Mapping Warringah


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.

Zali Steggall won the 2CP vote at almost every booth in the seat. Abbott did narrowly win four small booths at the northern end of the seat in the Frenchs Forest area (as well as the pre-poll booth in this area and two hospital booths).

Steggall’s highest vote was in the booths along the Pacific Ocean coast from Manly to Curl Curl, but her support also exceeded 60% in the Neutral Bay area.

We don’t have a 2CP swing, since Steggall did not run in 2016, but it is interesting to examine where Tony Abbott lost the most primary votes. He tended to do best on the northern border of the seat and suffered the biggest swings in the Mosman area.

In my pre-election guide I divided the area of Warringah into three geographic subareas: Manly, Mosman and Warringah. These areas roughly translate into the centre, south and north that I described in the previous paragraph. Abbott suffered an average swing of 8.5% in the Warringah subarea booths, compared to 15.2% in Manly and 16.8% in Mosman.

Possibly the most interesting thing about this race is the lack of variety in the results. Steggall did not win thanks to popularity in one part of the seat. Abbott didn’t hold on to his base in one area while losing ground elsewhere. Mosman had been his strongest part of the seat, but saw the biggest swings. Swings were almost as big in Manly. While Abbott suffered less of a backlash at the northern end of the seat, Steggall still managed over 40% of the primary vote and over 56% of the 2CP vote in this area. There’s no way to look at this result as anything other than a comprehensive dismantling of Abbott’s base in Warringah.

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  1. Sad to see Abbott gone after 25 years – his rise as Liberal leader back in 2009 (when I was 18) was what got me really into the Liberal Party and eventually join them.

  2. Thanks Ben

    This was an election campaign quite without precedent in Australian electoral history. The Greatest Show on Earth, if the scenes at prepoll and on polling day were any indication.

    I am a natural born election tragic who has lived in the electorate for 42 years. In anticipation of the recent election, a group of us set up Voices of Warringah to try to emulate the work of Voices for Indi (V4I; for whom I have been a consultant since 2012). Our Kitchen Table Conversations, public forums, “Meet the Candidates” events and our questionnaires to the candidates gave us some insights into what was going on the minds of voters and candidates alike and the locations of “hotspots”.

    There is, of course, a story to be written and a contract for a book has already been signed, I believe.

    However, to the topic of this post- the patterns in the booths, particularly of the Abbott and Steggall votes.

    Over the long term for Federal, State and LG elections, the conservative vote is highest in the west and higher in the south (especially since the influx of young rich voters into the “flat” of Manly). The West-East trend is very striking. The “leftish” vote is generally higher in the north as one approaches Dee Why.

    Apart from these long-term things, some particular demographics contribute to the patterns seen in Ben’s graph. This is mainly related to where the candidates live and the driving force behind the selection of Zali.

    On Abbott, his vote was highest in the northwest, where he lives. It has been ever thus – to a startling degree for those unfortunate competing party hander-outers rostered to work the area. In this election, Tony’s sisters and daughters were Booth Captains in these areas.
    As is reasonably well-known, the eventual emergence of Steggall was catalysed by Michael Photios, a Liberal Party Abbott-hater, seeking to take over local branches. He formed the North Shore Environmental Stewards, which gave rise to a group of well-to-do Liberal Party members who shared his views on Abbott and who were loosely referred to as “The Mosman Group”. The geographical genesis of NSES was at the Neutral Bay end of the electorate, although some key activists in the group lived further east.
    It’s complicated, but the patterns revealed in the distribution of TCPs were no surprise to me.

    Although polling (and particularly electorate polling) are in the gun right now, polling by reputable pollsters by GetUp and Zali turned out to be spot-on in Warringah. I refused to believe any of them at the time, but hindsight has 20:20 vision. The latest of these polls were conducted 3 weeks before the election by which time voters’ minds were made up and were not further influenced by the ferocity and intensity of campaigning by either side.

  3. Anton
    If all Liberals had been like Tony Abbott I may have even voted Liberal. However most of them these days lack Abbot’s commitment to moral principles and are far to keen on primacy of free market even when market is non functional. Sorry to see Tony go. His concession speech was by far the best of all concession speeches or victory speeches on election night.

  4. There is a stark difference between Tony Abbott the Person and Tony Abbott the Politician, in a similar vein in difference with Julia Gillard. I’ve met both of them and found them to be incredibly affable and well-spoken but, as politicians, incredibly jarring. In the case of Abbott, he ended up sounding quite tone-deaf in terms of the demographic changes occurring in his seat and the unrest of his members within his FEC.

