What happened to SA Best?

This is quite a long analysis of the SA Best performance at yesterday’s state election. If you stick with it I’ve included a chart comparing SA Best to the Nick Xenophon Team in 2016, and at the end there’s a map! Enjoy.

Expectations were very high for Nick Xenophon’s SA Best party, with earlier polling suggesting the party had the potential to break apart the two-party system in South Australia. Yet their support in the polls dropped away as we got to election day and did not manage to win any lower house seats.

It’s worth a reminder that the SA Best vote is pretty good for a minor party. The party is sitting on 13.7% in the House of Assembly, and 18.9% in the Legislative Council. That will be enough to win two seats in the Legislative Council, while the Greens will likely only manage one seat and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives will likely miss out entirely.

There was some polling in late 2017 which put SA Best neck-and-neck with the major parties, but it now appears that these polls were outliers. A Newspoll in late 2017 had the new party on 32% of the primary vote, while both major parties were stuck below 30%. One other Morgan poll put SA Best on 28.5%. If you exclude those two polls, no other poll had the party on anything more than 22%, which isn’t that much more than the final upper house vote of 19%.

The public narrative suggests that SA Best suffered from a polling collapse, but I’m not so sure. There definitely was some decline – there was a 4-point drop in the last Newspoll, and that was 3 points above the actual result – but I doubt the figures in the high 20s or low 30s, which implied SA Best wiping out a major party and taking over ten seats, were ever anything other than outliers.

Even though there was only a small amount of polling, SA Best had a lot of hype, which may have contributed to Nick Xenophon’s decision to resign from the Senate and contest the seat of Hartley, or the late surge in the number of SA Best candidates, until they were running in 36 out of 47 seats.

Read on below the fold for more about SA Best.

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Prior to the election I used a breakdown of the NXT Senate vote at the 2016 federal election by state seat to attempt to predict the SA Best vote. So how did this perform?

The model worked reasonably well. This graph compares the vote in the 36 contested seats to the Senate vote, and the trend is very clear.

There were a few outliers, including Xenophon’s seat of Hartley, where he polled only 2% less than his party polled in the Senate in 2016, but in most areas there was a drop in the SA Best vote relative to 2016, and the drop was relatively consistent.

Nick Xenophon’s various political machines have tended to produce relatively even votes across the state. This gives him a broad base to win Senate and upper house seats, but it also means that he could poll quite well and struggle to win single-member electorates.

This trend hurt SA Best badly last night – the party’s vote of almost 14% was only enough to just crack 25% in three seats.

The party was very effective at breaking into the top two, but in most cases this didn’t give them a chance of winning. SA Best are currently sitting in second in twelve seats. In those twelve seats, the gap between the second-placed SA Best candidate and the leading candidate ranged from 14.8% in Hartley to 35.5% in MacKillop. Those are massive gaps to close on preferences. A more lopsided vote count would’ve allowed the party to come first on primary votes, or at least come a close second, in a handful of seats, while polling poorly in many other seats, or perhaps not even running.

This makes me wonder how much effort was put into concentrating SA Best’s vote in a few key seats. Apart from Xenophon himself, no other candidates stood out as leading figures, and I didn’t see any evidence (admittedly from afar) of the party picking a handful of seats to ensure the party at least won a few seats. Perhaps it was just hubris, believing the party had a real shot at winning, say, ten or twenty seats and forming the opposition. If you really believe that you’d want to spread out your resources, not concentrate them.

This is the only way I can explain Xenophon’s choice of Hartley. The seat ranked twentieth on the list of NXT seats from the 2016 election. I get that it was his own local electorate, but it put a lot of faith in his party’s ability to sustain a very high vote, or his ability to push his personal vote well ahead of his party. The chart above suggests that Xenophon did benefit from a substantial personal vote, something that would’ve been enough to win if he’d contested a seat like Finniss, Heysen or Chaffey, but it won’t be enough in Hartley.

The last thing to note is that this is Nick Xenophon’s first attempt at contesting a lower house seat. He won his first seat in the Legislative Council on a tiny vote in 1997 thanks to favourable preference deals. He was re-elected to the Legislative Council in 2006, and then to the Senate in 2007, 2013 and 2016, each time with a massive vote closer in scale to the major parties than to other minor parties.

Nick Xenophon was on the ballot across South Australia at his last four elections – not this time. I’ve long wondered how well his parties would perform without him on the ballot. Xenophon-endorsed tickets at the 2010 and 2014 state elections did much less well without his candidacy, and I suspect that is a key factor in the drop in vote. It could also reflect the fact that state lower house MPs have much more profile than upper house MPs, and the major parties prioritise putting those people forward. It’s easier to vote for Nick Xenophon over an anonymous Labor ticket (particularly when a favourite lead candidate won’t have trouble winning re-election) than to vote for an SA Best candidate over a known local MP.

