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Labor two seats short of a majority in final NSW lower house results, plus a polling critique

At the March 25 New South Wales state election, Labor won 45 of the 93 lower house seats (up nine since the 2019 election), the Coalition 36 (down 12), the Greens three (steady), independents nine (up six) and the Shooters zero (down three).

These results are pending a recount in Ryde, which the Liberals provisionally won by just 50 votes against Labor (50.05-49.95).

Labor won nine seats more than the Coalition, but owing to the large crossbench, they are two seats below an outright majority (47 seats). But Labor will have no trouble governing with support from the Greens and left-leaning independents.


Read more: NSW Labor unlikely to win majority after flopping on pre-poll votes


Labor was unlucky in the close seats, winning all their seats by at least a 51.6-48.4 margin (Penrith was the closest Labor seat), while the Liberals won two seats by narrow margins: Ryde and Holsworthy (a 50.4-49.6 Liberal margin there).

While independents were up six, there were only two new independents, in Wakehurst and Wollondilly, where independents gained from the Liberals. The three Shooters elected in 2019 all successfully recontested as independents, as did former Liberal Gareth Ward in Kiama.

Statewide primary votes were 37.0% Labor (up 3.7% since 2019), 35.4% Coalition (down 6.2%), 9.7% Greens (up 0.1%), 1.8% One Nation (up 0.7%), 1.5% Shooters (down 1.9%) and 14.6% for all Others (up 3.6%). Others includes 8.7% for independents (up 3.9%). The ABC’s estimate of the statewide two party vote is currently 53.9-46.1 to Labor, a 5.9% swing to Labor.

There are many seats where Labor and the Liberal or National candidates did not finish in the top two, and there is currently no Labor vs Coalition two party count in those seats. The electoral commission will eventually give us an official statewide two party count that will include these seats, but for now the ABC’s estimate is what we have.

NSW is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional preferential voting, rather than the compulsory preferential voting used federally. ABC election analyst Antony Green says the Liberals won four seats that they would have lost under compulsory preferential – two to Labor and two to independents. So optional preferential probably cost Labor a majority.

Labor gained Camden, East Hills, Monaro, Parramatta, Penrith, Riverstone and South Coast from the Coalition. Most of these gains were the result of double digit swings to Labor, but there were only 2% swings in East Hills and Penrith. On the pre-election pendulum, Labor missed out on two seats they should have taken given the statewide swing: Upper Hunter and Goulburn.

How did the polls go?

The table below compares the polls taken during the final two weeks of the election campaign to the results. Each poll is listed with its fieldwork dates, sample size, primary vote estimates for Labor, the Coalition, the Greens and all Others, and Labor’s two party estimate.

The final row in the table is the actual election results, using the ABC’s two party estimate. Bold numbers in the polls’ estimates are where they came within 1% of the election result.

NSW 2023 polls compared with election results.

Newspoll was the only pollster that gave Labor a lead on primary votes, with the other polls all showing a primary vote tie. While Morgan was closest on two party votes, they understated the major parties’ votes and overstated the Greens. Freshwater was very close on both Labor and the Greens, but overstated the Coalition.

I believe Newspoll was the best pollster, as it was reasonably close on the two party measure and correctly gave Labor a primary vote lead over the Coalition.

Resolve’s final poll had independents at 8%, close to the result of 8.7% for independents. Resolve has been too high for independents prior to the close of nominations, but their final polls have been accurate on the independent vote as they use actual candidate lists.

Resolve has generally been Labor’s best pollster both federally and in state polls since Labor won government in the May 2022 federal election. However, their final NSW and Victorian polls understated Labor, and other polls were better.

Animal Justice a chance to win final upper house seat

The NSW upper house has 42 members with 21 up every four years so members serve eight-year terms. All 21 are elected by statewide proportional representation with optional preferences, so a quota is 1/22 of the vote or 4.5%.

With nearly all votes initially counted, the ABC has Labor on 8.12 quotas, the Coalition 6.63, the Greens 2.00, One Nation 1.27, Legalise Cannabis 0.79, the Liberal Democrats 0.75, the Shooters 0.68, Animal Justice 0.47 and Elizabeth Farrelly 0.28.

Eight Labor, six Coalition, two Greens and one One Nation will be elected, and it is very unlikely that Legalise Cannabis, the Liberal Democrats or Shooters will be passed on preferences. The contest is between the Coalition and Animal Justice for the final seat.

Below the line (BTL) votes are not included in the initial count. The check count includes these votes, but is only at 59% of the initial count’s total votes so far. The major parties do relatively badly on BTL votes and minor parties well. The ABC is including BTL votes already in the check count in its totals.

By extrapolating the likely behaviour of the remaining BTL votes, analyst Kevin Bonham expects the Coalition will have 6.599 quotas and Animal Justice 0.475 when the check count is finished, provided there are no major errors in the initial count, so the Coalition’s seventh candidate would be 0.124 quotas ahead.

If this occurs, the Coalition will probably win the final seat, but Animal Justice has some chance. A Coalition win would hold the left to an 11-10 win on the 21 seats up for election, and a 21-21 overall tie, while an Animal Justice win would give the left a 22-20 overall majority.

The NSW upper house is expected to be finalised next week, when the “button” is pressed to electronically distribute preferences.

UK local elections and other international politics

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on April 6 about the May 4 English local elections, which Labour is expected to win easily. The May 14 Turkish elections and October New Zealand election were also covered.

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