40% opposition can just lose you an election

by on 12 September, 2016

By Henry Innis


Most people support the lockout laws.

Most people support the greyhound ban.

Yet, since these things have come into play, an odd thing has happened. The Baird Government’s support has been tanking in recent polls, down 4% on the election result that won him government.


People point to these large polls and seem to think that there must be another issue at play. Is it the federal issues (given Baird bucking the trend with Abbott, the evidence suggests no)? Is it economic troubles?


I’d suggest it’s neither. The polls around greyhound bans and lockout laws may tell us more than we think.

Now, I’m going to preface this argument by saying I’m not a political campaigner. But I do know some things about marketing and product development. One of the critical processes we go through in understanding a product’s success is the ‘addressable market’.


The addressable market is the people whose decisions you can actually sway. A good example is phone contracts. There’s no point marketing to someone who’s 12 months into their phone contract when you’re a telco, because it’s impossible to get them to switch.


Whilst 100% of the market might seem in play, the reality is only about 20% of the market is really in play.


It strikes me that politics is a little similar. You see, there’s a massive difference between the swinging vote and the entire electorate.


I’m no pollster, but instinctively there seems to be some backlash around both the lockout and the greyhound issues in Baird’s own voting base, rather than his opposition’s. Take the alcohol after 10pm ban. Certainly likely to be popular with Greens voters. But you ask my parents about it (both fairly committed Liberal voters) and they both think it’s a joke.


Both are considering not voting Liberal at the next election because of decisions like this.


So whilst 60% of the electorate may be in favour of the lockout laws, the 40% that aren’t may disproportionately represent the swinging voter.


It strikes me that this is why single-issue polling isn’t particularly useful to the government, and why Baird may be performing so poorly. Relying on a number of single-issue polls to dictate the health of your policy positions may ignore what actually gets people to change their votes.


You can see this at play in the greyhound debate as well. Whilst a majority are again against the greyhound ban, it may be a minority of people who will actually change their votes.


I’d be willing to bet a lot of the people supportive of the greyhound industry also voted Baird at the last election. And the cross-over of people who would change their vote based on lockouts would be minimal with the people changing their votes because of greyhounds.


But these two issues combined result in approx. 10% of the electorate shifting their vote from one side to the other — which is more than enough to significantly shift the electorate.


The lesson here is for Baird is to ignore the political and media elite telling him certain issues are ‘moral’ winners. The reality is single issue polling will never tell you much — and based on current polls, it’s more likely that the Baird government is irritating the majority of swing voters than winning the majority of the electorate.
As a committed Liberal, this would be a crying shame. Baird is an exceptionally solid Premier. We need more like him — but we also need him to be more committed to individual freedoms and liberal values than ever before.

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