Final Analysis of the 2020 Brisbane City Council Elections

Counting for the Brisbane City Council’s election is now complete (barring some minor tidy ups), so it’s time for a statistical analysis of the results.

In brief the election produced little change. All 26 wards and the Lord Mayoral contest were won by the same party as in 2016. After replacing Graham Quirk as Lord Mayor last year, Adrian Schrinner was easily re-elected with 56.3% after preferences, a 3.2% swing against him.

The new council has only two changes of membership with the LNP’s Sarah Hutton succeeding Matthew Bourke in Jamboree, and the LNP’s Greg Adermann defeating LNP turned Independent councillor Kate Richards in Pullenvale.

You can find results for all contests at the ABC election website. In this post I will concentrate on the overall picture.

(UPDATE – slight adjustments to include final figures in Calamvale, Hamilton and in the Lord Mayoral race)

(HINT: If you are reading this on a mobile phone, the tables and graphs are infinitely better if you turn your phone sideways.)

The Coronavirus Election

When the Notice of Election for Queensland’s local government elections was published on 22 February, no one imagined that by election day the state would be under lockdown and voting and counting would be restricted by social distancing rules.

During March the Electoral Commission reacted to the emerging health emergency by encouraging voters to make use of postal and pre-poll voting. It also broadened access to telephone voting, an option previously only available for blind and low vision voters. The new public health rules prevented the Electoral Commission from visiting retirement homes and hospitals, and also prevented the use of Electoral Visitor voting.

The effect of Coronavirus on turnout was less dramatic then the impact it had on how people voted. In the Brisbane City Council Lord Mayoral election, turnout fell from 84% in 2016 to 79.9%, a drop of only 4.1%. That is a remarkable turnout given the health concerns.

But using Brisbane ward election results, on the day voting fell from 66.0% in 2016 to only 26.5% in 2020. Pre-poll voting rose from 13.2% to 28.7%, postal voting from 12.2% to 23.9%, end telephone voting recorded 8,428 votes (1.4%) compared to only 151 votes in 2016.

Absent voting also leapt from 7.4% in 2016 to 18.3% in 2020. This figure hides some of the increase in pre-poll votes. In 2016 pre-poll votes recorded outside of a voter’s home ward were recorded as pre-poll votes. In 2020 outside of ward pre-polls were counted as absent votes.

The Overall Results

Table 1 sets out overall percentage votes and changes in vote since the 2016 election.

Table 1 – Summary of 2020 Brisbane City Council Elections

Ward Contests Lord Mayor
Party (Wards won) Pct Change Pct Change
LNP (19) 45.88 -4.00 47.74 -5.79
Labor (5) 32.87 -0.35 30.94 -1.02
Greens (1) 17.84 +3.35 15.40 +5.0
Others (1) 3.42 +1.00 5.92 +1.81
Informal 2.46 -0.11 2.61 +0.17
Turnout 79.26 -4.45 79.87 -4.11
Two-Party Preferred (estimate)
LNP 53.6 -2.9 56.3 -3.2
Labor 46.6 +2.9 43.7 +3.2

Notes: The two-party preferred result for the ward contests is an estimate. Change in vote columns are compared to 2016 result.

The graph below shows party percentages for Brisbane ward elections elections since Campbell Newman was elected Lord Mayor in 2004. In the 16 years since, the LNP ward vote has slipped from 47.0% to 45.8%, Labor’s vote has fallen substantially from 42.0% to 32.9%, and the Greens have risen from 10.2% to 17.8%. Similar swings have occurred with the Lord Mayoral election vote by party.

Since 2004 the LNP’s two-party preferred vote has risen around 2-3% in both the Council and Lord Mayoral elections. Some of this swing is a product of optional preferential voting through the exhaustion of preferences between Labor and Green candidates. Where Labor’s first preference vote was four times that for the Greens in 2004, in 2020 it was less than twice the Green vote. From a bigger pool of third placed preferences, the LNP position was boosted after preferences by an increase in the number of ballot papers with exhausted preferences.

The Liberal Party recorded a majority of the two-party preferred vote in 2004, but elected only 9 councillors compared to Labor’s 17. Of the Liberal Party’s nine wards in 2004, eight were won with margins above 10%, while only 3 of Labor’s 17 councillors won with margins above 10%, and 10 of Labor’s wards had margins under 6%. Liberal support was over-concentrated in its own wards in 2004, while Labor’s sitting councillors managed to be re-elected in a string of close contests.

That position has been reversed in 2020. Now it is Labor wasting votes in the five safe wards it holds, and it is the LNP now hanging on to marginal wards. The five wards Labor won in 2020 have margins on 9.7% or above. The LNP went into the 2020 election with nine seats on margins above 10% compared to only four after the election. The LNP held five seats on margins under 5% before the election and nine after it.

So the LNP’s handsome margin in wards held comes down to it’s vote being better distributed, with fewer safe seats and more marginal wards where sitting councillors were re-elected.

But measuring the election in two-party preferred terms brushes over more interesting trends in first preferences support, As mentioned above, the four-to-one ratio of Labor to Green vote in 2004 has slipped to under two-to-one in 2020. That is now showing up in seats where the Greens now outpoll Labor on first preferences. There were two such wards in 2012, four in 2016 (Paddington, Pullenvale, The Gabba, Walter Taylor), with the addition of Central and Coorparoo bringing the total to six in 2020.

Optional preferential voting may have boosted the overall LNP two-party preferred percentages, but there is only one ward where the result would have been different under full preferential voting. Assuming that under full preferential voting Labor and Green preferences would have swapped about 80% with only 20% leaking to the LNP, the close wards of Coorparoo, Enoggera, Northgate and Walter Taylor would have been closer but still won by the LNP. Only Paddington would have seen a different result under full preferential voting, with the Greens likely to have defeated the LNP’s Peter Matic.

But the actual flows of preferences between Labor and the Greens under optional preferential voting were much weaker. In the 18 two-party wards where Green preferences were distributed, they flowed 47.6% to Labor, 10.0% to the LNP and 42.4% exhausted. This is stronger than the 41.9/11.0/47.0 split in 2016. The Greens issued some open preference recommendations in 2016 but none in a significant contest in 2020.

In the five wards where Labor’s preferences were distributed in LNP-Green contests, Labor’s preferences flowed 40.9% to the Greens, 12.3% to the LNP and 46.7% exhausted. This was weaker than the 49.3/8.7/42.0 flows in 2016. It is possible that the ban on how-to-votes being distributed at the 2020 election may have played a part in Labor’s weaker preference flows.

It is drawing a long bow to extrapolate local government results and make predictions for state politics. However, with a state election due on 31 October this year, it is hard not to examine the entrails and try to draw some conclusions.

For the LNP I expect there is little you can use as a guide. The LNP performed well at Brisbane City Council elections in 2004, 2008 and 2016 without little success at nearby state elections. Only in 2012 did state and Brisbane election results look alike. The LNP will not have the advantage of optional preferential voting at this year’s state electioin.

What is more interesting is the balance of support between Labor and the Greens. On the Brisbane Council results, the Greens should retain the state seat of Maiwar and would now be favourites to defeat Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in South Brisbane. The result in Central ward suggest the Greens also have a significant chance of defeating Education Minister Grace Grace in McConnel.

But Brisbane is unlikely to be the main battleground of the 2020 Queensland election. The Palaszczuk government’s fate will be determined by whether it can hold a string of regional city seats in north Queensland, and whether it can make any inroads into the Gold Coast. The Labor Party will be encourages by the 2.1% swing it achieved in the Currumbin by-election, held the same day as the local government elections.

The New Electoral Pendulum

Brisbane City Council 2020 Election – Post Election Pendulum

LNP Wards (19) Labor Wards (5)
Margin Ward Margin Ward
LNP 0.7 Paddington (v GRN) ALP 9.7 Morningside
LNP 1.8 Enoggera ALP 11.4 Wynnum-Manly
LNP 1.9 Northgate ALP 11.5 Deagon
LNP 2.2 Calamvale ALP 13.5 Forest Lake
LNP 3.9 Walter Taylor (v GRN) ALP 19.5 Moorooka
LNP 4.2 Bracken Ridge
LNP 4.7 Holland Park Greens/Independents
LNP 4.7 Doboy GRN 12.3 The Gabba (v LNP)
LNP 5.0 Marchant IND 23.4 Tennyson (v LNP)
LNP 5.7 Coorparoo (v GRN)
LNP 7.1 The Gap
LNP 7.8 Central (v GRN)
LNP 8.3 Runcorn
LNP 9.3 Jamboree
LNP 9.9 Pullenvale (v GRN)
LNP 13.5 McDowall
LNP 14.1 Macgregor
LNP 18.3 Chandler
LNP 20.5 Hamilton

Two-Candidate Percentages and Swings

Of the 26 wards, 19 finished as LNP versus Labor contests, one as an Independent versus LNP contest (Tennyson) and there were six LNP v Green contests.

Of the 26 wards, 13 were won on first preferences, six with a majority after preferences, and seven were plurality victories, optional preferences meaning the winning candidate fell short of a majority of the formal vote.

The LNP win 19 wards, nine in first preferences, 10 after the distribution of preferences including seven plurality victories. Labor won five wards, three on first preferences and two with a majority after preferences. Independent Nicole Johnston won Tennyson on first preferences, and the Green’s Jonathan Sri won The Gabba with a majority after preferences.

