January 16, 2004

It's looking more like 2003 than 1995

Our first qualitative research is in, and it suggests that everyone is analyzing this election in terms of the wrong one. While the armchair generals see parallels between this one and the state election of 1995, the closest comparison may well be with the NSW State election of 2003.

In 1995 the Coalition won the election on the back of the protest vote. It was a conscious tactic and it worked beyond our expectations. As Liberal Party Campaign Chairman I was responsible for a large part of the strategy and implementation. We conceived it and convinced the National Party to run with it. It obviously traumatized a generation of Labor politicians.

Watching Kim Landers tonight on State Line it appeared that every Queensland political leader is now pitching for business as a political commentator. Every one of them is conscious of the protest vote and keen to explain how they will win it, or not. Which just goes to show that they don’t really understand it. Protest voters do not reward cynical politicians who set out to manipulate. That’s why so many of them voted for Hanson. Whatever else she was, she was the real deal.

They also won’t reward political parties that don’t appear to come up to the mark – what is termed technically “minimum expectations”.

In the New South Wales 2003 election our research showed the Liberal Party did not reach minimum expectations. They weren’t honest with the electorate, their track record was uneven, the team fractious and no-one expected them to be able to deliver on their promises. They also suffered by being too much like the ALP. As a result the protest vote went to the Greens and Independents, neither of whom really made a pitch for it. Bob Carr was returned with essentially the same majority as previously because the Greens failed to win any seats, although coming close in Port Jackson. The Liberal Party was stationary.

The first indication that this was happening was in our first survey when we found a large Greens vote. Most importantly, roughly half the Greens voters claimed to be traditional Labor voters. Well, guess what? In the first sample from our qualitative polling in the Queensland poll, roughly half the Greens voters claim to be traditional Labor voters, and Greens represent 26% of the total sample. As well, while there is a lot of unease about Peter Beattie and Labor, there appears to be even more unease about Springborg, Quinn and the Coalition.

This is a first take on the research and I’ll go through it thoroughly before posting again, but remember you heard it here first – Greens and Independents have the potential to be the protest vote phenomenon of this election. By talking technicalities the way they are and making themselves look far too knowing, the major parties are helping this phenomenon along. If this election does play out like New South Wales then the result will be closer to status quo than many think.

Posted by Graham at January 16, 2004 10:25 PM
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