Friday, 5 December 2014

Gone Fishing

T’was the night before a by-election in the seat of Fisher, and a prediction was thus due. The problem with by-elections are that you get the result 100% right or 100% wrong, which in a close race either massively exaggerates or conceals the actual value of the predictions. For this reason I won’t be comparing my prediction to any baseline, although the vote itself will still count towards the blog’s tally whenever I get around to updating it.

Also due to the all-in or all-out nature of the prediction, a lot of sources that typically toe the “it’ll be a close race, let’s wait and see what happens” line have flipped off their psephological perches.

It’s been one of those elections…
ABC state news has tonight tentatively backed Liberal candidate Heidi Harris to win. The Advertiser seems to be leaning that way too. is backing first-time Independent Dan Woddyatt which would normally be quite a gutsy bet, but is probably pretty sound. And everyone keeps saying that Labor will put up a strong contest, although no one will touch the idea of an ALP victory with a 10-foot poll. (Hahaha. Poll.)

There is some dubious polling available for the seat. The Advertiser sampled 400 voters to produce this little gem:

which is particularly uninformative despite what The Advertiser assures is a sufficient sample size. The lack of detailed survey methodology, demographic breakdown or any of the basic standard requirements for a meaningful poll aside, it demonstrates only that preferences are going to play a huge role and provides absolutely no data on preferences.

Polls apart

So, on a first-past-the-post count the Liberals would win this. Their primary vote is the highest, but not enough to win outright, so it comes down to preferences. One bad way to estimate preference flows is to assume that voting preferences are a series of independent probabilities; in other words if a three-party race splits the vote 4:3:2, the 2/9ths of voters that go to second preference will split 4:3 in accordance with all the other votes. In such a scenario there is no real difference between preferential voting and first-past-the-post and the Libs would win Fisher. Obviously, though, some parties (and Independents) are more closely aligned than others, so this rarely works.

We could look at how preferences flowed last election and approximate something similar, but the comparison is a poor one. The issues are different. The campaign is different. Television channels are not plastered with grainy black-and-white scare campaigns. The last election saw long-term Independent Bob Such outpoll the Liberals on their primary vote; now the Libs lead the field against three independents and several minor party reps. Malwina Wyra, the Greens candidate, is the only candidate from the March election also running this time.

The other option is one of broad generalisation. One major theme of the campaign has been the value of an Independent representative traded off against the power of a candidate with party backing when they come to the negotiating table. The Independent vs Major Party issue was covered in one of the four questions polled by The Advertiser. 50.5% of respondents thought an Independent would do a better job representing the seat of Fisher than a major party (although the Labor and the Liberal candidates polled a combined 54.75% of the primary vote).

68% say we spend too much on foreign aid. 59% want foreign aid cut.
I’m going to assume that, based on the reporting so far and possibly because of it, people who vote 1 for an Independent will probably preference other Independents pretty highly too.

The Stop Population Growth Party and Democrats are predicted to drop out first, but their preferences are unpredictable. Even if they go entirely to Labor (which is highly unlikely to feature anywhere nearly that high in the preferences of either voter base) who then also scoop up the Greens vote, Dan Golding and Rob de Jonge will keep Dan Woodyatt in a safe second. So long as Woddyatt out-polls the ALP he’ll do very well from the anti-Liberal vote and will be in a very good position to win. This is my gut instinct on how things will actually play out, and if Woddyatt only absorbs Labors primary vote he still gets over 50%.

Of course in the real world, he won’t get all of Labor’s vote. Still, Woddyatt’ll do well from ALP support along with preferences from other Independants, a share of the Dems and the Stop Population Growth Party, and a fair chunk of the Greens. This is despite reports that “strategists in both major parties say they still expect Labor’s more polished ground game to lift their actual vote at the weekend into second place behind the Liberals”.

Dramatis Personae

After Bob Such passed away, a by-election (which would normally draw more contenders than usual anyhow) seemed like a good shot for any aspiring Independent. It also attracted yet another round of attempts from the Stop Population Growth Party, saw the Democrats (now the Independent Australian Democrats) enter once more into the breach, and also has a Greens candidate because the Greens are now making a point of contesting every seat every time.

