NSW headed for colossal landslide


Yesterday’s Nielsen poll has Labor still on track for a catastrophic defeat. Along with the January Galaxy poll, the Nielsen poll has the ALP polling only 34% of the two-party-preferred vote, compared to the Coalition on 66%. On primary votes, the Coalition has hit a new high with 53%, compared to 51% in the Galaxy poll, with the ALP on 22% (compared to 20% in Galaxy) and the Greens on 13% (compared to 15% in Galaxy).

There is a general consensus that such a result would produce a massive defeat for the ALP, way out of proportion to the voting figures. Antony Green’s swing calculator has the ALP winning only 14 seats compared to 73 Coalition seats on a uniform two-party-preferred swing. In the next election, however, many contests will not be between Labor and the Coalition, with Greens and independents coming in the top two in many seats in Sydney and the country. In addition, two-party-preferred figures in polls are based on preference flows from minor parties remaining consistent. Yet it appears that the Greens preference flow to Labor will be greatly diminished. Both of these factors suggest that the impact could be worse than Antony Green’s calculator predicts.

I developed my own calculator which instead calculates swings on primary votes, based on proportional swing, which means a party’s vote will swing more heavily in areas where their vote is higher. This reflects the expectation that the swing against Labor will be more heavily concentrated in its heartland and marginals, rather than in Coalition seats, and that the Greens vote appears to have the most potential to grow in areas where it is already strong.

Before laying out what my calculator produced, it’s worth noting that many flaws still remain. Like a simple pendulum calculator, it relies on the concept of a uniform result. It doesn’t take into account the abilities and appeal of individual candidates, either at the current election or at the last. As an example, Macquarie Fields appears much more marginal than its neighbouring seats of Campbelltown and Liverpool largely because of the 2005 by-election and 2007 election which saw a particularly strong Liberal candidate and a local ALP hit by repeated scandals. It is unlikely to experience such a strong swing as other seats that have not previously swung so hard.

Neither calculator can factor in the strong Liberal candidates in Keira and Cabramatta, both of which are some of Labor’s safest seats in the state on paper. It is a particular problem when it comes to independents. The calculator assumes that defeated independent MPs will run again in Pittwater and Manly, while ignoring the independent candidate in Wollongong who many are tipping to win the seat.

In addition, the calculator allows the user to make changes to the estimated preference flows in a contest between any two of Labor, Coalition, Greens and Independents. These assumptions could be wrong. For example, I assume that 30% of Greens preferences will go to Labor, and 15% to the Coalition, which is substantially less than in 2007.

Having said that, the result the calculator produces is:

  • Liberal – 56
  • National – 19
  • Labor – 10
  • Greens – 3
  • Independents – 4

After the break, I break down these figures, map them out on a map of NSW, and give you a link to where you can download the calculator yourself.

In the seat of Keira, the result is an exact tie between Labor and Liberal. The ten other seats are Auburn, Bankstown, Cabramatta, Canterbury, Heffron, Lakemba, Liverpool, Mount Druitt, Shellharbour and Wollongong. The four independent seats are Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Northern Tablelands and Sydney. The three Greens seats are Balmain, Marrickville and Newcastle.

There are three seats which I think the calculator has clearly gotten wrong. In the seat of Wollongong, independent candidate Gordon Bradbery is polling strongly, and if Labor is this devastated, he should win. I don’t believe the seat of Newcastle will be won by the Greens. The calculator has the Greens narrowly pulling ahead of Newcastle mayor John Tate and winning on preferences from the Liberal and Tate. However, Tate would likely overtake the Greens on Liberal preferences. In the seat of Maitland, it appears that the main opposition to Labor comes from the sitting Liberal MLC Robyn Parker, with the independent Peter Blackmore now serving as Mayor of Maitland, and expressing little interest in returning to state politics. I also believe that Keira’s swing is underestimated due to the presence of a strong Liberal candidate, so that dead heat should be resolved in the Liberal Party’s favour.

