A Rudd-slide in the wrong direction

Polling data collected exclusively for Business Spectator shows which streets and issues will decide the election... and the results to date are tighter for Kevin Rudd than was thought.

Things look more grim in the Rudd bunker by the day. Not only have the polls slipped, but Labor is millions of dollars behind the Coalition in campaign funds due to the donation drought that set in under Julia Gillard’s reign.

On top of that, there seems little need for the Labor side of politics to leak against its leader in the way he is believed to have done against Julia Gillard – left-leaning voices are happy to shout his list of failings from the rooftops.

For example, ACTU official Kevin Morgan is out today, not for the first time, arguing that the national broadband network is a monumental stuff-up, and it’s all Kevin Rudd’s fault.

So with voters switching off and little money left to pursue them, Rudd’s strategists will need to target their efforts extremely carefully to be in with a cat’s chance in hell of winning or, more likely, retaining influence in the Senate and a decent number of lower house MPs.

But where should he spend his money? Conventional party strategists think they know, but new research conducted exclusively for Business Spectator is likely to give them pause for thought.

First the top-line result.

The election will be a landslide, with a 3.8 per cent swing to Abbott meaning 90 seats going to the Coalition and 60 seats to Labor – that’s according to a new national survey co-ordinated by Torque Data, and based on extensive data sets compiled by its partners RDA Research and Australia Online Research.

That’s a bleaker picture than most pollsters have forecast to date.

In fact, it is specifically the kind of election result Rudd was drafted in by his cynical colleagues to avoid. The same MPs who were happy to demonise Rudd early in the Gillard years went to water when something like a 90/60 seat apocalypse seemed to be on its way.

But the Torque survey says they’ll get it anyway.

To understand this picture, the firm’s methodology needs a bit of explaining. Torque normally specialises in market research for major retailers. If a supermarket wants to know where its customers are travelling from, their ethnicity, socio-economic status, hobbies, tastes or beliefs, the firm produces highly granular survey data that can identify even particular streets of interest with a retailer’s catchment.

For this election, the firm has applied a similar process to polling booths. Based on the swings of the 2010 election, and individual polling booth date released by the Australian Electoral Commission, it estimates that just 4.3 per cent of Australians will determine this election result.

That figure can be refined further. Just what constitutes a marginal seat is changing rapidly. As noted previously, for instance, Bill Shorten’s seat of Maribyrnong was reportedly ‘in play’ according to his own internal polling (Has Rudd walked into an almighty trap? June 28)

So Torque is now working on a new list of ‘marginal’ seats, just as Labor and Coalition strategists will also be doing. 

But Torque’s strength is greatest at street level, with panel-style surveys designed to find out where consumers live who might want to buy a particular line of groceries – let’s say a packet of quick-acting Abbott’s Suppositories of Wisdom, or a six-pack of Recycled Rudd Toilet Tissue.

Through detailed surveys of 1000 voters, half inside marginal seats and half outside, the company began its analysis with a full list of 58 household types supplied by RDA Research, and narrowed them down to just 11 household types surrounding marginal booths – most electorates have booths that always produce either a Labor or Coalition result, with swing voters being found in small pockets within the electorate.

Those 11 types of household, and their preoccupations at this election, are illustrated in the first image below.

Below that is the full picture of where these groups fit into the 58-group breakdown. Unsurprisingly they are clustered in the ‘suburban’ categories and ‘mid’ and ‘low’ socio-economic groups.

What is surprising is that nearly all of the 11 election-swinging groups see ‘education’ as more important than ‘border security’ or ‘carbon tax’ – the two issues that have dominated newspaper front pages in past months, and right through the Gillard years.

As the election campaign hots up, Business Spectator and Torque Data will be drilling down into the ‘marginal’ and ‘new marginal’ seats to find out not only the booths that both sides should be targeting, but literally which streets they should be unleashing their door-knockers on to produce the best results.

And remember, the 90/60 breakdown of seats is how things stand right now – more gaffes from Tony Abbott, a sudden financial shock, or something like the Tampa events of 2001 can turn all of this on its head.

In the meantime, Kevin Rudd is on the back foot, Abbott is advancing day by day, and for the Australian economy and people the stakes have rarely been as high.

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