    Geoff Lambert is 100% correct in that Photios has been involved in attempting to undermine Abbott from the outset, which is intriguing within itself because a deal had been initially struck that Photios would back Abbott for Warringah if Abbott could deliver the “metaphorical” head of Bronwyn Bishop (in favour of Jason Falinski), which he duly completed with Walter Villatora being the person to deliver the votes. Yet, that agreement appeared to be thrown out of the window. Not even the attempts of recently-perennial North Shore Pre-Selection Candidate Tim James (who has a strong following within Mosman) could help save his stablemate.

    As for the demographic change, the seat would be considered a genuine centre-right seat but embracing more of a libertarian lean about it, which goes against the big government conservatism of Abbott. While Steggall certainly took full advantage, she needs to be very careful about that same support because, with a considerable chunk of her vote coming from disaffected Liberal supporters (Especially those connected with Photios). One only needs to look at how easily Mike Baird ended up winning the State seat of Manly from David Barr, once the Liberal Party showed that they could put up a candidate that fit the mold for what is needed for the seat.

  5. I was disappointed in Abbott’s time as Prime Minister, especially the slash and burn budget of 2014 and his aggressive and inappropriate grandstanding towards Vladimir Putin. However he certainly punched well above his weight in terms of making a contribution to public debate. We need more politicians who are prepared to take up unpopular causes and challenge accepted narratives promoted by the corporate media… in any direction. For this reason I’m also disappointed Leyonhjelm didn’t make in in the NSW LC. Zali Steggall seems to me to be someone entirely within the spectrum of ‘accepted’ mainstream (ie media-promoted) opinion in every way, economically neo-liberal (as was Abbott) and socially, PC to a fault. I can’t see how having 151 clones like this, would contribute to better policy development.

    I concur with Andrew that Abbott’s concession speech was a fine one. Contrary to received wisdom, I also think it would be a good idea for more former Prime Ministers to remain in parliament after the end of their tenure.

  6. Warringah – my home base and truly covers some of the best parts of the best city in the best country in world. What is Manly’s motto? 10 miles from the city, 1000 miles from care.

    Hindsight is always perfect! But Warringah had a perfect storm to defeat the incumbent.

    1. Length of service by the incumbent
    2. Remaining in parliament after losing the PMship. Or why are you there?
    3. Macho attitude to life in a society that is increasingly moving away from aggressive masculinity.
    4. Lack of openness to new thought – particularly around man made climate change.
    5. Lack of trust in institutions to do the “right thing” and Tony was a big supporter of two of the oldest institutions in the world – Church and Monarchy

    Given the above there was an increasing ABA (Anyone But Abbott) group in the seat that need to be harnessed. Labour and the Greens were/are never going to win Warringah as there are simply too many liberals – particularly socially progressive, fiscally conservative – who would vote for parties that are more inclined to increase taxes than the Coalition.

    The community groups that Geoff mentions where part of the movement to harness the ABA momentum.
    The final part of the puzzle was who to run as a candidate. The characteristics of the person who would be an ideal candidate:

    1. Local
    2. Successful
    3. (relatively) Youthful
    4. Progressive – but not overly so
    5. Fiscal conservative
    6. Articulate
    7. Female

    Zali was pretty much all of the above. Indeed probably couldn’t have been scripted better in central casting.
    The ABA forces were then smart enough to coalesce around one candidate rather than splitting the field. And also provide a Labor and the Greens also stepped back and ran as about as dead as you can. Congratulations again to the Labor candidate, Mr Harris, for getting 3.5% of the vote at the Balmoral booth (not even the UK conservatives in the recent EU elections could drop to 3.5%).

    As an aside, Richo in the Australian newspaper, made positive comments about Mr Harris along the lines of if he had a winnable seat he would be an excellent candidate. Having spoken to Mr Harris over the campaign period I can not disagree with Richo’s assessment.

    My understanding is that there were somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300 people working for the Zali campaign. Given all the above, it is not surprising that there was abroad based swing against Tony. Basically a coalition of ABA and progressive liberal supporters got ZS over the line.

    I am not sure if any research (I hesitate to use the word polling) has been done to see who voted for Tony as opposed to against. I suspect older people would have voted Tony over Zali whereas younger would have voted for Zali over Tony. Given the level of education in the electorate I would be surprised if there was any correlation between education and the level of votes for the candidates. If this is the case there is no reason to expect any thing other than a board swing to the ABA forces. Warringah is not like Hunter where there is a stark difference between Newcastle and inland centres like Cessnock. Warringah is a seat where voters are affluent or very affluent (and educated and very educated).

