US: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies?

Polls are trying to analyse the wrong things – that’s why they can be inaccurate.

This is from the US two party polarised political system and may not apply so much under MMP in New Zealand, but it’s an interesting theory – it’s not swing voters who decide elections, and it’s not so much candidates and policies. US elections can be decided by which voters are most motivated to get out to stop the other side winning.

This would mean that in 2016 right wing voters were motivated more against Hilary Clinton winning than for Donald Trump. And left wing voters were more ambivalent, with many seeing both Clinton and trump as undesirable.

The 2018 mid-term election favoured Democrat candidates because the motivation to react against trump had strengthened (and there was no ‘Clinton’).

Politico: An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

Rachel Bitecofer’s radical new theory predicted the midterms spot-on. So who’s going to win 2020?

What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless?

What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House?

What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?

To the political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, all of that is almost certainly true, and that has made her one of the most intriguing new figures in political forecasting this year.

Keep in mind that they invented political forecasters to make economic forecasters and weather forecasters look good.

Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor at Christopher Newport University in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, was little known in the extremely online, extremely male-dominated world of political forecasting until November 2018. That’s when she nailed almost to the number the nature and size of the Democrats’ win in the House, even as other forecasters went wobbly in the race’s final days

And today her model tells her the Democrats are a near lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate.

Bitecofer’s theory, when you boil it down, is that modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place.

If she’s right, it wouldn’t just blow up the conventional wisdom; it would mean that much of the lucrative cottage industry of political experts—the consultants and pollsters and (ahem) the reporters—is superfluous, an army of bit players with little influence over the outcome. Actually, worse than superfluous: That whole industry of experts is generally wrong.

The experts do seem to be more often wrong than right.

The classic view is that the pool of American voters is basically fixed: About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of “swing voters” who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.

“The idea that there is this informed, engaged American population that is watching these political events and watching their elected leaders and assessing their behavior and making a judgment.”

“And it is just not true.”

In 2016, the election that truly embarrassed the experts, Bitecofer was teaching in her new job and didn’t put together a forecast. She doesn’t pretend she saw it coming:

She says she was as surprised Trump won as anyone else, but what struck her in examining the results, and what she saw as getting lost in the postelection commentary, was exactly how many people voted third party—for the Greens, the Libertarians or Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who was running on behalf of the “Never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton had run an entire campaign built around classic assumptions: She was trying to pick off Republicans and Republican-leaning independents appalled by Trump. So she chose a bland white man, Tim Kaine, as a running mate; it also explained her policy-lite messaging and her ads.

But in the end, almost all of those voters stuck with the GOP. The voters who voted third party should have been Democratic voters—they were disproportionately young, diverse and college educated—but they were turned off by the divisive Democratic primary, and the Clinton camp made no effort to activate them in the general election.

The anti-Clinton vote was stronger than the WTF anti-Trump vote.

When 2018 rolled around, she saw what was coming: “College educated white men, and especially college educated white women,” she said, “were going to be on fucking fire.”

It didn’t matter who was running; it mattered who was voting.

Negative partisanship

Bitecofer’s view of the electorate is driven, in part, by a new way to think about why Americans vote the way they do. She counts as an intellectual mentor Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University who popularized the concept of “negative partisanship,” the idea that voters are more motivated to defeat the other side than by any particular policy goals.

In a piece explaining his work in POLITICO Magazine, Abramowitz wrote: “Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose.

Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries. And it’s also true of Democrats, who might be consumed by their internal feuds over foreign policy and the proper role of government were it not for Trump.”

Bitecofer took this insight and mapped it across the country.

“In the polarized era, the outcome isn’t really about the candidates. What matters is what percentage of the electorate is Republican and Republican leaners, and what percentage is Democratic and Democratic leaners, and how they get activated,” she said.

But it must be more complex than this.

“It’s the big discussion in election forecasting and political science right now,” said Kyle Kondik, communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and an editor at its forecasting site, Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “As I look at it, there are just a lot of different things going on in the electorate. There are a lot of folks who switched from Obama 2012 to Trump 2016. I think that’s pretty clear, but there also were turnout problems for Democrats in these places, and you had people switching or defecting to third parties. The more you learn about this stuff, the less you feel like you have a grasp on it.”

Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who since 2004 has doubled as an elections forecaster…agrees. The percentage of people who swing in and out of the electorate is closer to 10 percent, according to his data, which couldn’t explain the massive swings some counties saw from 2012 to 2016.

As for Bitecofer’s overall theory, Wang says, “It is the detailed version of something that is generally appreciated—that over the last 20 years the big phenomenon in American politics is that Americans have become much more predictable about who they vote for,” he said. “The broad insight is the deep truth of our time, but it is not that novel.”

This bit seems odd – election results are virtually decided before candidates are known.

“What I am saying is that almost all of this shit is set in stone for three years, that almost none of the shit that people are hanging onto, in terms of daily articles, or polls, or the economy or incumbency or ideology is really worth that much.”

