular Party and the new Citizens’ party) nor the left-wing parties (the Socialists and the new Podemos) won enough lower house seats for a right or left majority.  In October 2016, incumbent Popular Party PM Mariano Rajoy won a confidence vote after the Socialists abstained.

On June 1, Rajoy lost a confidence vote by 180 votes to 169, following a corruption scandal that involved members of his party.   Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez became the new PM.

However, with only 84 of the 350 lower house seats, the Socialists will find it difficult to legislate.  Furthermore, the Popular Party controls the upper house, which is elected by First Past the Post, while the lower house uses rough proportional representation.

The next Spanish election is not due until 2020, but it could be held earlier.  The Citizens wanted a snap election, as they hold a lead in current polls.

 

In Italy, almost three months after the March 4 election, a coalition government was formed between two populist parties: the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League.  Combined, both parties have majorities in both chambers of the Italian Parliament.  Five Star has nearly twice as many seats in both chambers as the League, so they are the senior partner in the coalition.

There was a last-minute hitch when the Italian President refused the nomination of the Finance Minister, as the nominee was Eurosceptic.  However, the League and Five Star Movement selected a different nominee who was acceptable to the President.

Tasmanian EMRS poll: 47% Liberal, 30% Labor, 14% Greens

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted May 7-10 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 47% of the vote, Labor 30% and the Greens 14%.  At the March state election, the Liberals won 50%, Labor 33% and the Greens 10%.  In the final pre-election EMRS poll, the Liberals had 46%, Labor 34% and the Greens 12%.

EMRS skews to the Greens, and its final poll was worse for the Liberals than the election results.  Given this, there is no evidence of a drop in Liberal support since the election.  Some Labor support appears to have gone to the Greens.

On the better Premier question, incumbent Will Hodgman led Opposition Leader 47-41 (48-41 in the final pre-election ERMS).

On May 15, preferences were distributed in the upper house seat of Prosser, which voted on May 5.   In a field of 13, Liberal Jane Howlett won 26.1%, Labor’s Janet Lambert 21.9% and independent Steve Mav 19.7%.  After preferences, Howlett defeated Lambert by 52.7-47.3, with Mav finishing third, well behind Lambert.

There are now four Labor and two Liberal members of the upper house, from a total of 15 – the rest are independents.  According to Tasmanian analyst Kevin Bonham, party representation in Tasmania’s upper house is at an all-time high.

The overall balance of power is unchanged with Labor and four left-wing independents holding eight of the 15 seats.  A left-wing independent was re-elected in Hobart, held on the same day as the Prosser election.

Every May, two or three of Tasmania’s 15 upper house seats are up for election for a six-year term.

Domestic economic data showing some weakness

The Australian economy is likely to be important to the outcome of the next federal election.    While employment growth was strong in all of 2017, it has stalled in early 2018.

Between September 2016 and January 2018, more jobs were added each month, with a total gain of over 520,000 jobs, averaging almost 33,000 jobs gained a month.  However, in March 2018 there were over 1,000 fewer jobs than in January, after a slip in February.

Quarterly retail sale volumes rose 0.2% in the March 2018 quarter, down from a 0.8% gain in the December 2017 quarter.

In March, the total value of dwelling commitments was down 4.4% from February at a level well below the previous months.  The number of owner occupied dwelling commitments continued to trend down.  This fall began before the Banking Royal Commission uncovered some unethical banking practices.

In the March quarter, wages growth continued to be low, at just a 0.5% increase in that quarter, and 2.1% for the year from March 2017 to March 2018.  Labor and the unions are campaigning strongly on wage growth, so this will be an important issue at the next election.

The Australian share market has surged owing mainly to higher commodity prices, and Australia had a trade surplus of over $1.1 billion in each of January, February and March.  However, the domestic economy does not appear to be doing well in early 2018.

All figures here are seasonally adjusted, and are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.