Politics and statistics: why dragging your party to the far left or right is a bad idea.

The silly season has started in Australian federal politics with Corey Bernardi and George Christensen threatening (yet again) to defect from the Coalition.

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George and Cory strut their stuff

They represent a group of coalition politicians whose views are fairly close to those of One Nation and who believe that the Coalition should be moving further  to the right to counter the growing popularity of Pauline Hansen and her mob.

On the other end of the political spectrum, a hard-left Greens faction has grouped around Senator Lee Rhiannon. It’s hardly a faction if the media reports can be believed but merely a small group of Greens staffers rather than a significant element of the party.

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However, if you thought that the rabid Right had a monopoly on crazies, you were wrong. Rhiannon and her fellow travellers want to bring about the end of capitalism.

Now this is where the statistics comes in. Currently, the Coalition, Labor and GIMPs have about an equal share of the popular vote. So they have about 33% each. However, the GIMPs vote is split between the left ( Greens) and right (One Nation, Xenophon and the independents).

Now, I am cutting a few corners for the sake of simplicity.

This is what the distribution of the votes across a Left/Right continuum would look like. The One Nation grouping is coloured yellow.

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If we superimpose this particular distribution on a normal distribution curve, we get an interesting picture.

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The distribution of the votes in Australia indicates that they are normally distributed across the political spectrum.

What this means is that there is relatively little political advantage to be gained by endeavouring to pick up votes at the far ends of the continuum.There just aren’t that many voters out there. Most voters sit in the middle. Some 65% in fact.

This means that, contrary to the nonsense being peddled by people like Rhiannon, Bernardi, Christensen and Victorian pro-life campaigner Stephanie Ross, political advantage is gained by winning votes in the centre.

It’s a pity Malcolm Turnbull isn’t a statistician.

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