Once you know the shape of the electorate, she argues, you can pretty much tell how that electorate is going to vote. And the shape of the electorate in 2018, and 2020, for that matter, was determined on the night of November 8, 2016. The new electorate, as she forecasts it, is made up mostly of people who want a president named anything but Donald Trump, competing with another group that fears ruin should anyone but Donald Trump be president.

But if Hillary Clinton suddenly entered this year’s presidential nomination race and was selected surely that would change things considerably. Maybe. Now left wing voters have experienced Trump in action as president voting against him may be stronger than voting against Clinton.

Although the ranks of independents are growing, up to 40 percent by some surveys, Bitecofer says campaigns have spent entirely too much time courting them, and the media has spent entirely too much caring about their preferences. The real “swing” doesn’t come from voters who choose between two parties, she argues, but from people who choose to vote, or not (or, if they do vote, vote for a third party).

The actual percentage of swing voters in any given national election according to her own analysis is closer to 6 or 7 percent than the 15 or 20 most analysts think are out there, and that larger group, Bitecofer says, are “closet partisans” who don’t identify with a party but still vote with one.

It should be easier to motivate people to vote who already lean your way than swinging someone from one side to the other.

This year’s election?

Bitecofer has already released her 2020 model, and is alone among election forecasters in giving the Democrats—who, of course, do not yet have a nominee—the 270 electoral votes required to claim the presidency without a single toss-up state flipping their way.

And in a view that goes against years of accepted political wisdom that says the choice of a running mate doesn’t much matter, the key she says, to a 2020 Democratic victory will lie less in who is at the top of the ticket than in who gets chosen as veep.

The reason Trump won in 2016 was not, she says, because of a bunch of disaffected blue-collar former Democrats in the Midwest; it is because a combination of Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin pulled away more than 6 percent of voters in a state like Michigan. These were anti-Hillary voters, yes—but they were anti-Trump voters especially, and they are likely to come to the Democratic fold this time around if they’re given a reason.

Trump appears to understand Bitecofer’s theories as well as anyone in politics. He leans into the divisions and negative partisanship. In 2018, Trump turned the midterms into a referendum on him, warning that Democrats would bring crime and chaos into their neighborhoods if they won. There was a turnout surge among Trump voters in some places, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Democratic gains.

Bitecofer already sees the Trump playbook coming together for 2020: warning of a demographic takeover by nonwhites in order to boost turnout among noncollege white voters, and trying to sow chaos in the Democratic ranks so that supporters of a losing primary candidate either stay home or support a third-party candidate.

Bitecofer doesn’t see much of a downside to a candidate like Bernie Sanders. But she doesn’t see much of an upside either, since ideology isn’t as big a motivator as identity, and since Sanders did not in fact bring hordes of new voters to the polls in 2016.

There is some risk to nominating Joe Biden, who could be seen as a candidate of the status quo against a disrupter like Trump, but either way, the key will be to do their version of what Trump does to them every day: make the prospect of four more years of Republican rule seem like a threat to the Republic, one that could risk everything Democratic-leaning voters hold dear.

“If you want to win the election, you have to be able to frame your candidacy in a way that reminds voters that Trump is an abnormality that must be excised,” she said.

While the Trump campaign playbook is well known now, the Democrats are just getting into the serious part of nominating a candidate. How they will campaign is unknown. Surely they can still stuff things up as the Clinton campaign did.

But those who may be motivated to vote against Trump may already be largely determined. Perhaps.

 

Will we have an election year ‘culture war’?

Politics in Aotearoa is quite different to Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA, so it is difficult to know how much we will move towards the fractious and divisive politics of those countries in this election year.

Bryce Edwards suggests New Zealand voters must prepare for an ugly culture war this election

Trump, Morrison and Johnson have found fertile political ground in the backlash to being woke. Simon Bridges is likely to ape them

Bridges is already trying a bit of this approach, but he’s not very popular so it’s difficult to judge whether he is shifting support – National has generally maintained good levels of support regardless of their leader’s lack of appeal.

Some say the New Zealand insistence on fairness goes back to our colonial history. Many escapees of industrial Britain embraced a life in a less class-ridden country. Of course the idea that New Zealand is an equal and “classless society” was always a myth, but this egalitarian ethos endures.

It creates a particular problem for politicians of the right. As a former prime minister, John Key, told US diplomats in a private briefing, New Zealand’s “socialist streak” means it can be difficult to push rightwing policies. Key later elaborated: “New Zealand is a very caring country. I think New Zealanders do have a heart.”

In 2017 this helped the election of Jacinda Ardern’s government, made up of parties that channelled concerns about the lack of fairness under the then National-led government. The new government promised to be “transformative”, rolling out a fairness agenda in programs from KiwiBuild to child poverty reduction targets.

This all presents the National party with a dilemma. There are few votes in criticising the government’s fairness agenda – in fact the opposition is reduced to complaining that the government has not delivered on its left-leaning program.

As the election nears, National will try to paint itself as better economic managers and Grant Robertson as an irresponsible and incompetent finance minister, but this is unlikely to cut it with many voters.

