Galaxy 52-48 but a pox on both your houses

Possum reports on the first poll released during the election campaign – Galaxy, which comes in with essentially the same numbers as last time, bar a drop in The Greens’ primary vote to 13%, with the one point lost going to “Others”.

Labor is on a primary of 39%, the Coalition on 42%, with a two party preferred advantage to Labor of 52-48.

As Possum suggests, what’s more interesting than this status quo result is the lack of enthusiasm respondents are showing about the choice on offer. That goes beyond the fact that 19% of voters are indicating a first preference intention for minor parties.

Possum rightly highlights a question asking respondents if the two major parties “deserve to win”. 52% don’t think Labor does, and 62% don’t think the Liberals do.

He draws some parallels with the 2009 Queensland election, which saw a similar level of disillusionment with both government and opposition.

He believes that this indicator shows an advantage for the government in terms of the incumbency factor.

However, the Queensland campaign might bear another cautionary tale for the ALP. Anna Bligh presented a positive message, in the middle of the GFC, that her administration would focus on infrastructure and jobs, and give ratings agencies the finger. It was an effective rebuttal of the debt and deficit message – the very same theme which will be trumpeted endlessly by Tony Abbott and his crew. It was also a negative message – unlike the LNP, the ALP would eschew privatisation, cutbacks and public sector redundancies.

To my mind, the positive themes were a necessary condition for the win – a large amount of hesitation about a Springborg government wasn’t enough, in and of itself, to get Labor over the line.

But what happened afterwards is important. Labor reversed track on its election promises, essentially adopting the opposition’s platform, or rather what they claimed the opposition would do as part of their negative campaign. Public support for the ALP, and trust in Anna Bligh, collapsed irrevocably, and has never looked like coming back.

As I’ve commented before, the events of this federal parliamentary term have been politics at the speed of light. We seem to have gone through what would normally play out over 2 or 3 terms. We’ve had 4 Liberal leaders in 3 years, and 2 Labor Prime Ministers. A successful challenge to an incumbent Prime Minister took Julia Gillard less than 24 hours, whereas Paul Keating needed nearly a year to remove Bob Hawke.

Labor will have a positive theme in this year’s federal campaign – focusing on economic management, sustainability and “working together”, as I remarked yesterday.

The message for the ALP federally in 2010 is that, absent strong differentiation on policy (and Bernard Keane agrees with me that both parties are trying to steal each others’ clothes), and absent a strong sense of change and hope, then a win may not guarantee continuing electoral health.

That also has an implication for how strong a sense of forward movement might be generated, and thus whether or not significant reform – for instance, in the area of climate change, which is likely to be downplayed during this campaign – will “move forward” in the next parliamentary term.

Elsewhere: Peter Brent.

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Posted in elections
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