The intensity of the Wentworth by-election continues unabated, and survey 2 of our detailed, 3-survey study shows there’s a lot of discussion going on, and quite a few people have changed their votes from Survey 1 in September. Dave Sharma has reclaimed some votes, but the real story is that Licia Heath has the momentum going into the last week. Whether she has enough momentum, and enough time, to make this three-horse race a four-horse race we will only know on Saturday.
122 people participated in survey 2 between October 10 and 14, 2018 (4 people opted out and 10 didn’t respond – which anyone who does panel research will tell you is really good – thanks so much to all our participants!). 20 participants had already voted by postal or pre-poll ballot. All numbers presented below are weighted by age, gender and 2016 vote.
To avoid confusion with the actual poll we put out a few days ago, I’m not going to put up the first preference vote graphic. I will say that the order has changed from Survey 1, with Dave Sharma clearly ahead, then Tim Murray and Kerryn Phelps very close, and Licia Heath has more than doubled her vote from survey 1 to be closer to Phelps/Murray than the Greens and into double figures.
And this is why.
The vote retention graphic below shows how people have shifted around. Along the diagonal is the percentage of vote each candidate has retained since September. Read across the rows to see where they have gained votes from, and down the columns to see where they have lost votes to. The percentage figures are percentage of the September vote for that column, and the colour indicates who they are voting for now.
Starting from the top, you can see Dave Sharma has clawed back half of the ‘other’ minor party vote. This is almost exclusively coming from people that were voting for right wing candidates like the independent Angela Vithoulkas and Liberal Democrats’ Sam Gunning. He’s lost a small number of a votes to Phelps and the undecided column, but not enough to be worried about.
Tim Murray is trading votes with Kerryn Phelps on a fairly equal basis. More alarmingly for Labor is the significant bleeding of votes (15% of those who were voting for him in survey 1) to Licia Heath. His overall first preference vote has gone up, however, due to nearly all of the undecideds moving into his column. He’s winning people over largely through personal contact:
“…I met Tim, he seemed like a genuine bloke”
“…He seemed decent, met him at the booth and confirmed those initial feelings”
or because of a recent shift in his campaign to highlight the fact that he’s an economist:
“…the most qualified candidate as a local with an economic background.”
“…I gave my first preference to Murray over Phelps (at 2) because I felt he has the better chance of winning, and I enjoyed his op-ed making the economic case for action on climate change.”
Kerryn Phelps has retained the lowest percentage of her September vote, and a good portion of her vote continues to indicate they’re still deciding or ‘haven’t locked it in yet’. The strategic voters are the most nervous:
“…Phelps remains my top choice because I still think she has the best chance of defeating the Liberals. But if this changes, I may change my vote”
“…I would ideally put Licia Heath at number 1, but Kerryn seems like a safer bet to oust the Liberals”
Those leaving Phelps talk about her inconsistency, or think she is ‘being used as a front’, or if returning to Sharma, are getting nervous about a Labor Government or hung parliament.
Licia Heath is pulling votes from Labor, Phelps and a whopping third of the Greens vote from Survey 1 (and that’s not some statistical anomaly, Greens voters are the most over-represented in the survey), largely due to people getting to know her. You may recall we predicted that her vote may surge in the survey 1 results because she had solid numbers with very low name recognition. As people are getting to know her, they’re voting for her.
“…I don’t think I’d heard of her much in the last survey, but have now seen a few things and she sounds great. She’s keen, has ideas, supports women, and is for climate change actions etc. But on top of that, her push for less big business influence/lobbying/donations in politics makes sense. I wish she got more media as she seems more promising than Kerryn Phelps as an independent.”
She’s definitely reaped the benefit of Phelps’ preference blunder too:
“…I like how she’s decided not to preference the Liberals”
“…She seems like the only credible independent left.”
Heath’s solid performances in a number of candidate events (as well as Sharma’s absence at said events) also came out in the comments.
The Greens are getting bludgeoned by Heath, but the comments are all about Heath being a solid option, not any failure by the Greens. Loyal partisan Greens are sticking with their party, and a couple have come home after flirting with the idea of independents.
The ‘others’ are combined so the graphic is readable, but the Science Party’s Andrea Leong is holding strong, retaining 100% of her vote from September. There are additional comments that she has been impressive at candidate forums, and (in yet more evidence that people don’t get how preferences work) some saying they’re going to put her at 2. The Voluntary Euthanasia Party is also holding strong with their single issue supporters, but the Arts Party and Sustainable Australia have lost a few to Phelps.
We did a preference flow assessment, using the same model we used for the poll – again, I won’t put the graphic up to avoid confusion, as this is neither a poll nor a representative sample – but the preference flow is similarly strong to Heath and Murray.
So what’s causing all this movement? A lot of chatter, especially on social media. We asked people about their contact with the candidate’s campaigns, personal conversation, and what they had seen on the news and social media, and whether that made them commit to their vote, question their vote, switch their vote from one candidate to another, or had no impact.
Social media switches more voters and had more voters questioning their vote than any of the other information sources, while news media was the biggest reinforcer of existing vote intention. What social media?
Shocked. Facebook groups in particular came up for special mention, as did the candidate’s personal pages. Also, a number of comments on the personal conversations and social media interactions was more about who to preference, rather than put at 1, which is a unique aspect of this by-election as preferences matter in an arguably unprecedented way.
Thanks again to all our participants. It is difficult to understate how rich this dataset is, and I really do want to thank you all for sharing your stories and thoughts with me. This particular survey was peppered with many wonderfully Wentworth anecdotes, from the surfer chatting about his preferences with another surfer while waiting for a wave, to a guy disagreeing about the election with his Rabbi.
The ‘Exit Poll’ Survey 3 will be sent out on Friday.