The most notable swings were

  • There was a 12.1% to Labor in outer suburban Calamvale.
  • In Central ward, the Greens took first preference vote from both Labor and the LNP and passed Labor to finish second on first preferences. Central lies within the state seat of McConnel, held by Education Minister Grace Grace.
  • There was a 10% increase in the Green first preference vote in Coorparoo.
  • LNP replacement councillor Lisa Atwood achieved a 4.7% swing in Doboy. The LNP margin had been wiped out in the redistribution and there was no Green candidate in 2020 to siphon off Labor votes.
  • There was an 8.7% swing to Labor in Jamboree, the only ward with a retiring LNP councillor.
  • There was a 5.1% swing to the Greens in Paddington and 11.8% in neighbouring Walter Taylor. Both wards form part of the state seat of Maiwar held by the Green’s Michael Berkman.
  • In The Gabba, Green first preference support rose 12.4% while Labor’s vote fell 5.2% and the LNP vote 4.8%. Some of the rise in Green support will be the sitting councillor advantage for Jonathan Sri. The Gabba lies in the state seat of South Brisbane held by Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.
  • The Labor Party attracted significant swings to wards it in many outer suburban wards, but swings were dampened in inner-city areas by the loss of first preference vote to the Greens

Brisbane City Council 2020 Election – Turnout, 2-Candidate Percentages, Swings

Ward Turnout % Win % Lose % Swing
Lord Mayor 1,2 79.9 LNP 56.3 ALP 43.7 ALP +3.2
Bracken Ridge 81.3 LNP 54.2 ALP 45.8 ALP +6.4
Calamvale 1,2 82.1 LNP 52.2 ALP 47.8 ALP +12.1
Central 1,3 69.6 LNP 57.8 GRN 42.2 GRN +0.4
Chandler 84.2 LNP 68.3 ALP 31.7 ALP +3.8
Coorparoo 1,2,3 77.3 LNP 55.7 GRN 44.3 LNP +2.6
Deagon 81.1 ALP 61.5 LNP 38.5 ALP +8.6
Doboy 82.1 LNP 54.7 ALP 45.3 LNP +4.7
Enoggera 1,2 77.6 LNP 51.8 ALP 48.2 ALP +3.2
Forest Lake 81.5 ALP 63.4 LNP 36.6 ALP +7.9
Hamilton 74.4 LNP 70.5 ALP 29.5 LNP +0.6
Holland Park 1 78.9 LNP 54.7 ALP 45.3 LNP +0.3
Jamboree 84.2 LNP 59.3 ALP 40.7 ALP +8.7
McDowall 82.3 LNP 63.5 ALP 36.5 ALP +1.7
Macgregor 81.1 LNP 64.1 ALP 35.9 ALP +0.8
Marchant 1 77.4 LNP 55.0 ALP 45.0 ALP +2.9
Moorooka 1 73.9 ALP 69.5 LNP 30.5 ALP +5.0
Morningside 1 77.3 ALP 59.7 LNP 40.3 ALP +3.8
Northgate 1,2 79.3 LNP 51.9 ALP 48.1 LNP +0.3
Paddington 1,2 75.4 LNP 50.7 GRN 49.3 GRN +5.1
Pullenvale 1,2 82.7 LNP 59.9 GRN 40.1 GRN +8.2
Runcorn 81.2 LNP 58.3 ALP 41.7 ALP +0.3
Tennyson 3 79.2 IND 73.4 LNP 26.6 IND +0.4
The Gabba 1 73.8 GRN 62.3 LNP 37.7 GRN +5.3
The Gap 83.0 LNP 57.1 ALP 42.9 LNP +2.4
Walter Taylor 1,2 77.5 LNP 53.9 GRN 46.1 GRN +11.8
Wynnum-Manly 81.9 ALP 61.4 LNP 38.6 LNP +0.3

Notes
1 – preferences required
2 – minority winner, less than 50% of formal vote
3 – second placed candidate changed since 2016

First Preference Results by Ward

The table below summarizes the first preference vote by ward by party.

Brisbane City Council 2020 Election – First Preference Vote by Party

First Preferences
Contest LNP % ALP % GRN % OTH % Inf %
Lord Mayor 47.7 30.9 15.4 5.9 2.6
Bracken Ridge 50.0 37.5 12.4 .. 2.9
Calamvale 48.3 41.9 9.7 .. 2.7
Central 48.4 24.1 27.5 .. 2.0
Chandler 63.9 25.4 10.7 .. 2.3
Coorparoo 44.9 27.5 27.6 .. 2.0
Deagon 34.9 51.3 11.5 2.3 2.6
Doboy 54.7 45.3 .. .. 2.8
Enoggera 45.1 34.4 16.1 4.3 2.1
Forest Lake 30.8 52.8 16.3 .. 4.2
Hamilton 63.7 19.8 16.4 .. 2.3
Holland Park 48.4 30.7 20.9 .. 2.4
Jamboree 54.9 32.7 12.4 .. 3.0
McDowall 59.2 29.7 11.1 .. 2.3
Macgregor 59.4 28.7 11.9 .. 2.7
Marchant 49.4 32.6 18.0 .. 2.7
Moorooka 25.1 49.9 20.2 4.8 3.4
Morningside 36.9 47.9 15.2 .. 2.0
Northgate 46.7 36.4 16.9 .. 2.7
Paddington 45.4 16.1 38.4 .. 1.5
Pullenvale 41.7 14.2 24.4 19.7 2.4
Runcorn 54.1 35.5 10.4 .. 2.8
Tennyson 19.4 14.2 13.5 52.9 1.7
The Gabba 29.4 25.0 45.6 .. 2.3
The Gap 50.6 30.7 17.0 1.7 1.9
Walter Taylor 46.9 15.3 34.9 2.9 1.7
Wynnum-Manly 35.9 53.9 10.2 .. 2.3

Notes: Bold indicates winning party.

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