I agree. Robertson has largely been successful at avoiding scaring the economic horses.

So where can it differentiate? National increasingly relies on stoking “culture wars” and law and order. It is these fertile new hunting grounds that give Simon Bridges his best chance of painting Ardern and her colleagues as out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

I doubt that Bridges will get very far there – one of Ardern’s strengths has been her ability to show empathy for how ‘mainstream New Zealand’ feels, especially during high profile times of deaths and emotions.

Culture wars are concerned with debates relating to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, human rights, discrimination, free speech and civil liberties. Elements of the political left – especially in the Labour and Green parties – are increasingly associated with campaigns in these areas, and often their stances are not shared by many mainstream voters.

But I think they are just niche elements of the left.

Ardern knows very well to keep her government as clear as possible of contentious social issues. Instead, if Labour and its coalition partners can keep public debate around traditional egalitarian concerns about inequality, housing, health and education, the New Zealand notion of fairness will probably also ensure her government will get another chance.

But Ardern probably needs the Greens and possibly NZ First to retain power. Winston Peters tends to appeal to a quite small ‘unfairness’ demographic which is quite different to the type of ‘fairness’ voters Greens will be trying too appeal to.

National’s best bet might be to provoke an ugly culture war. Expect to see Bridges attempt to start debates on these issues and paint Labour and the Greens as “woke” elitists, or just soft on law and order. This might be desperate and opportunistic – National MPs genuinely don’t care that much about many of these issues. But National knows that they are the sort of emotive and divisive concerns that might change votes.

This would be high risk. While it may appeal to some they are likely to already lean towards National. The more moderate voters that are seen as essential to winning elections are less likely to be attracted to divisive politics. They are more likely to be repelled by it.

There’s a cultural backlash ready to be fostered – as Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have found to their benefit. Such debates, whether over identity politics, hate speech, minority rights or gender can be explosively divisive. That could end up being the ugly story of the 2020 general election.

The US is a two party democracy that is very polarised – Donald Trump exploited this to win the presidency.

But we have multiple parties and I think far less division. There are noisy minorities on the extremes, but National and Labour are generally seen as more similar than different by most, in part due to the moderating influence of MMP.

National (and NZ First and the Greens) will no doubt try to push ‘culture war’ type issues to an extent, and media will give them more publicity than they deserve, but I am doubtful that many voters will buy into the divide and conquer style of politics that has worked elsewhere in the world.

Corbyn claims “we won the argument’

The UK Labour Party had their worst election result since 1935, getting  little more than half the seats that the Conservatives won,  but twice unsuccessful leader Jeremy Corbyn claims that they “won the argument”.

Guardian: We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change

The political system is volatile because it is failing to generate stable support for the status quo following the financial crash of 2008. As Labour leader I’ve made a point of travelling to all parts of our country and listening to people, and I’ve been continually struck how far trust has broken down in politics.

The gap between the richest and the rest has widened. Everyone can see that the economic and political system is not fair, does not deliver justice, and is stacked against the majority.

That has provided an opening for a more radical and hopeful politics that insists it doesn’t have to be like this, and that another world is possible. But it has also fuelled cynicism among many people who know things aren’t working for them, but don’t believe that can change.

I saw that most clearly in the former industrial areas of England and Wales where the wilful destruction of jobs and communities over 40 years has taken a heavy toll. It is no wonder that these areas provided the strongest backlash in the 2016 referendum and, regrettably for Labour, in the general election on Thursday.

Despite our best efforts, and our attempts to make clear this would be a turning point for the whole direction of our country, the election became mainly about Brexit.

We now need to listen to the voices of those in Stoke and Scunthorpe, Blyth and Bridgend, Grimsby and Glasgow, who didn’t support Labour. Our country has fundamentally changed since the financial crash and any political project that pretends otherwise is an indulgence.

Progress does not come in a simple straight line. Even though we lost seats heavily on Thursday, I believe the manifesto of 2019 and the movement behind it will be seen as historically important – a real attempt at building a force powerful enough to transform society for the many, not the few. For the first time in decades, many people have had hope for a better future.

I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate. But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.

There is no doubt that our policies are popular, from public ownership of rail and key utilities to a massive house-building programme and a pay rise for millions. The question is, how can we succeed in future where we didn’t this time?

The media attacks on the Labour party for the last four and a half years were more ferocious than ever – and of course that has an impact on the outcome of elections. Anyone who stands up for real change will be met by the full force of media opposition.

The party needs a more robust strategy to meet this billionaire-owned and influenced hostility head-on and, where possible, turn it to our advantage.

We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it. Labour will soon have a new leader. But whoever that will be, our movement will continue to work for a more equal and just society, and a sustainable and peaceful world.

He says that “We must now ensure that the working class, in all its diversity, is the driving force within our party”.  It is more than a little ironic that the working class north of England rejected Corbyn and Labour more than anywhere.