Finally, here is a map showing the relative vote for SA Best in the 36 seats they contested:


SA election – Liberals win government in status quo result

There’s been a lot of chatter about SA Best and their impact on the SA election, and I will return to them in my next post, but I wanted to focus here on the actual result. The overall result saw a change of government, but with practically no seats changing hands compared to the notional redistribution analysis.

The last election saw the Liberal Party poll 53% of the two-party-preferred vote, but fall two seats short of a majority, with Labor gaining the support of an independent to take power for a fourth term.

The recent redistribution completely undid the map which had allowed for an even result off such a lopsided result.

The Liberal Party gained four seats off Labor in the redistribution, with others also experiencing quite large changes in margin.

Once you factor in that change, it appears that only one seat has changed hands between the major parties (according to the ABC), with the Liberal Party on track to win the seat of King. King is a successor seat to Napier, and the redistribution reduced the Labor margin from 9.1% to 1.4%.

It’s possible that Labor will retain the seat of Mawson despite the seat being redrawn as a Liberal seat (a notional Labor gain), and could still gain the seat of Adelaide, which did not experience much of a change in the redistribution and remained a marginal Liberal seat.

Each major party also lost one seat each to an independent MP who had been a member of their party at the 2014 election: Labor lost Florey and the Liberal Party lost Mount Gambier.

This adds up to a total result of 24 Liberal seats, 18 Labor seats, 2 more in doubt (with Labor and Liberal leading in one each) and 3 independents.

SA Best is currently in the top two in twelve seats, which could conceivably have massively disrupted the Labor-Liberal contest, but most of these seats are traditional safe seats. SA Best is only sitting in the top two in two marginal seats: the Labor seat of Giles and the marginal Liberal seat of Hartley, where Nick Xenophon is in danger of falling into third behind Labor. So the SA Best threat was mostly focused in traditional safe seats. This could have still had a big impact if the party had won some of these seats, but instead the major parties appear to have been completely successful at locking SA Best out of their heartland seats.

At this point we only have two-party-preferred counts in 31 seats. The ECSA made an incorrect selection in three other seats, so they will need to re-run a Labor-Liberal preference count, while in the other 15 seats an SA Best or independent candidate made the final two. We will eventually have two-party-preferred figures from every seat and every booth, and thus a statewide total, but that might take some time. When that’s available I’ll be sure to put together a map.

Since we lack this complete picture, we can’t precisely say what happened in terms of the contest between Labor and Liberal across the state, but the result in the two-thirds of the state where data is available suggests that Labor did gain ground on the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party gained a positive swing in eight seats, while Labor gained a positive swing in twenty-two seats. There was no swing in the marginal Labor seat of Wright.

That’s it for now, I’ll be back later today with some more analysis of the SA Best vote.


Batman 2018 – the map tells the story

I love a good electoral map, that can tell a story about how a seat’s population votes in different ways and how the balance of those communities decides who wins an election. Batman has produced a fascinating map at recent elections, with the Greens dominating south of Bell Street while Labor rules the roost to the north.

The question at this election was whether the Greens could breach Bell Street and take more of the vote north of the road. The answer is: yes, they can. But they did so while losing support in their heartland, and the swing to Labor in the south was stronger than the Greens swing in the north.

The Greens gained swings in a majority of booths north of Bell Street, but most of the swings were small. The biggest swings took place at the northern fringe of the electorate in suburbs like Bundoora and Reservoir.

But they were dwarfed by Labor swings in the south – swings of 7% in the Thornbury area, and swings of 8% and 11% in Northcote.

This map shows the swings to Labor or the Greens across Batman:

I feel like this swing map is one of the most illuminating electoral maps I have ever made, and can be interpreted in many ways to tell the story of this by-election: Labor’s shift to the left from Feeney to Kearney, the Greens’ concerted push into the north and efforts to court more conservative voters with their last-minute message on dividend imputation, and a more equalised vote, with less difference between the strongest Labor and Greens areas.

Labor defeated the Greens by just 1% in 2016, so this differential swing was enough to make a big difference at this by-election.

This by-election hasn’t erased the gap between the north and the south. The Greens still won most booths south of Bell Street, and Labor won all but one booth north of this line.

To finish this post, here is the map showing the two-candidate-preferred vote for the winning party at each booth. You can compare this to the 2016 result here.


