August 26, 2006

First Focus Group

We held our first focus group on Wednesday night. You can download the file by clicking here.

I haven't done a full analysis yet, but some things stand out.

There are two gorillas standing in the room that no-one is talking about. One is the Federal Government's IR laws. A number of our participants mentioned them, and one in particular seemed particularly obsessed. The other is population growth. Many, if not all, of our participants saw increase in the size of our population as being the root cause of the health and water problems that we face.

Both these issues work in Beattie's favour. Voters see a need to have a state government that will stand up to the federal government. They also don't blame the state government for the infrastructure problems, but rather wring their hands at the size of interstate migration.

All of our participants were analysing the election in terms of leadership. This represents a failure of the Coalition. If their leadership team was widely regarded as more commanding than Labor's then an election held on leadership would be what they wanted. As this does not appear to be the case, they should have been running on different grounds. While participants were annoyed at Beattie, there did not appear to be a high level of anger, suggesting that merely criticising Labor is ineffective as a tactic.

What did get some support, but which we did not explore, was the proposition that a large majority for Beattie was a bad thing. If the Coalition was running on the basis of wanting to win seats to provide Beattie with a more effective opposition, then they could well be in a better position than they are now.

Beattie, by contrast, is running the near perfect campaign. It might be slick and plastic, but voters like the idea that he is trying hard, and they are diverted from his faults by the bloopers of the coalition campaign.

Posted by Graham at August 26, 2006 04:57 AM

Why have people forgotten about the Labour goverment stopping the Wolfdene Dam, when we first came to Queensland the Nationals were in power, we bought our land at Jimboomba, built a home knowing the Dam was going to be built nearby and there would be plenty of water for the fast growing population, then the Labour goverment came to power,promise the dam would be squashed, where is the sense in this.
People have short memories.

Posted by: Helen McMillan at September 9, 2006 08:23 AM

Will I swing and send a message to the Beattie Government? I have that choice thrust upon me because I am in the Noosa electorate.

I agree that there is a central issue that emanates from the federal sphere which must affect the State vote: that is the need to protect as many workers as possible from the Howard Government IR laws. The Liberal-National Coalition has stripped away those rights the international community has held up for two generations as fundamental rights at work in a democracy. This will be the key for whom I cast my vote. A vote for the Opposition is a vote for federal laws that encourage workplace autocracy, worker dis-empowerment, and exploitation. Springborg grandstanded about States rights in the IR debate, but he gives no undertakings to protect the rights of Queensland workers consistent with international conventions on labour standards.

While the Beattie Government has badly handled the water issue (Traveston Crossing dam would be better named Travesty Dam) the Government at least has a comprehensive vision for the State. When you look for one from the minority parties that make up the Opposition you find policy potshots instead of the long term view necessary to take Queensland forward.

The Health crisis did not emerge overnight. It developed despite, rather than because of, the Beattie Government. The roots of it rest in the Borbidge era. The Borbidge National Party Government did not do enough to develop the infrastructure necessary for the rapidly increasing population that hit Queensland throughout the 1990s: it did not do enough to ensure that the health system kept up with the additional demands placed on it by a burgeoning population in the South-East corner of the State - a significant percentage of whom were either young families or older couples, both demographics placing high demands on the health system.

I am not impressed about arguments that attack Beattie's style. Nor am I impressed about attacks on Labor Government failings, the seeds of which rest in the parochial torpidity of earlier Queensland Governments. And I am wary of single issue candidates, no matter that they might previously have been a party representative.

Posted by: Jim McDonald at August 31, 2006 10:57 AM

Jonh, you don't necessarily want completely uncommitted voters, because they often don't know what they think. You want someone with an opinion.

When you look at the transcript we had one obsessed with IR and one or two others who would agree it was an issue. That's a reasonable number out of a group of eight.

The next group is much more Liberal, so will be interesting to see what they say in contrast. Next week we're trying for a mixed group.

Posted by: Graham Young at August 29, 2006 03:30 PM

I see what you mean when you say that it is hard to find true swinging voters. These lines hardly appear to come from a swinger;

"The Greens are actually showing strong vision in my electorate and I support their platform of investing in sustainable development, clean energy, public transport and a focus on sustainability."

"Water, Roads, wine bottles on planes, health minister telling lies, legalising lying in parliament and so on"

"I won't be changing my vote unless Howard somehow get's kicked out and everyone has a laugh saying 'those IR laws? We were only kidding'...small business won't be happy when workers stop spending money because their jobs are on the line"

I wonder how if your polling showed IR to be an issue at all but one group member looks to be obsessed with it. Maybe ABC listeners aren't the type to be undecided or swinging voters.

Posted by: Jonh at August 29, 2006 03:09 PM

We tried to get people who were swinging one way or the other. But as always, some people are more committed than you think.

Posted by: Graham Young at August 26, 2006 10:21 AM

Graham, I have just ploughed through the transcript. In many wats it provides insights into how effective some political messages have been.

How were these people chosen?

Posted by: wpd at August 26, 2006 08:37 AM
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Graham Young
John Black
Mark Bahnisch
Michael Lee