The Tasmanian election will be held on Saturday, with polls closing at 6pm AEST. A uComms poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted April 21 from a sample of 1,023, gave the Liberals 41.4%, Labor 32.1%, the Greens 12.4%, Independents 11.0% and Others 3.1%.
This poll is in marked contrast to the last publicly available Tasmanian poll: an EMRS poll in February that gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27%, Greens 14% and 7% for all Others.
The uComms poll is likely to be the only poll of the election campaign. There will be no pre-election EMRS poll, and Newspoll did not do a pre-election survey in 2018.
Analyst Kevin Bonham says there are many reasons to doubt this uComms poll. If previous uComms polls in November 2019 and 2020 are benchmarked against comparable EMRS polls, the Liberal vote is well below EMRS – and EMRS understated the Liberals by an average 1.8% at the last four Tasmanian elections.
Another reason to be sceptical is that Labor’s vote is only so high owing to the 7% who said they were initially undecided. When pushed, 67% of them backed Labor, implying a soft Labor vote. Polls that are not media-released should be treated cautiously, whether the commmissioning source is left or right-wing.
Bonham’s seat model has the Liberals winning around 12 of the 25 Tasmanian lower house seats if the uComms poll is correct, denying them a majority.
Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system
Tasmania uses the same five electorates for federal and state elections. At state elections, five members are elected per electorate using the Hare-Clark system, for a total of 25 lower house members.
If ordered from most Liberal to least at the 2019 federal election by Liberal vs Labor two party vote, the electorates are Braddon (53.4% to Liberal), Bass (50.4%), Lyons (44.8%), Franklin (37.8%) and Clark (33.8%). Independent Andrew Wilkie won Clark, but the two party vote ignores independents. The Liberal vote in Lyons would probably have been higher if not for candidate issues.
At the 2018 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 seats, to ten for Labor and two Greens. The Liberals won three seats in each of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, and two in both Franklin and Clark (called Denison then). Statewide vote shares were 50.3% Liberal, 32.6% Labor and 10.3% Greens.
With five members per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark system with Robson rotation, which randomly orders candidates within a party group on ballot papers. This means there is no advantage to being the top candidate for your party.
Hare-Clark is a candidate-based system; people vote for candidates, and there is no above the line box to vote for your party. A formal vote requires at least five preferences in Tasmania.
For the distribution of preferences, all candidates who achieve a quota at any stage are elected, and their surplus over one quota transferred. When nobody remaining has a quota, candidates are eliminated, starting with the person with the lowest vote. Owing to exhaustion, final candidates elected often have less than a full quota.
Votes can leak out of a party’s ticket, costing them seats where they appeared ahead on first preferences. If votes split evenly among a bigger party’s candidates, those candidates can defeat a smaller party even if the smaller party was closer to quota. For instance, one party could have 1.8 quotas, but their two candidates have 0.9 quotas each, beating another party that had 0.85 quotas.
At this election, most electorates will feature Liberal vs Labor vs Greens contests, but Clark has two prominent independents: former lower house Speaker Sue Hickey, who sometimes opposed her Liberal party’s positions, and quit the party when she was not preselected; and local mayor Kristie Johnston.
These independents could explain the high vote for independents of 11% in the uComms poll, but Bonham is still sceptical. Polls that ask specifically for independents draw voters who will back independents if one that suits their politics stands. But as suitable independents don’t usually exist, they underperform their polling.
Upper house elections
Two or three of Tasmania’s 15 single-member upper house seats are up for election every May for six-year terms, and this time the upper house elections will occur concurrently with the lower house.
This year, elections will occur in Derwent and Windermere. In Mersey, left-leaning independent Mike Gaffney was re-elected unopposed. That means nobody else nominated to run, so Gaffney was declared elected without an election.
Derwent has been held continuously by Labor since 1979, and they outpolled the Liberals 45.4% to 41.9% in 2018, despite the statewide thrashing. Windermere was held by retiring conservative independent Ivan Dean; in 2018, the Liberals won 54.6%, Labor 30.6% and the Greens 7.5%. The most likely outcome is Labor retaining Derwent while the Liberals gain Windermere.
According to Bonham, the upper house currently has five Labor, three Liberals, four left independents, two centre-right independents and one conservative independent. The 9-6 left majority could be reduced to 8-7 if the Liberals upset Labor in Derwent.
Bonham’s Tasmanian election guide, with links to both the lower and upper house electorates, has been of great assistance for this article.
Federal Essential poll and additional Newspoll questions
In this week’s federal Essential poll, conducted April 21-26 from a sample of 1,090, 42% said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible (down five since March), 42% said they would get vaccinated but not straight away (up two) and 16% said they would never get vaccinated (up four).
The bad publicity for the AstraZeneca vaccine over the blood clots issue has had an impact, with 27% saying they would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine, but not AstraZeneca.
43% thought the vaccination rollout was being down efficiently (down 25 since early March), 63% thought it was being done safely (down ten) and 52% thought it would be effective at stopping COVID (down 11).
In Newspoll, 70% approved of Scott Morrison’s handling of the COVID pandemic, while 27% disapproved. That’s down from 82-15 approval last June. By 53-43, voters were satisfied with the vaccine rollout.