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Andrews ahead, but opponents are legion

In 2018 Andrews started close to level with Guy on personal approval and pollsters predicted a close race. By the end of the campaign the ALP scored 57.3% of the two-party vote, and while Andrews’ approval had increased, Guy’s had collapsed, most dramatically amongst Liberal voters. This was a landslide of historic proportions.

The following analysis is based on a qualitative survey of 180 Victorians. While the percentages are not completely accurate because it was an opt-in survey, and therefore not properly random, the results will be indicative. The point of this sort of polling is what respondents say in their own words. You can download the report from here.

The 2018 result is pretty much where Andrews and Guy started this election, although quantitative polling since the election was called shows the margin between the two parties narrowing to somewhere around 53% ALP on a two-party preferred basis – not historic, but substantial.

In 2018 at the start of the election voters were evenly divided as to whether the state was heading in the right direction. By the end a net 28% thought it was. At the start of this election voters again were evenly divided on this question.

The premier’s approval has also come back to par with just as many approving of him as disapprove (47%/46%) and very few yet to make up their minds, unlike Matthew Guy, who starts more or less where he ended the last election with 64% of respondents disapproving, including 26% of Liberal voters.

Andrews is also preferred as premier by 56% to 42% and voters say his government deserves to be re-elected by 52% to 41%. By contrast a net -48% thinks the opposition deserves to win (18%/66%).

The issues that will decide this election should favour the Liberals. The perennial dichotomy between climate change as the most serious issue for the left, and economics and debt as the most serious for the right, is present in the responses.

However, this election the economic issues are shared by more centre and left voters, while climate change is understood as primarily a federal issue, and one where Labor has performed well. This means the economy is more of a swing issue. Greens voters have shifted their attention to traditional environmental issues, like logging of old growth forest, so they don’t necessarily give the government credit on environmental issues.

The major swing issues appear to be to do with health - particularly hospitals and ambulances – and poor management of infrastructure.

There is plenty of incentive for voters to send Andrews a message that he is “power mad” and a “bully” for a variety of reasons such as COVID lockdowns, corruption scandals, maladministration, secrecy, high-handedness, and miring the state in debt.

The expectation that he will win is extremely strong at 73%, so a lot of voters could feel they could safely direct a vote to another party, but still end up with a Labor government.

But what sort of message would they send by voting for Matthew Guy? Guy hasn’t shaken the image of sleaze generated by rezonings when he was Planning Minister in the Napthine government, or when he was snapped dining on lobster at the same function as a mobster. And he has a problem cutting through and gaining attention, variously attributed to his own lack of ability, or media bias, depending on how you vote.

Since our poll Guy has also been hit by controversies around some of his candidates over their religious beliefs. Disciplining them will cause trouble for him with minority centre and right-wing parties whose preferences he needs, and not disciplining them will play into the hands of Daniel Andrews who branded some of the minor parties “Nazis”.

So the grounds are there for independents and the Greens to do well as a result of the lack of punch of the Liberal Party, and concern about Andrew’s style of government.

Ironically, one thing that might limit these gains and direct votes to the Liberals is pity for them. Many voters accept the need for a strong opposition and don’t feel they have it. A number of Labor voters were therefore thinking of voting for Liberal candidates who they thought had potential to redress this problem.

One of these was John Pesutto, once seen as a future Liberal leader, running in Hawthorn. This is also the seat most likely to fall to a Teal candidate, Melissa Lowe, so it will provide a testing ground of protest votes. It’s possible there could be a protest against the Liberals as well as Labor.

Labor can potentially win more than 50% of the two-party preferred vote, but still win fewer than 50% of the seats. Then again, Labor’s campaign came home fast in 2018, and possible Liberal gains could easily evaporate.

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