The turnout is pretty good actually

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The Sydney Morning Herald published an article this afternoon claiming that the recent federal election had “one of the lowest voter turnouts” in the last century. Further down the authors claim that the turnout is “on track to be lower than the 2016 election”, despite acknowledging that this is partly due to the record high enrolment rate bringing in a larger proportion of the eligible population than ever before.

I was planning to write a post explaining why this is misleading, that while it may be true that the proportion of the roll to have cast a vote may have gone down, you can’t spin a story about voters becoming disengaged while the proportion of the eligible population who have voted has been steadily increasing.

Yet it turns out that no such nuance is needed, because even the basic fact at the core of the article is false. Updated statistics tonight reveal that the turnout at this election is about to surpass the 2016 election, with more votes yet to be counted.

Yes there are reasons to be concerned about voters’ “disengagement”, but it is false to claim that the number of Australians who are voting is dropping.

Swings without Turnbull – cumulative swings since 2013

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With all of the conversation about large swings in particular parts of the country at the recent election, a few people have been discussing how much this election’s trends are simply a reaction to the 2016 election, with Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison appealing to very different demographics at the head of the same party.

It is possible that some areas swung in one direction in 2016 because of the popularity (or unpopularity) of Turnbull, which caused the swing in the opposite direction in 2019 to be larger, and by comparing the swings over two election cycles you could isolate which areas have moved the furthest since the Coalition first won power in 2013.

To do this I have added up the 2016 and 2019 two-party-preferred (2PP) swings in the 134 seats which are comparable (two others are completely new seats, while fifteen others are not Labor vs Coalition contests, so we will need to wait some time for the two-party-preferred figures in these seats). I’ll explain some issues with this method further down in the post, but I think the data is easily comparable.

Unsurprisingly, a string of Queensland seats have shifted towards the Liberal National Party against the national trend, while other seats (particularly those in Victoria) have swung most strongly to Labor.

I have then taken these figures and mapped them out, below the fold.

The great divide in Macquarie and the big swing in Lindsay

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I’m writing this post on Tuesday evening. Earlier today Labor MP Susan Templeman narrowly pulled ahead in the seat of Macquarie by just 27 votes. Who knows who will be leading when this post goes up on Thursday morning.

I’ve always found Macquarie to be a fascinating electorate, because it has long been marginal despite the constituent parts of the electorate not being particularly marginal in themselves.

The electorate covers the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury council areas on the western and north-western fringe of Sydney. About 55% of election-day votes cast in this electorate in 2016 were cast in the mountains.

I divided this electorate into three areas in my pre-election guide, with the Blue Mountains split between lower mountains and upper mountains. I had the Labor two-party-preferred vote at 68.8% in the upper mountains, 57.4% in the lower mountains and just 41.1% in the Hawkesbury area.

I have produced a map showing the two-party-preferred vote in this electorate, as well as neighbouring Lindsay, below the fold.

The electorate of Lindsay recorded a 6.5% swing to the Liberal Party following the removal of local member Emma Husar, and is an interesting comparison to Labor’s results in the Blue Mountains.

Mallee moves apart

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It looks like the Nationals have retained the seat of Mallee in north-western Victoria, but the race was remarkably wide open, with no candidate polling over 30% and six different candidates topping the poll in at least one booth.

Nationals candidate Anne Webster polled 28.7%, with the Liberal Party’s Serge Petrovich second on 18.4%. Labor’s Carole Hart is on 15.5%, with two independents (Jason Modica and Ray Kingston) polling just over 9%.

The two-candidate-preferred count is between the Nationals and Labor candidates, and shows a clear win for Webster, with 66.4%.

There appears to be a small chance that either of the independents could overtake Labor and then make it to the final count. I won’t go into detail about this possibility but Kevin Bonham has considered this prospect.

After the fold I have some maps showing aspects of the Mallee result, and I’ve analysed the geographic shape of this election result.

Mapping Warringah

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The federal election generally went well for the government, but they suffered a big defeat in the northern Sydney seat of Warringah, where former prime minister Tony Abbott lost his seat after 25 years.

Abbott held his seat by an 11.6% margin against the Greens or 11.1% against Labor as of the 2016 election. Once most of the dust had settled, independent candidate Zali Steggall ended up with 57% of the two-candidate-preferred vote.

Abbott’s primary vote plummeted by more than 12% from 52% to less than 40%.

Today’s map shows the two-candidate-preferred (2CP) vote at each booth in Warringah, and can be toggled to show the primary vote swing against Abbott.

