Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

From left field: Labor still in the hunt, but then again they always were

By Warwick Powell - posted Wednesday, 7 November 2001

Today’s (November 6) Newspoll in The Australian shows that the ‘gap between Labor and the Coalition is closing’.

The widely accepted analysis of these national polls is that Labor has been ‘catching up’ during the course of the election campaign. From a situation where Howard was considered a shoe-in, the commentariat are now saying that the result is likely to be line-ball.

It’s taken a long time for mainstream commentators, who’ve relied on national opinion polling, to reach a view that should have been apparent very early on.


This conventional analysis is grossly misleading because the national poll is meaningless unless – and this is the critical factor – the distribution of the swing across the 150 electorates is even. Which of course it isn’t. The fact that Labor won almost 52% of the preferred vote last time around, and 46% of the seats is symptomatic of this basic but poorly understood reality.

As such, Labor has always been in the hunt in 2001, because the crux of the issue isn’t about the national vote but the distribution of the swings across the electorates.

My analysis, based on demographic modeling has shown from day one that this election is tight – and will boil down to how effective the two major parties are in winning over the swing voters that matter. And that is those that are disproportionately concentrated in electorates where the number of swing voters is sufficient to cause the seat to change hands. (This is another way of saying that the margin isn’t that important if there aren’t many swing voters in the district.)

So as we enter the last week, the real question to ask is not whether the national two-party preferred vote is converging but how the parties are performing in winning over key demographics.

The dynamics I had sketched out a couple of weeks ago remain dominant:

Labor’s pitch remains strongly focused on low-medium income groups via its GST rollback package, and they’re appealing to the brighter sides of our nature via its fairly minimal redistributive program and environmental policies that stand in stark contrast to the Coalition’s. Labor’s tried to neutralise the One Nation demographic by sidling up to the Coalition on immigration and refugees.


The Coalition is making a two-pronged move on low-income/low education One Nation types through its borderline race campaign, and medium-high income, well educated groups (particularly women within this group) with tightly targeted financial bonuses.

The campaign has as such not really revolved around the dichotomy of global-domestic issues as much as it has on the twin dynamics of quasi-racism and ‘hip pocket’.

Without debating the policy merits of the positions adopted, we are seeing the political consequences of these positions across key ‘switch’ electorates around the country.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Warwick Powell was an advisor to the Queensland Labor Government 1992-1996, and was involved in marginal electorate campaigning. He is now a research consultant in private practice.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Warwick Powell
Related Links
Transpac Consulting
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy