Introduction

eechidna (Exploring Election and Census Highly Informative Data Nationally for Australia) is an R package that makes it easy to look at the data from Australian Census and Federal Elections from 2001 to 2016.

This vignette documents how to access the data from the 2016 Federal Election (House of Representatives: first preferences, two party preferred and two candidate preferred votes). We obtained these data from http://results.aec.gov.au/. This package incorporates data that is copyright Commonwealth of Australia (Australian Electoral Commission).

In this vignette we show a few typical methods to explore the data, inspired by Peter Ellis’s work on NZ election data.

2016 Federal Election House of Representatives data

Electorates

In the eechidna package we have three datasets for each election, summarised here:

Data object name Description
fp16 first preference votes for candidates at each electorate (2016)
tpp16 two party preferred votes for candidates at each electorate (2016)
tcp16 two condidate preferred votes for candidates at each electorate (2016)

The suffix 16 corresponds with the 2016 federal election, so objects for other elections will have an equivalent suffix, e.g. fp07 contains first preference votes for candidates in each electorate from the 2007 federal election.

We can access and explore each of these using common methods in R, for example:

library(eechidna)
library(tidyverse)
library(purrr)
library(knitr)
library(broom)
library(purrrlyr)

data(fp16)
data(tpp16)
data(tcp16)
data(abs2016)

# inspect the data frame
glimpse(fp16)
## Observations: 994
## Variables: 13
## $ UniqueID        <dbl> 801, 801, 801, 801, 802, 802, 802, 802, 802, 101…
## $ StateAb         <chr> "ACT", "ACT", "ACT", "ACT", "ACT", "ACT", "ACT",…
## $ DivisionNm      <chr> "CANBERRA", "CANBERRA", "CANBERRA", "CANBERRA", …
## $ BallotPosition  <dbl> 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, …
## $ CandidateID     <dbl> 28189, 28336, 29373, 28989, 28190, 28200, 28983,…
## $ Surname         <chr> "BRODTMANN", "CAHILL", "BUCKNELL", "ADELAN-LANGF…
## $ GivenNm         <chr> "GAI", "PATRICIA", "CHRISTOPHER D'ARCY", "JESSIC…
## $ PartyAb         <chr> "ALP", "GRN", "BTA", "LP", "ALP", "IND", "LP", "…
## $ PartyNm         <chr> "AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY", "THE GREENS", "BULLET …
## $ Elected         <chr> "Y", "N", "N", "N", "Y", "N", "N", "N", "N", "N"…
## $ HistoricElected <chr> "Y", "N", "N", "N", "Y", "N", "N", "N", "N", "N"…
## $ OrdinaryVotes   <dbl> 55091, 19200, 6013, 48416, 56796, 4707, 38930, 1…
## $ Percent         <dbl> 42.80, 14.92, 4.67, 37.61, 45.80, 3.80, 31.39, 1…
UniqueID StateAb DivisionNm BallotPosition CandidateID Surname GivenNm PartyAb PartyNm Elected HistoricElected OrdinaryVotes Percent
801 ACT CANBERRA 1 28189 BRODTMANN GAI ALP AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY Y Y 55091 42.80
801 ACT CANBERRA 2 28336 CAHILL PATRICIA GRN THE GREENS N N 19200 14.92
801 ACT CANBERRA 3 29373 BUCKNELL CHRISTOPHER D’ARCY BTA BULLET TRAIN FOR AUSTRALIA N N 6013 4.67
801 ACT CANBERRA 4 28989 ADELAN-LANGFORD JESSICA LP LIBERAL PARTY N N 48416 37.61
802 ACT FENNER 1 28190 LEIGH ANDREW KEITH ALP AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY Y Y 56796 45.80
802 ACT FENNER 2 28200 WOODMAN ANDREW IND INDEPENDENT N N 4707 3.80

We can see that the data contains 994 rows and 13 columns. Each of the six data objects can be accessed and inspected in this way. Note that some parties have slightly different names in different states. We’ve simplified the data by renaming some of the parties to the varient of the name that won the most votes.

Polling booths

The same three voting measures are also available for each polling booth, of which there are over 7,000 in each election. These can be downloaded from github using the firstpref_pollingbooth_download, twoparty_pollingbooth_download and twocand_pollingbooth_download functions, which contain all results from 2001-2016 elections. In these datasets, the variable year represents the election year, so an individual years’ polling booth data can be easily obtained using filter from the dplyr package.

Exploring the election results

Which party won the election?

We can summarise the data to discover some basic details about the election. Let’s start by reproducing the overall result of the election by finding out which party won the most electorates according to the two candidate preferred votes:

PartyNm n
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 69
LIBERAL PARTY 66
NATIONAL PARTY 10
INDEPENDENT 2
KATTER’S AUSTRALIAN PARTY 1
NICK XENOPHON TEAM 1
THE GREENS 1

This result above matches the official AEC result, showing the Liberal party winning the most electorates (76).

Which party received the most ordinary votes?

An alternative way to evaluate the outcome of the election is by counting the number of ordinary first preference votes for each party (not including postal votes, preference flows, etc.). Here we can find the total number of ordinary votes for each party:

PartyNm total_votes
LIBERAL PARTY 5069051
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 4702297
THE GREENS 1385651
NATIONAL PARTY 624556
INDEPENDENT 383671
NICK XENOPHON TEAM 250334

The table above shows a similar result, with the Liberal Party recieving the most ordinary votes.

We can plot the ordinary vote count like so:

Which candidate did the best?

There are a few ways we can answer this question. We can see who received the highest number of ordinary votes, like this:

who_most_votes <- fp16 %>% 
  filter(CandidateID != 999) %>% #exclude informal votes
  mutate(candidate_full_name = paste0(GivenNm, " ", Surname, " (", CandidateID, ")")) %>% 
  group_by(candidate_full_name) %>% 
  dplyr::summarise(total_votes_for_candidate = sum(OrdinaryVotes, rm.na = TRUE)) %>% 
  arrange(desc(total_votes_for_candidate))
# inspect
who_most_votes %>% 
  mutate(total_votes_for_candidate = 
           prettyNum(total_votes_for_candidate, 
                     big.mark = ","))  %>% 
  head %>% 
  kable
candidate_full_name total_votes_for_candidate
BRENDAN O’CONNOR (28274) 61,111
PAUL FLETCHER (28565) 57,232
ANDREW KEITH LEIGH (28190) 56,797
MICHAEL MCCORMACK (29304) 56,582
ANDREW BROAD (28415) 56,252
JULIE BISHOP (28746) 56,176

But this is a crude measure of how successful a candidate was in the election, because electorates with more people will result in more votes for the winner, even if the victory is only by a tiny margin. So let’s remove the effect of the population size in the electorates by finding out who won the highest proportion of first preference votes in their electorate.

who_most_votes_prop <- fp16 %>% 
  filter(CandidateID != 999) %>% #exclude informal votes
  mutate(candidate_full_name = paste0(GivenNm, " ", Surname, " (", CandidateID, ")")) %>% 
  group_by(candidate_full_name) %>% 
  dplyr::summarise(total_votes_for_candidate = sum(Percent, rm.na = TRUE)) %>% 
  arrange(desc(total_votes_for_candidate)) %>% 
  dplyr::rename(percent_votes_for_candidate = total_votes_for_candidate)
# inspect
who_most_votes_prop %>% 
  mutate(percent_votes_for_candidate = 
           prettyNum(percent_votes_for_candidate, 
                     big.mark = ","))  %>% 
  head %>% 
  kable
candidate_full_name percent_votes_for_candidate
JULIE BISHOP (28746) 66.5
ANDREW BROAD (28415) 65.31
JASON CLARE (28931) 64.31
BRENDAN O’CONNOR (28274) 63.29
MALCOLM TURNBULL (28638) 63.26
PAUL FLETCHER (28565) 62.12

In the above table (which shows just the first ten rows for convienience) we see that Julie Bishop received the highest proportion of first preference votes in any electorate, as well as a few more familiar names doing very well in their electorates. We can see that taking about 65% of the first preference vote in an electorate counts as a huge win. But what about who won with the least amount of first preference votes?

Which candidate won with the smallest percentage of votes?

candidate_full_name PartyNm DivisionNm Percent
MICHAEL DANBY (28267) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY MELBOURNE PORTS 27.00
CATHY O’TOOLE (28997) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY HERBERT 30.45
JUSTINE ELLIOT (28987) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY RICHMOND 31.05
TERRI BUTLER (28921) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY GRIFFITH 33.18
STEVE GEORGANAS (29071) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY HINDMARSH 34.02
CATHY MCGOWAN (23288) INDEPENDENT INDI 34.76

Michael Danby won Melbourne Ports with just 27% of first preference votes.

How about the smallest winning margin that occured in the 2016 election? Let’s find the candidates who won their electorate by the slimmest advantage over their competitors, meaning the smallest difference between two candidate preferred votes.