So Corbyn thinks that Labour got their policies right and while he says “I take my responsibility” for a heavy defeat, he blames it more on Brexit and the media.

The media are far from perfect, but they are an overworn scapegoat for the failings of political leaders and parties.

It wasn’t so much Brexit that caused Labour’s defeat, it was Corbyn’s poor positioning on Brexit.

And in particular his general unpopularity.

New Statesman: Why Labour lost – and how it can recover from an epic defeat

Labour entered the campaign with far too many weaknesses to ever have any hope of supplanting the Conservatives.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.

Corbyn’s unpopularity had many facets: he was never trusted to manage national security (his response to the Salisbury poisoning did particular damage) or the economy, and even polled behind Johnson on public services. He presided over a permanently divided party, many of whose MPs never regarded him as fit to be prime minister, the scandal of anti-Semitism wounded his claim to moral authority, and his equivocation on Brexit undermined his promise of “straight-talking, honest politics”.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Corbyn was right about the popularity of individual policies.

Labour’s individual policies, as Corbyn and John McDonnell have been swift to point out, were often highly popular. As I noted in 2018, for instance, a poll published by the Legatum Institute and Populus found that voters supported public ownership of the UK’s water (83 per cent), electricity (77 per cent), gas (77 per cent) and railways (76 per cent). Around two-thirds of voters supported policies such as higher taxation of top-earners, increased workers’ rights and a £10 minimum wage.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.

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Response to the hammering of UK Labour

Provisional results from the UK election:

  • Conservatives 365
  • Labour 203
  • Scottish National Party 48
  • Liberal Democrats 11
  • Democratic Unionist Party 8
  • Sinn Fein 7
  • Plaid Cymru 4
  • Green Party 1
  • Other parties 3
  • Brexit Party 0

Share of the vote (which under First Past the Post for electorates doesn’t determine the outcome):

  • Conservatives 43.6%
  • Labour 32.2%
  • Scottish National Party 3.9%
  • Liberal Democrats 11.6%
  • Democratic Unionist Party 0.8%
  • Sinn Fein 0.6%
  • Plaid Cymru 0.5%
  • Green Party 2.7%
  • Other parties 2%
  • Brexit Party 2%

The Conservatives and Boris Johnson are obviously celebrating, and so are those who want to see an resolution to the Brexit debacle.

Johnson is promising to take the UK out of the EU next month “no ifs, no buts”

A lot of response from Labour supporters has been to blame Brexit, the media and voters for being stupid and other things, but Jeremy Corbyn has copped a lot of criticism. He has said he will stay on as leader through a transition but won’t be leader at the next election.

Guardian: Jeremy Corbyn ‘very sad’ at election defeat but feels proud of manifesto

“I have pride in our manifesto that we put forward and all our policies we put forward that actually had huge public support on issues of universal credit, the green industrial revolution and investment for the future,” he said.

“But this election was taken over ultimately by Brexit and we as a party represent people who vote remain and leave, my whole strategy was to reach out beyond the Brexit divide to try to bring people together.”

Proud of a losing policy platform? Brexit was obviously a significant factor but Corbyn was seen to have handled it poorly, so it wasn’t so much that Brexit was the problem, it was that Corbyn wasn’t considered capable of sorting it out.

Some Labour MPs and officials were scathing.

Others not:

Here in Aotearoa there was dismay as the results came in at this ‘you must be deemed a lefty by weka to comment here’ post – Lefties on The Standard: UK election edition

Bill: “Ah well. It’s yellow vest time then, innit.”

Adrian Thornton: “Yes it is, time to get out on the streets.”

If you don’t like democratic elections revolt.

UncookedSelachimorpha:

I hope Labour sticks to a strongly progressive agenda, and doesn’t return to its neoliberal / Blairite ways. Might take a few election cycles before people give a progressive party a go – best to keep working towards that, than simply returning to Tory-Lite.

Weird that public support for individual Labour policies is strong – but they can’t get enough people to vote for the party. I suppose the party is the target of the media smear campaign, while the individual policies are not.

Adrian Thornton:

I am not really sure why anyone who has been following UK politics is at all surprised  at a poor result from Labour, Corbyn has been absolutely and well and truly fucked over by all MSM, and most damagingly by so called ‘liberal media’ who, as I harp on about here all the time, have shown that they are more closely aligned ideologically to the Tories and Boris than they are to a progressive Left project…at this point in this very real battle for the future of  our planet, and a more fair and equal society for all citizens,  they are our No,1 enemy.

Often something or someone else to blame for failings.

The 2017 election here showed that a different leader with much the same policies can make a huge difference. Media have their faults, but in general they give better coverage to better leaders, and poor coverage to poor leaders.’

Sanctuary:

If the exit polls are correct, then this is a really ominous result for Jacinda and her administration of merry and complacent elite politics managerialists.

It looks like the centre has collapsed in the UK, USA etc and that has largely been to the benefit of the far right.

NZ Labour continuing to cling to neoliberal centre will eventually lead to it’s destruction.

