Polls, surveys and elections

William Bowe’s federal election guide

On his Poll Bludger site William Bowe has set up a federal election guide.  It’s probably best to start with his colourful main page, with its electorate maps (bookmark it if you’re a poll tragic), before heading to his overview page. There he outlines the effects of redistributions and provides some long-term insights into polling, including a warning to Labor that it may need more than its present lead, impressive as it is, to be assured that next year will see it installed in government. From that page you can drill down into individual seats. (Note that Bowe’s work is funded by donations, and that he currently has a donation drive.)

Bowe’s senate page is yet to be established. The mainstream media, who tend to treat elections in the same way as they treat football games, tend to ignore the senate, but in view of the extreme improbability of any party having a senate majority, the composition of the senate will be as important as it has been for the last 50 years in terms of policy outcomes.

A challenge for Bowe and for all who try to make sense out of political opinion polls will be the task of assessing the fortunes of small-party and independent candidates – a point that has often been raised in these roundups. On Pearls and Irritations Allan Patience provides some explanation about why polls are showing a drift away from both the main parties: It’s time for good independents to come to the aid of the country.

Patience reminds us of the Climate 200 initiative by Simon Holmes à Court and those he has gathered around him, “raising funds to support up to a dozen underdog candidates who stand for cleaning up politics and following the science on climate change”. Climate 200 is calling for donations.

Virginia – a blow for the Democrats and a warning to Australia

As in Australia, the politics of US state elections are generally separate from the politics of national elections, but Virginia provides a special case, for its election of a state governor always occurs one year after the presidential election, and is seen as an early voter assessment of the federal government.

In last year’s federal election Biden won Virginia comfortably, but Tuesday’s state election saw a victory for the Republicans. CNN journalists Alex Seitz-Wald and Henry Gomez explain the politics around this, and other state elections: Republican Youngkin wins Virginia governor's race in blow to Democrats. It’s evident from their analysis that the Republicans are managing to sheet the blame for America’s problems on to the Biden administration, even though for the most part they have their roots in Trump’s maladministration. The ABC’s Max Chalmers on the Thursday morning Breakfast program describes some of the Republicans’ scare tacticsin the campaign, particularly a groundless but effective claim about critical race theory being taught in schools. (6 minutes) Scare campaigns are most effective if they are based on issues people don’t understand.

One warning to those Australians who are encouraged by the Coalition’s poor showing in opinion polls, is that in August the well-regarded FiveThirtyEight poll was showing an 8 percent lead for the Democrat candidate, McAuliffe, and even a week before the election he was ahead in the polls. The Republican surge came only in the last few days. The tactic of the right is to run a scare campaign in the closing days of a campaign when it is too late for the other side to rebut it.

Japan – LDP wins yet again

The LDP’s Fumio Kishida’s win in last Sunday’s election was hardly a surprise. Even though it lost seats, as a result of some consolidation among contesting parties, the LDP vote was up a little.  (A tally of voting swings and seats won and lost is available on Wikipedia. Note that in Japan about a third of seats are allocated on a national proportional representation system.)  One winner, enjoying an 8 percent swing, more than doubling its support, was the Osaka-based Ishin Party. Jon Herskovitz, writing for Bloomberg, sees Ishin’s success as a gain for the right and a loss for the more left parties: Upstart Japanese right-wing party surprises with big election gains.

Writing in The Conversation Craig Mark of Kyoritsu Women’s University sees the decline in the LDP’s vote as a reaction against the LDP’s performance under departed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, his decision to go ahead with the Olympics in spite of the Coronavirus being one of the main issues: Japan’s ruling conservatives have been returned to power, but amid voter frustration, challenges lurk for Kishida.

Mark considers the policy implications of Kishida’s win. There will be policies to boost wages across the economy, more resources devoted to defence, and a stronger short-term commitment to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels (including coal and gas imports from Australia).