If you change these three results, you get:

  • Liberal – 58
  • National – 19
  • Labor – 9
  • Greens – 2
  • Independents – 5

On these figures, Labor barely holds on to nine seats. Their hold on Heffron is also tenuous, with Kristina Keneally only barely outpolling the Green, with the Liberals ahead on primary votes, allowing Keneally to win with a sliver of Greens preferences. This could easily go the other way on similar polling figures, leaving the ALP with only eight seats. Many commentators have also raised the prospect of Liberal candidate Dai Le overturning Labor’s hold on Cabramatta. Once you take out these seats, you are left with the very definition of rock-bottom for the ALP: their rump consists of the Western Sydney seats of Auburn, Bankstown, Canterbury, Lakemba, Liverpool and Mount Druitt, and Shellharbour in the Illawarra.

Below are maps showing what an election would look like where Labor is reduced to single figures, with a conservative Coalition holding 77 seats.

You can download this calculator here. Please comment below if you find the calculator interesting.

Projected results of Nielsen poll in New South Wales.
Projected results of Nielsen poll in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
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  1. A few months ago after the electricity privatisation crap I heard some in the party making noises about 13 seats. I don’t think that’ll happen now but 20-25 is a likely final number.

  2. Lachlan: worst prediction I heard was 8, amongst some of the more discontent branches. There was a while 13 was the consensus number.

  3. DB: I like most of your tips, if a few of those horses came in you’d make a decent amount. Who’s the independent in Charlestown, though – Barry Johnston? I’ve googled him a bit but haven’t seen much.

  4. Bird of paradox – Johnston is a big threat given his working class background and the fact that he was in the ALP for 8 years and was not re-indorsed. Should he get a decent level for preferences from the Libs, he will probably win. He has a good profile in the community.

  5. Pollster – Green. Could possibly win but would need Lib preferences and that probably won’t happen. Watch out though for how close it might be.

  6. Another one to watch may be a by-election in Heffron, assuming Labor lose (I think they will, but I’m not counting chickens before they hatch.), and KK decides to retire like Brumby did last year in Victoria.

  7. Losing Heffron to the greens is wishful thinking. The east of the seat will swing liberal and the west of the seat will swing green, but neither in enough numbers to deprive Keneally. What’s your poll source, DB?

  8. Lachlan – sorry, I don’t reveal my sources. I was not the first to say however that there were problems for the ALP in Heffron if you go back through the earlier posts. In any case, Keneally will retain Heffron but it will probably go to preferences. But, if Keneally does have a few issues there (and polling seems to suggest so), imagine what it is like in the rest of Sydney, particularly the outer suburbs.

    I’m still tipping 22 seats, but the risks seem to be on the downside for the ALP.

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 15% swing away from labor, but even that would leave Keneally on a 40% primary vote in Heffron. It would all have to go to the liberals or the greens for anyone to get close to knocking her off. Remember coogee in 2007- Pearce won comfortably on 39% with the libs on 35 and the greens on 20.

  10. LATEST NEWS: Antony Green has now updated his page with the final listings of candidates, along with their positions on the ballot paper.

  11. I’ve started doing that myself, but with a full-time job that is very busy at the moment it’s a gradual process.

    Seven seats were updated last night.

  12. Hi folks

    I reckon that some of these predicted swings and seat numbers are a bit over the top. Having followed elections for over ten years, I’ve seen seats held that should’ve fallen and seats fall that should’ve been held, so I’m not expecting the extravagant result that people speak of.

    Anyway, if I had to put money on outcomes, here are my tips.

    Certain Coalition gains:
    Miranda, Menai, Camden, Gosford, The Entrance, Wyong, Londonderry, Coogee (all from Labor); Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Tamworth (all from Independents)

    Likely Coalition gains from Labor (I still have an element of doubt in my mind about them):
    Wollondilly, Monaro, Maitland, Riverstone, Mulgoa

    Toss-up Coalition gains from Labor (I find these hard to tip for sure):
    Drummoyne, Heathcote, Rockdale, Blue Mountains, Cessnock, Bathurst, Oatley (the last one is a bolter)

    Toss-up Independent gain from Labor:

    I expect Labor to hold both Balmain and Marrickville in toss-up situations from the Greens.

    TALLY: Coalition 60, Labor 29, Independent 4

    I’d give the Coalition a chance in the following seats, but I expect Labor to hold:
    Swansea, Granville, Kiama, Parramatta, East Hills, Strathfield, Kogarah; Macquarie Fields, Toongabbie, Smithfield, Maroubra, Campbelltown

    I look forward to seeing how my tips stack up against yours!