    Tony summed up his predicament pretty well in his concession speech: “Where climate change is an economic issue the Coalition does well. Where climate change is a moral issue we struggle”. Tony has seen climate change as an economic issue whereas the voters of Warringah see it as a moral issue. Being out of touch (even though he seems aware of his position v the electorate) was only going to end in tears for Tony.

    The other observation is that the “independents” in Warringah, Indi and Mayo have replaced / beaten candidates that one would suggest are to the right of the liberal party (Abbott, Mirabella, Downer). It may therefore suggested (as opposed to concluded) that the more conservative the candidate the more open they are to being defeated in a “safe” liberal seat.

    A final observation is if Tony had stepped down and replaced with a candidate like Zali would the liberals have won Warringah? The answer to this question is yes. These leads to the “sliding door” question, if the resources spent beating Abbot in Warringah had been spent in Reid, Robertson, Macquarie, Deakin, Boothby, Swan, Bass, Braddon etc would the Labor party have won enough seats to form Government? May be beating Abbott wasn’t a good result for the “left”. And therefore, just maybe, Abbott’s “sacrifice” was what caused Morrison his miracle.

    What next?

    Given the “Morrison miracle” Zali is “just another independent” who doesn’t have the ear of the Government. Accordingly, there is no leverage to get the Government to spend money in the seat – particularly as there might be an inclination not to spend money so that at the next election the new liberal candidate can say “Zali has delivered nothing – only I can deliver for Warringah as part of a Morrison Govt”.
    At the next election, Zali will also have difficulty motivating her volunteers as there is no Abbott for their reason to exist. One person I know who was working on the Zali campaign probably won’t be around at Christmas let alone the next election – they have cancer – told me that “they were working on the campaign to leave the world in a better place – no Tony”. If there is no Abbott these type of volunteers won’t do the mountain of work needed in the next election.

    Some of the other groups (getup?) will have moved on to another target. Hunt in Flinders perhaps?
    I would be amazed if the liberals aren’t already thinking about how to win Warringah at the next election as a top priority. If the liberals can keep the people who voted for them this time and attract some of the progressive liberals back to them then they have a real chance to win next time. ABA factor is now dead.

    Congratulations to the Zali team. Whatever the future holds they have achieved an incredible result. What they have done will be a case study for elections in the future.

    The four corners program shown last Monday (20 May 2019) should be compulsory viewing for any political science student. And I would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to look on ABC iVeiw. Well worth a look (if nothing else the stunning vistas of Manly and the Harbour couldn’t be better presented).



    PS: one last anecdote from the campaign. I was in Mosman at a café about 2 weeks from polling day and two ladies walked in wearing Zali tee shirts. The colour of the tee shirts was a distinctive teal. I overheard their conversation which went as follows: “I like your handbag. Where did you get it?”. The other lady responded: “On the web. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it has been to find a handbag that matches the colour of the tee shirt.” If your volunteers are committed enough to match their handbags with your campaign colours you have to be on a winner. Only in Mosman!

  7. Abbott would have win in a landslide if he were running in pretty much any seat but Warringah – e.g. put him in Bennelong, Cook, Mitchell, Macquarie, Lindsay etc. The Coalition needs to realise that the traditional blue-ribbon seats like Kooyong, Higgins, Wentworth, Warringah are no longer appropriate places to park frontbench / leadership aspirants.

    Barnaby Joyce summed it up best on the ABC on election night – “sucked in you fools, you could have been the government. Instead you spent all your resources on one seat and forgot about all the others”

  8. Interesting list of qualities Pollster. Greens candidate Kristyn Glanville seems like she would have also fit the bill (except for fiscal conservatism), but Zali had the momentum and gobbled up the Labor and Greens vote as well as the Liberal vote.

  9. Sheriff: You’ve got to have the right candidate for the right seat, obviously. If Malcolm had stayed on in parliament he probably would have retained his double digit 2CP lead in the general election. Similarly, Albo did pretty well in Grayndler. That’s not saying much. Still I wouldn’t count on Tony sailing to victory in Lindsay and Macquarie given his other baggage. Yes he’s a bible thumper (a good thing, presumably?), but he’s also the leader that brought us plebs the budget for the ‘age of entitlement’.

    As for general campaign tactics, Labor of course barely campaigned at all in Warringah.

  10. TS – yes I forgot about Barnaby’s comments but there is a degree of truth there. Agree that Abbott and Warringah (and I will add Wentworth) are a bad fit in NSW.

