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Labor isn't selling this time

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 17 March 2009

How do you win an election when whatever you say seems to turn voters off? That's a question Anna Bligh has seven days to answer, or be evicted from the executive suite.

We've market-tested the positive and negative ads of the ALP and the Liberal National Party with 665 voters. The results were devastating for the ALP.

It didn't matter which ALP ad voters were shown, twice as many were less likely to vote Labor after viewing compared to more likely: a net movement away in the vicinity of 20 per cent.


By contrast LNP negative ad enhanced the party's vote, with a net positive movement towards it of 17 per cent.

This is good, but as it is less than the movement caused by the ALP ad, this means it is less effective for the LNP than Labor's ad.

Worse for the ALP, among those voters who have already swung from it to the LNP, 70 per cent said the negative ad made them less likely to vote Labor.

So, the more Labor runs it, the more it is likely to confirm the trend of the polls, which show the LNP with 52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Generally, negative ads are much more effective than positive ones at shifting the vote, so let's look at the negative ones first.

Why does the Labor negative bomb and the LNP one fly? The main differences are content and tone.


The Labor ad is yet another rehash of the Whingeing Wendy ad, first seen in 1987. Twenty-two years later Labor is still using the same format, and even if voters weren't born when Wendy made her debut, the genre is as recognisable, and tired, as carpet-warehouse type ads. Subliminally this confirms what voters already think: that Labor has been in power too long.

Added to that, voters have a problem with Bligh's presentation. They see it as too harsh, too shallow and too reactive. What better way to remind them than to feature an ad with a harsh, judgmental protagonist?

The advertisement attacks Lawrence Springborg by portraying him as a hick with no clue about the economy. Voters see this as unfair and exaggerated. They believe Springborg's words are old and taken out of context. It brings out the sympathy vote and underlines other concerns about Labor: that it is a bully, and all spin and no substance.

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First published in The Australian on March 16, 2009.

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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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