Which candidate won by the smallest margin?

candidate_full_name PartyNm DivisionNm Percent OrdinaryVotes percent_margin vote_margin
CATHY O’TOOLE (28997) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY HERBERT 50.02 44187 0.04 35
STEVE GEORGANAS (29071) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY HINDMARSH 50.58 49586 1.16 1137
MICHELLE LANDRY (28034) LIBERAL PARTY CAPRICORNIA 50.63 44633 1.26 1111
BERT VAN MANEN (28039) LIBERAL PARTY FORDE 50.63 42486 1.26 1057
ANNE ALY (28727) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY COWAN 50.68 41301 1.36 1108
ANN SUDMALIS (28668) LIBERAL PARTY GILMORE 50.73 52336 1.46 1506

We see that Labor candidate for Herbert, Cathy O’Toole, managed to secure the seat by a margin of only 35 votes - equating to 0.04% of total votes. Let’s see the distribution of first preference votes in Herbert for a bit more detail.

candidate_full_name PartyNm DivisionNm Percent OrdinaryVotes
EWEN JONES (28055) LIBERAL PARTY HERBERT 35.50 31361
CATHY O’TOOLE (28997) AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY HERBERT 30.45 26900
GEOFF VIRGO (29225) ONE NATION HERBERT 13.53 11950
COLIN DWYER (29222) KATTER’S AUSTRALIAN PARTY HERBERT 6.87 6070
WENDY TUBMAN (29207) THE GREENS HERBERT 6.26 5533
MICHAEL PUNSHON (29213) FAMILY FIRST HERBERT 3.59 3175
AARON RAFFIN (29357) GLENN LAZARUS TEAM HERBERT 2.19 1937
DAVID HARRIS (29256) LIBERAL DEMOCRATS HERBERT 1.24 1096
MARTIN BREWSTER (28994) PALMER UNITED PARTY HERBERT 0.36 315

We see that the greatest proportion of first preferences in Herbert actually went to Ewen Jones (Liberal), not to Cathy O’Toole. The win is due to preference flow from minor parties to Labor.

How are party votes correlated?

We can also see how party votes are correlated, for example here we can see a strong negative correlation between votes for Labor and votes for Liberal (this plot also inspired by Peter Ellis). Green and Labor have a slight negative correlation, and Green and Liberal have a slightly more negative correlation:

# Comparing party and candidate votes of several parties -------
proportions <- fp16 %>%
  filter(CandidateID != 999) %>% # exclude informal votes
  group_by(DivisionNm) %>%
  dplyr::summarise(Prop_Labour = sum(OrdinaryVotes[PartyNm == "AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY"]) / sum(OrdinaryVotes),
            Prop_Coalition = sum(
              OrdinaryVotes[PartyNm %in% c("LIBERAL PARTY", "NATIONAL PARTY")]
              ) / sum(OrdinaryVotes),
            Prop_Greens = sum(OrdinaryVotes[PartyNm == "THE GREENS"]) / sum(OrdinaryVotes)) 

# make a scatterplot matrix
library(GGally)
ggpairs(proportions, columns = 2:ncol(proportions)) + theme_bw()

How do election results correlate with Census data?

One of our motivations for creating this package was to make it easy to explore relationships between political views and socio-economic conditions across Australia. With a few simple R functions, we can join the Census data to the election data and build models to explore relationships.

Here’s how we join the two datasets together, the common variable is the DivisionNm:

Now we can easily explore some relationships between the Census data and the two party preferred voting patterns. For example, what Census variable mostly strongly correlates with the percentage that vote Labor? The first step in these kinds of explorations is always to visualise the data:

We can spot some potentially interesting correlations, as well as some obvious ones.

The table below gives an overall summary of the model containing all the Census variables. We see that the p-value is very low, indicating that we have some relationships that are probably not due to chance alone.

r.squared adj.r.squared sigma statistic p.value df logLik AIC BIC deviance df.residual
0.899 0.843 4.487 16.068 0 54 -404.538 919.076 1084.66 1932.549 96

The table below shows the variables that have a significant effect on the percentage of Labor votes across all electorates:

term estimate std.error statistic p.value
DeFacto 6.067 1.416 4.285 0.000
(Intercept) 930.427 259.625 3.584 0.001
Extractive -1.280 0.377 -3.392 0.001
BachelorAbv 2.513 0.884 2.845 0.005
ManagerAdminClericalSales -1.931 0.724 -2.666 0.009
Couple_NoChild_House -6.530 2.496 -2.616 0.010
Indigenous -1.029 0.399 -2.577 0.011
HighSchool -0.997 0.406 -2.455 0.016
MedianPersonalIncome -0.125 0.051 -2.456 0.016
DiffAddress -0.721 0.299 -2.409 0.018
Transformative -1.261 0.531 -2.375 0.020
Anglican -0.788 0.338 -2.333 0.022
PublicHousing 1.219 0.523 2.330 0.022
SocialServ -1.131 0.548 -2.063 0.042

In the plots below, we can see the Census variables that have a statistically significant relationship with the percentage of Labor votes. There seems to be a positive relationship between voting Labor and defacto relationships, university education and public housing tenants. Labour force participation and proportion of workers in extractive jobs (e.g. mining, gas, agriculture), and median personal income are a negatively correlated variables, meaning that increases in the proportion of workers in extractive jobs and increases in median personal income correlate with decreases in the percentage of the Labor vote in that electorate.