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'Stick with the current mob for a while'

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 28 June 2016


“Fake Tradie” has so far been the ad of the campaign. A bullseye for the coalition which bit not just by having the right lines, but by tweaking the tale of the social media beast which duly spat it out all over the place.

But if this is the best argument the coalition has to be returned – “we should just see it through and stick with the current mob for a while” – then their focus groups are telling them what ours is: this is an election almost without alternatives.

Voters are very unenthusiastic about the choice on offer.

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Our research is qualitative, and respondents opt-in to the poll. That makes the raw figures unreliable for quantitative purposes, but not useless.

For example, you will generally find one party or another under-represented. Out of the majors this is generally the Liberal Party, with Labor as often as not being close to right, and the Greens having massive over-representation.

That tells you something about the enthusiasm of the partisans for their own side.

In our latest poll the Liberal under-representation was severe – 21% of the sample versus 27% for the ALP and 25% for the Greens. Back in December it was 27% Liberal, 20% ALP and 32% Greens. So while the latest Newspoll shows the coalition with a 51/49 percent lead over Labor its own supporters are not backing it heavily. Labor also suffers. While their participation rate has recovered between December and now, it is still at figures similar to the lows of the Rudd and Gillard years.

It also tells you that the early enthusiasm for Turnbull, with significant numbers of ALP and Greens voters prepared to give him a go, has disappeared.

My guess on our polling is that Tony Abbott would be doing just as well as Turnbull is at this stage if he had not been removed. Tony’s backers have stuck with Malcolm, but reluctantly so, and that is part of the reason for the lack of enthusiasm.

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Which means that rather than pulling together a new coalition in the centre of politics combining moderate and left Liberal voters, together with moderate and right Labor and some Greens voters, with the hard right being forced to come along for the ride, as envisaged by Liberal pollster Mark Textor, Turnbull is having to rely on the old coalition.

That coalition consists of the left, centre and right of the Liberal Party along with the Nationals and a large bloc of working class Australians: people like the tradie in the ad. These working class Australians are most likely to come from outer-suburban areas, or provincial cities, and while they also vote Labor from time to time, they are also the core constituency for parties like One Nation and the Katter Party. They have been called “Howard’s battlers” and “Tony’s tradies” in the past.

The centre coalition would have been based on policy issues like climate change, gay marriage and refugees, with Turnbull perceived to be softer on those than his predecessor. But Turnbull was never going to be able to compromise – even if he was so-minded the party would not let him.

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This article is based on a qualitative survey of 1317 Australians in our panel from which smaller groups have been selected to give a balanced virtual focus group.



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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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