    John – I don’t know anything about the Greens candidate, Kristyn Glanville, so I will defer to your comment “fit the bill (except for the fiscal conservatism)”. However, I stand by my comment that I can’t imagine the voters of Warringah ever voting for the Greens or Labor. Hence KG was a flawed candidate as soon as she put the words “the Greens” next to her name on the ballot. If you look at my “favourite” polling booth – Balmoral – the numbers support this. Namely, the liberals got 63.5% of the Senate vote compared to 44.7% in the House. The Greens 11.8/3.3% and Labor 15.6%/3.53%. Absent a candidate like Zali the 18.8% of liberal voters who voted liberal in the Senate and Zali in the Reps would have most likely still voted liberal. The combined “left” vote was 27.4% (ignoring the micro parties) which is never going to win a seat. The progress count of the Senate across Warringah has the Libs on 47%, Greens 16% and Labour 20%. Abbot got 39% primary across the seat……. Basically to win the seat next time all the Liberals have to do is get the 8% of people who voted liberal in the senate to vote liberal in the house. And keep the 39%.



  11. it seems the liberal pm’s seats tend to get lost? Howard ..;2007, Wentworth by election 2018 and Abbott 2019 does this mean that cook will be lost too?

  12. The Sheriff – why put Tony Abbott in another electorate? He has been PM and an MP for over 20 years surely that is enough.

  13. mike – you forgot PM Stanley Bruce in the later 1920’s, Nationalist Party, but before the Liberals were established.

  14. @Mick Quinlivan:

    Bennelong had been moving boundaries (when Howard first won in 1974, a lot of what was Bennelong is now in still-safe Liberal North Sydney), plus with a changing demographic and lowish margin from the 2004 results, Labor targetted the seat more than usual in 2007. Now some of the Bennelong demographics (in particular voters of Far Eastern ethnicity) have moved back towards the Liberals in the 2010s, plus Labor losing ground in NSW since then at both state and federal levels, have seen Bennelong go back to the Liberals.

    Wentworth, in its current form and with its current demographics, contains a lot of voters who wouldn’t vote Liberal outside of Turnbull and Notley-Smith (ex-member for the state seat of Coogee) types, although the Vaucluse area is obviously solid sapphire-blue Liberal. Warringah has also proven to have a lot of wet Liberals and/or libertarian types, and also a tendency to vote for independents in the past at the state level (especially around Manly).

    All of this means Cook is unlikely to be lost – Labor did hold the state seat of Miranda 1999-2011 and 2013-15, but that was with a VERY popular member (Barry Collier), and Cronulla is reliable for the Liberals, you have to go back to Neville Wran’s landslides in 1978 and 1981 for the last time the Liberals didn’t hold that area. Sutherland Shire is also a much more religious and family-oriented area than the eastern suburbs or lower northern beaches.

    As for Labor PMs, Bob Hawke’s old seat of Wills went to an independent (Phil Cleary) in 1992, and was held in 1993 before coming back to Labor in 1996, and Kevin Rudd’s old seat of Griffith came close to being lost in 2013 and 2016 (and he’d have lost if the seat of Bonner was never created).

  15. I’m also wondering why the geniuses at Advance Australia didn’t use some of their budget to fund a phoney green independent to take some environmental protest votes and direct it back to Abbott, e.g. how Labor were able to use Liberals for Forests in 2004 to win Richmond, for example.

  16. You won’t see my name in the analysis around the campaign in Warringah. But I was one of the very first North Shore Environmental Steward members. I have never met Michael Photios then or since, but I managed to join up about 10 other people to the group. I have also never joined a political party before and I would probably be described as a swinging voter. I tell this story because I think a lot of the commentators above and in the media more generally miss the point about the nature of the campaign in Warringah. There really was no conspiracy. This really was an uprising of people in a variety of grassroots local groups who wanted to see Tony Abbott deselected as the representative for Warringah. For some the driver for toppling him was the personna of the man himself, for some it was his attitudes on same sex marriage, climate change or women. The unifying factor for all of us was a synthesis of these four issues and maybe there are others. Some of us support Getup, some of us don’t. If a candidate of the likes of Zali Steggall had agreed to run for the Liberal Party and won preselection then indeed the seat may well have stayed with Liberal. But my observation is that climate change was the issue which most united Zali’s supporter base and the Liberal Party’s policies are woefully inadequate on climate change. . This issue is not going to go away and the Liberal Party needs to take heed and change their approach and their policies if they want to win back the electorate.

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