No party winners in this Queensland election

There will be no party winners in the current Queensland election.

Given the talent on offer, that’s also what most voters are expecting, based on our virtual focus group of 311 Queenslanders who completed a 15 minute qualitative online survey between November 3 and 6. (For detailed results click here).

It’s a product of leaders past and present, an incompetent Labor campaign and an effective Greens one, and macro themes running through politics around the globe.

52% of our sample expects a hung parliament. The only group that disagrees is Labor voters, with 46% of them expecting an ALP win versus 43% for a hung parliament – hardly optimistic.

This isn’t what voters want – 41% want an ALP win, 39% an LNP one, and only 17% a hung parliament.

While minor party voters are most likely to want a hung parliament, large percentages of them also want one of the majors to win. This underlines one of the features of the minor party vote – for many, if not most, it is a vote for protest, not for government.

Most voters (53%) don’t think the government deserves to be re-elected, while only 37% think they do. The position is worse for the opposition with 56% thinking they don’t deserve to be elected, while only 23% think they do.

Tellingly only 50% of LNP voters believe their own party deserves election, while 16% don’t, and another 34% are neutral.

Labor has had a shambolic campaign, which in some ways encapsulates the record of its government.

It is seen as tentative and tricky, making a mockery of its claim that it can deliver stable government. Nothing sums this up better than the Adani issue.

This is the issue chosen by the Greens with their slogan being “Greens First: Adani Last”. It works to the Greens’ advantage in the seats where they are competitive – South Brisbane, Maiwar and McConnell – and is poison for the ALP in the regional seats where One Nation is strongest – anything Caboolture north and west, and Mt Ommaney west and south.

When inner city voters hear Adani they hear climate change. When rural and regional voters hear it, they hear jobs.

Our qualitative feedback is littered with mention of Adani from all quarters. And it came to prominence when the premier revealed a claimed conflict of interest because her partner has worked for Pricewaterhouse Coopers on Adani projects.

The move was viewed as cynical, not principled, and both Green/Left and pro-mining voters were alienated. Adani figured heavily in hesitations when thinking of voting for Palaszczuk, along with issues of who controls the ALP – Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, unions, or the premier – unemployment, and economic management. Adani neatly knits all the doubts together.

Which is unfortunate for the premier, because it puts her on the wrong side of key economic issues in an election that for some was to be all about jobs and where her opponent has a hefty handicap.

That handicap is Campbell Newman. While Newman has been gone 33 months, one of Nicholls two biggest weaknesses is that not only was he part of the Newman government, but he was seen as being the right hand man who “slashed” jobs and spending.

The LNP has been running advertisements apologising for the Newman government, but the electorate is withholding absolution. Perhaps they need to hear the word “sorry” more frequently from Tim Nicholls, or perhaps there is nothing he can do.

The raw issues this election don’t favour Labor, with cost of living, electricity and infrastructure, key issues with our respondents. Adani is the key Greens issue, but of the issues that usually work well for Labor – health and education – only education makes an appearance, and only for already committed Labor voters.

Newman is the first of a trio of politicians who are influencing the result, but who aren’t actually running for election. The others are Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull.

While Palaszczuk is wedged by Adani, Nicholls is wedged by One Nation and how the LNP will preference. When he states a willingness to form a minority government with One Nation cross-bench support, Nicholls alienates most ALP and Greens voters. However, most Liberals are reasonably relaxed about it, meaning the decimation in the coalition vote that occurred in 1998 will probably not occur again this time, even in the cities.

One Nation is also viewed suspiciously, even by those voting for it, because its real leader, Hanson, is not running for state parliament, and it has a record of defections once elected.

Which is where Malcolm Turnbull comes in. One Nation’s support has been swelled by the decline in the Liberal Party vote, and this has been driven by cultural concerns. These voters are conservatives, not “moderates”, and they are uncomfortable with a party that is too “centrist”.

Where once the National Party might have been home, their only mainstream major party option is now formally part of the federal Liberal Party. One Nation is a beneficiary, and I think this partly explains the spread of One Nation’s vote into the cities, capturing more women, as well as younger voters.

Which is where the macro themes arrive. This is an election for outsiders and insiders, north and south, country and town, older and younger, experienced and educated, nationalists and cosmopolitans.

Voters are looking for an authentic voice, but they aren’t hearing it from any, apart from Hanson, and there they have doubts. Which means it will be an election for strong local candidates, who have a brand beyond that of their party.

Expect a volatile, inconclusive result.