One Nation’s big vote in the Hunter

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One of the big surprises in the recent federal election was the performance of One Nation in the NSW electorate of Hunter. This seat covers the more rural parts of the Hunter Valley, stretching from the western shore of Lake Macquarie up to Cessnock, Muswellbrook and Scone. It’s held by Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon, who held it by a 12.5% margin prior to the election. He suffered the third-worst swing for a Labor candidate behind the north Queensland seats of Capricornia and Dawson, with his margin cut by 9.7%.

But the seat stood out for the remarkably high One Nation vote in the lower house. One Nation’s Stuart Bonds polled over 21%. One Nation didn’t poll over 20% in any other seat. The next best seat outside of Queensland for One Nation was the neighbouring seat of Paterson, where they polled 14%. Paterson is another urban-rural fringe electorate in the Hunter, covering Maitland and Port Stephens.

I’ve put together an interactive map showing how One Nation did in the Hunter region, which is below the fold. I’m not planning to assess why the swing was so large in this area, but hopefully the map is useful to others interested in the area.

Senate count update – one state left in play

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By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18231283

The Senate count has been progressing for a week now and I thought it was about time to give an update (my previous post on the Senate is here). What is remarkable is how clear the count is. There appears to only be one state where seats are in serious doubt: the last three seats in Queensland are being contested by four parties. Every other state is reasonably clear, so I thought I would run through these contests, touching on the below-the-line campaigns for Lisa Singh and Jim Molan.

This is a big shift compared to the old voting system, where there were many complex exclusion points and seats in play in pretty much every state. It’s also a change from 2016, where the larger number of seats to be elected and the lower quota created more opportunities for close races.

If my estimates of the seat count are correct, this is how the total number of seats in the new Senate currently looks:

  • 34 – LNP
  • 26 – ALP
  • 8 – GRN
  • 1 – ON
  • 2 – CA
  • 1 – CON
  • 1 – Lambie

This leaves three seats in Queensland to be contested between the LNP, ALP, Greens and One Nation. If Labor and the Greens both win, it will create a situation where Labor, Greens and Centre Alliance form a blocking majority, or a full majority with Jacqui Lambie. If the LNP and One Nation both win, the LNP, One Nation and the Conservatives will hold half the seats, with Lambie or Centre Alliance having the votes to give them a majority.

Either way, Centre Alliance and Lambie are important, but Lambie will be more important if the right win two of the remaining seats in Queensland, as this will mean her vote alone can be decisive, whereas Centre Alliance will be in a stronger position if the left wins two of the remaining seats.

Federal 2019 – update on the close races

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It’s now a week since the election and there are only a handful of seats that are still in play. In this post I’ll run through the counts in each of them.

Last Sunday I identified seven seats still in play. Since then most of these seats have become clearer. The Liberal Party has clearly won in Boothby, Chisholm and Wentworth with margins of over 1000 votes. Four other seats are deserving of attention. I’ll run through the state of the race in those four closest seats below the fold. I’ve called two of these seats (Bass for Liberal, Lilley for Labor), while Cowan and Macquarie are still in play.

Less marginal seats: the new shape of the electoral battleground

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Last Saturday’s election was not a landslide: far from it. While it appears the Liberal/National coalition has gained a small swing nationally, there are lots of areas which swung in the opposite direction.

So I was interested in zooming out to get a sense of how many seats had swung in each direction, and how they fit into the respective “marginal”, “reasonably safe” and “safe” categories.

I’ve defined these categories as follows:

  • Marginal – 0-6% margin
  • Reasonably safe – 6-12% margin
  • Safe – 12%+ margin

Overall I have found a reduction in the number of marginal and reasonably safe seats and an increase in the number of safe seats, mostly on the Coalition side, but also that both major parties have seen seats moving in both directions.

I should note that I have included Cowan and Lilley as Labor seats, and Bass, Chisholm and Macquarie as Coalition seats post-election. I have also treated Wentworth as a safe Coalition seat and Chisholm as a marginal Coalition seat before the election.

Trends in minor party voting in the Senate

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On Sunday I published a post focusing on the chances for each party in the Senate. Unsurprisingly we are expecting a shrinking of the Senate crossbench due to the half-Senate election and the concentration of low-polling Senate crossbenchers, but it is interesting to examine the trends in how people voted.

We already know that there was a record high vote for minor parties and independents in the House of Representatives. The same is not true in the Senate, which has had a consistently higher level of support for the small players for decades. These parties and independents have polled over 25% at every election in the last decade, but support declined slightly in 2019, from 35% down to about 33.1% (based on data as of Tuesday morning).

This is still astoundingly high, and can partly be explained by the decline of specific parties. But there’s enough of them that it feels like a trend.