It’s too early to make a call of the election, but if you’re a forecaster why wait until it’s obvious? So here’s my call. Julia Gillard is going to win. But that doesn’t mean that Tony Abbott can’t be a winner too.
Labor was always odds-on to win - four-to-one at the moment according to the betting markets. But there are battles and there are wars. It’s not who prevails this time, but who prevails most times that ultimately counts.
So Abbott’s job is not to beat Gillard, but to provide a platform for the election after next. Can he achieve this?
My judgments are partly based on our most recent qualitative polling which received 2,225 responses. They suggest that the selection of Julia Gillard has restored Labor’s fortunes on a two-party preferred basis to where they were in April, when Labor would have won an election by a margin of around four points.
In April while Kevin Rudd was still up on the high-wire you could feel the strain if you put your hand on it. Now, while the two-party preferred vote is healthy for Labor, they are much more reliant on the Greens as primary votes have leaked away to their left. So there is strain still there.
Our respondents, who are more likely than the average to follow current affairs, give Gillard a slightly better rating than Kevin Rudd but only because some of them have moved from disapproving to withholding judgment.
At the same time, they have moved against Tony Abbott.
This means that Julia Gillard’s position might look robust but is fragile, while Abbott’s is deteriorating. She’s vulnerable, but he’s going backwards.
This election the issues are fairly clear. There is the government itself and the record that Julia is trying to “move forward” from. Closely allied to that are issues of debt, increases in the cost of living, economic management, and a general concern for the country.
These are more closely associated with coalition voters. Then there is climate change, education, health and population, which are more closely associated with Labor voters.
Asylum seekers and immigration are also present and are negative for the government, presenting a reason to vote Green or Coalition.
A week ago Julia Gillard declared that this election would be a referendum on a sustainable Australia. This is very clever. It’s a good vehicle to appeal to a number of conflicting constituencies simultaneously without alarming any of them.
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