This survey was designed to capture what people were thinking about the time they were casting their vote. We leave the survey open for the day of the election, plus two days afterwards. This is to try to shield responses from the various justifications that will be paraded in the media by interested parties after the election.
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In addition to our normal quantitative and qualitative analysis looking at the whole sample, we have done some additional analysis on voters whose preference changed from last election to this, or from their traditional voting habits, and where they have moved from left to right, or vice-versa.
What is clear is that by the end of the election, COVID-19 and the government’s handling of it was the major issue for people changing their votes, as it was for Labor voters overall. However, this was not the case early-on in the campaign when a wide range of issues including the economy, and problems with the government, figured prominently, and COVID hardly at all. This points to successful messaging by the government cementing this as the issue.
While media reports claimed that Labor achieved a swing of 5.9% to it our two-party preferred analysis shows that it was in reality approximately only 2%. Labor started the campaign with a two-party preferred vote of 51.30%, and at the election it achieved 53.34%. This is a solid result, but well behind others like Peter Beattie’s 2001, or Campbell Newman’s 2012 results, so not a landslide.
Swinging voters were looking at issues past COVID in our first survey, but by the second survey (just before the last week of the campaign) and the exit survey, COVID had become a dominant narrative. Initial reasons for voting against the government were that they hadn’t done enough and we needed a change, but these were weakly held.
By the end of the campaign impressions of Frecklington hadn’t substantially moved, with a similar approve/disapprove ratio at the end as at the beginning, despite some respondents saying she had improved during the campaign. However, approval of Palaszczuk had improved substantially. This was also reflected in the preferred premier figures.
While some election commentary said that promised euthanasia legislation had worked to the premier’s advantage, there was little evidence of this in our sample, although there was some concern about the influence of evangelicals on the LNP. However, there were more who found Labor’s positions on abortion and euthanasia abhorrent, and stated that as a reason for deciding, than they were on the other side of the argument.
Weaknesses for Labor were environmental on the left, and being not close enough to, or interested in, working people and too close to the unions on the right. Weaknesses for the LNP were to be seen to be inconsistent, and wrong, on managing COVID, as well as corrupt, disunited, and less competent all around. The LNP track record in government was also a problem with Campbell Newman frequently mentioned.
By election day the desire for change noted in our first study of this election had completely evaporated.
The challenge for the LNP will be to change perceptions significantly before the next election, due in 4 years’ time. Debt and surpluses seem to be much less important than they were. This means Labor can spend without fear of electoral backlash. As COVID will be around for the near future, at least, it is also hard to see how they will find clear air for their message.
The challenge for Labor is much easier. Spending will be relatively unrestrained, so there will be government programs that promise good living standards to workers. However, they have to manage a situation where they are attacked from the left and the right. They are also heavily reliant on Annastacia Palaszczuk and her reputation. If something happened to her, or she retired, the game would be quite different.