RETIREMENTS AND SOPHOMORE SURGES
There were 23 retirements and 17 Coalition ‘somophores’ at the 2016 Election.
36 'retirements' including genuine retirements, candidates ruled ineligible, candidiates who lost pre-selection for 2019 and one or two party defections were on the 2019 hit list by 20/1/2019 - with more to follow [See list at bottom of this page].
The ‘somophore surge’.
What is known as the ‘somophore surge’ most often results in newly elected MPs getting a surge in votes at the next election.
Federal MPs also benefit from a tremendous financial advantage over their opponents. The federal parliament employs a number of staff for each MP, along with a well-resourced office.
Federal MPs also have large budgets for communicating with their constituents. Federal MPs also play a role in providing government assistance to constituents. A first-term MP is expected to have a personal vote after representing their electorate for three years.
We can expect a first-term MP to do slightly better than the national or state-wide trend would suggest.
The personal vote of first-term MPs gave the Coalition a boost in many of its marginal seats in 2016. Peter Brent estimates this ‘somophore surge’ to be worth 1-2% 2PP.
9 Coalition somophore seats were retained at the 2016 election.
The survival of the Coalition Government with a paper thin 76 seats victory was in part at least due to the ‘somophore surge’ in 5 seats left with a post-election 1-2 % 2PP margin
These seats were Capricorna (0.6), Robertson (1.1), Banks (1.4), Latrobe (1.4) and Petrie (1.7)
On the other side of the coin, 8 Coalition somophore seats were lost in 2016 [Barton, Bass, Braddon, Dobell, Eden-Monaro, Hindmarsh, Lindsay and Lyons].
In both 1998 and 2010, first-term federal governments suffered swings that should have thrown them out of office. However, both governments benefited from ‘sophomore surges’ to their marginal seat MPs that helped win the election and a second term in office.
These examples demonstrably showed that a ‘sophomore surge’ in a series of key marginal seats can minimise the impact of any broad sweeping anti-government swing in second term elections.
The problem for the Coalition here is that they are seeking a third term in office in 2019, and only 7 Coalition seats can expect a ‘somophore’ surge in 2019, compared to 14 for Labor.
Personal votes can be a factor when a sitting MP or Senator
- retires voluntarily;
- is ruled ineligible after the election;
- defects to another party;
- loses pre-selection for the next election, or
- is dis-endorsed by the party they won the seat with.
Particularly If someone has represented their electorate for a long time, their personal vote is factored in to their electorate margin. With the party no longer benefiting from that candidate’s personal vote, that seat will often see a less favourable swing for the party holding the seat.
Personal votes also come into the equation when interpreting notional margins after seats are redistributed. These are calculated using voting figures at the last election which are inflated by the popularity of a sitting MP when the electorate had a different demographic or that member retires and a new candidate is contesting the seat.
The clearest example of this was the new seat of Burt in Western Australia in 2016. 100 per cent of Burt came from territory that had a sitting Liberal MP in 2013. More than a third was in Canning, where the late Don Randall enjoyed a huge personal vote.
On paper, Burt’s 6.1 per cent buffer made it the Liberals’ third most marginal Western Australia seat. Burt was inflated by personal votes in 2013 and was the first electorate to fall to Labor in 2016.
In the upcoming election only one Coalition seat (Chisolm) may have benefited from the so called ‘somophore surge’ as a result of winning a seat from the ALP in 2016. However, Julie Banks is not contesting the next election as a Liberal because of ‘bullying and harassment’ in the Liberal Party. -
Seven Coalition seats are expecting a ‘somophore surge’ for new members retaining a seat previously held by a retiring member (2013). These are
Wide Bay (QLD)
Dunkley (VIC) and
Retirements, defections and dis-endorsed sitting members at the upcoming election will have the inverse effect, stripping 1-2% from the new candidates 2PP margin. [See an updated list below].
The good news for the Coalition is that, pending further retirements, the 7 seats the Coalition are expecting a ‘somophore surge’ that will make it tougher for Labor to win and Dunkley has been redistributed to a notional ALP seat status without accounting for the ‘somophore surge’.
Brisbane (QLD) will get both a ‘somophore surge’ and redistribution benefit.
Boothby may get a ‘somophore surge’ - this will be offset by the notional 2PP redistribution deduction.
However, even if the Coalition were able to retain Dunkley against redistribution estimates, it may be offset by losses in Gilmore, Chisolm and possibly Ryan from the retirement effect along with a portion of the expected broad swing against the current Coalition Government in other seats.
Any further Coalition member retirements or dis-endorsements will exacerbate this effect, particularly if they occur in other marginal Coalition seats.
Labor will be expecting a ‘somophore surge’ in 14 seats which may be critical in seats won in 2016 with a slim 2PP margin.
The 5 critical seats were
Braddon (2.4*) and
The other 9 ALP seats expecting a ‘somophore surge’ are
Macarthur (8.3) and