More Informality

by Stubborn Mule on 24 August 2010 · 4 comments

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 IDDivisionInformal (%)Informal Swing (%)
107Blaxland14.225.33
251Watson13.574.48
119Fowler13.24.72
111Chifley11.093.18
315McMahon11.013.41
153Werriwa10.594.01
104Barton10.283.71
122Greenway9.473.29
144Reid9.213.63
140Parramatta8.732.11
103Banks8.552.79
127Kingsford Smith8.232.92
128Lindsay82.48
131Macarthur7.932.36
121Grayndler7.131.15
110Charlton7.112.44
150Throsby7.012.14
118Farrer6.853.02
124Hughes6.782.34
148Shortland6.582.42
105Bennelong6.510.29
117Eden-Monaro6.442.71
126Hunter6.231.96
146Robertson6.22.76
250Riverina6.112.22
115Dobell6.071.75
136Newcastle5.821.39
112Cook5.731.92
114Cunningham5.731.82
134Mitchell5.621.55
133Macquarie5.41.75
249Paterson5.371.77
149Sydney5.351.17
132Mackellar5.270.6
139Parkes5.251.17
120Gilmore5.241
145Richmond5.150.87
125Hume5.141.57
109Calare4.691.07
151Warringah4.661.22
137North Sydney4.620.9
138Page4.480.18
106Berowra4.44-0.24
152Wentworth4.43-0.47
113Cowper4.310.34
108Bradfield4.230.26
130Lyne3.67-1.36
135New England3.60.63



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.

Informal Votes: 2010 vs 2004

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 vs 2PP

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).

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark Aufflick August 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Something that stands out is that Bennelong has the lowest swing, so much lower than many. It would make sense that voter engagement (which seems anecdotally higher in Bennelong) is a factor. Or perhaps celebrity candidates!

2 Stubborn Mule August 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

Mark: It looks to me as though the lowest informal swing was Lyne, where the informal vote actually decreased. Not only was this one of only three electorates in NSW and four in the whole country to see informal votes decrease, it is in fact the electorate of one of the independents, Rob Oakeshott. In terms of outright informal voting, it had the second lowest informal rate in the state. The lowest was in New England, the seat of one of the other independents, Tony Windsor! All very consistent with the protest vote theory.

3 Gnoll110 August 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Remember that Lyne was only won by Rob Oakeshott at a by-election since the last federal election. One of the by-elections caused by coalition members retiring after loosing government. As a seat going form status quo in ’07 to sitting independent in ’10, I would expect it to have the largest swing away from informal in the country.

What was the interstate seat with the swing away from informal? What figures?

4 Stubborn Mule August 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Gnoll110 in the interests of looking further afield than New South Wales, I have published a national table of informal votes. The lowest informal vote was in Higgins in Victoria. The three biggest swings away from informal were all in New South Wales, but Murray in Victoria also saw a decline in the informal vite. I will leave it to you to explore further!

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