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Malcolm Hugh Mackerras AO (born 26 August 1939—) is an Australian psephologist and commentator and lecturer on Australian and Americanmarker politics.

Education and Works

Malcolm Mackerras was born at Turramurramarker in Sydneymarker in August 1939. He is a brother of Sir Charles Mackerras, a well-known conductor, and twin brother of Professor Colin Mackerras, a leading Chinamarker specialist. Another brother, Neil Mackerras, was active in the Democratic Labor Party in its early years. Yet another, Alastair Mackerras, was headmaster (principal) of Sydney Grammar Schoolmarker from 1969 to 1989.

After attending St Aloysius College, Milson’s Pointmarker (1947-1951) and the Sydney Grammar Schoolmarker (1952-1956) Malcolm was employed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company from 1957-1960, during which time he studied at night for the degree of Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney (awarded 1962).

Mackerras was a member of the ACT Young Liberals in the late 1960s. [86040] His second employer was the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party of Australia for which he was a research officer (1960-1967). The organisation moved him to Canberramarker where he has lived continuously since 1965. He spent several years as a ministerial assistant and three years as an economist with the Chamber of Manufactures (1968-1970), "trying to present the case for protection for Australian manufacturing industry".

In 1971 he became an academic. He is now Visiting Fellow in Political Science, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at the Australian Defence Force Academymarker in Canberra. His employer is the University of New South Walesmarker.

He is especially interested in elections and electoral systems. His several books and many journal articles are largely in those areas. He has written many articles for The Australian and The Canberra Times on these subjects. He likes whenever possible to visit countries during their elections. He visited South Africa in 1999 as an observer for that country’s second democratic election (May-June 1999). He likes, in particular, to be in the United Statesmarker for a presidential election as it greatly improves his American teaching. While he was in the USA in November-December 2000, there was a “snap” election in Canadamarker during which enabled him to visit that country and improve his knowledge of Canadian politics.

Mackerras's first published study of Australian politics was The Australian Senate 1965-1967: Who Held Control?. He followed this with The 1968 Federal Redistribution (1969). His first major work was Australian General Elections (1972) in which he pioneered the concept of the two-party majority and the two-party swing, and introduced the "pendulum", a table of federal electorates in order of two-party majority, now commonly known as the Mackerras pendulum. He followed this with a series of books before each federal election, such as Elections 1975, Elections 1980, The Mackerras 1990 Federal Election Guide and The Malcolm Mackerras 1993 Federal Election Guide.

He is commonly described as a psephologist which means "one who studies elections". However, he insists that his political science interests are much broader than that. Indeed one of the reasons for his determination on the November-December 2000 North American visit was to study all the legal manoeuvres in connection with the only "cliffhanger" presidential election of the 20th century. He visited the USA again in September 2004 to attend the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Chicagomarker.

For the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 he has been specialising in Australian state elections. He visited South Australiamarker in February 2002, Victoriamarker in November-December 2002 and New South Walesmarker in March 2003 for elections in those states, which involved writing newspaper articles plus broadcasting. He did the same for Queenslandmarker where a state election was held on 7 February 2004. He did the same for Australia’s federal election on 9 October 2004.


His two most recent books are Australian Political Facts: Second Edition (Macmillan, 1997) which he wrote with Ian McAllister and Carolyn Brown Boldiston and, more recently, Constitutional Politics: The Republic Referendum and the Future (University of Queensland Press, 2002), which he edited with John Warhurst of the Australian National University. The two men took opposite sides in the debate over the 1999 Australian republic referendum but have now joined together to record the event.

Election commentary

Mackerras has been a regular commentator on Australian elections in print, on radio and television on most federal and state elections. He has become well known for his predictions of electoral outcomes using the Mackerras Pendulum, a tabular representation of the likelihood that a parliamentary outcome will occur due to the swing of electors' opinion needed to change the result. (A graphical representation can also be made, in the shape of a U with the notional swing point at the bottom; Mackerras prefers not to use this representation but he is willing to allow newspapers to prepare it from the tabular information.) The Mackerras Pendulum applies to all Australian lower houses with single member electorates.

The Mackerras Pendulum for the Australian federal election of 2004 was published in The Australian newspaper on Monday, 5 January 2004 together with two tables and an article by him titled "Nothing for certain in landslide danger zone".

Mackerras' pendulum for the 2007 federal election was published in the Weekend Australian newspaper for September 30-October 1 2006 under the title " It's luck of the redraw". His prediction for the 2007 election was published in the Australian newspaper for Friday June 8 2007 under the title " PM marooned in Chifley's shadow". He correctly predicted a Labor win.

Mackerras is famous for making predictions about election results. He claims a "win" ratio of two in three and adds, "at least I'm not boring. The election analyst who makes predictions is far more interesting than one who doesn't. And if I collect egg on my face, then so be it."

A recent example of an incorrect prediction was one he made in The Australian of 1 November 2004. Mackerras said that John Kerry would defeat George W. Bush in a "landslide" in the U.S. presidential election the following day, and specifically predicted that Kerry would carry Floridamarker, Ohiomarker, Nevadamarker and Missourimarker. (His tabular pendulum had been published about 12 months before this, and the graphical pendulum was published in February 2004.)

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