Batman/SA election night live

Batman by-election results

CandidatePartyPrimaryPrimary %Swing2PP votes2PP %2PP Swing
Yvonne GentleRise Up Australia18952.562.56
Ged KearneyLabor3122642.228.013948353.382.1
Alex BhathalGreens3047041.195.573448346.62-2.1
Kevin BaileyConservatives47246.396.39
Tegan BurnsPeople’s Party3580.480.48
Debbie RobinsonLiberty Alliance9571.291.29
Teresa Van LieshoutIndependent8751.181.18
Adrian WhiteheadIndependent6170.830.83
Mark McDonaldSustainable Australia73711
Miranda SmithAnimal Justice21072.851.42

Primary booths reporting: 44/52
2CP booths reporting: 44/52
Last updated at: 23:06

11:23pm – As for South Australia, the Liberal Party has won government, almost certainly with a majority. There is, however, a handful of seats still in play. The Liberal Party could win as many as 26 seats, but is leading in 25.

The upper house will see the major parties and the Greens hold steady, while the rest of the crossbench shifts. The Dignity Party has lost their sole seat, while the Conservatives have lost one of the two seats they inherited from Family First, with both those seats going to SA Best. The new government will need either SA Best or the Greens to pass legislation, in addition to the other party, or one of the other two members. One of these members, John Darley, was allied with Nick Xenophon when he succeeded Xenophon in the upper house in 2007 and when he won re-election in 2014.

11:19pm – I’m going to finish up this liveblog now, with a summary of each election. Firstly, Batman.

I’ll be back in a few minutes with a separate post showing the maps for Batman, but the quick summary is that we are still waiting for some pre-poll votes, as well as quite a lot of postal votes, but they hold no hope for the Greens. On current numbers, Ged Kearney has gained a 2.1% swing to Labor.

There was a very clear trend where the Greens gained small swings in northern booths, while Labor gained large swings at the southern end, including a gobsmacking 34% swing in Northcote West. We just received the result from the Northcote pre-poll booth, which produced a 6.7% swing to Labor.

10:27pm – Current numbers suggest that Labor and Liberal will each maintain their four upper house seats, with two SA Best members and one Green. So that’s a loss for Dignity Party’s Kelly Vincent and the Conservatives’ Robert Brokenshire.

10:04pm – We’ve now got the votes in the Thornbury pre-poll in the centre of Batman, with Labor gaining a swing of 2.8% in that booth. This has properly shut the door on the Greens there.

10:01pm – So there are 23 seats which are locked on for the Liberal Party, with them looking good to win Newland. They are behind, but still with a shot, in Mawson, while Heysen is up in the air. So they could end up on as many as 26 seats. Even if they don’t win any of these seats, the independent MP in Mount Gambier should give them the numbers they need.

9:58pm – If you’ve found this analysis useful, tonight and throughout the campaign, maybe you could consider signing up as a patron?

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9:31pm – I’ve been focusing on analysing data at the Guardian liveblog but here’s where things stand at 9:30:

  • Labor looks set to win the Batman by-election with a swing of over 1%. We’ve just started receiving pre-poll votes, but there’s no evidence of a shift in the vote.
  • The Liberal Party look set to win a majority in the South Australian election, with a few seats just firming up now. SA Best may not win any seats, with only one seat still in play for the third party.

7:41pm – Things don’t look good for Alex Bhathal and the Greens in Batman. Nearly every booth is swinging to Labor after preferences, with some large swings in southern booths.

7:11pm – After three booths, the swing to the Greens after preferences is 0.88%.

7:07pm – First three booths for the Greens in Batman include two large booths in Labor-friendly Reservoir. Overall the Greens vote is up 8.9%, while Labor is up 2.2%.

6:38pm – And polls have now closed in South Australia. Still no data from Batman.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in the by-election for the federal seat of Batman in Melbourne’s inner north. Polls will close in half an hour for the South Australian state election, with polls closing in three hours in the lower-profile Cottesloe state by-election in Perth. I’ll be using AEDT times for my coverage tonight. I’ll also be dropping in to the Guardian’s election night liveblog.

For the Batman by-election I will be posting overall results (top of the page), which include swings based on the vote in 2016 at the booths reported so far. This can be extrapolated to determine projected final votes. Hopefully this is useful.


Super saturday – election day thread

Polls have now opened in the South Australian state election and the federal Batman by-election, and will be opening in the state by-election in Cottesloe within the next half-hour.

This post is mostly to provide a place to discuss today’s events, but I did want to touch briefly on the two statewide polls released last night for South Australia.

