I’ve been reflecting today on the statistical oddities of recent Australian election results. As former Liberal Party director Michael Kroger pointed out on Saturday night:
- Labor has won 20 out of 20 of the last state and territory elections
- Labor has lost 4 out of 4 of the last federal elections
If elections were a random draw (which they’re not), the odds of one party winning 20 straight state and territory elections, and losing 4 straight federal elections, would be (2^20*2^4)*0.5=1 in 8 million. This exaggerates the odds, but it is nonetheless highly unlikely that this situation arose by chance.
Yet despite this, I know of virtually no scholarship looking at why Labor (the Coalition) has done so poorly (brilliantly) at a federal level, and so brilliantlyÂ (poorly) at the state level. I’ve heard people talk about competence, but it’s not clear to me that the federal Labor caucus is any less qualified to govern than its various state counterparts.
The best systematic explanation I’m aware of is Andrew Norton’s 2004Â metaphor of the mummy party and the daddy party:
At a fairly general level, I think there is something to these metaphors, and I think they help explain why both the US Republicans and Australian Liberal Party do better at the federal than the state level. â€˜Fatherâ€™ characteristics seem more needed there, particularly in running the economy and dealing with foreign threats. The â€˜motherâ€™ characteristics seem appropriate to state-level service delivery, looking after the people at a more personal level where sympathy and empathy are needed.
Do others have a better theory?