My gut instinct that Dan Woddyatt will ride a wave of preferences until Labor pushes him over the line is partly based on Bob Such’s early successes as an Independent in Fisher. It is also partly based on the campaign material I’ve seen.

Dan Woodyatt (IND) has primarily campaigned on continuing Bob Such’s legacy. His “party” on the ticket will be listed as Independent Continue Such’s Legacy, and he has the added bonuses of Bob Such’s widow’s endorsement and (as a result of the ensuing news coverage) is the highest profile of the Independents.

Heidi Harris (LIB) has campaigned on two fronts. She has taken the somewhat radical approach of actually listing things she supports or intends to do in her document Heidi Harris’s plan for Fisher to get 50 things done in the first 50 days: Includes 10 benefits for the people of Aberfoyle Park.
This includes:

18. I will help eligible multicultural organisations to apply for a Land Tax Relief Grant
24. I will establish a ‘footpath register’ so people can inform me of footpaths in their neighbourhood that need maintenance
38. I will work with Trees For Life to revegetate local parks

Now I don’t normally comment on policy, but I will talk about campaigning and advertising so I should at least point out that I have chosen these examples because I find them amusing in that they can be done without winning a seat in parliament (and, in the case of the footpaths, are actually a Local Government issue). There are more traditional promises with regards to the Emergency Services Levy (point 1), Payroll tax (13) and road upgrades/bus services (3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 20, 29, 32, 37, 39 and 41). Back on the less predictable side there are also plans for: talking with the fire brigade to make sure they’re ready in case of a fire (17) and let them know when they need more money (27), conducting fundraisers for causes yet to be determined (19), handing out stickers (21), talking about graffiti (26), making a website (28), networking young professionals (34), reading to students at every local primary school (43), helping volunteers to volunteer for stuff (45), taking guns off the streets (47) and planting vegetables in schools (49).

The second prong is an attack campaign (no surprises there) against Labor (predictably) and to a greater extent Dan Woodyatt (okay, maybe there is a small surprise), including a letter from Bob Such’s Electorate Officer suggesting that Ms Harris is the real Bob Such 2.0, and (separately) criticisms of Woodyatt include that he used to be an ALP member, referred to Jay Weatherill as a “Statesman” and lives at Bellevue Heights just beyond the electorate boundary.

This is particularly ironic given that Nat Cook’s (ALP) campaign includes a comparison with Ms Harris, pointing out that Ms Harris also lives outside the electorate. The remainder of Ms Cook’s leaflets that I have seen do not outline her plans or ideals (which is probably unnecessary since they’ll be in accordance with publically available Labor policy information), but emphasises her 25 years as a nurse and creation of the Sammy D foundation after her son was murdered.

Possibly in a completely unrelated move (but also totally not unrelated, given that it is apparently unique to the Fisher electorate) Labor has been delivering its own attack campaign documents, criticising the Abbott (i.e. Federal) government over proposed outsourcing of submarine production, university deregulation, cuts to health and education, the GP tax and petrol levy, backed up by an impersonalised letter from Penny Wong. The fact that none of these federal issues really come into play in state politics is not really mentioned anywhere.
That covers all three candidates polling above 5% of the primary vote, but for completeness Rob de Jonge (IND) is baking on 8 years experience in council and supports fairer fines, unspecified health and education improvements and two-weekly green waste collection. Dan Golding (IND) has apparently posted some leaflets but I have not found any, and conducted an online campaign through low-resolution policy images

Jeanie Walker (DEM) and Malwina Wyra (GRN) are both running campaigns from facebook like de Jonge and Golding, which in my opinion just looks like a lack of party backing, although at least Ms Wyra links to the SA Greens website so you can get some idea of the policies involved. Bob Couch (SPG), by contrast, has a manifesto listed by the ABC as his primary campaign website, where he blames unemployemt, housing affordability, utility costs, health care quality, traffic, high density urbanisation and loss of biodiversity on population growth, and provides his policies ranging from tripling penalties for drug-related crime, legalising euthanasia and preventing foreign ownership of Australian real estate.