Both have very similar numbers, with the Liberal Party leading on 34%, Labor on 31%, and SA Best on 16% (Reachtel) or 17% (Newspoll). We know that Newspoll has dialled down their numbers for SA Best to reflect the fact that they were running everywhere (the last poll had them on a statewide figure of 27% but only 21% if you exclude voters who can’t vote for them), presumably Reachtel is similar.

A vote of 16-17% would be very good for a minor party, and will undoubtedly be enough to win some seats, but it’ll be a small bench and suggests that Nick Xenophon may struggle to win Hartley (as a local poll has emphasised).

I’ll be running a liveblog here while also contributing to the Guardian’s liveblog. The main thing I plan to include here is a model matching the booths in Batman. Of course, expect some booth results maps late in the night (this time I’m confident I’ll get access to the data on the night).

Good luck voting!


Tasmanian election – count update

We are now entering the final stages of the Tasmanian election’s preference distributions. After all votes were collected, preferences began to be distributed yesterday, with substantial progress yesterday and today.

Kevin Bonham has been doing a great job of tracking the preference distributions in his liveblogs for the five electorates. I thought I would run through a quick summary.


Four seats have been decided – three for the Liberal Party and one for Labor. There are four candidates left in the count. The quota is 10,830 votes:

  • Jennifer Houston (ALP) – 6654
  • Andrea Dawkins (GRN) – 6571
  • Bridget Archer (LIB) – 3505
  • Simon Wood (LIB) – 3418

Wood’s preferences will presumably favour Archer overwhelmingly, bringing her closer to the Labor and Greens candidates, setting up a tight three-way race. If every Wood vote flowed to Archer, she would lead Houston by 269 votes.

In practice you’d expect a decent number of Wood votes to leak to Houston or Dawkins.

Dawkins needs to gain 84 votes net on Houston, or 352 votes on Archer, to stay in the race. If Dawkins is eliminated, her preferences will presumably elect Labor’s Houston.

If Archer is eliminated, her preferences will presumably elect Labor’s Houston. If Houston is eliminated, who knows? It could go either way.

Once Wood’s preferences are distributed we will know which of the final three drops out first, with a final count later tomorrow.


Two Liberals have been elected, with six other candidates left standing. The quota is 10,718 votes:

  • Anita Dow (ALP) – 8570
  • Shane Broad (ALP) – 7531
  • Roger Jaensch (LIB) – 6826
  • Joan Rylah (LIB) – 6005
  • Themba Bulle (ALP) – 4211
  • Felix Ellis (LIB) – 3175

The Liberal Party holds 1.49 quotas in remaining votes, while Labor holds 1.89 quotas, so you’d expect Dow and Broad to both win their seats, and very likely that Jaensch will win the third Liberal seat.


One Labor, one Liberal and one Green have been elected, with five candidates left standing. The quota is 10,866 votes:

  • Sue Hickey (LIB) – 9130
  • Ella Haddad (ALP) – 6909
  • Madeleine Ogilvie (ALP) – 5664
  • Kristy Johnson (LIB) – 5288
  • Tim Cox (ALP) – 5248

Hickey will definitely win a second Liberal seat when Johnson is eliminated, while Tim Cox’s preferences will decide the second Labor seat between Ella Haddad and incumbent Madeleine Ogilvie. Kevin Bonham’s analysis suggests that there’s a correlation between a higher Haddad vote and a higher Cox vote, which suggests Cox’s preferences will favour Haddad, increasing her 1245-vote lead.

The next count, expected tomorrow morning, should decide this final seat.


Two Liberals and one Labor MP have been elected, with four candidates left standing. The quota is 11,863 votes:

  • Nic Street (LIB) – 10,643
  • Rosalie Woodruff (GRN) – 10,562
  • Alison Standen (ALP) – 7,983
  • Kevin Midson (ALP) – 6,073

Midson’s preferences (likely distributed in the morning) should elect Standen, with the surplus deciding the race between Street and Woodruff. There are 2193 surplus Labor votes (excluding any which leak to the other two candidates or exhaust), which is easily enough to overcome the 81-vote gap if they favour Woodruff, which I’d expect.

We should find out tomorrow morning.


Only one candidate has been elected in Lyons (Labor leader Rebecca White), with five Liberals, three Labor, one Green and one JLN candidate in the race.

The Liberal vote collectively adds up to 3.18 quotas, with the third-highest polling Liberal candidate (Rene Hidding) well ahead of his closest rival with over three-quarters of a quota. All three of the incumbent Liberals should be re-elected.

There is a close race for the second Labor seat, with the votes currently sitting at:

  • Janet Lambert – 3,901
  • Jen Butler – 3,784
  • Darren Clark – 3,461

Clark is the next to be excluded, and his preferences should clarify which Labor candidate is leading, but preferences from the Greens, JLN and the two lower-ranked Liberal candidates will also help decide who wins this seat.

