Yesterday’s post on informal votes generated a lot of questions, both on and off the blog. One commenter was interested in understanding why there was so much variability in informal votes in New South Wales. It is a good question, and one I do not have an answer to. Presumably demographic differences across electorates (such as varying facility with reading English among non-native speakers) would come into play. But this still leaves open the question as to why the swing in informal votes varies so much across New South Wales. I will have to leave it to you to explore: the table below has the informal vote in all 48 New South Wales seats for your perusal. Let me know if you have any theories!
|Division ID||Division||Informal (%)||Informal Swing (%)|
An email correspondent asked whether it was in fact the 2007 election that was anomalous rather than the 2010 election, so I have also compared the 2010 informal vote to the 2004 election. Interestingly, the uptick in informal votes from 2004 to 2010 is indeed smaller. In fact, Western Australia had a lower rate of informal votes in this election than in 2004. New South Wales still shows significant increases in informal votes in a number of electorates, which helps drive a national trend. Overall, compared to 2004 there does still seem to be something going on with informal votes, but the effect is certainly less marked.
I also received various questions about whether correlations could be seen between informal votes and Green votes, whether the increase in informal votes was greater in more marginal seats and so on. Unfortunately, as yet my data mining has not revealed anything of substance. Here, for example, is the increase in the rate of informal votes versus the absolute two-party preferred margin. The regression lines show no simple relationship.
Informal Vote versus Two-Party Preferred Margin
Comparing Green votes to informal votes is just as unenlightening. That, at least, seems to make sense. While it is reasonable to consider some of the Green vote as a protest vote and some of the informal votes likewise as a protest vote, it may be that in some electorates more voters were inclined to protest by voting Green than informal, or vice versa. This would mean that there would be negligible correlation between the Green and informal swings at the division level.
So, despite my efforts, I am yet to squeeze further insight from the data. Of course I remain open to further suggestions! If you would like to do your own analysis, the current 2010 data is available from the AEC as is past data.
UPDATE: If you sort the table at the top by informal vote, you’ll see that the two electorates with the lowest rates of informal voting were New England and Lyne, the seats of the independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott respectively!
Also, here is a national table of informal votes (just to avoid being to NSW-centric).