Swinging maps in Canberra


The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) never receives much attention in federal elections, but I found some interesting trends when I mapped out the results of the recent election, both in terms of the House and the Senate.

The ACT received a third seat in the House of Representatives as part of the most recent round of redistributions, leading to the creation of a new inner-city seat of Canberra. This naturally forced the centre of the other two electorates further out into the suburbs. The boundary between the two old seats ran close to Lake Burley Griffin, ensuring each electorate had a mix of outer suburbia and inner city. There is now a big demographic difference between Canberra and its neighbours.

Meanwhile there was another concerted effort to unseat Liberal senator Zed Seselja from his traditionally safe ACT Senate seat, without much success.

I’ve produced three interesting maps which show a widening gap between the Canberra inner city and the outer suburbs (particularly in the south), as well as who is in the lead in the Senate in each booth.

Let’s start with the House of Representatives. All three seats are considered reasonably safe for Labor when you consider them as conventional Labor vs Liberal contests. There was, however, a serious attempt from the Greens to at least make it to the final two in Canberra.

The Greens did manage a 4.55% swing in Canberra, measured against a 1.8% primary vote swing against Labor and a 4.9% swing against the Liberal Party. This significantly narrowed the gap between the Liberal and Greens candidates, but it wasn’t enough: the Liberal candidate polled 27.9%, compared to 23.3% for the Greens.

Let’s start by checking out the two-party-preferred swing map for the entire ACT. You see a big swing towards Labor in the inner city, with swings of more than 10% in two inner south booths and big swings across the seat. This translated into a 4.1% swing seatwide.

Meanwhile there was a mixed picture in the northern seat of Fenner and there were consistent small swings in most of the southern seat of Bean. The Liberal Party managed a 1.4% 2PP swing in both these seats.

This is yet another example of the inner cities moving towards Labor and the outer suburbs moving towards Liberal. You can toggle this map to see the 2PP total map and you can see a widened range of 2PP voting figures for Labor. They still win most booths in the Territory, but there’s a big range from booths in the mid-50s in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong, up to over 80% at a number of inner north booths.

You get a different perspective on the same trend when you toggle to show the Greens primary vote swing. This map is based on the House swing, although I expect you’d find something similar for the Senate.

The Greens gained a 1.7% swing across the Territory, which can be seen in the map. The Greens gained swings in most booths, although they did lose ground in about half the booths in the southern seat of Bean. Interestingly the swing to the Greens in the seat of Canberra appears to be mostly concentrated north of the Lake, with some huge swings in the inner north. Indeed the inner south booths don’t look any better than the booths in Fenner.

Finally I wanted to find a way to illustrate the Senate. I don’t have booth-level swings, and I thought they would look similar to the House anyway. I thought I would try a map showing which party topped the Senate poll in each booth, but Labor wins most of them: Labor came first in 83 booths, compared to 15 for the Liberal Party and 5 for the Greens (all in the inner north).

We know Labor is the top-polling party, but what is more relevant is the relative strength of the Greens and the Liberal Party in terms of winning the second quota. So I assumed that you could add the Labor and Greens votes together, subtract a whole quota (about 33.3%), and then compare that to the Liberal vote to see who is leading in the race for the second seat. I’ve then mapped out each booth as either Liberal or Greens based on this formula.

You find that the Greens are in the lead in most of the booths in the seat of Canberra, along with a smattering of booths in Belconnen and the north-west part of the southern seat of Bean. Of course the Liberal Party still wins a majority of the booths.

All of this tells a consistent story, that like all Australian cities there is a divide between voting trends in the inner city and the outer suburbs – Labor and the Greens strengthening in the city while the Liberal Party does well in the suburbs.

Liked it? Take a second to support the Tally Room on Patreon!


  1. Ben, you might like to do some further research in relation to the ACT Senate ballot paper and the issues around it.

    There has been some considerable media in relation to the confusion people had with box C which was for Independent Candidate Anthony Pesec.

    This box was a blank box under the AEC rules due to the fact Pesec is an Independent. He was allowed an above the line box because he had a running mate but with no lable, name or title. Evidence has emerged that AEC officials were telling people it was a blank box so don’t use it.

    Voters were told to vote 1-6 above or 1-12 below. Given there were only 7 boxes above and one blank people were of the belief it was a spare blank box and ignored it.

    Given only about 3% of voters use the below the line it has hugely effected votes for Pesec, there is also evidence that many thought Pesec had been withdrawn from the election ballot paper.

    There are some very obvious anomalies in ballot paper data.
    The AEC is said to be investing the results and incorrect and allegations of misleading information given at polling boths by AEC officials.

    You might want to research some of the Canberra Times and ABC-666 articles / stories around this and how it impacted Pesec’s votes.
    ABC radio was bambarded with callers in relation to these issues last week and what they understood in relation to Mr Pesec’s blank box C.

    As an Independent who ran in the last ACT Election 2016, I know just how hard it can be and how the electiral system both locally and federally heavily favours major parties over good Independent candidates.

    But I have to say what Mr Pesec has experienced is yet another level of unfair. I will also say many of the votes Zed received were for the Liberals not Zed, so party rather then individual.

    Concerning to me is the considerable dirty tricks used these days by the Liberals and that were against Pesec this election to get Zed reelected.
    Lies were told and spread about him and to drive down the road and see all other candidates signage knocked over and the Liberals signs still standing was very instructive.
    There are reports of the driver of a white ute who was putting up Liberal signs, then seen knocking over other signs…


Comments are closed.