While I have not found a lot of additional information on any but the three leading candidates (Harris, Woodyatt and Cook), I feel confident that there are unlikely to be any surprises form the back field. The Libs seem keen to keep Woodyatt down, presumably because if he falls behind Nat Cook and dros out the Libs get a lot more preferences than Labor. Labor, in turn, is prepared to forego any obvious policy campaigning to keep the Libs back in striking range of Woodyatt.

Bonus Prediction

Obviously Labor will try to win, but Fisher is so heavily pro-Liberal I doubt there will be too much ALP disappointment if Woodyatt wins off Labor preferences and sides with the government.

My additional prediction is that Woodyatt will be reasonably happy to work with the ALP given:

A)     They have the power
B)      He used to be an ALP member and is therefore presumably more closely aligned with Labor policies than Liberal
C)      The Liberals have targeted him specifically in this campaign


Woodyatt wins on preferences, and sides with ALP for matters of confidence and supply but will make enough noise to retain his Independent for Fisher status next election.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Victoria 2014

This post was supposed to be coming to you from the great southern continent of Antarctica. That, in itself, posed a few challenges. However after my plans were interrupted by mechanical failure, a bout of food poisoning and an entire Friday wasted as a result of an absent minded mistake this post became even harder to create, despite coming to you from our regular base of operations.

I had hoped to get some party profiles done it time, but didn't. However, a rough guide to most of the parties can be gauged by the last federal election's senate ticket for Victoria, analysed here.

More information on how the predictions below were reached will be forthcoming, however for now I will simply assert that I expect the following results in the lower house:

Albert Park: Labor
Altona: Labor
Bass: Liberal
Bayswater: Liberal
Bellarine: Labor
Benambra: Liberal
Bendigo East: Labor
Bendigo West: Labor
Bentleigh: Labor
Box Hill: Liberal
Brighton: Liberal
Broadmeadows: Labor
Brunswick: Labor
Bulleen: Liberal
Bundoora: Labor
Buninyong: Labor
Burwood: Liberal
Carrum: Labor
Caulfield: Liberal
Clarinda: Labor
Cranbourne: Labor
Croydon: Liberal
Dandenong: Labor
Eildon: Liberal
Eltham: Labor
Essendon: Labor
Euroa: Liberal
Evelyn: Liberal
Ferntree Gully: Liberal
Footscray: Labor
Forest Hill: Labor
Frankston: Labor
Geelong: Labor
Gembrook: Liberal
Gippsland East: National
Gippsland South: National
Hastings: Liberal
Hawthorn: Liberal
Ivanhoe: Labor
Kew: Liberal
Keysborough: Labor
Kororoit: Labor
Lara: Labor
Lowan: National
Macedon: Labor
Malvern: Liberal
Melbourne: Labor
Melton: Labor
Mildura: National
Mill Park: Labor
Monbulk: Labor
Mordialloc: Labor
Mornington: Liberal
Morwell: National
Mount Waverley: Liberal
Mulgrave: Labor
Murray Plains: National
Narracan: Liberal
Narre Warren North: Labor
Narre Warren South: Labor
Nepean: Liberal
Niddrie: Labor
Northcote: Labor
Oakleigh: Labor
Ovens Valley: National
Pascoe Vale: Labor
Polwarth: Liberal
Prahran: Labor
Preston: Labor
Richmond: Labor
Ringwood: Liberal
Ripon: Labor
Rowville: Liberal
Sandringham: Liberal
Shepparton: National
South Barwon: Labor
South-West Coast: Liberal
St Albans: Labor
Sunbury: Labor
Sydenham: Labor
Tarneit: Labor
Thomastown: Labor
Warrandyte: Liberal
Wendouree: Labor
Werribee: Labor
Williamstown: Labor
Yan Yean: Labor
Yuroke: Labor

Gembrook and Mount Waverly were both a bit dubious, but I did not use any of the 4 tossups available to me. All of these results do, coincidentally, coincide with the swing compared to the adjusted polling from the 2010 election, but makes definite claims in Brunswick, Melbourne, Northcote and Richmond, which would all be tossups under the swing-based system as the 2010 2PP results were ALP vs Greens, and thus the Labor-Liberal swing would be irrelevant.
No predictions have been made for the upper house.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Latest results from Scotland

