Wentworth ReachTEL poll, and left vs far right contest in Brazil

The Wentworth byelection will be held on October 20.  A ReachTEL poll for GetUp!, conducted September 17 from a sample of 860, gave the Liberals’ Dave Sharma 35.8% of the primary vote, independent Kerryn Phelps 20.9%, Labor’s Tim Murray 15.3%, the Greens 12.6%, all Others 5.7% and 9.7% undecided.

After assigning undecided using a forced choice, primary votes were 39.3% Sharma, 22.5% Phelps, 17.4% Murray and 12.6% Greens.  Since a late August ReachTEL poll for The Australia Institute that also included Alex Greenwich, who is not running, Sharma is up 4.7%, Phelps up 10.7%, Murray down 2.9% and the Greens up 3.7%,

Sharma led Murray by 52-48 in the latest ReachTEL, a two-point gain for Sharma since August.  But if the primary votes are accurate, it is likely the final two would be Sharma and Phelps.

A major caveat is that, while this poll was released September 30, it was taken on September 17.  That is four days before Phelps announced that she was recommending preferences to the Liberals ahead of Labor, backflipping on her previous policy to put the Liberals last.  We do not yet know the impact of this decision.

Brazil presidential election: a contest between left and far right

The Brazil presidential election will be held in two rounds, on Sunday October 7 and 28.  If no candidate wins over 50% in the October 7 first round, the top two proceed to a runoff.  Polls will close on Monday morning Melbourne time.

The left-wing Workers’ Party has won the last four presidential elections from 2002 to 2014, but incumbent President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016, and replaced by conservative Vice President Michel Temer.

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula), who had been president from 2003 to 2011, attempted to run as the Workers’ Party candidate, but was jailed for corruption.  Many assumed that the corruption charges and Rousseff’s impeachment were politically motivated.

With Lula’s endorsement, the new Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad has surged from the mid single digits to the 20’s in the polls in the last month, and is very likely to make the runoff.

Haddad’s opponent in the runoff is almost certain to be far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro.  Bolsonaro has made sympathetic comments about Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship.  He has led first round polls that did not include Lula for a long time, and is currently in the 30’s.  Bolsonaro has replaced the conventional right-wing PSDB party.

Polling for the Haddad-Bolsonaro runoff is currently close to tied.  The key question is whether Bolsonaro’s far-right views create a ceiling for him, in which case Haddad could win over undecided voters in the final three-week runoff campaign.

Conservatives win in Quebec, Canada for first time since 1966

At the October 1 Quebec provincial election, the conservative CAQ won 74  of the 125 seats (up 52 since the 2014 election), the centre-left Liberals 32 (down 38), the separatist and left-wing Quebec Solidaire won ten seats (up seven) and the separatist Parti Quebecois won nine seats (down 21).  This is the first time since 1966 that a party other than the Liberals or the Parti Quebecois has won a Quebec election.

Popular votes were 37.4% CAQ (up 14.4%), 24.8% Liberals (down 16.7%), 16.1% Quebec Solidaire (up 8.5%) and 17.1% Parti Quebecois (down 8.3%).  Although first past the post helped the CAQ, they led the Liberals by 12.6%, and would probably have won under any single member electoral system.

Polls in Quebec greatly underestimated the CAQ’s support and overstated Liberal support.

53% of Australians approve of constitutional amendment to separate government and religion

This article has been paid for by the Rationalists Association of NSW

The NSW Rationalists commissioned YouGov Galaxy, which also does Newspoll, for a poll question about separation of government and religion.  The survey was conducted from August 30 to September 3 from a national sample of 1,027.

The question asked was, “Australia has no formal recognition of separation of government and religion. Would you approve or disapprove of a constitutional amendment to formally separate government and religion?”  Full results are available for download in the attached spreadsheet.

Final-Results-for-NSW-Rationalists-Sprtn-of-Govt-Religion-Std-Omnibus-3.9.18-1

Overall, 53% approved of such an amendment, just 14% disapproved and 32% were unsure; these numbers do not sum to 100% due to rounding.  60% of men and 48% of women approved.  Younger age groups were most likely to approve, but 48% of those aged over 65 also approved.  Majorities approved in NSW (55%), Victoria (52%) and Queensland (59%), but not in SA or WA (both 45% approve).  There was little difference in approval between the five capital cities (54%) and the rest of Australia (53%).

In the eastern seaboard states, 218 to 285 people were polled.  These are small samples, so the estimates of approval in these states are error-prone.  It is unlikely that Victoria really has a lower approval of this amendment than Queensland.  The samples for WA and SA are just over 100, and the estimates for these states are more error-prone than for the eastern seaboard states.

PM Scott Morrison advocates new laws to protect religious freedom, but this poll question does not suggest there is any yearning within Australia for more religion.  The same-sex marriage plebiscite, in which Yes to SSM won by 61.6% to 38.4%, was a huge defeat for social conservatism.

It is not surprising that 32% were undecided on this question, as it is not an issue that has had any media attention.  In Australia, amending the Constitution requires a referendum that must be carried by both a national majority and majorities in at least four of the six states.  Only eight of the 44 constitutional referendums have been carried.

If a major political party could be convinced to support a referendum on the separation of government and religion, it would be best to hold such a referendum concurrently with a general election.  Analyst Peter Brent has argued that midterm referendums are much less likely to succeed as voters dislike being dragged to the polls, and such referendums become a chance to kick the government without putting the opposition in.

In an Ipsos poll for the National Secular Lobby, conducted in January 2016 from a sample of 1,032, 57.5% said it was very important to separate personal religious belief from the business of government, 21% somewhat important and 13% said it was either not very important or not at all important.  43% said it was very important to formally separate religion and government, 29% somewhat important and 18% said it was either not very important or not at all important.

In April, Newspoll conducted a survey for The Australian on whether Australia should become a republic.  50% were in favour of a republic, and 41% were against.  The same demographic patterns were replicated in the republic question as in the separation of government and religion question: higher support among men and the young.

 

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.