Sunday, 25 January 2015

Queensland Greens and Open Tickets

Queensland election update – less than a week before polling day.

Just Vote All?
Let’s examine the reasons for Campbell Newman’s Just Vote 1 strategy. Queensland state elections have optional preferential voting: you can number 1 or more candidates.

When it has suited the major parties, usually the one in the lead, they have adopted a Just Vote 1 strategy.

This makes it possible to win on a minority of the popular vote, and takes smaller parties out of the equation.

The ostensible reason for this strategy is it prevents a hung parliament. The UK has a first past the post system (essentially the same as Just Vote 1) and their last election delivered a hung parliament and the latest polls show that as the most likely outcome next time. So that is not a really plausible reason and in any case, up to Peter Beattie’s time, Just Vote 1 was the Labor strategy. Back then, the Libs and Nats were at each others’ throats. Times change and so, apparently, do principles when they no longer suit you.

Why does it suit the LNP now? After all, conservative minor parties and independents add up to a bit more than the Greens – depending which polls you believe. It’s a matter of marginals. The LNP will have done polling that shows they gain more from stifling preference flows from Greens to ALP than they lose from stifling preference flows to them from minor parties and independents on the right. I can’t find stats for past Queensland elections, but most other minor parties in the 2013 federal election had a roughly even split of preference flows to Labor – even if they were nominally on the right (possibly an indication of where Labor is positioned?).

So overall, Labor, who derive significant benefit from Greens preferences, loses out more than the LNP from Just Vote 1.

Labor is in a poor position to complain: optional preferential voting was introduced by the Goss Labor government and it worked for them when they could exploit the divide between the Liberals and Nationals.

Open Tickets: So What?
Meanwhile Labor is attacking Greens for issuing “open tickets”, i.e., How to Vote cards that tell the voter to make up their own minds. This is nothing new, and if we look at past elections, the effect has been pretty much that the ALP gets 80% of Greens preferences once they drop out irrespective of what is on the HTV.

Even in the 2012 election where ALP most certainly did not advocate Just Vote 1, nearly 70% of Labor voters (vs. nearly 80% of LNP voters) only marked 1 on their ballot. In doing so, they created the risk that if the Greens candidate came second, there would be insufficient ALP preferences to beat the LNP candidate.

50% of Greens voters also went for Just Vote 1 despite the fact that the Greens have never advocated this position. 80% of Greens preferences go to Labor.

What Labor should really do is to think about what it takes to be attractive to Greens voters, and focus on countering Just Vote 1.

They will win a lot more votes that way than going negative. Do the math: 50% of 80% is 40% of the total Greens vote (3-4% of the total vote) that is up for grabs as ALP #2 if they attack the Just Vote 1 strategy. For LNP, the extra votes they win if every Greens voter fills in every box is a quarter of Labor’s gain so no wonder they do not want everyone to fill in the entire ballot (stats from Anthony Green’s blog).

There is therefore absolutely no basis for the ALP complaint that Greens “open tickets” risk handing the election to LNP. The stats actually indicate that Labor voters are far more likely to behave in a way that is perverse to their interests.

The 20% of Greens voters who put LNP ahead of Labor are probably converts from LNP on enviro or other issues where Greens are ahead of Labor and aren’t going to put ALP ahead of LNP no matter what. What would Labor prefer? That these people stay with the LNP?

Labor meanwhile is issuing a call to “put LNP last” which implies filling in all the squares, and is getting huffy about anyone who suggests variants. No doubt they are worrying about confusing the message. If they had not invested so much in confusing voters before (like Peter Beattie’s Just Vote 1 campaign) they would have an easier time now. Their attempts at portraying the Greens as spoilers are not matched by the historical stats.