An alternative view from Ad, who for some reason was allowed to comment critically against ‘the left’:

The hard left saddos you describe are dying off and only appear here on TS for the occasional ideological burp.

And occasionally at protests like Ihumatao and in socialist youth gatherings numbering no more than two hands.

They’re gone.

Observer:

Drawing conclusions for NZ is frankly pointless (MMP changes everything).

There is now a vast gulf between Scotland and England, between London and northern England, etc. That’s reinforced and exaggerated by FPP.

Poli-geeks like us might view everything in terms of left and right but actually “We’ve had enough” is a major driver of voter behaviour. Traditionally, “we’ve had enough” is about a long-lasting government. This time, it’s Brexit.

There will never be another Brexit election in the UK (there might not even be a UK). So simple lessons “for next time” don’t apply.

I posted a comment that was promptly moved as I’m not deemed left enough (I think i was the only one moved), but that evolved into an interesting to an exchange on Open Mic.

Wayne (ex National MP):

Weka,

I note in your “lefties only” comment item on the UK election that some (you included) are saying Jacinda will loose in 2020 because she is not left enough.

Surely the result in the UK shows that is wrong. Jacinda is successful because she is not seen as extreme. She uses progressive language, but does not threaten an economic revolution. Instead she says things can get better with a moderate amount of social democracy.

Most people don’t want revolution because who knows where it might end up. Revolutions are full of risk. And basically don’t happen in democratic nations.

While there is no doubt Johnson’s simple Brexit message appeals because it offers certainty (in contrast to Labour promise of more confusion), I am also certain that Corbyn’s socialist message did not appeal. What Labour needs is a modern Blair. In fact that is exactly what Jacinda is. Which in my view is why she is successful.

A question, would Blair be reviled if Iraq had never happened, or instead would he be seen as the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever?

Weka:

No, I think Labour will get to form govt next year, but it will be closer than is comfortable for the left. Labour do have a problem in that many people voted Labour last time presumably because of JA (multiple reasons) but may be disappointed in what Labour have achieved. The solution to that is to vote Green, so we’re not in the same situation as the UK.

“I am also certain that Corbyn’s socialist message did not appeal.”

Obviously not enough, but I think the UK election is more about poor voter turnout, people being sick of Brexit back and forth, Labour Leavers objecting to Labour’s second referendum, vote splitting with the LDs, MSM and poll bias and so on. In other words, lots of dynamics going on.

The issue for the left is how to shift the Overton Window in NZ. I agree with you that NZ doesn’t want a revolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to move the centre. The right has done this in the past 35 years without prior approval /shrug.

Blair is hated because of how he cemented neoliberalism. Without Iraq only the neoliberals would see him as a great PM

Wayne:

I know that is a theme with the momentum left, but in truth their views only appeal to a small minority of voters. Some on the left also accuse Helen Clark of also accepting/endorsing neo-liberalism, but most people regard her as a very good PM. Without Iraq wouldn’t Blair be seen in the same light?

In my view NZers (apart from a mysogonist rump) have formed the same view of Jacinda as they did with Helen. A same pair of hands who won’t fundamentally unsettle the economic compact that prevails in NZ (for instance her commitment against CGT so long as she is PM). The major criticism she gets is that she (her government) have not delivered that well on their stated targets. In my view that is fixable with more focus and discipline.

A problem with a place like The Standard is you get a few remaining die-hard (I mistyped that as dire-hard and nearly left it) anti-neoliberal far lefties who make a big noise, aided by their ‘lefty only’ approach, not just as commenting rules but active and often nasty attacks on people deemed not left enough.

But they only represent a small minority of voters.

Weka sometimes says she wants to encourage views from the right but the calls them trolls if they say things she doesn’t like, and warnings and bans strongly favour her left.

Elections won’t be won and lost in blogs, but they can provide an interesting insight to dedicated political activists and their frustrations (there is a similar but more open avalanche of ‘not right enough with more abuse of alternate views at Kiwiblog).

We don’t have strong a strong left or right in Aotearoa. Which I think is a good thing, most voters don’t think as divisively as the political blog remnants.

UK election

The UK election is under way. Polls close at 22:00 GMT (11:00 am NZT), with results due to come out this afternoon our time.

This follows elections in 2015 and 2017 and  tumultuous political period mainly due to the Brexit mess and  virtual hung parliament.

BBC – General election 2019: Voters head to polls across the UK

A total of 650 MPs will be chosen under the first-past-the-post system used for general elections, in which the candidate who secures the most votes in each individual constituency is elected.

Elections in the UK traditionally take place every four or five years. But, in October, MPs voted for the second snap poll in as many years. It is the first winter election since 1974 and the first to take place in December since 1923.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cast his vote – he visited a polling station in central London, taking his dog, Dilyn, along with him, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posed for pictures when he went to vote in north London.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visited a polling station in Glasgow, while Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson cast her vote at a polling station in East Dunbartonshire, accompanied by her husband Duncan Hames.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price voted in Carmarthenshire and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley did so in south London.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has used a postal vote.

