Finally! The formal campaign has begun, the Voter Choice Project panel has been closed off and nicely balanced, and we move to weekly surveys. The point of doing weekly surveys rather than monthly is not just to join in the election frenzy of more numbers (most of which are meaningless), but because we are tracking the same group of people, we can try and nail down how much movement actually happens in the ‘formal’ election campaign, whether this intense period of campaigning has any impact at all, and try and answer the question of when people make their voting decisions in a better way that asking them to recall it after the election. Let’s get into week 1.
Both major parties had solid gains in primary vote this survey, Labor up 4 points and the Coalition up 3.5, which is to be expected with the election being called. A slight gain to Labor on the 2PPH6, although arguably this is a correction from the fear reaction noted in the March survey, which just happened to coincide with the Christchurch attack.
Expect bouncy polls from everyone for the next couple of weeks, particularly after the full list of candidates are released. The story of the campaign is shaping up to be the independents, with an incredible amount of movement into and out of that column each survey. It’s not just the big ones either like Phelps, Steggall, Oakeshott and Banks… for example, the independent candidate in Lindsay, Mark Tyndall, earns both votes and positive comments every survey despite little press coverage. A number of participants make comments about ‘waiting to see who the independents are’ or are indicating they’ll vote independent despite no independent candidate declaring, notably in the electorates of Parkes, Bendigo and Perth, which should all be safe seats.
Remember, to read the vote retention heat map, read across the row to see where a party has gained votes this month, down the column to see where they have lost votes to. The percentage is the proportion of last month’s vote lost, the diagonal line is how much of last month’s vote each party retained.
The Australian Conservatives vote continues to crash as party supporters accept the party will not be standing a House candidate in their electorate, with most of that vote going ‘home’ to the Liberal Party. We did resume asking about Senate votes with the weekly surveys, and their Senate vote is fairly strong in Victoria and South Australia. The numbers are a bit nonsense, owing to the over-representation of non-party loyal voters in the study (remembering that we’re studying how individual voters change their votes, so it was more important to recruit swinging and disengaged voters than loyal party supporters). However, we will show you where the minor party votes are at… as panellists know, we had all parliamentary parties in the pick list this week to make sure we didn’t have any bias, and in particular were not over-stating the Australian Conservatives support or under-stating the LDP, KAP or (particularly in light of today’s odd Newspoll numbers) UAP. Only parties that got above 1% will included in the pick list going forward… although the figure for Father Rod Bower’s ICAN is impressive given how new they are, and the limited geographic reach.
In this survey we re-checked a number of key indicators that had been asked before, and asked people to make their predictions.
We began with the issues that people are likely to be deciding their votes on. There was a very significant difference to when we first asked this back in June and July: many more answers in policy areas rather than descriptions of issues, and much fewer local issues. Here’s the word cloud of the top 100 terms. The top five as coded were Climate Change/Environment; Education; Health; Jobs/Wages; The Economy.
And we asked people to predict what would be the dominant issue or factor of the election campaign, deliberately mixing up things like preferred prime minister and policy issues to try and figure out a hierarchy of concerns/influences. Interestingly, Education and Welfare that were in the pick list for this question both came in at well below 1% – despite being very high of the first issues question. Jobs and wages was not in the pick list, which means the issue may be considerably higher as a dominant issue than the below figure indicates.
Now, just before the ‘climate change election’ brigade goes off and uses these numbers as any kind of ‘evidence’… lemme explain what you’re looking at. The combined qualitative/quantitative design of the Voter Choice Project allows us to understand that when someone says ‘Climate Change’ they don’t necessarily mean that as a good thing, nor are they likely to decide their vote on Climate Change issues. Just over a quarter of the Climate Change mentions are negative or fearful in connotation. For example:
Any party that supports the “climate change” propaganda and makes policy decisions based on the big lie will not get my vote.
58 year old male voter
We need to get out of the Paris Agreement and stop other climate change policies.
42 year old female voter
And even if they are voting on Climate Change, it doesn’t mean they’re all going to run out and vote Green:
I hope the Greens do not block any moves by Labor on climate change like they’ve done previously due to it not going far enough – baby steps are better than no steps at all.
40 year old female voter
So when numbers like these say the issue is top of mind, or dominant, or voters are concerned about x… do not assume they fall in either the pro- or -anti camp of that issue. The most polarising issues, like climate change, will always come out on top because there’s a lot od people for, a lot against, and a lot confused but trying to figure out what everyone else is so upset about.
The three main key indicators we tested again were whether the Government had done a good or bad job since the last election (testing Referendum voting theory), the classic right direction/wrong track question which has been used in polling for a very long time with much debate, and whether you are personally better or worse off financially since the last election, which attempts to bring the whole ‘how are we going/are you dissatisfied’ proposition down to the personal.So there’s an obvious discrepancy here. 38% say they’re worse off since the last election. but 58% say we’re on the wrong track and 54% say the government has done a bad job – indeed, many, many respondents took to the other field to say ‘a very bad job’ wasn’t strong enough language.
I’ve selected Other, as there are not words enough to accurately describe just how bad a job the current Government has done over these last two terms.
39 year old male voter
They are the worst government Australia has ever had, and we have had some shonky ones in the past.
51 year old female voter
An appalling job, particularly since Morrison took over and went into ‘save the furniture’ mode.
65 year old male voter
This government has brought this country to its knees in terms of morality and compassion. It has continuously pandered to the rich and corporations. It has done nothing for the people, and doesn’t even bother to hide its corruption any more.
52 year old female voter
But, the good people of the Voter Choice Project Panel did explain the discrepancy. They don’t credit the Government with any improvement in their lot, specifying that it was not policy, but a job promotion/wedding/leaving uni or other life event that resulted in them personally being financially better off.
The strong prediction is for a Labor win. Although interestingly, 24% are predicting some variety of hung parliament. The predicted results in seats is evenly matched and may be very close to the outcome.
Making a prediction is different from what you want – with these figures far more reflective of vote intention. And lastly, because we do like surprises, we asked where our participants thought the big upset on election night is likely to come from. Strong money is on Queensland. We shall see…