Headlines about Labor’s electoral prospects in recent days have been grim – including here at Business Spectator. However a number of sources, and some media commentators, are suggesting this is overdone. There are even a few brave optimists who think Labor can still win.
Let’s start with the polling. Monday’s disastrous Newspoll, showing Labor on a 34 per cent primary vote, was contradicted yesterday by the Essential Poll showing a 40 per cent primary vote.
How can two polls get such different results? Key differences are the timing of the poll (what difference, for example, did Abbott’s “sex appeal” remark make to voters?), the margins of error (in theory, one could be 2 points out on the upside, the other 2 points on the downside) and the two-week averaging process that Essential uses to smooth the data over time.
Nonetheless, next week’s comparison between these two polls will be very interesting. Those margins of error could work in the opposite direction, and a Labor vote that is appearing to tick up at Essential could be ticking down again.
One voter on the campaign trail this week told Rudd not to worry about polls, because real Labor voters don’t take part in automated phone polls in the evenings because “we’ve having our ‘tea’– we don’t call it dinner”.
How reassuring. Actually, all pollsters have means of correcting their data sets to be more representative of the voters on the ground, and automated polls can be corrected for the ‘tea’ factor. (Come to think of it, somebody should represent all those hidden voters ... we could call it the ‘Tea Party’).
This week’s research conducted for Business Spectator by data analytics firm Torque Data, drills down into the marginal seat of Lindsay, currently held by assistant treasurer David Bradbury on a margin of 1.12 per cent.
Lindsay has made the news as being the site of Abbott’s pronouncement that Liberal candidate Fiona Scott has “dare I say it ... sex appeal”. (Not the smartest thing to say, but the media outrage it provoked was, dare I say it, a storm in a D-cup).
Lindsay has been pretty much written off for Labor, with one poll conducted by the Guardian Australia showing a 60 per cent primary vote going to Scott.
However there are glimmers of hope in Torque’s analysis, which is based on demographic profiles supplied by RDA Research and new polling by Australia Online Research.
In essence, Labor needs to target ‘swing booths’ within the western Sydney electorate, with a message the families who live close to those booths can digest.
Linsday is around 50km west of the Sydney CBD and extends into a semi-rural fringe, and is less multicultural than other western Sydney seats. As the image below shows, Torque has identified one of the key groups around swing booths in this area as “established mid-statue suburban”. They make up 30.6 per cent of households within the catchment areas of the marginal polling booths.
According to Torque Data chief executive Oliver Rees, the ‘established mid-status suburban’ types in Lindsay share several characteristics:
– They overrepresent in the mid to lower socio economics (SES D and E)
– They tend to be technical and trade workers
– They are likely to have a mortgage of over the national average (with a higher than average debt service ratio)
– They are less likely to go on overseas holidays (than the national average)
– They probably own two cars
– They live in three bedroom houses.
“These people feel rich right now, but they have low levels of confidence that they’ll be that way in a year’s time,” says Rees. “We see this in market research for life-insurance companies. While a tradie, say, is earning a lot, they like to buy products such as life insurance, but there is a high churn in the first year if that income dries up.”
The families in this group are aspirational, but they are saving for a new XR6, not a Porsche (if you don't know what an XR6 is, you don't live in Lindsay). They will have two cars in their driveways, and are heavily dependent on them for getting to work – which is far away, or involves taking tools or other equipment with them.
Abbott has appealed to this group with multiple promises to fund major road projects to get them to work. Rudd has tried to appeal to them by promising to keep Aussie auto manufacturing alive (they are passionate about Fords and Holdens above all else), and most would not be directly affected by the collapse of salary-packaging of new cars, brought about by Rudd’s tax change.
Torque’s map of Lindsay, below, shows which small pockets of the electorate are still ‘too close to call’. It’s here that David Bradbury and Kevin Rudd should do laps in their hotted-up Ford utes, dropping the occasional burnout and explaining how their policies will ensure recent floods of tradie work – through the BER, NBN or renewable co-investment – will continue under Labor.
Lots of a work, and a shiny new XR6. That’s what they want in the key pockets of Lindsay - though the polls show they’re beginning to doubt Rudd can give them either.