A post at The Standard by Bill hopes that a late surge of young voter registrations will favour Corbyn and Labour – The Missing Millions.

As Zoe Williams reported in yesterday’s Guardian, none of the predictions flowing from any poll used in the UK incorporates the 4 million new registrations from this year. As she points out, most of those new registrations are from ‘young’ people who are far more likely to vote Labour.

That leaves four million, (registrations in 2019) the majority of whom are young. Even while various pollsters are happy to predict that they will break 2:1 Labour (which is actually quite a cautious estimate: if they’re young, they turn out and they vote tactically, the Labour share could be higher), they have so far been unwilling to build these voters into their predictions.

By my reckoning that’s about 10% of the total number of people who are eligible to vote that have been ‘blanked’ by polling companies.”

I’m almost left scratching my head as to why publication after publication has been been making robust predictions of a Tory victory and a Labour loss based on polling. And here’s the rub. I’m persuaded the predictions are driven by ideology and the polls merely offer cover for that fact.

We’ve heard similar dreams of election miracles and claims of poll and media plots here in the past.

But swordfish suggests Bill’s hopes may be fanciful.

Be nice to think so … but I strongly suspect Zoe is catering to those clutching at straws, Labour having proven unable to narrow the Tory lead over the final week to the extent that supporters would’ve liked.

I think she’s probably wrong for the following reasons:

(1) She is clearly influenced by the widely-held assumption that a similar  Youthquake occurred in 2017. The most authoritative research (by the British Election Study & separately by a few other academics) suggests this was largely a myth … essentially Tremors, yes, but no Youthquake (although the concept still remains popular with one or two Political Sociologists).

(2) My understanding is that Pollsters naturally incorporate newly-registered voters, (in the correct proportion) as they do everyone else, in their samples (& hence in their % & seat predictions).

And – in contrast to 2017, when they were aggressively down-weighting younger voters – almost all UK Pollsters are currently basing their turnout models on respondents self-reported likelihood of voting. Hence, any assumed lower turnout by younger age-groups will be down to a larger proportion of young respondents telling pollsters they’re less likely to vote than people in older age groups.

(3)  Zoe has probably exaggerated the number of new registrations. Chaminda Jayanetti has analysed newly-registered voters across a large number of constituencies (519) in recent days and suggests a much more modest increase – certainly nowhere near 4 million.

(4) Jayanetti certainly argues that newly-registered voters could play a key role in the outcome of up to 20-30 marginals.

But he emphasises that the data compiled from 519 constituencies across the UK, including most battleground constituencies, shows the largest increases in registered voters are generally not located where Labour needs them most – ie in its Red Wall of Northern & Midlands Leave-voting Marginals. The greatest rises tend to be in Metro & student-heavy seats, many of them Labour strongholds & near-strongholds.

Of the 26 most marginal (read: absolute knife-edge) seats in the latest YouGov MRP model predictions … only 9 (according to Jayanetti’s detailed analysis) have experienced the sort of mild-to-significant increases in new registrations that could prove decisive. And of the 41 next-most-marginal, just 1 is showing the sort of substantial rise needed to play a crucial role.

What’s more, a lot of marginals have actually experienced a fall in registered voters. For example, all 4 of the Labour-held marginals in West Yorkshire (each of them a key Tory target) have registered a decline.

So that is some detailed analysis by swordfish, as opposed to cherry picking wishful thinking by Bill, plus predicted odds of various outcomes

I’d say Likelihood:

Small Tory majority: 50%

Larger Tory majority: 30%

Hung Parliament: 20%

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: Final UK projections

The four projection models are:

  • FocalData Cons majority 24
  • YouGov Cons majority 28
  • Electoral Calculus Cons majority 46
  • Savanta Cons majority 30

The seat projections are:

  • Conservative 337 to 349
  • Labour 226 to 235
  • SNP 41 to 45
  • Lib Dems 11 to 15

We should find out later today.

 

 

 

I think most voters can manage a couple of referendum votes as well as party and candidate votes

That sounds like nonsense to me. I’m fairly sure most voters will be able to manage a couple of referendum votes on top of a couple of general election votes (one party vote, one electorate vote).

It will still be far simpler than local body elections where there are multiple STV votes (here it was city mayor, city council, regional council and DHB board) where ranking of a large number of candidates is required.

The two referendums – one on cannabis, the other on the End of Life Choice bill – may attract more people to vote.

More negative commentary on the referendums:  Labour and the referendums of dread

Both of these referendums are a potential problem for the Government and not insignificant ones. The first and most obvious reason is that cannabis and euthanasia could crowd out whatever issues the Government is running on: be it the Zero Carbon Bill, trade deals, a strong economy, low unemployment.

This could, of course, be a problem for both the Government and the Opposition. At key points in the lead-up to and during the campaign, either party’s momentum could be stalled if the wrong drug or euthanasia issue crops up.

