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Making sense of the polls

Further Senate results and analysis

The table below gives the Senate breakdown for each state and territory. 12 Senators were elected for each state, and 2 for each territory, for a total of 76 Senators. The table also gives the percent of all seats won by each party, the percent of the national vote won by each party, and the change in seat numbers since the previous Parliament. Others are David Leyonhjelm (NSW), Derryn Hinch (Victoria), Bob Day (SA) and Jacqui Lambie (Tasmania).

final Senate.

Relative to national vote share, the major parties and the Greens are somewhat overrepresented in the Senate. This is because these parties can get high fractions of a quota, which puts them well in the hunt to win more seats than their overall vote share suggests. More popular parties also did better on preferences than micro parties.

Others are underrepresented in proportion to the overall Others vote because these parties could not individually reach a sizable fraction of a quota, and without the old group voting system, their preferences did not combine. At this election, One Nation was the only non-established party that was able to win seats in multiple states, with the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) struggling outside SA.

The Coalition lost a seat in each of NSW, Queensland, SA and WA, but gained a seat in Victoria, where they were very unlucky in 2013. Labor gained a seat in WA, and the Greens lost a SA seat.

Half-Senate election, and long and short term Senators

When Parliament resumes on 30 August, one of the first tasks of the new Senate will be to decide which half of the 72 state Senators are assigned long terms expiring in July 2022, and which get short terms expiring in July 2019. The four territory Senators are tied to the term of the House.

In the past, the order of election method has always been used to assign long and short terms following a double dissolution. In this method, the first six to be declared elected get the long terms, and the last six receive the short terms. This method favours parties that have won full quotas on primary votes, so it benefits the major parties.

While the order of election method has been used after all previous double dissolutions, the recount method has been recommended since the last double dissolution in 1987. The recount method is not quite the same, but very similar to what would be produced by a half-Senate election. In this method, the six Senators who would win had a half-Senate election been held get long terms, and the others have short terms.

The electoral commission has not published results of the recount method, but they can be derived from the downloadable data on every Senate vote, and this has been done here by Grahame Bowland. The table below gives the state results had a half-Senate election been held.

if half Senate.

So if the recount method were used, the Coalition would get 15 of the 36 long terms, Labor 12, the Greens 4, the NXT 2, and Hanson, Hinch and Lambie one each.

The order-of-election method gives the Coalition an additional long term in Victoria at Hinch’s expense, and Labor an additional long term in NSW at the Greens’ expense. This may incline both major parties to vote together for the order-of-election method.

However, the Senate is not bound to go with either method. The major parties could reserve all the long terms for themselves, for example, though they may worry about public reaction to such a cynical move.

Lower quotas and declining major party support are responsible for One Nation success

As the half-Senate table shows, One Nation would only have won one seat (Hanson herself) under the new Senate system had a half-Senate election been held. The reduction in the quota from 14.3% at a half-Senate election to 7.7% at a double dissolution was crucial in electing 4 One Nation Senators.

As I have noted before, the last time One Nation was a force, in 1998 and 2001, the establishment parties, namely Labor, the Coalition, the Greens and the Australian Democrats, were much stronger. At this election, the Coalition, Labor and the Greens combined won a mere 73.7% of the national Senate vote, down 2.8 points on what was already a weak showing in 2013.

In One Nation’s former heyday, the group voting tickets issued by the established parties were partly responsible for One Nation’s failure to win Senate seats. However, populist right wing parties generally have a larger vote share now, and these parties would have been likely to put One Nation high on their group voting ticket, if that system had still existed.

As a result, I think One Nation would still have won seats in NSW and WA under the old system, though their second Queensland seat would have been more doubtful. However, seats not won by One Nation would probably have gone to similar right wing populist parties.

Furthermore, the near 100% preference flows between micro parties under the old system meant that it was hostile to the established parties, and particularly Labor. Labor was hindered by being a centre left party, so they received few preferences from either far left or right micro parties.

If the old system had still been used, Labor would probably have only won 3 Queensland Senators instead of 4, and either Labor or the Greens would probably have lost a seat in WA and Tasmania. The Coalition would have probably lost its fifth Victorian seat.

New Senate system worked well

There were many who thought the new Senate system would result in very high informal, just vote “1” and/or exhaust rates. Other criticisms were that the non-Greens crossbench would shrink drastically, that the primary vote leaders in contests for the final seats in each state would always win, and that a Coalition majority would result.

The non-Greens crossbench expanded from 8 to 11, primary vote leads were overturned in Queensland and SA, and the Coalition has 30 seats, down 3 on the last Senate.

The informal rate for the Senate was 3.9%, up 1.0%, but still better than the House informal rate of 5.1%. The just vote “1” above the line rate was 3.0% nationally, and this is inflated by a 4.7% rate in NSW, which has optional preferential voting for both its state Houses. NSW also has high rates of non-English speaking people.

Nationally, 5.1% of votes exhausted by the time winners were determined in each state (irrelevant further distributions were carried out in some cases). That exhaustion rate is once again inflated by NSW with a 7.3% exhaust rate. The exhaust rate in NSW was due not only to a high just vote “1” rate, but also because the final seat was contested by the Liberal Democrats and Christian Democrats, micro parties that many did not care about.

The lowest exhaust rate was in SA (2.0%). Ironically, given Labor opposed the Senate voting reforms, they would have benefited there from a higher exhaust rate.

Despite relatively low primary votes, 11 of the 12 seats in each state were filled on a quota or very near a quota. Only the last seat in each state was filled on significantly less than a full quota. David Leyonhjelm won re-election with 60% of a quota in NSW, while Bob Day won with 89% in SA. One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts had 78% of a quota after preferences in Queensland.

How to Vote cards for the various parties were not followed assiduously. In the various states about 30% followed the Coalition’s How to Vote cards 1-6, and about 10-15% for Labor and the Greens. Some micro parties had follow rates that were competitive with Labor’s, but most had very low follow rates.

Queensland poll has One Nation on 16%

A Queensland Galaxy poll, presumably conducted 3-4 August from a sample of about 800, has a 50-50 tie, a 2 point gain for Labor since May. Primary votes are 33% for Labor (down 3), 38% for the Liberal Nationals (down 6) and 16% for One Nation. Despite One Nation’s surge, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s approval rating is 46% (up 2) and her disapproval is 31% (down 8), for a net approval of +15, up ten points. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls has a net approval of zero, up five points.

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