Saturday, 8 February 2014

A poor psephologist concludes blaming his tools

So before we start, I recently got some feedback that this site is a little dry. It's a political science blog, so there is only so much I can do to rectify this; the point, however, is valid. Since I am not a professional, my only real draw is being accessible or entertaining.

Occasionally I can do this through a jocular manner or a well placed image. Unfortunately, there is very little to say – much less joke about – while we're still a month out from the state election. So while I will keep the entertainment value of these posts in mind, there's not a huge amount I can do at this point. Realistically this is going to be most enjoyable for those readers who play along at home.

The box contains countless electoral maps, and a dartboard to pin them to.

For those of you without the time or inclination to formulate separate predictions, this next month is not going to be too riveting. Sorry. However, I will be providing TL;DR: summaries at the bottom of my posts for those who find themselves tuning out.

Griffith By-election Update:

For those who are playing along, we have a prediction for Griffith to keep our eyes on. And although the LNQ candidate Dr Bill Glasson is not admitting defeat, the seat can confidently be called for the ALP, though with a slight swing to the Coalition. So that's a point for me, and hopefully for most of you too.

Review of Pendula:

The pre- and post-election pendula have been long-standing features of Australian psephology, as a direct result of their usefulness. As summarised here the pre-election pendulum had a 87% success rate as a predictive tool, which is superior to the VDTA I used. It is difficult to assess the success of the seat run-downs, but clearly the pendulum is one of our most powerful tools.

However, this could easily be improved by a more accurate model of predicting swings. Assuming a uniform swing regularly fails to yield sufficiently accurate predictions, but several analyses conducted last year on this blog failed to refine this method:

This post indicates that swing (i.e. volatility) is not noticeably related to the seat's marginality – in other words being closely contested is not at indication of the size of the swing.

This post went on to show that a seat that had a large swing one election may have a small swing in the next. This dispelled the possibility of “large swing” and “small swing” seats, and led me to look at seat volatility as a long-term trend (as in the seat run downs) rather than an innate feature of particular areas.

This also gives us a helpful hint that the factors that drive swing vary from election to election. I have no doubt I will return to this topic in the future. When I do, I will probably look at comparing the economic activities of a seat with the main themes of the election (e.g. if water restrictions were a major issue, did this provoke a greater swing in agricultural seats than industrial ones?) I'll also keep an eye out for articles by other psephologists that might give me some more hints on the topic.

I suspect that this is going to continue to be a complicated issue, and one that may not be resolved for a long time.

TD;DR: Successful prediction for Griffith: ALP hold
Pendula are the most useful tool used in my 2013 analysis
There is no known reliable way of calculating seat-by-seat swing
Swing is not determined by seat-specific data, but depends on the election

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