But the political downsides are potentially much worse for the Government. First, and most obviously, the National party has a leader who genuinely and simply opposes both of these things. And secondly, as this column flagged a couple of weeks ago, National is going to sharpen its focus on cost of living issues, which it sees as of key importance for voters. National can effectively paint any focus away from those things as a distracted Government concerned with peripheral issues.

The euthanasia bill is probably not so much of a problem – it wasn’t the Government’s idea and it was supported by MPs across the political divide. Cannabis is a different story. Counting the Nats, NZ First voters at the last election – nominally conservative voters, plus probably not an insubstantial conservative working class Labour vote, this could be a lose-lose issue for Labour. Lots of Labour voters, and the Prime Minister has said this of her own experience growing up in small rural towns, know the damage drugs can do.

While Ardern may see merits in legalisation for health reasons, she is very far from being some sort of pro-drug flag-waving leftie. Essentially the Prime Minister wants to be a citizen like everyone else in this issue, in all the difficulties it poses. The problem is that in the heat of a campaign, that could be politically difficult.

Yet as the election moves on, the issues could prove hard to avoid and there is probably no ‘right’ side of the argument for Labour. It could potentially lose votes either way.

It could potentially do nothing like this as well.

The fact is we are having two referendums alongside next year’s general election.

I’m fairly sure Labour and National will figure out campaign strategies the run alongside the referendum issue debates.

And I think that most voters will manage a couple of yes/no votes (if they choose to vote on the referendum questions) as well as choosing a party and an electorate candidate (if they bother to vote on these).

It won’t be complicated. Sure the extra votes could deter a few people from voting. But I think it is more likely to encourage more people to vote – those who are passionate about either of the referendum questions, and those who can’t usually be bothered voting for parties and politicians.

 

Snow as sparse as good mayoral candidates

Snow in Dunedin! Well, a very light smattering on some of the hills. There’s a few sparse patches here at home, at about 100 metres. There’s  very cold wind, and it’s 3.2 degrees outside at present (up a degree from an hour ago). But it isn’t unusual to get cold snaps here at this time year. The high for today is predicted to be 11, but up to 16 tomorrow and 19 on Saturday. Variety is normal.

The northern motorway has been affected with trucks stopped on the Leith Saddle at 300m.

(Update – traffic was moving by 7:15 am)

And where people live there’s barely a smattering.

The snow there is as sparse as good candidates in the local body elections.

There are 14 people standing for mayor with none standing out as a good prospect.

The two apparent front runners, multi-term councillors may or may not be the best of an uninspiring lot.

Aaron Hawkins seems to have been a hard working councillor and I think deserves getting back on council, but is fairly hard left and is standing officially as a Green party candidate. He’s been a strong promoter of the grossly underused cycle lanes tacked onto the side of the busiest streets in the city (the state highway), and on other cycle lanes it’s unusual to see cycles.

He was recently accused by first term councillors as treating them as juniors – Race heats up as mud flies online

Cr Hawkins triggered the exchange by publicly questioning Cr O’Malley’s decision to endorse Cr Lee Vandervis, during a candidates’ meeting in Opoho last week, as his second pick for the mayoralty.

Cr O’Malley hit back on Sunday, accusing Cr Hawkins of attempting “character assassination” during an election campaign.

He went further, claiming Cr Hawkins had “blocked or sabotaged” every one of Cr O’Malley’s attempts at progressive initiatives over three years.

“He is part of a bullying and controlling group which have frozen out all the new councillors that came on in the last election and even referred to us as junior councillors for the first two years.”

Cr Hawkins denied the claims and fired back, accusing his colleague of promoting “baseless suspicion”.

The exchange divided supporters, as Cr David Benson-Pope weighed in to accuse Cr O’Malley of being motivated by securing a committee chairman role if Cr Vandervis won the mayoralty.

Others – including Cr Andrew Whiley and candidates Mandy Mayhem-Bullock, Scout Barbour-Evans and Richard Seagar – all backed Cr O’Malley.

Scout Barbour-Evans went further, contacting the Otago Daily Times to say Cr Hawkins’ bullying behaviour was one of the reasons the candidate resigned from the Green Party in April.

“Hawkins being a bully goes much further than within council … His signature move is the cackle every time certain people speak. Within the party I was one of those people.”

Lee Vandervis was second in the last mayoral election so must rate a chance, but he is best known for opposing things and getting into trouble for allegedly abusive and bullying behaviour. I know from personal experience he gets agitated easily. Working together with a council would seem to be out of character for him. He’s just clocked up the 12th complaint against him this term.

ODT: Complaint made against Vandervis

Dunedin city councillor and mayoral candidate Lee Vandervis is the subject of a fresh complaint, after becoming embroiled in another verbal altercation with a Dunedin City Council staff member.

The councillor already has 11 complaints against him this term.

The Otago Daily Times has been told by several sources Cr Vandervis received a parking ticket last week, and went to the council’s customer services reception to complain it was unfair.

While he was there, an exchange with a female staff member descended into shouting by Cr Vandervis, the ODT was told.