Aberdeen City (population 222,800): No (58.61%)
Aberdeenshire (population 253,000): No (60.36%)
Angus (population 116,000): No (56.32%)
Argyll and Bute (population 88,200): No (58.52%)
Clackmannanshire (population 51,400): No (53.80%)
Dumfries and Galloway (population 151,300): No (65.67%)
Dundee City (population 147,300): Yes (57.35%)
East Ayrshire (population 122,700):  No (52.78%)
East Dunbartonshire (population 105,000): No (61.20)
East Lothian (population 99,700): No (61.72%)
East Renfrewshire (population 90,600): No (63.19%)
City of Edinburgh (population 476,600): No (61.10%)
Falkirk (population 156,000): No (53.47%)
Fife (population 365,200): No (55.05%)
Glasgow City (population 593,200): Yes (53.49%)
Highland (population 232,100): No (52.92%)
Inverclyde (population 81,500): No (50.08%)
Midlothian (population 83,200): No (56.30%)
Moray (population 93,300): No (57.56%)
North Ayrshire (population 138,200): No (51.01%)
North Lanarkshire (population 337,800): Yes (51.07%)
Perth and Kinross (population 146,700): No (60.19%)
Renfrewshire (population 174,900): No (52.81%)
Scottish Borders (population 113,900): No (66.56%)
South Ayrshire (population 112,800): No (57.87%)
South Lanarkshire (population 313,800): No (54.67%)
Stirling (population 90,200): No (59.77%)
West Dunbartonshire (population 90,700): Yes (53.96%)
West Lothian (population 175,100): No (55.18%)
Na h-Eileanan Siar (population 27,700): No (53.42%)
Orkney Islands (population 21,400): No (67.20%)
Shetland Islands (population 23,200): No (63.71%)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The spirit of Scotia reigns fearless and free?

Tomorrow the people of Scotland will vote on the following referendum question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

This question is interesting* politically, psephologically and, to a lesser extent, vexillologically. But it is also an interesting one historically. For a long time, England and Scotland were separate countries. One was largely defined by its Roman, Saxon and Norman conquerors, the other heavily influenced by Viking incursions and Scandinavian ties. Early attempts to unite the two, in the form of England invading Scotland, were not entirely successful – perhaps most famously during the era of William Wallace.

Wallace is equally famous for his habit of using up all of the woad left in the pot, much to the irritation of his troops.

In 1603 England and Scotland were eventually united, but not by English victory. Instead James VI of Scotland ascended to the throne left to him by the death of Queen Elizabeth. This left the English in the awkward position of having not only failed to take the Scottish throne, but also losing their own throne to the Scots without even the consolation of Game of Thrones style drama. Even more awkwardly, the Church of England now had a Catholic at its head.

In addition to uniting England and Scotland and leading a religion he didn’t even follow, King Jimmy got to do some other cool stuff; he changed his name from “James VI” to “James VI and I”, became the target of a plot famously not led by Guy Fawkes, then added himself to the Holy Bible.

AKA: making the big time

But it wasn’t all fun and V for Vendetta. James had the recurring problem that his powers in England were heavily restricted by Parliament (thanks to the pesky Magna Carta) throughout his 22 year reign. Then, within a few decades, the monarchy itself was gone. Oliver Cromwell promptly announced an end to the reign of tyrants, and began to rule as a tyrant. Then, because a tyrant’s gotta do what a tyrant’s gotta do, he abolished the parliaments and ruled Scotland and England as one country, with more power than any other British ruler since 1215.

The British, however, had got a taste of violently overthrowing oppressive rulers; the monarchy was restored soon after. Scotland and England parted ways in 1660, but kissed and made up in 1707. And now, after 307 years, the next instalment in the series is finally available. So, you know, it’s got some advantages over Game of Thrones.

