At a Glance
As they say, ‘the trend is your friend’ and with the latest Newspoll showing Labor leading the Government by 53 to 47, on a two-party preferred basis, this poll is the 16th one in a row showing Labor in the lead.
In the last few weeks I’ve often been asked…. “why is Labor leading when their primary vote is still low and Bill Shorten continues to lag Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister?”
The answer is, it all comes down to minor party preferences. That is why we see Labor in front in the polls.
So, what is going on?
Political Disruption is the New Norm
There is no doubt that the Australian electorate is basically sick and tired of politics as usual and people are increasingly rejecting both major political parties.
The latest Newspoll has the Greens on 9%, One Nation on 9% and ‘others’ on 9%. So more than 1 in 4 Australians are basically voting for anybody other than Labor or Liberal.
We see Labors primary vote at 37% and the Liberals at 36%.
Traditionally, Labor receives strong support via Greens preferences, however unusually, Labor is getting strong support from parties on the right such as One Nation, to put it in front of the Government.
What is happening on the right of Australian politics is a phenomenon that the left went through many years ago. It resulted in a permanent cannibalisation of Labors left wing vote and the rise of the Greens.
The Greens now consistently poll around 10% of the Federal vote, votes that traditionally would have been received by Labor.
This institutionalised Green vote also sees on average 70% flow back to the ALP via preferences and in some cases, it can be around 80% depending upon the federal seat.
Currently on the right this same process of cannibalisation is taking place.
It is a process in transition and therefore many right-wing votes that would traditionally be the home of the Liberal party, are leaking to the ALP via preferences.
With One Nation currently capturing a large chunk of traditional liberal party voters and other parties like Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives and David Leyonhjelms Liberal Democrat Party, eating away at the Liberal Party base, the Liberal Party vote has falling from 42% at the last federal election to its current 36%.
This has become as problem for the Government.
It is yet to become an institutionalised block of voters on the right of the political spectrum, therefore the Coalition are seeing multiple parties vying for their supporters with a sufficient number of these votes leaking to the ALP giving them a lead in the polls.
The Point in Question
The Queensland Federal seat of Herbert stands as a good example of this phenomenon.
At the 2016 election, Labor won the seat by 37 votes with only 30.5% of the primary vote versus the sitting Liberal member who polled 35.5% of the primary vote.
Labor won, because they did exceptionally well with Green preferences as would be expected, but also because of right wing preferences.
Labor received 65% of Green preferences to the Liberals 12%, and the remainder went to other minor parties. When One Nation preferences were distributed (representing a total of 21% of votes cast), Labor secured 53% versus 47% for the Liberals.
All in all, this is problematic for the Government. For while Labor on the left, will always receive a block of preferences from the Greens, on the right, that vote is fragmenting across multiple right-wing parties and not flowing back to the Government sufficiently in preferences.
What Does this mean for the Coalition?
Currently One Nation is the main beneficiary of the drop-in support for the Government.
This does not mean that all of One Nations support has come from the Liberal Party, it is eating into Labors vote as well, but not to the same degree.
But unlike for the ALP where the Greens have become institutionalised on the left of the political spectrum, on the right of the political spectrum it is still in a state of flux.
There are many minor parties competing to become the institutionalised party on the right of the political spectrum.
For the Coalition, this means until a party emerges on the right to solidify and capture permanently that element of right wing voters who want another political home other than the Liberal Party – it will most likely continue to struggle in the polls.
This is the challenge for the Government. If it can’t get those right-wing voters back to directly supporting the Coalition, how does it get them back via preferences, like Labor does via the Greens to bolster its overall vote?
Now, those voters supporting right wing minor parties, led currently by One Nation, are effectively spraying their preferences, which is why Labor is ahead in the polls, despite Malcolm Turnbulls’ consistent lead over Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister.
The Liberal party primary vote is depressed because a plethora of right wing minor parties are eating away at the Liberal party vote.
These right wing minor parties are all seeking to claim the mantle as being the true representative of conservative voters in Australia. At a minimum, they are giving disgruntled traditional Coalition voters, a multitude of choices of where they can now park their vote.
In do so, with multiple choices, it also gives multiple opportunities for a sufficient number of these votes to leak to the ALP and put them in front.
Until a party on the right emerges like the Greens did on the left, to capture and institutionalise right wing voters which can then be directed back to the Liberal party via preferences, the Coalitions overall two-party preferred vote will continue to struggle.
For more information, in regard to this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at www.insightstrategy.com.au
Image credit: Herald Sun