Given the failure of the 2PP, I have spent a fair bit of time analysing the flows from both week 4 to 5, and throughout the formal campaign, to try and figure out what happened. Voter decision is complex, it’s easy to get distracted by the top line numbers and not look at the much more perplexing detail, but in all, the polling was right.
In the last week, there was a net gain to the Coalition in primary vote 2% greater than the gain to the ALP, and a corresponding 2% swing in the Incumbent v Challenger alternative to the 2PP I proposed last week. Note: these tables were weighted on the count from Friday night, there’s been some minor shifting since then, and the final week numbers only include that portion of the sample that participated in both week 4 and 5 surveys.
These numbers confirm there was a swing of 2% in favour of the Coalition in the last week (Coalition net gain minus ALP net gain). Thus the polls that were holding at 51/49 (our numbers were there in week 3, but back out to a solid ALP lead – albeit with a crashing primary – in week 4) were not that wrong. 13% of voters shifted in the last week, and over the entire formal campaign 19% changed their first preference vote with a net gain to the Coalition of 3% more primary votes than Labor picked up.
Don’t over-read the minor party numbers, but yes, it does seem that UAP picked up most of their support in the final fortnight, largely from protest voters.
The overall reasons given by participants have been coded from the qualitative responses to these 17 main areas.
The ‘financial vote’ reason requires some explanation – no, it does not refer to their personal financial interest. This is people voting in order to either try and deliver some electoral funding to a particular party, or deny it to a major party.
Greens need sufficient primary vote to reach quota to receive payment. Seat is lost to Libs anyway.
60 year old male vote
Ultimately my values best align with Labor. But also, knowing that this seat is a contest between Sharkie and Downer, I wanted Labor to get the funding!
42 year old female voter
I didn’t like any of the candidates. Also political parties get ~$2.50 per first preference vote if they get more than 3% of the vote and I didn’t think Tony Murray would get this. I was trying to save $2.50
34 year old male voter
Further research is required to determine what distorting effect that this is having on the vote, but certainly the awareness of electoral funding is more prominent amongst Greens voters. Not always in their favour.
I did a little research and last election the greens got 12%. I put (the independent) Jillian in first because I want her to get enough votes to get her deposit back.
26 year old male voter
When we filter the reasons given to only those voters who switched their first vote preference during the campaign, partisan and policy reasons fade away with over a third basing their decision on candidate factors. The ‘best option’ reason includes those who simply said they were the best candidate, or more commonly ‘best of a bad lot’, as well as those who walked us through their rationalisation of how they couldn’t vote for x or y, wasn’t impressed with z, which leaves the candidate they ultimately voted for.
Cross referencing the reason for vote by the Incumbent v Challenger (IVC) measure, and a more conventional 2CP, we can see Economy and tax issues (including Franking Credits), as well as Values, were the most impactful in getting people to vote against their incumbent ALP MP and for the Coalition. By contrast, ideological reasons were reinforcing votes in seats already held by the Coalition, rather than influencing voters in ALP held seats. In Labor’s favour, 100% of those voting for a vision of the country ended up in their column, pulling fairly equally from seats they hold and those they didn’t. The financial voters largely being in Labor held seats are again those Greens and other minor party voters who preferenced the ALP.
So we can start to get a feel for what was moving votes: it largely wasn’t policy or issues (if it was, it was Economy/Tax to switch to the Coalition, and the Environment/Climate change to switch to the ALP) but more intangible factors like values and strategy, rationalisations of who was the best option, and assessments of the character and capabilities of the individual candidates, that were the final factor in people’s votes.
Taking a longer view over the panel, a hierarchy or step process can be clearly identified, with most voters fitting more or less to a similar decision behaviour.
The first two steps often are completed with little outside influence; perhaps some information seeking but for many voters based on what they already know.
Step 1: Disqualify.
Which of these parties would I never, ever vote for? Are any of the candidates nutters? Are any of these candidates promoting the absolute opposite of what I believe on the issue I care about most? Discard those candidates to the bottom of the preference list.
Step 2: Qualify.
Which party would I normally vote for? Are any of the candidates stand-outs? Do I know the candidate? Which candidate has the best position on the issue I care about the most? These candidates go to the top of the preference list. (This may seem duplicitous to the first step, but is a very definite shift from looking at the negatives to looking at the positives, and it is a slower, more considered process than Disqualify.)
If there was only one clear vote decision after Disqualify/Qualify, they may stop here and skip straight to locking in their vote. If not, voters move to a process of verifying their initial assessments. During the third and fourth steps, the voter is actually listening as well as information seeking to fill out their vote decision. This is the only part of the decision cycle where the campaign and media will have any impact.
Step 3. Assess.
Looking at the big picture, who has the best vision? Does this party have the best policies for all? Does the candidate represent and reflect the electorate? Is the candidate a good, honest person with the similar values to me? Is the leader of this party effective, and potentially someone I want as Prime Minister?
Step 4. Verify.
Who are my friends and family voting for? What do other people in my community think? What is the media saying about these candidates? Who is likely to win? Is there some other policy in their platform I cannot tolerate? Is there a candidate forum I can go to in order to question them for myself, (and do they turn up)? Do they respond to questions on social media?
Again, if a single choice is clear, at this point, the vote will be locked in. If not, a final fifth step is required.
Step 5. Reconcile.
Is this the smartest vote to achieve the outcome I want? If none of the candidates tick all my boxes, who is the best compromise candidate? Can I order my preferences in such a way to achieve the outcome I want, but not get a bad MP?
The late shift happened because of this reconcile step – this is essentially the ‘find the best option’ step. And on balance, those late shifters chose to reconcile their desire for change with their values, or decided not to vote for the average candidate standing for their preferred party. If they couldn’t find a best candidate, they voted where they want the electoral funding money to go, for the incumbent, or informal.
Next we’ll look at what influence media and the campaigns had on vote decisions.