Voting may be as sparse as the snow, with ‘who the hell do I vote for?’ probably being the most common question asked.

It seems to be a real problem with both local body and national politics these days. It’s something that seems to attract more and more career politicians, and less quality candidates.

 

A Trumpian slip?

Donald Trump has been taking a risk with his habit of firing off tweets.

He tweeted yesterday ” I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected”.

This has been reported as acknowledgement by Trump that Russia helped elect him, but also as a possible mistake. Trump backtracked soon afterwards.

LA Times: Trump sows confusion with tweet conceding Russia helped him win the 2016 election

Maybe it was a presidential epiphany. More likely, it was a Twitter miscue.

Either way, President Trump appeared to concede for the first time Thursday that Russian intelligence agents tried to help him win the 2016 election, as the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, a reversal of his long-held claims.

Trump later reversed himself again but the episode highlighted the difficulty he faces rejecting the official U.S. assessment, backed up by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s recent investigation and two grand jury indictments, that the Kremlin deployed a combination of fake news stories, phony social media accounts and hacked Democratic Party documents intended to damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump.

Speaking to reporters, Trump also claimed that Mueller was “totally conflicted” and a “true never-Trumper” who led a biased probe, a curious claim since he has repeatedly praised Mueller’s 448-page final report for, in the president’s eyes, fully exonerating him of any wrongdoing.

Trump has often been inconsistent and contradictory with his claims.

Trump deleted the tweets minutes after posting them, suggesting he had misspoken. But then he reposted them, fixing a misspelling of the word “accusation,” but leaving the phrase “helping me get elected” intact.

So did he really mean it?

Later, talking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump was asked to clarify in person.

“Russia didn’t help me at all,” Trump said, returning to his old talking point. “Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.”

PBS News Hour:

In our news wrap Thursday, President Trump renewed attacks on Robert Mueller and his probe into Russian election interference. Trump also tweeted that he himself had nothing to do with Russia’s “helping me get elected,” but later tried to walk back the reference to Russian involvement.

Trump remains furious at House investigations of his finances and businesses, and apparently by the growing number of Democrats, including several running for president, to start impeachment proceedings. He described impeachment as a “dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”

Much of Trump’s newest frustration stemmed from Mueller’s statement Wednesday. Saying he didn’t intend to speak again on the matter, Mueller reiterated that his report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction charges and said that he declined to weigh in on whether Trump committed a crime only because Justice Department rules prevented it.

This all continues to be a distraction. Meanwhile Trump’s trade war against China continues, and also yesterday he threatened to impose tariffs against Mexico until they fixed his border immigration problem.

This latest side show isn’t as bad as ‘live by the tweet, die by the tweet’, it shows the risks Trump is taking doing his own online promotions and attacks.

EU election results

The official results website:

This shows some changes away from larger centre right and centre left parties, but not a big overall shift.

This is pretty astonishing. BBC projects that the Liberals/Green/Left/Social Democrats will have 359 seats in EU parliament, vs 358 seats in the previous one.

The populists-nationalists seem to have gained ~35 seats but overall the non-centrist right is up by only about 19, probably in large part driven by the collapse of the UK Conservatives.

Clearly the main centre-left and centre-right factions have weakened a lot. But this is a *party political* problem, so why do we report it as a change in the hearts and minds of voters? What’s amazing to me is how consistent broad political opinion looks, in both directions.

Here’s that populism word again.

Farage is talking tough, but Brexit is still going to be a tough thing to sort out.

Morrison majority for Australian government more or less confirmed

Results are slow to come in for marginal seats but the ABC has now called the election as a clear (but slim) majority for the return of a Scott Morrison led government.

ABC News:  Election results see Scott Morrison reach 76 seats to win majority government

The Coalition is predicted to win 78 seats in the House of Representatives — a result consecutive opinion polls and political commentators failed to predict.

The seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s east delivered the Coalition its final required seat, with Liberal candidate Gladys Liu winning despite a small swing to the Labor Party.

Reaching majority government — 76 seats out of 150 — means the Coalition will not have to rely on independent MPs to pass controversial legislation provided no MPs cross the floor.

The seats of BassCowanLilley and Macquarieare still in doubt according to the ABC election computer.

The West Australian seat of Cowan is held by Labor’s Ann Aly, who as of 10:55pm (AEST) had 50.5 per cent of the preference count.

In the Tasmanian seat of Bass, Labor MP Ross Hart is trailing Liberal candidate Bridget Archer, who has had a 5.8 per cent swing towards her.

In the seat of Macquarie, Liberal candidate Sarah Richards was leading Labor incumbent Susan Templeman by 151 votes at 10:55pm (AEST).

A New Zealand view:

I have heard similar mentioned elsewhere – the Australian election result proves that if policies are too ‘progressive’ or radical the chances of winning an election are slim.

I think it is much more complex than that.

It depends on the policies being proposed  – how they are presented and how far they try to change things.

But it also depends on the people who are promoting the policies, especially party leaders. And how election campaigns are conducted is also important, especially in close electorates.