NSW election 2023 Survey 1

Voters are unenthusiastic about the choice between the government and the opposition and moderately unenthusiastic about the direction of the state. Cost of living is the major issue, which includes housing affordability and the cost of electricity.

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Our panel rates Chris Minns ahead of Dominic Perrottet, but while Perrottet has a net negative approval of -9%, and Minns has a net positive approval of +22%, the actual number approving of Minns is less than 50% at 41%, while Perrottet’s approval is 37%. The big difference between the two is that most voters are either neutral, or haven’t formed an opinion of Minns. So the approval ratings measure anonymity and inoffensiveness for Minns, rather than approval per se.

Minns is preferred as premier over Perrottet, but again this is a weak result for both. When asked whether the government deserves to be re-elected, 29% agree it does, while 55% disagree. The equivalent question for the opposition yields only 33% who agree it deserves to win, and 37% disagree.

Only 47% of voters hope Labor will win, versus 37% who hope the Coalition. Expectations are significantly lower with 39% expecting Labor to win and 22% expecting the Coalition.

The major issues are housing affordability, climate change, infrastructure, funding of schools and hospitals, energy and gaming. Corruption is also a concern, although it doesn’t tend to favour one party or the other as memories are still fairly fresh of Labor’s last term in office. Still John Barrilaro is a significant negative for the government.

Labor has run against privatisation, an issue where the horse has largely bolted due to the Coalition having privatised over $55 billion. But it gives them a reason to blame the Coalition for a high cost of living. The fruits of the privatisation has been a huge investment in infrastructure. This has positives and negatives. New infrastructure is contrasted with aging, poorly maintained infrastructure, and voters from the regions think too much is being spent in Sydney.

Dominic Perrottet is also rewarded for his policy on gaming, and there are some negative comments about Minns failure to match it.

In terms of the personalities of the two leaders, Minns is an unknown, and some of his supporters fret about this. Perrottet has relieved some voters who were concerned about his conservative Catholicism, but confused others who are not sure what he stands for anymore.

The two issues that were most confusing were his decision to fly the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and his strong position on renewable energy (driven according to some voters by his deputy Matt Kean).

One factor that might confound predictions is the role of optional preferential voting. Preferences could be crucial to both sides in a number of seats. Left wing minor party voters are more likely to allocate preferences than right wing ones. This could flip more seats than would be the case with compulsory preferential. It might also help One Nation in some of the lower house seats it is contesting.

We don’t think expectations will play a large part in this election. Voters know how they are going to vote and are not driven to protest against the party they want to win. But with such a lack of enthusiasm we would expect swings to be highly variable between seats, depending on local issues and candidates.

  1. 49% thinks the state is heading in the wrong direction, compared to 34% that thinks it is heading in the wrong direction. Coalition voters are strongest in believing the direction is right (83%), while Greens (82%) and ALP (83%) believe it is wrong. 78% of Other think the direction is wrong and 66% of Independents. Nationalists are mostly unconvinced with 36% saying it is heading in the wrong direction, but 55% neutral on the question.
  2. NSW has optional preferential. This will probably favour the ALP because only 18% of Greens plan to either just vote one or exhaust before allocating to a major, while this figure is 53% for Independents, 55% for Nationalists, and 33% for others.
  3. There is less churn in the ALP vote than the Coalition with 68% of those who voted Labor last time saying they will vote Labor this time, with defectors going to Greens (16%) and Ind (11%). The Coalition has only retained 58% of its voters from last time with the defectors going ALP (17%), Independent (10%) and Nationalist (13%). Greens have retained only 53% of last time voters, with the defectors going ALP (30%) and Independent (14%).
  4. In contrast to other polls, Dominic Perrottet has a small net negative approval rating of -9% (37% approve/46% disapprove). Approval comes from the Liberals (75% net), with the Nationalists, whose preferences he relies upon being -18% net. He has some minor appeal to Labor voters with -59% net, but no sympathy at all from Greens voters (-87%). Independents (-42%) and Others (-44%) have some comparative tolerance for him.
  5. Chris Minns has a reasonable approval of +22% net. However, his absolute approval is less than 50% at 41%. ALP supporters are moderately favourable (66%), but Greens (13%), Independents (11%) and Others (11%) are barely moved, and Liberals (-8%) find it hard to hate him.
  6. Chris Minns is preferred as Premier to Perrottet by 51% to 41%. He is backed by Greens, Independents and Others. Perrottet only finds backing over 50% from the Coalition (92%) and Nationalists (68%).
  7. Most (55%) disagree the government has done enough to be returned versus 29% who do. Better for the Opposition with only 33% agreeing it deserves to win and 37% disagreeing, but still summing to a negative net figure. Most significant group is Nationalists of whom 18% believe the government has done enough against 32% who disagree (net -14%), but where only 5% believe the opposition has done enough to win versus 73% who disagree (-68%). This is the strongest group against the Opposition, including the Coalition, who are -53% against the Opposition having done enough to win.
  8. There is an expectation that Labor will win (39%), which is less than those who hope Labor will win (47%) indicating some nervousness. Relevant figures for the Coalition are 22% and 37%. Independents (53%) and Nationalists (45%) expect a hung parliament, although Independents are voting for it, with 53% wanting a hung parliament, while only 27% of Nationalists do, with 55% preferring the Coalition.
  9. Top issues in order were housing, climate change, education, infrastructure, gambling, schools electricity.