How voters are putting together the "Ikea" election.

But Gough went to the election as a well-known quantity and with a first term policy agenda large enough for three or four terms.

Kevin 07 replaced policies with personality and slogans like "the education revolution", relying on a small target strategy which only minimally differentiated him from the incumbent.

It worked because the last election was a referendum on John Howard's long tenure.

Labor support was boosted by the fact that after 13 years of economic growth voters thought it was OK to experiment.

One of the reasons for Rudd's supersonic decline in the polls was that once people realised he had run metres past the top of the cliff there was nothing there to support him.

Adieu Bugs Bunny.

The result was to bring charisma into disrepute again, but as small target strategies are still the text book political tactic, that hasn't left either of the parties much to play with.

They can't run too-heavily on their past records, for different reasons, so they are trying to win our votes waving shopping lists of modest policies in front of us and pointing at the other side as being an even bigger risk than they are themselves.

No sizzle and all minute steak.

So for many electors by default this election is the second instalment in a referendum on the Howard government.

(That is apart from Queensland and New South Wales where the last minute polls, and my experience this morning out and about suggests that many voters see it as the second instalment in the last state election and a chance to punish "brand Labor".

This is anecdotal, not driven by the polling).

Which means it is also a referendum on the future versus the past, something which the ALP slogan "Moving Forward" catches in a mealy-mouthed way, but the Liberals "Stand-up for Australia" completely misses.

Without strong thematic direction and effective central messages from the political parties, voters are putting it together for themselves, like a flat pack from Ikea.

We have conducted two qualitative polls since the election began that demonstrate most of these points.

Particularly when you analyse longitudinal data on the 92 voters who register a different preference in the second poll from the first – these are real swinging voters.

The "moving forward" mantra is a joke, but left to voters the future is a big issue, and is embodied for them in the Labor campaign through promises like the NBN.

The fact that Gillard is a woman, is also about the future, and in some odd ways the fact that she knifed her predecessor, while Tony Abbott is holding most of his as close as he can, emphasises movement toward the future on her side and movement back on the other.

The Libs are mostly about housekeeping, and that is definitely not about the future.

The knifing of Rudd shapes attitudes to Gillard in interesting ways, and is not all negative.

Many voters wanted to do it themselves and resent not having had the opportunity.

Others don't mind her knifing Rudd but think she should have waited a while to call the election.

They want someone with a record defending a record, not a neophyte Prime Minister.

The knifing of Rudd also has several effects on her character.

Either she is given the credit for its planning and execution, which makes her untrustworthy and a treacherous deputy, but competent, or she is seen as being an empty vessel into which the ALP power brokers have poured their ambition.

This second idea is allied to the idea that she is "robotic", a political fembot who parrots the programmed lines.

But then, her lack of time as Prime Minister leads many, particularly female swingers, to suggest she should get the benefit of the doubt.

By contrast swingers actually like Abbott better.

The themes of genuiness, authenticity and honesty come through.

He's grown on voters during the campaign and they are surprised at how well he has done.

Either that, or they hate him – hardly any swingers are neutral.

While Abbott has a reputation for being a loose cannon, this is tamed by his sporting feats, which suggest he is "disciplined".

A number of voters who have moved from Liberal to Labor disapprove of Abbott because he is performing so well that Labor might lose.


It might seem perverse, but many swingers to Labor have changed their vote despite the fact that they like Abbott better than Gillard.

There is no enthusiasm for Gillard (42% of those who prefer her as Prime Minister think she is the "lesser of two evils" frequently using exactly those words), That points strongly to the fact that while personality has been a prominent part of the campaigns voters ultimately see them as about something else.

Most swingers seem to accept that this government does not deserve to win, but the Liberals are missing the mark.

So they either win votes by default "They (the Libs) are promising little in terms of the issues that interest me such as humane asylum policies,regional city development or a clear national direction but the current government promised much and delivered little.

" Or lose them because their target is not large enough "I have not yet seen anything remotely resembling a comprehensive view on Australia's economy into the future.

While issues like paid parental leave clearly impact…it is but one policy in a broad range of polices…We are seeing too much conjecture on minutia and not enough on the broader vision for Australia and its future.

" Halfway through the election Abbott seemed to have the upper-hand.

If he loses it will be because he gave no world view that showed he was moving forward, and couldn't handle symbols of the future like the NBN.

You can't win an Australian election by promising to return to the good old days.

Menzies knew that, which is why he called his new party the Liberal Party.

More than Labor the Liberals have based their campaign on risk, and that is certainly part of the calculation that voters are making.

The question is whether they see going back with someone they like and think they might be able to trust a bigger risk than going forward.

On that basis they may give Labor one more chance.

As of this morning's polls that is a very big "may".

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0 #1 I object to the reference to Gillard kniDorothy M Bowes 2010-08-21 13:56
I object to the reference to Gillard knifing Krudd in the back. The Party power brokers knew Krudd had to go because he was responsible for 'bad government' and Gillard didn't do anything that Tony Abbot didn't do to Turnbull or any of their predecessors before them - that is how leaders get changed. They normally don't go easy and have to be rolled. Indeed, Krudd cried sour grapes after he was replaced. Right now we being are asked to make a choice between little decent policy from either side of politics and inhumanity by Abbott who claims to be able to 'stop the boats'. He is demonising refugees who deserve some caring and compassion. What an affront to my intelligence. The next thing we will know on Sunday morning is that one of them will be sprouting arrant nonsense such as 'the Australian people have given me a mandate...." !!!!! All I've got to say in the words of the immortal Bard is bah, humbug, because I'm not allowed to use worse language.
0 #2 I find the idea that Julia Gillard "knifDion Riverlea 2010-08-22 01:38
I find the idea that Julia Gillard "knifed" Kevin Rudd in the back pretty primitive: but obviously it holds a lot of sway. As I remarked to my brother Friday: if people vote on the basis on state or gender, well God hope Democracy.