Game On

It must be time to brush the dust off the old Infographinomicon and take it out for a spin for a special report. I do these for any voting process that captures my attention – from conclave to Eurovision – but rarely are these as well reported on in Australia as the Scottish Independence Referendum. Part of this is because there is a view in the media and at large that this might somehow trigger a push for an Australian Republic. It won’t, for several reasons – not least of which include the high popularity of the royal family at the moment and the fact that Tony Abbott is a staunch monarchist.

Another factor is that the two referenda are hugely different. If the Scots do vote for independence tomorrow, they will still recognise the Queen as the head of state (at least for now). The vote is about becoming a separate country, with its own economy, military and Olympic team. Australia already has all of these things. In fact, Scotland is effectively facing a choice between the status quo or becoming like Australia.

Nevertheless, Australia is following this story with great interest, including all the absurd, peripheral trivia and conspiracy theories.

I’m not even sure how this makes sense, but this is not the first time this has been asked…

The secret truth

For some reason, the one time the conspiracy theorists would be right to suggest it’s all about money and big business they’ve gone off on bizzare tangent involving MI5, secret oil fields and the Islamic State insurgency.

My favourite part, personally, is the oil field. Sure, there’s oil off of the Shetlands. And there probably have been recent oil reserves discovered. But the idea that England is keeping the Scottish geology a secret from the Scots to make them think they don’t have the resources to survive as an independent country is absurd. The oil fields would not be as big as some have speculated, and even if they were I doubt any Western government is competent enough to keep it a secret. And by keep it a secret, I am referring to the supposed "fact" that the Prime Minister of Britain “had been alerted to the massive new oil find and had come up to check it out in person.” Because Mr Cameron is an expert in geo-sampling for petroleum, and would risk exposing the resources by flying to Scotland just to check the samples in person.

The real issue is Europe. Britain has an interesting relationship with the European Union – a piece of political Hokey Pokey.

You put the armies in, you take the Euro out, you put the lawyers in and shake the labor laws about…
Britain is in every opt-out the EU has, except on the Common Security Defence Policy, making it the least EU member of the EU, and thus arguably less European than some Caribbean islands. That’s why Britain still has the Pound Sterling, rather than the Euro. And support for leaving the EU is growing in Britain (specifically England). Scotland, however, has a lot of trade links to Europe, and leaving the EU would be very bad for the Scottish economy.

The anti-independence argument that splitting from Britain would require Scotland to re-apply to the EU seems to have worked during the early campaign, but recent talks from England about a 2017 referendum on leaving the EU seems to have swayed the vote recently.

So in short, England wants autonomy and more independence from the EU, and Scotland wants independence from that independence. The question is, then, does Scotland want to maintain its EU ties enough to leave Britain and transition to nationhood, which would involve reclaiming part of the British military, changing the currency, and a large number of other costly alterations.


Weel dae ye, punk?

The question is simple: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The answers are simple to – Yes or No. As a result, any prediction is either 100% right or 100% wrong. If you listen to news reports in Australia, and I assume further afield as well, the race is neck and neck, and only a fool would make a call at this point.

Don’t give me that pitying stare, Mr T…
The polling may be close, but it’s also stable (see the data dump below). The referendum was put forward on March 21 2013, and of the 81 regular polls since then the Yes vote has outpolled the No vote three times. (Although admittedly two of those were this month, all three demonstrated a very rapid correction in the following poll – again see the data dump.)

Also, these figures are arguably more reliable than Australian polling since voting in the referendum is not compulsory – much like answering a polling survey.

To get around the 100% right/wrong issue I’m going to rely on the system that has consistently turned around and bit me: comparing my prediction to a baseline of the most simplistic possible analysis. This is normally just applying the latest polls (47.8% Yes, 52.1% No, adjusted to exclude the undecided/other vote) but, given the number of polling services available and the noticeable bias gaps between them, in this case we’ll also use the average of the votes since the referendum was announced.

The “Yes” votes across these surveys average out to around 36.1%, while the “No” voters have a mean result of just under 47.5%. Eliminating the “others” this is a 56.1% vote for the negative.
If my regular losses to the baseline calculations have taught me anything, it is that the simplest formulae are generally the best; for this reason I’ll try to determine the trend in voting opinion through a line-of-best-fit calculation of the poll results.