  13. Warren, what makes you think Wollondilly is only a likely Liberal gain? Aside from the Campbelltown suburbs, it seems like a natural Liberal seat to me.

  14. Matt
    I tipped Wollondilly to fall to the Liberals in 2007, and in the end there was hardly any swing when it should’ve fallen. Whatever his competence as a minister, Costa is perhaps a better local member than he might be given credit for, unless the Liberals fielded a dud candidate in 2007. Moreover, I reckon that the Independent councillor Hannan will muddy the picture. If not for these factors, I’d tip Wollondilly as a certain Liberal gain, even though the Liberals aren’t exactly giving voters any inspiration.

  15. Warren Grzic – is this a gutfeel or based on polling numbers. I can’t see the ALP getting to 29 unless there is a major turnaround in the next fortnight. Newspoll is spot on based on party polling.

  16. Warren Grzic
    LOL at.the Liverals aren’t exactly giving voters any inspiration

    You must have missed the last 4 polls from all the polling company, because they all shows that over 15% of ALP primary have left the ALP, they have not gone as protest votes to the Green,or an independant, the polls all show between 85% to 100%of the swing have gone to the Liberal, hardly uninspiring

    The other thing to look at is the preferred premier rating, O’Farrell is doing very very well

    Then there is the personal rating, where since the start of the campaign O’Ferrell’s net approval have increased by 10 points, while KK’s approvals have went down by 10 points, showing 1 of them is uninspiring

    And the lastest news poll shows 90% of the Liberal primary vote of 50% is actually definites, while 50% of the ALP vote of 25% might change their mind before the election

    One party is very inspiring for the voters, one is very uninspiring for the voters, I would suggest you stop using the one eye method of looking at the world and look at some facts

    The polling of some of those seat you are expecting the ALP to hold are showing a primary coalition vote of 50%

  17. You reckon that is KK under an alias?

    Seriously Warren, you have failed to pick up the fact that the swing to the Coalition has to come from somewhere and you can’t imagine a 10% swing in seats like Pittwater and Davidson.

  18. To base an entire prediction on what happened in 2007 in one seat…

    The Liberals didn’t get the result they hoped for because they ran a low profile candidate against a popular local mayor who joined the ALP just prior to running for parliament (not that he will survive this time having sat in cabinet)… Also it is very easy to maintain a vote in the South West of Sydney by noting the other sides leader is from Vaucluse and wants to make Work Choices universal.

    Yep… so many parallels with 2007 this time around in each and every seat… right

  19. My polling info which has come through in full this morning would indicate that Warren is smoking some wacky tabbacci.

  20. Hey DB, your poll didn’t tell you where he was getting said wacky tobacci from? I wouldn’t mind a go at it.

  21. Warren – If you want to put your money on your tips visit the bookies – they will be more than happy to take it off you.

    On bookies’ odds a couple of interesting predictions
    – Keira is $1.80 each way for LAB & LIB
    -Smithfield LAB $1.28 and Lib $2.75
    – GRN in Marr – $1.22 cf GRN in Balmain – $1.25
    – East Hills LAB $1.55 and Lib $1.9

    Incidentlly odds have changed significantly in thses seats.

  22. Pollster, I’d suggest they are good odds for Liberals in East Hills and Smithfield. I’d also point out that the bookies were wrong in a number of seats in the Federal election. One particular, was Bennelong, where Liberals knew that McKew couldn’t win the seat come the last few days.

  23. DB – agree that the bookies will get it wrong. What I find more informative is that as odds change it is reflective of a trend that is generated by all information “owned” by punters which can assist in determining what is occurring in a seat.

  24. Bookies made McKew a huge outsider a few days before the election after being odds on for the first weeks of the campaign.

  25. Hamish – thanks for that insight. I missed that change in Bennelong last fed election but illustrates the point well – favourite at opening of odds to long shot at end. The trend is what I think is insightful. That said, Wilkie was long odds to win Denison and didn’t seem to change much – so no guidance there. Crook in O’Connor odds came in from circa $6 to $3.25 (or thereabouts) which should have indicated a chance for him.