Julia Gillard didn't knife Kevin Rudd in the back: Tony Abbott did. Abbott killed not just Kevin Rudd & Julia Gillard, but the planet as a whole ...

I make one further comment. If I sought to obstruct the operations - be it commercial or otherwise- I'd be charged with various crimes- stalking, & sundry other crimes- yet we pay "an opposition" to be obstructive at any other event in Governing our Nation. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
0 #3 We'd need a few more elections lie this Dion Riverlea 2010-08-22 02:39
We'd need a few more elections lie this to establish what I was saying ... but it it doesn't look good when Australians vote, on the basis of where the candidate lives, rather than what he or she might have to say.

The whole concept of "the nation decides" is, in fact crap. It's a small proportion of the Australian population who decide who govern us: generally those who pay least attention to politics.

And what is politics? Much has been made made about the Parramatta - Epping Rail line, which apparently went down like a lead balloon. The message you seem to have delivered to Government- of either side is: "we don't want improvements to public transport".

Melbourne? different matter. I don't give a stuff what you think about your present government; try it out with the next.

Don't stuff up our infrastructure projects: we're Australians too.
0 #4 I am sick of hearing about Tony Abbott'sSheila Hale 2010-08-22 12:29
I am sick of hearing about Tony Abbott's "great campaign". He has offered nothing positive for Australia's future. He was given a free ride by the Murdoch and Fairfax Press who wanted to put "their boy" in the PM's chair. His campaign was a scare exercise about phantoms like boat people (an issue blown totally out of proportion by the Libs and their media mates), government debt ( tiny when compared to other first world nations), ending the waste (ninety seven per cent of BER was audited as being satisfactory). Abbott's pork-barreling would not survive genuine scrutiny and their cobbled together costings by a private accounting firm is a joke. The Coalition's policy on IT services is totally unworkable and would place Australia in a very precarious position when competing with other countries in relation to a large spectrum of business enterprises. I agree with Dion Riverlea that only a small proportion of the Australian people decide who will win Federal Elections for a larger majority of them have no real interest in politics. They can be easily duped by the media in relation to xenophobia, boat people, mining tax and the quantum of Labor's stimulus spending and interest placed on borrowings. If Abbott does become PM rest assured he will quickly drop all his promises about parental leave, mental health (he thinks, " people can control their thoughts and emotions and exercise free will over issues like depression and anxiety", assistance for long term unemployed etc. He will announce that such promises are not affordable because of the colossal amount of debt the Liberals have been left with by Rudd and Gillard.
0 #5 I agree with Dion Riverlea & Sheila Halebobcooper31 2010-08-22 13:56
I agree with Dion Riverlea & Sheila Hale that only a small proportion of the Australian electorate decide the result of the elections.

I'm saddened that Australians are so ignorant that they are completely oblivious to the critical issues that the ALP was trying to address. My main concern is the Resources super profits tax which was designed to slow the mining boom down so that the damage being done by the 2 speed economy didn't totally wreck the Australian economy.

The problem is referred to as the "Dutch disease" or the "Resources curse". You'll find good explanations to the phenomenon in Google.

Having said that I blame the ALP for a completely lack lustre approach to managing their political fortunes. Only very rarely and very late in the piece did we hear just how many jobs were saved by the stimulus spending. The number of jobs that would have been lost was put at around 500,000 if unemployment had reached USA & UK levels. That level of unemployment would have bought about mortgage foreclosure, marriage breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, suicide, poverty, humiliation and depression sickness. Everyone knows these things happened in the last great depression yet no reference was ever made to the importance of taking action to avoid these drastic consequences. In addition to these there so many other missed opportunities. Just reflect on K Rudd’s departure speech where he listed his achievements while PM. Why didn't he go on loud and long about those achievements long before he was axed. Laurie Oakes said he didn't think Rudd would have gone down if he had highlighted that list of achievements loud and long before he was axed.
0 #6 I was certainly left feeling that the prHelen Olivieri 2010-08-23 13:41
I was certainly left feeling that the problem with the ALP is that they can't actually campaign their way out of a paper bag. They had some really good policies on offer, but they were too mumbly and nuanced in promoting them, when they weren't busy putting too much energy into rebutting Liberal negativity.

They also three quarters stuffed it ages ago when Rudd promised a 'whatever it takes', take-a-stand attitude on climate change (ie. he did actually threaten to bring the issue to double dissolution if necessary), AND THEN HE SQUIBBED. Well, not really him, per se, but the ALP. You don't say climate change is the biggest moral issue of our time, you don't say you will go to double dissolution over the issue even without Copenhagen support, and then not follow through. YOU JUST DONT DO THAT. The magnitude of the stated commitment, and the magnitude of the squibbing out, is unprecedented in australian politics, in the time of my living memory at least.