Here are the results of those 81 polls, compressed beyond legibility:

And here are the proportions of the voting public divided into Yes, No and other camps:

The short term variation is most likely the result of variations in survey methodology since the general trends through most polling houses are reasonably stable (please, please, please see data dump!), but we can plot the general trend by breaking out the old high school maths and calculating the least squares regression line.

For those of you who like to pretend you forgot, the equation of the line is in the form y=mx+c where y is the dependant variable (poll results), x is the independent variable (date of the poll measured in days after 21/3/2013), m is the slope of the line and c is where the line crosses the axis (i.e. the polling on day 0).

The slope is calculated by:

and the value of c by:

Really it’s the value of m that interests us here: the Yes vote is slowly increasing with a value of m = 0.0226 (i.e. the Yes vote increases by 0.0226 percentage points per day), No is decreasing very slowly with m = -0.00518, and others making up the difference with m = -0.0166. (These values do not sum to 0 due to rounding to 3 significant figures.)

However, let us factor in the c value to calculate the expected results on referendum day. The Yes vote’s line of regression is y = 0.0226x+28.0; No is y = -0.00518x+49.3 and the others are y = -0.0166x+22.4. Tomorrow (x=546), the Yes vote should sit around 40.6%, No at 46.5% and others at 13.3% (again, with rounding errors).

Assuming the others don’t vote, or else break along a similar division to the predicted vote, this gives a simple 53.4% in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom. In fact, for the Yes camp to win, the “others” would need to break roughly 3:1 in their favour. Interestingly, with the exception of TNS BRMB polling, an increase in the other vote normally corresponds with a decrease in the Yes vote and vice versa, so maybe the others are really latent Yes voters, hiding from an (apparently) pro-union majority. Only time will tell.

TL;DR: My prediction is in the area of 53.4% vote against independence.
This will be compared against:
1) The latest polling data of 52.1% No vote
2) An average of the polls since the referendum was put forward in March last year, which gives a larger 56.1% No vote.

*The accuracy of the adjective is not guaranteed.

Data Dump

Well, it’s been a while since I last did one of these. The raw data is sourced, as referenced, from this compilation of polls on Wikipedia. Due to tabulation problems, the data is provided here in graphic format:
The relative stability of the polls intra-house is evident in the following graphs: 

Draw your own conclusions.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Yes, We're on Hiatus...

... but here's one last infographic until we return: a word-cloud of this blog, indicating word frequency as word size.

Courtesy of

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Good Night and Bad Luck...

While things have not been slow in the world of elections – particularly in Ukraine – there has been little movement in the spheres that I normally write about. This week will look at the recent predictions before this blog returns to hibernation.

This hiatus will end as soon as there is regular updates to provide on the Victorian and US Midterm elections, both in November (so expect blogs from late September/early October).


No points are going to be awarded, and no detailed analysis of what went right/wrong can really be produced with any real detail. I predicted that ‘Austria may come from nowhere, but I doubt it’, so like the conclave predictions, I did shortlist the winner but didn’t pick it. I consider that a partial victory, and at least I didn’t back France.


Here we have two possible points – one for Huon and one for Rosevears.
In Rosevears Kerry Finch (IND) easily retained his seat as predicted (with over 60% of the primary vote).
In Huon, I predicted Peter Hodgeman (LIB) to win. Hodgeman came a close second to my second bet, Robert Armstrong. Hodgeman was easily ahead on primary votes, and retained this lead until the fifth count, but was ultimately beaten on preferences. While I had expected the left vote to bolster Liz Smith, and I has expected this to be insufficient, I did not appreciate the size of this flowing on to just about anyone but Hodgeman (splitting more than 3:1 against, with Lib preferences lower than the exhausted count).
It is clear that Tasmania is in a very conservative mood at the moment. However, it is important not to underestimate the appeal of Independent candidates in Tasmania.
It is unfortunate that the results of this year’s TasLegCo prediction is only 50%, but with only two possible bets this is going to happen from time to time.
These results will be added to the sidebar in the coming days. See you after the winter!