Sunday, 9 March 2014

Predictions II


Legislative Council:

At the federal election last year I learned, to my cost, that applying lower house polling to the upper house is seriously flawed. I suspect the large number of upper house minor parties not contesting lower house seats is a major factor in this.

Unfortunately Legislative Council polling is difficult to come by, so we need some kind of proxy.

The South Australian Legislative Council has 22 members, with 11 alternating members elected every election. At the federal election the state elected 6 senators – 2 from the Liberal camp, 2 from the ALP, 1 Greens candidate and one Independent in the form of Nick Xenophon. Applying this to the LegCo suggests, with rounding, 4 each from the Libs and ALP, 2 Greens and probably only 1 from the Xenophon group (who, just so we can move on past this point, are obviously not running Xenophon as an actual candidate. Some people have suggested this is false advertising, but similar complaints against the Palmer United or Katter's South Australian Party candidates are less common.)

Obviously opinions have shifted over time, and there is a different host of minor parties, but everyone pretty well accepts that the Libs and ALP should win at least 3 seat each, and 4 is quite possible.


The Greens are, by virtue of being the nations de facto third party, an obvious tip for some further seats. They have regularly won single seats, but with their lower house vote in decline from 2010 (down 2.3 pp on Newspoll) their chance of picking up more than one is pretty well out of the question. That said, their predicted 7% primary vote is just shy of the 8.33% quota, so one seat is almost assured. I would also tip, based on previous wins, the Family First and Xenophon groups to get a seat. Their support is steadfast, if small, and with support from ultra-minor parties but lower primary base than the Greens, they may well just struggle over the line (Particularly the FFP which has good preferential support as we will see below). There is the possibility that Dignity 4 Disability may repeat its previous success, but since this was a last-place scraping together of the remaining scraps I think luck and preference deals served them well once and cannot be relied on again.


The remaining two seats could go to the Libs or ALP, or else be scraped together through luck and preference deals to push some minor party over the line. Enter Glenn Druery, stage right.

Apart from long-distance cycling, Mr Druery's main claim to fame is organising preference flows between minor parties to maximising the chance of one winning. This is not a new phenomena, but it is one that has certain consequences. Remember everyone's surprise last year when the motoring enthusiasts and the sports party got in off some very low primary votes? Their inclusion in Mr Druery's preference swapping circle is no coincidence. In fact, Mr Druery has been using electoral math to get typical no-hope groups into government since1999.

His success is such that there are unconfirmed rumours of six-digit figures being paid for his services, although this is generally inferred to apply to his side-job of favouring the parties that pay him over others in his calculations.

Now I have no problems with minor parties being elected. Heck, I bemoan the current political duopoly and the robust debates it robs this country of. However, 95% of people vote above the line (though, I suspect, the number is lower among minor parties and higher with the “don't really care” voters who back the major players.) That's an awfully large percentage of the vote to be splashing about in. And the deals that are arranged are often funnelled so that a vote for the pro-life religious right parties can end up with the secular pro-choice candidates and vice versa. And that is where I object. It is bad enough people do not pay attention to where their vote ends up, but to exploit that on the basis of electoral math is the heinous crime of psephology's evil twin.

This is pretty much what goes on behind the scenes of electoral blogging.

With Druery's system hinted to favour the Shooters and Fishers and a rival alliance organised by the LDP expected to back the LDP (go figure) who knows how this will pan out. However, here is a quick look at preference flows.

I have taken the preferences directly from the blog of an old school (and old-school) friend of mine, the great Casey Briggs, whose own (more professional) psephological musings should have been referenced here long before now. He has conveniently done away with the candidate-by-candidate preference flows and distilled their essence down to a party-specific level. Mr Briggs is far too wise to take this to a predictive level, but I am not.

Please find bellow two sets of averages. The first is the average placement of each party on the preference lists (N.B. This does include their own ticket. Split tickets are given half-weight per ticket.) The second is the same without factoring in the Libs, ALP, Greens, FFP or Xenophon in order to look at orchestrated flows between the minor parties. The lower the average the higher they average on the tickets and the more likely they are to be preferenced into a seat.


In both cases, Powerful Communities comes out ahead, followed by the Multicultural Party and then Mark Aldridge. This can only be a rough indication, since the order parties drop out will be a major factor and a lower average may be derived from some high and low preferences, which will do better than a better average on more mediocre preferences. On this latter point, Mr Briggs has also conveniently highlighted the least preferenced party/group here (P.S. It's Xenophon by a long way). He also suggest that such frequently low-rating parties will have to rely more on their primary votes, however I would argue that if this is countered with some high-placed preferences this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, I would even suggest the number of high-preferences is more indicative of preference advantage than the number of low ones. As I said, a polarising party with a lot of second and last preferences will do better than someone consistently ranked in the middle.

I have taken the previous data and looked at who gets the most second, third and fourth preferences (bellow) and also created a weighted average thus: ((Number of 2s x 4)+(Number of 3s x 2)+(Number of 4s))/7 (i.e. the number of 2s is twice as important as the number of 3s, which is twice as important as the number of 4s). This is provided in the summary.


Family First does best on the second preferences, shortly ahead of Powerful Communities. In the overall summary we see Powerful Communities take the lead, the Family First, then the Multicultural Party. Given that we have already given a seat to Family First and they are highly unlikely to win a second, I would suggest that the final two seats could be won by the Libs, the ALP, or Powerful Communities. The Multicultural Party is also in with a shot if the primary vote for the big-guns is low enough. Dignity 4 Disability is an outside shot. Palmer is, of course, well publicised but I think the public has moved on.

Unfortunately with only 11 seats, there is not enough room for even one tossup, so I am going to place the following guesses:



This would give the complete LegCo as:

Independents are ex-Labor Bernard Finnigan, Dignity for Disability's Kelly Vincent, Nick Xenephon Group candidate John Darley and Mark Henley for Powerful Communities.

Please note that, although it is practically unheard of for anyone to not be elected in the order of their names within the party, names in the above are indicative only, primarily to identify which IND is being predicted. Selecting the correct party but wrong candidate (except for Independents) will still be considered a correct prediction.

TL;DR: Minimum of 3 seats each for Liberals and Labor, with widely accepted high probability of a Greens, Xenephon and Family first in the mix.
Preferences favour Powerful Communities as minor parties, although the seats could also be taken by the major parties
The SA LegCo does not provide enough scope for tossups
Prediction as per penultimate image leading to a full council as shown in the final image.

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