  26. Pollster/Hamish – I’d agree that the change in odds are a better indicator than the odds themselves.

    I note a number of those outer western sydney seats were $1.20’s for the ALP and now they are $1.50’s. Anything below $2 in a seat for each party is a toss up and 50/50 in my mind. The only reason the ALP retain favourism such as Smithfield and East Hills is based on historical voting in these seats. They are untested in times such as these. Suggest the reason that Keira is $1.80 each is solely because of a high profile Liberal candidate. In fact, polling puts Smithfield and East Hills ahead for the Libs compared to Keira based on primary vote difference from the weekend.

    Here you go:
    Wollongong – Lib no hope. Probable ALP retain 53/47.
    Keira – very close. Libs ahead on primary vote. 52/48
    Kiama – similar to Keira but stronger margin for Libs, suspect the Libs will win. 54/46
    Swansea – becoming increasingly unlikely that Labor can hold on with a likely preference swap between Libs and Ind. Libs and ALP same on first vote. Too difficult to call or provide details on because of lack of preferencing info. ALP less likely to hold however.
    Newcastle – McKay may just hang on. 52/48 over Ind.
    Charlestown – Barry Johnston likely to win this. 53/47
    Cessnock – will come down to preferences. 50/50 on primaries.
    Maitland – Libs ahead 53/47, probable gain.
    Monaro – 50/50. I still think Whan will hold.

    Everything is very close in the Hunter, Illawarra and western Sydney. Anything can happen. ALP could get 15 seats or they could get 28.

  27. DB, I find your analysis interesting, except for one point, on Friday it was announced that the Greens will preference Gillian Sneddon & vice versa. Garry Edwards (Lib) has lost out on a preference deal with her. At the pre poll today it was noted on Edwards how to vote card that he has listed the public to place only 1 for himself and is not preferencing at all.
    Then there is Noreen Tibbey (Christian Democrats) and Robert Coombs (ALP) the current sitting member. How do you think the greens deal with Gillian and not the Libs will effect the outcome of the seat of Swansea?

  28. The other factor too is the announcement of the Libs in Newcastle now directing preferences to John Tate (Independent & Lord Mayor), Barry Johnston (Independent) in Charlestown has now done a preference deal with Andrew Cornwall (LIbs). How will this change the vote in both those seats?
    Has anyone also done an analysis on the seat of Wyong, currently held by David Harris (ALP & sitting member)?

  29. morgieb, as you would appreciate internal polling sometimes doesn’t match the papers. Nonetheless, I think we can safely say that Kiama is gone. I have updated individual seats with the info I have at this point. I will continue to update as I receive information. Rolling average is 56/44.

    Verita – extremely close then. Labor will need preferences to win Swansea.

    Charlestown could go to the Lib or Ind candidate. Unlikely for ALP to hold here based on around a 30% primary vote. 50% exhaustion used. 80/20 preference split between Ind/Lib and Lib/Ind.

    I think it is pretty much accepted now that the Libs will win Wyong.

  30. Seats Labor is certain of winning:
    Mt Druitt

    I’m struggling to think of any others that they can rely upon to stay in the Labor column.

  31. Evan: How certain do you need?

    Because there’s a few I’m more than 75% certain of. And Cabramatta is 90% certain.

  32. Evan – I’d add Bankstown to that list but no other as a certainty at this stage. That’s not to say that I think they will only win 9 seats. They will win more than that, however, it is not that easy to identify which ones.

  33. Playing devil’s advocate, is there any chance that in the polling we are seeing a ‘shy-lefty’ effect, given how unfashionable the Labor Party is at the moment?

    Not that it will affect the overall outcome.

  34. It’s certainly a possibility in phone polls. Given that in the UK towards the twilight of the Brown government we started seeing a Shy Labour effect.

    I’m not banking on it, but if on election night we see a lower than expected uniform swing I think that’d be the most likely explanation.

  35. 3zebras

    I am going to say yes to it

    Since the polling are showing that 80-90% of the Liberal vote is definites, and only 50% of the ALP votes are definites

    I should suggest the shy left are already sitting in the ALP colume and they are telling the pollster that they might change their mine, and they won’t

  36. It’s true that phone polling doesn’t pick up younger people who have dumped landlines & now use mobiles – maybe one source of comfort to Labor?

  37. Pollsters will usually measure poll data against the demographic breakdown of the state (or a seat) to compensate for any low sample of young people.

