You remember last week I warned you to expect bouncy polls for while? Good.
This week had an expected shift from the announcement of candidates, with a big jump in the ‘not sure’ column – note, this shift is not yet complete and there will be more movement next week. The biggest shift was Australian Conservatives voters conceding defeat after it became reality that there were no House candidates for them to vote for. We left them in the pick list to test awareness, and 1% were still sticking with AC: we recoded them in a 50/50 split to ‘not sure’ and ‘other minor’, but we expect a great deal of them will go to the Liberal Party, as most of them who were aware of the lack of available candidate have done. This has resulted in an increased lead to the Liberal Party on primary vote; however, both major parties are actually down on primary vote this week. The vote retention graph is more confusing than normal, and it’s confusing at the best of times, so we’re not going to show it.
Labor bludgeoned itself with the announcement of a plan to overhaul the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and instead plough $1.5b into gas projects in the Galilee and Bowen Basins, losing them a full point to The Greens. That vote is soft though, and may come back… and is still preferencing Labor, so don’t over state the importance of it. The rest of The Greens jump is from micro party supporters unable to vote for their party of choice. Labor also did gain some votes from The Greens, again largely due to the poor quality of the candidate, which we’ve noted before.
I cannot account for the United Australia Party vote reported in Newspoll, and is becoming a running narrative in the media as a significant factor in the election. I have no doubt there are some people voting for UAP – but 5%? In the entire year of the Voter Choice Project, with over 10,000 unique voters taking part, there have been 8, and only 8 individual voters, that have ever indicated an intention to vote UAP. Last week there were 4. This week there was 1. Out of this week’s sample of 1220, from a final panel of 2040 verified registered voters, drawn from all 151 electorates, ranging in age from 18 to 93, and dramatically oversampling swinging and minor party voters (by design), 1 single voter. And yes, we’ve had UAP in the pick list. A host of micro parties like the Science Party, Christian Democrats, Socialist Alliance, Animal Justice, even Rod Culleton’s Great Australia Party perform consistently better than UAP in our surveys. It is possible that the UAP vote is the lowest of interest, really couldn’t be bothered, don’t want to know, wouldn’t vote if they weren’t forced to, kind of voter that is impossible to get into a detailed long study like this one. I’ve also not yet been able to locate a single UAP supporter on the ground here in Herbert to chat to in person, despite Newspoll’s 14% figure.
I’m not putting this out there as an attack on Newspoll, I’m just saying I have no capacity at all to explain the reported UAP support, I don’t want people to think I’m ignoring what others are saying is going on, but I’m also absolutely not going to start fudging my numbers to fit the dominant media narrative that Palmer is important in this election. (And I’ve ranted about referring to ‘preference deals’ when they aren’t, and how that confuses voters, before, so I won’t repeat it, other than to again BEG journalists and politicians alike to refer to them as ‘how to vote agreements’ rather than ‘preference deals’.)
The more interesting movement was in the Senate: in South Australia, Tim Storer pulling out was good news for Centre Alliance, with almost 100% conversion to their column. In Queensland, this hotly contested and crowded battle of minor party personalities is seeing enormous week on week churn. ICAN is still picking up votes in NSW, as are the Liberal/National ticket – in part due to lead candidate Hollie Hughes earning some fans, and in part due to a subtle but consistent nationwide trend of older ALP voters wanting to block the franking credits policy, and figuring the best way to do that is vote Liberal in the Senate. In Victoria, the surprise announcement of former Senator Ricky Muir as the lead candidate for Shooters, Fishers and Farmers more than tripled their vote – he’s not quite at a quota yet, but at 2.4% we will be adding SFF to the Senate pick list this week.
Images of the Election
Our extra questions this week were about some of the images of the election. This was to test how much those short cues of what issues are swirling around you are able to recall, whether headlines, photos or cartoons were the best at delivering those short cuts to information, and where they were seen. Each one was chosen because they required a bit of pre-existing knowledge to know what they were about.
1. Australian Headline
This was on the front page of the Australian on April 20. If you didn’t already have some information that the ALP was proposing to cut penalty rates, the headline could be misread as Labor proposing to cut penalty rates. But you did – almost all respondents knew exactly what the story was about, some in detail. Many had either read this story, or a similar one, and even the 13% who didn’t still largely knew what it was about. Getting it done in the first 100 days was often recalled, so I’d suggest Labor deliver on that commitment.
2. AAP picture of the PM at church
At the risk of sounding like I’m channelling Peter Van Onselen, wow.
Not only was there a very high penetration of this image, there was a whole lot of emotion. ‘Happy clapper’ was by far the most common phrase in answer to ‘what’s the first words that come to mind when you see this picture’… largely not derogatory, although some definitely were. Most were more in the area of discomfort or unease, and many respondents were clearly struggling for language to say ‘I don’t have a problem with his religion – but this image makes me uncomfortable’.
The campaign junkies pointed out the hypocrisy of the photo op on easter when they all said they weren’t going to be campaigning. And a healthy number made the observation that it looked like a Hitler/Nazi salute – so I took the liberty to check with a few, and they had neither heard or seen others making that comment, nor the Prime Minister criticising those who made such comments previously – that’s just what they thought it looked like.
This image will be one of the iconic images of the campaign however, because of the enormous penetration. Only 12% hadn’t seen it at all, more than 50% had seen it in more than one format (most commonly on a news website, TV and social media).
3. Leahy’s Clive Palmer cartoon
This Leahy cartoon was chosen because it was both very easy to understand, and had not been in wide circulation: it was run in the NT news, and as a result 93% hadn’t seen it – most of those who had saw it on social media.
Despite the fact that there was no previous exposure, almost everyone figured out it was about Clive Palmer, and the most common gut response was ‘Ugh. Clive.’ The related story however lack saliency: despite the ‘pay all my Qld Nickel workers their entitlements’ being written in the cartoon, less than 20% mentioned that. More thought the related story was about the Coalition’s preference deal with Palmer.
4. David Rowe’s Watergate Cartoon
David Rowe is a master but also an acquired taste. There’s a lot going on in his cartoons so it can take a minute to figure out what’s going on and takes more than a minute to see all the details he puts in there.
And, it also has a limited distribution – the Financial Review. Again, this cartoon was mostly seen on social media, with the Talking Pictures segment of Insiders getting a notable mention.
Most common reaction to this cartoon? Eww. Yuck. Gross. I’m sure Mr Rowe would consider that a job well done, and certainly many commented that it was a brilliant cartoon. The other notable trend was people being unsure about who ‘the other guy in the bath’ was. Which is interesting, because it indicates the detail of the water trade story are not really penetrating for people to instinctively know it would be Angus Taylor. However, they knew it was about the water trade story.
This was actually a late addition to the survey – not just because I’m a Rowe fan, I wanted to give people an opportunity to vent about this ‘scandal’ that has Twitter in a storm. It does appear to be just that – a Twitter storm. There were plenty of participants steamed about the issue and taking the opportunity to have a good long vent, calling for royal commissions or a federal ICAC. Most were a bit ‘eh, what do you expect’ through to, ‘it’s probably overblown’, or ‘it might be legal but it’s not a good look’. A number of rural and conservative voters rejected the concerns outright, and a number vented about their dislike of Barnaby Joyce rather than the water trade story specifically.
Thanks as always to all our participants. Next week: the debate.