Aiming for the passionless imaginary center doesn’t work
Some big surprises from exit polls from the Australian election day, thanks to the Australian Institute of Progress (AIP). Non-Greens third party voters (code for Delcons – or Defiant conservatives) were more interested in “cultural issues like immigration, Islam, gay marriage, refugees, industry protection and political correctness”. Graham Young, Executive Director of the AIP calls these voters the “most influential in Australia, effectively choosing who will form the government.”
The next election will be won by the party that manages to reap more than its fair share of the non-Greens minor party voters. They are up for grabs for Liberal or Labor.
In the end, around 50% of the Delcons are prepared to put Labor above Liberal in preferences (the nuclear option) – showing how wrong Mark Textor’s theory is that the Liberal base “doesn’t matter” and the Liberals should aim for the centre and can afford to mistreat their base. Another theme I see is that parties need passion — when it’s missing from the base, it sure isn’t coming from the centre. As I said before Turnbull took over, “the passionate support base for the Liberal party will switch to other conservative or libertarian parties.” It was all so obvious. Turnbull had to personally throw in a million dollars to make up for some of the loss in donations.
One gratifying surprise is that the naked Mediscare campaign may have helped the Liberals and hurt the Labor Party. More people who named it as “important” were likely to be repelled by the scare. The Labor Party overdid it. The people who were fooled by it were already voting Labor, and some of the people who might have voted Labor saw it as heavyhanded propaganda. The Labor party could have won more Delcons if it had been halfway sensible. Instead they retreated left to “the green centre” and so alienated centre voters. Many Delcons had no choice but to go to a third party.
Another surprise — the economy, normally safe ground for the Libs, probably cost them votes. Fully a third of voters still care about the economy above anything else and the Libs hardly won any Labor voters over this time, but lost 3% of the economy-driven-voters who picked them last time (if only they could have run the anti-carbon tax theme eh?).
Superannuation, predictably, was a vote repeller away from the Liberals, though was an issue that only mattered for 3.6% of the population. (Presumably most people don’t have enough Super to care — that’s the 401k for US readers, Pension Provision for the UK.) I’d bet the larger cost of the Super Bomb was that those with more Super who were Liberal supporters stopped donating and volunteering to help. Graham Young doesn’t mention that effect, but even if the direct loss of votes was small, the passion causes an indirect loss that is larger.
The full analysis of of federal election exit polling by Australian Institute of Progress (AIP) is available at these links:
- Issue Analysis Federal Election Exit Poll
- Polling Report Exit Poll Federal Election 2016
- Textor Thesis fails empirical test
If you are not already a member of Australian Institute for Progress you can join by clicking here.
The Mediscare hype probably worked against the Labor Party
This is comforting. It was a naked, dishonest effort which involved a lot of people on the street repeating the same false accusation, handing out gimmicky cards, effectively trying to “create” an issue where there was none. In the end it probably swung more people, especially the Delcons, to the Liberals. The Labor Party could have captured more Delcons if it had been just not so damn grubby:
“On Mediscare we found that there was a relative 2 per cent swing to the Coalition from last-time Labor voters, but a relative 1 per cent swing to the ALP from last-time Liberal voters.
“However, non-Greens minor party voters were 12 percentage points more likely to vote to favour the Coalition if they mentioned this issue.”
Delcons do matter:
Turnbull appeared unable or unwilling to address these [cultural] concerns, so these voters felt alienated. Contra the Textor thesis they also have somewhere to go. As demonstrated above, somewhere around 50% of them are happy to preference Labor before the Liberals. It is only a short jump from this to giving Labor a first preference.
Three issues in the election campaign were nominated as being vote changers.
… 15% of respondents mentioned Medicare, 3.6% Superannuation, and 36% the economy of economics. We then compared how these respondents reported their first preference vote last election versus whether they cast their preference to favour Coalition or Labor this election.
On Mediscare we found that there was a relative 1.88% swing towards the Coalition from last time Labor voters, but a relative 1.33% swing to the ALP from last time Liberal voters. The relative effect with Greens voters was a relative 3 percent greater swing to the ALP. Let’s call that a dead heat.
Superannuation was an own-goal, with a relative 9.43% swing against the Liberals in this group but the percentage of respondents who were interested in super was very small.
The economy was a surprise with a relative swing to the Coalition of 0.35% from last time Labor voters, but a migration away from the Liberals of 3.29% over and above the general swing away. However virtually all Greens voters who came across to the Coalition mentioned the economy.
These figures demonstrate how small the movements in voter preference are that determine governments. They also show that none of the issues run this election grabbed the public.
I think aiming for the real center still works, but not the imaginary fantasy “center”. The true center is sensible — they don’t want to pay to try to change the weather, nor symbolically lead the world on fringe issues. They don’t want governments to retrospectively change the rules. They do want hard work to be rewarded, and crime to be punished. They want welfare for the unfortunate, but not free gifts for freeloaders. It isn’t that complicated.