This is likely to be the last seat to be decided, and I am not sure if it will be resolved tomorrow.


Tasmanian election – booth results maps

So we finally have booth breakdowns of the Tasmanian election results – and for the first time these have been published as spreadsheets (rather than PDFs or image files) which made it much easier to analyse. And they have also finally published the list of booths in a format useful for analysis (rather than on the website in a format for voters) with a match between the unique booth name in the results table and the full address, which means I don’t have to guess which address matches which votes.

I’m about to dash off for the weekend but before I do I put together two quick maps. The first shows the primary vote totals for the three main parties by booth across the state. The second shows the swings to and from each party. You can toggle on each map between Liberal, Labor and Greens, with Liberal as the default. I’ve also included links to the maps if you want to view them full screen.

Firstly, here’s the primary vote totals. It’s particularly interesting to look at the shockingly low Greens vote in Braddon – the party is a long way away from winning back a seat here:

Secondly, here’s the swings. There were very few places where the Greens gained ground. While the Liberal Party suffered a small statewide swing, there were plenty of places where they gained ground.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back next week as we head to South Australia and Batman, and should expect to start publishing seat guides for the next big elections by April.


Tasmanian election – close seats

My estimate at the end of Saturday night was that the Liberal Party had won 13 seats, Labor 8 and the Greens one, with three seats still in play: in Bass, Braddon and Franklin.

I don’t plan to follow these counts in minute detail but thankfully Kevin Bonham is doing this with separate posts for the five electorates. You can read those posts here:

My plan for Sunday had been to put together booth maps showing the vote figures for the three big parties across the whole state. Sadly the necessary data is not publicly available as of Sunday night, so that will have to wait.

I’ve written before about my frustrations with various state electoral commissions publishing data in non-useful formats. Sadly the Tasmanian Electoral Commission doesn’t appear to be getting any better. They don’t appear to have published any information which would allow me to match the unique booth names (used in the results data) to the list of booth addresses. Thankfully I’ve worked it out, but I don’t understand what would be so hard about publishing this information.

In addition, the TEC did publish the media feed on election night, but they make it difficult to get access to that data, and it appears to have already been shut down.

While you wait for that promised map, I’ve got an article in the Guardian today analysing Saturday’s result.


Tasmanian election night live

10:13pm – If you’ve appreciated my coverage of this election, now would be a good time to think aboutĀ signing up as a patron. I’ll be covering this election further in the coming days, with maps breaking down what happened across the state, and of course there’ll be a lot more coverage of the three other elections coming up in two weeks’ time.

9:54pm – This is the ninth Tasmanian state election that the Greens have contested as a statewide party. Their worst ever result was one seat in 1998, with a vote of 10.2%. They are currently sitting on a statewide vote of 10.3%, with only one seat guaranteed.

9:29pm – I’ve got quite a bit of analysis at the Guardian but here is my summary of the current situation.

I see the Liberal Party on 13 seats (a majority) with a chance of two more. Labor is on 8, with the Greens winning at least one seat.

The three outstanding seats are:

  • Labor vs Greens in Bass – Greens MP Andrea Dawkins is trailing a second Labor candidate.
  • Labor vs Liberal in Braddon – there’s still a chance of a fourth Liberal in Braddon, although Labor is leading.
  • Liberal vs Greens in Franklin – Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff is close to a quota, but only just ahead of the third Liberal quota. A very large proportion of the Liberal vote sits with Will Hodgman, which means they may struggle with some preferences leaking out of the Liberal ticket.

8:07pm – The Liberal Party looks likely to win at least two in Franklin (possibly a third), two in Denison, and at least three in the other electorates. That would be a majority.

7:31pm – The results are looking very good for the Liberal Party, particularly in the northern seats. It looks likely that they will win at least 13 seats, possibly more. It also looks quite possible that the Greens will lose a seat in Bass, dropping to two seats – their worst result since 1998.

6:00pmĀ – Polls have just closed in the Tasmanian state election. I will drop in occasionally with commentary here, as well as contributing to the Guardian liveblog. We should expect to see voting figures before 7pm, until then you can take a look at the Tasmanian election guide.


Tasmanian election day – open thread

Polls have now opened in the Tasmanian state election. Feel free to use this post to share interesting tidbits or developments throughout the day.

There’ll be another post at 6pm, although I’ll primarily be contributing to the Guardian.

If you’re looking for something to occupy yourself while you wait for the results, why not take a read of the Tasmanian election guide, and if you find it useful, please consider signing up as a patron.