Election 22 / 12 April 2022

Winning The Election

Let’s get our feet on the ground of where this election battle starts… What does the Coalition need to do to hold onto government, and what does Labor need to do to take it from them? And we’ll go through what the polls say – and whether we can believe what they say this time around. 

The state of play when it comes to the numbers as we start this election campaign –  let’s just whip through that again…
The Coalition go in with 76 seats – just enough to claim a majority in the 151 seat House of Representatives. Labor starts on 69 seats, and the minor parties and independents have 6 seats.

The next most important thing is the margins…
It’s super important. It refers to how safe the government is at a national level – and how much of a buffer an individual MP has against losing their seat. 

Give me an analogy…
It’s like a running race and we’re talking about who has a chance to win. What I want to know is if they won their last race by 10 seconds or 0.01 seconds. It’s that margin that’s important to know a bit about when we talk about who might win the next election.

Got you. So what sort of margin does the Coalition? 
When you look at the national level, the experts say Labor needs a uniform national swing of 3.3% to gain the 7 seats it needs to win a majority. The national swing is important to note because it gives you a sense of how much support a government has to lose and an opposition has to gain for the reins of power to change hands. 

Is that a lot? 
Well, the last time the government changed hands, the Coalition led by Tony Abbott saw a 3.6% swing towards it, delivering 18 seats that it won off Labor and an independent.

So Albanese needs a similar swing to win fewer seats – how does that work? 
In 2013, there were a lot more marginal seats in play. This time around, Labor has many more marginal seats than the Coalition. That in part comes down to the swing towards the Coalition at the last election.

Was there? 
Yep. It was unexpected because PM Malcolm Turnbull had been turfed out and Scott Morrison became PM – things were a mess for the Coalition. But overall, the Coalition achieved a 1.2% swing nationally. NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania swung towards the Coalition while Labor got support in Victoria and South Australia. But the biggest story was a 4.3% swing to the Coalition in Queensland.

So there was a reason Morrison said the result was a miracle when he faced the party faithful to claim the win… 
That was a long time ago and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. And this time around. 

So what are the polls saying? 
And just a quick note on that before we get into it…

What’s the issue? 
Polling has had a troubled recent past with the big ones getting things wrong. That happened in the 2019 election when the polls tipped a win for Bill Shorten and Labor. And that wasn’t just one poll, but all of them – Ipsos, Newspoll, Essential, YouGov-Galaxy, and Roy Morgan. 

What happened? 
The samples of voters used in those polls were unrepresentative and inadequately adjusted – and it looked like Labor was ahead when they weren’t. And what the polling companies say this time is they’ve fixed those issues.

Ok, that’s the disclaimer. Gimme the numbers… 
So last election, on a 2-party preferred basis, the Coalition won the election 51.5 to Labor’s 48.5. The current polling says it’s going Labor’s way – Newspoll has it at 53 to Labor and 47 to the Coalition – and that could jump a bit this campaign. 

What does that mean? 
On that kind of result, if it happened equally across the country, the Coalition would lose 10 seats and its hold on government.

Ok, I’m going to stop you there. We hear the phrase ‘two-party preferred’ a lot…
It has to do with the way our votes are counted. When officials are counting the vote, they discard candidates as they go and their preferences are allocated to another candidate. You allow that to happen by preferencing the candidates from one to however many are on the ballot. In the end, 2 are left, and the final result is split between the 2 candidates. Hence the term 2-party preferred.

But swings don’t happen equally across the nation, right? 
No way, Jose. Some MPs with margins in that danger zone can hang on because they get enough local support, while other MPs on safer margins can experience big swings and lose their seats. That’s part of the excitement of election night – finding out what’s happened in all those local battles.

And until then it’s all speculation… 
Yes, but inside the major parties – they have a better idea of what’s going on because the parties will have been working on this for a while. They will pick the seats they think are vulnerable and they start local polling some time out from the election. 

How do they pick those seats? 
A seat could be vulnerable because of a sensitive local issue – like coal mining in the Hunter Valley of NSW, or the party could be worried about maintaining support when an MP retires, like Labor’s Warren Snowdon who vacates the seat of Lingiari after holding it on and off since 1987.

Why are you telling me about this? 
Because watch out for the drops of ‘exclusive party polling’ as the election goes on. The parties do that when they want to wreak havoc for their opponents and to swing the momentum.

Do they really? 
Oh yeah, there’s lots of trick of the trade. That’s a classic move.

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