  38. Interesting points, but I don’t agree given the incredible consistency between Newspoll, ACNielson and Galaxy for a good 12 months now. From recent federal elections it is clear that a ‘shy tory effect’ has occurred in Australia since the Howard Government’s win in 1996. In the most recent example – the 2010 election – no poll nearing the election put the co-alition in range of the ALP and only Newspoll at the death was accurate (50.1 ALP/49.9 LNP). All other polls understated the co-alition 2PP vote by 1-8% in 2PP terms. In the most recent Victorian election it was widely tipped from polling that the ALP would be returned. In the most recent WA election, from polling, it was widely tipped that the ALP would be returned yet the co-alition won both of these elections.

    Based on the above, I doubt very much that the current polls understate the co-alition’s primary support. However, I suspect the polls are overstating the Greens primary support and most of this overstated amount will flow back to the ALP in primary support. Based on my analysis, I believe you will see swings in the order of the by-elections for Ryde and Penrith in many western Sydney seats. The polling is too consistent to suggest otherwise.

    The most reliable polls for this election will be those produced in the last week. I do expect the ALP will make some inroads in their primary support but not at the expense of the Liberals, particularly given the polls suggest that 90% of Liberal voters are decided or confirmed in this election. I doubt that the ALP can claw any of the Liberal’s primary support back unless O’Farrell has a massive hiccup. At this point, it is the ALP voters who remain the most undecided/vulnerable and therefore, I believe the current polls are about right given the increased assessed outcome risk to the ALP (i.e. higher level of undecideds for the ALP rather than LNP).

    In summary overall, I’d expect primary support for the Liberals to be between 48-51% and for the ALP between 25-29%. Determining the 2PP would be a guess given OPV. How many seats this results in changing hands is purely down to individual seat factors. There is no doubt though that the biggest swings will be in western Sydney and the smallest swings on Sydney’s lower and upper north shore.

    As to the best methodolgy for polling, I’d suggest based on experience that phone polling is the most accurate. Federally over the lat decade, just about every face-to-face Morgan poll has put the ALP ahead on 2PP. 3 weeks before the 2010 federal election there was a face-to-face poll putting the ALP 57.5 to the co-alitions 42.5. Two days later there was a phone poll from Morgan putting the ALP at 53 to the co-alition’s 47. Even last week in federal voting intentions we saw a Morgan face-to-face poll putting the ALP at 50/50, yet we saw 3 other polls putting the co-alition at 54 to the ALP’s 46. In a similar Morgan face-to-face poll just before the 2007 election the ALP were at 60 to the LNP’s 40. Obviously, this too was very inaccurate.

    Be in no doubt, face-to-face polling particularly distorts support to the left regardless of circumstances, and notwithstanding a left/centre-leaning government being on the nose, history shows that face-to-face polling particularly favours the Greens at the expense of the co-alition and ALP’s primary vote.

  39. I failed to mention earlier on in this thread that Bankstown & Fairfield will probably be ALP holds.
    I doubt too that Keneally would hang around too long on the opposition benches, so Labor could easily parachute a defeated high profile candidate, like Firth or Tebbut, into Heffron at a by-election.

  40. Sometimes the Illawarra and the Hunter go the same way, sometimes not. Is it likely that Illawarra will follow the Sydney suburbs and swing very big and the Hunter less? In Britian Labor brought home their core supporters from the Lib Dems I don’t see KK rallying the base but I do think the final Colaition lead won’t be more more than 20.In NSW wouldn’t non-Anglo voters be bigger polling problem than young voters?

  41. I doubt that they would parachute Firth or Tebbutt into Heffron, for the reason that it is a seat held by the ALP Right and they won’t want to be sacrificing the seat to the left.

  42. Geoff Robinson

    I think the non-Anglo voters are the problems for the ALP, the swing in NSW against the federal government was higher in the outer subrub non anglo seats, while the inner city seats and old money seats has not been swinging

  43. Suspect ALP national exec might suspend NSW ALP officebearers soon after election and will probably chose Heffron b/e candidate.
    Compared to fed election I think ethnic voters less unhappy with Labor but they are still very very very unhappy but Anglos very*4 unhappy!

  44. Disagree Geoff. There are going to be a lot of first-time ethnic voters for the Coalition and there is every chance that a lot of them will stay there for the future. With the Unity Party no-longer contesting and a lot of southern Europeans very unhappy about the way that the state is being run, I expect to see a big swing. For them, a lot will be based around corruption in government, transport and safety.

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