Qualitative polling on Victorian election

We conducted qualitative polling of voters in the Victorian election last week. The full report can be downloaded by clicking here.

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, or the Greens to a role in supporting a minority Labor government. There is no enthusiasm for a Labor win, but a major reason stopping the pendulum swinging back to the Liberal Nationals is a lack of enthusiasm for Matthew Guy, the opposition leader.

Our sample was small for this election, largely because of a low response rate from Liberals. When constructing a virtual focus group we need respondents to be close to the proportions that they represent in the community. With only 39 out of 267 respondents being Liberals in the first instance, it meant we had to randomly match them from the rest of the initial group to get the size of the focus group down to 100 (making them 39% of the sample, which is what Newspoll says their first preference vote is).

This is an indictment of Guy. While Liberals are generally under-represented in our initial responses I don’t recall it ever being as low as 15% before.

The result of this is that while only 50% of voters think the government deserves to be re-elected or want it to be, 72% expect that it will be. Which is where the narrow gate opens for the Liberal Nationals, or Greens. There are enough issues where Andrews has annoyed voters – for example crime and safe schools – for voters to want to protest. In inner city seats the Greens are a likely recipient of protest votes, while in outer suburban seats, it is the LNP.

However voters will not use a party for a protest vote, unless they think it is worthy of that protest vote. The Greens regularly score protest voters, but do the Liberals stack up?

While Guy is not well-liked, he is not despised, although he is suspected. He has a reputation for shadiness, earned through the controversial rezoning of Fishermans Bend he approved as planning minister in the previous Liberal government; and a celebrated fundraising lunch he attended along with an alleged crime figure. But Daniels also looks shady. The Red Shirt affair, where Labor used government resources for campaigning, and now refuses to cooperate with the investigators, is a low point in state governance. And there is his perceived pandering to the unions. So in terms of character they are more or less even.

But the Liberals have a performance deficit against Labor. When respondents were asked whether the Opposition had done enough to deserve to win government, only 29% agreed. Crucially around one-fifth of Liberal voters didn’t think the opposition deserves to win.

In terms of protest votes this isn’t fatal, because the aim of a protestor is to change the behaviour of the party they believe will be elected by voting for the party they believe won’t be. It’s a little counterintuitive, but lacklustre performance by Oppositions can help them to win in these circumstances, as long as it’s not too lacklustre.

While the Liberals are distinguishing themselves from Labor on crime, environmental and sustainability issues are playing a large part in this election. Climate change is a big issue, along with urban congestion. Both issues find expression through the centre-piece transport infrastructure projects of both sides. The Suburban Train Loop of Daniel Andrews, with a completion date in 2050, which will move people around the outskirts of Melbourne, versus the East West and North East road tunnels to be completed sooner, that will move cars around the outskirts of Melbourne.

There are also cultural issues bubbling under the surface – mainly union links and suspicions of social engineering. These may have more effect in outer suburban and regional seats, than in the inner city, and they are a driver of the One Nation vote, which is unusually high for Victoria.

With so much disillusion with the major parties it is theoretically possible that minor parties and independents will do well. This didn’t show up in our sample, with a number of respondents expressing a preference for parties that can actually implement their own agenda.

Specific findings are:

  1. Sample is split almost equally between those who think the state is heading in the right direction (48%) and those who don’t (42%). This more or less mirrors the two-party preferred vote in our sample.
  2. Andrews has a neutral approval rating of -1% (44% +ve and 44% -ve)
  3. Guy has a heavily negative approval rating of -24% (28% against 52%)
  4. The biggest difference in approval ratings is that 44% of ALP voters strongly approve of Daniels, while 39% approve, making a total of 83% who approve to some degree. Only 8% of Liberal voters strongly approve of Guy while 49% approve – a total of 57%. After 4 years in the job Guy has failed to bring the base along with him, and has some personal baggage.
  5. Preferred Premier comes down to 55% Andrews to 45% Guy, not much different from the latest 2PP vote.
  6. The government just barely wins the argument that it deserves to be re-elected (50% in favour and 42% against) and with 8% undecided the opposition has some room to improve, except that only 29% think the opposition has done enough to deserve to be the government, and 55% disagree (including 18 per cent of Liberal voters).
  7. Overwhelmingly voters expect Labor to win with 74% choosing them versus 15% the Coalition. 58% of Liberals think Labor will win.
  8. But only 50% of voters want Labor to win, compared to 46% who want the Liberals.
  9. The Suburban Loop is a bigger vote winner than the East West Link combined with the North East Link and removal of 55 intersections. A net 19% of voters said they were more likely to vote for Labor because of the Loop, while East West etc resulted in only a 4% increase in the Coalition voting intention.
  10. The Liberal decision not to run in Richmond is opposed by both Labor and Liberal voters. Unsurprisingly Greens think it is a good idea.

The full report can be downloaded by clicking here.