February 01, 2004

Are those negative ads working?

Today’s Sunday Mail has Beattie’s approval rating dropping, but Labor still winning in a landslide. That mirrors the result in our own research . I decided that our sample was particularly unrepresentative when it showed Beattie with a –3% favourability ratio. I still think that is the case, but the move in our sample is in line with what The Sunday Mail has picked up.

Does this mean the Coalition’s negative advertising has worked, despite my criticism of it as dumb? Not really. Beattie’s approval rating has dropped, but it hasn’t been a benefit to the Opposition. According to The Sunday Mail Beattie is still on 58% of the two party preferred vote which is only a 2% swing away from his position at the last election.

Our research shows that while voters are not happy with Peter Beattie they are not switching across to the Opposition but going for third party candidates and Independents. I had face-to-face confirmation of that trend this morning when I almost literally bumped into an old school mate. He told me that he couldn’t vote Labor and he couldn’t vote Coalition and that as we had an Independent running in our electorate he’d be voting for him. This friend is an urban professional who normally votes Labor and did toy with the idea of voting for me when I ran as a Liberal Candidate in 1992, but ultimately didn’t. His mother tends to vote Liberal, but probably came there via the DLP route, as a lot of Irish Catholics did. He is the quintessential citizen that the Liberal Party needs to win over to do well in Brisbane. Our seat of Greenslopes, which has a high concentration of Catholics and renovated houses, is one that was crucial to the Coalition win in 1995.

I saw another of the Coalition’s “Re-Pete” ads this evening. It showed a whole pyramid of TVs being junked, the message being that if you don’t want any more repeats you have to vote Coalition. This is off message because of the personal attack. It is also off message because it is telling voters to fix the problem by voting the government out. If the Coalition is serious about winning a protest vote then the message has to be not to vote the government out, but to discipline the government by voting against it, an entirely different message.

The Sunday Mail also blamed Springborg’s beefcake photo for problems he was experiencing with the female vote aged between 18 and 40. Yes, well we already knew about that from the focus groups. The negative comments were all from women in the 31 to 40 age group, once again demonstrating the benefits of the sort of research that we are conducting.

Other remarks from the Sunday Mail pollster were well off the mark. According to the pollster the protest vote was over-rated because only 2 out of 10 voters would consider lodging a protest vote. Does anyone in that operation do even simple mathematics? That’s 20% and Beattie has a margin of 16%. If they did their polling properly, then most of that 20% would have indicated a leaning and be counted in the vote. As an 8% swing away from Beattie’s poll figure would unseat him then there are enough people in the potential protest vote figure to make the difference.

I don’t believe that the protest vote will make the difference for reasons that have nothing to do with the potential size of it, but a 20% potential protest vote is huge. With a different Opposition Leader and a different pitch it could really have made a huge difference to this election result.

The Sunday Mail also let Beattie could away with a whopper.

“Mr Beattie said Labor would not sit back over the next six days and assume it would win. ‘A lot of people will Vote 1, which means it will be a closer contest,’ he said.”

That makes it sound as though Voting 1 is something Beattie doesn’t approve of. In fact it is a part of the government’s strategy and they have been spending money broadcasting advertisements to get voters to do just that. It's that sort of smarminess that is doing the damage to Beattie's approval rating but still returning an extraordinarily good result in the polls.

Posted by Graham at February 1, 2004 11:03 PM
Graham Young
John Black
Mark Bahnisch
Michael Lee