The odds are that Labor will win the Victorian election, but there is a narrow gate through which the Liberal Nationals could pass to government. It could also swing open for the Greens, giving them a cross-bench veto.
According to the results of our online virtual focus group of 100 Victorian voters, Labor and Greens voters are fairly happy with the Andrews government, and Liberal voters are only moderately happy with the Guy opposition.
This puts the government in poll position, but it doesn't mean that there is a consensus on what the government ought to be doing.
On the left climate change, and social services are important, while on the right it is crime and political correctness. Both sides share a concern for sustainable development, a high profile issue in Australia's fastest growing metropolis, and this manifests in more public transport on one side, and better roads on the other.
The result of this split is that 49% of participants thought the state was heading in the right direction, while 42% disagreed, with the balance sitting on the fence. Again, this is a relatively strong position for the government which also has an advantage in leadership. Daniel Andrews has a so-so approval rating of -1% (44% are favourable and 45% unfavourable), but Guy's is -24% (28% favourable and 52% unfavourable).
Drilling down on those figures, 83% of ALP voters approve of Andrews (including 44% who strongly approve). For Guy only 57% of Liberal voters approve, and only 8% of those approve strongly. The Andrews tribe is united, the Guy tribe troubled.
Head to head 55% prefer Andrews as premier to 45% who prefer Guy, which is more or less the two-party preferred margin, so Labor gets a only a small percentage edge from the personality battle.
Ethical issues affect both leaders.
Labor has its "Red Shirts" scandal, where campaigners were hired as electorate staff, in a fraud on public finances. Now the premier is instructing his members not to cooperate with investigators. This plays into the opposition's law and order campaign.
Liberals have Matthew Guy's past performance as planning minister where he massively increased allowable development densities on the Fishermens Bend land on the CBD fringe, enriching a number of developers, some of whom are Liberal Party donors. He was also embroiled in a rezoning scandal on Phillip Island which cost the public $2.5 million.
This plays into concerns about bribery and corruption and over-development.
That both sides have ethics problems will tend to neutralise honesty as a vote decider, but this is countered by the fact that 72% of voters expect the Daniels government to be returned.
This article is based on a virtual focus group held at the end of last week. It can be downloaded from here. An edited version appeared in The Australian.
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