leadership

What the “Other Austr-aliens” think about the election: Why NOTs and DBMs may hold the key

Colin Benjamin /

Unless the next three weeks are very different from the last three years, the people who are uncommitted to either of the major parties will opt for a change of government in Australia on September 7.

There are two groups of “Other Austr-aliens” that are of particular interest to anyone trying to look beyond the media-owned polls. They include those who are totally alienated by cost of living rises looking for anyone who is uncommitted to the major parties on single issues and those that refuse to answer opinion polls, including lower discretionary income Aussie battlers outside of the capital cities.

The “None of Them” voters (NOTs) are looking to Palmer, Katter and independents to register a protest vote against the rest and hope that we have another hung parliament that will enable their vote to have some significance in winning deals for their local community of interest.

The “Don’t Bother Me” voters (DBMs) who don’t give an answer to the media pollsters indicate that their key political issues respond strongly to Tony’s promise to cut taxes, banish the Greens and meet the needs of families outside of the city centres.

When you watch the Morgan REACTOR and the media worms, it is essential to remove the responses of all those who just turn the dial towards their presidential candidate before closing their mind to the possibility of alternative futures.

Then it is possible to see what the “Other Austr-aliens” are thinking about the boring options that were represented by the “debate” we had to have.

Generally, these respondents are more attracted to Tony’s slogans than Kevin’s futures to deliver lower taxes, jobs and border security. They really want answers to youth unemployment, aged care services and improvements to rural and regional health services that are not addressed in capital city media events.

It may true that Murdoch’s News Limited owns 63% of capital city media, but there is no evidence that this is having any impact on the other Australians who will determine the final outcome. It is clear that the highest quintile of socioeconomic status voters have made up their minds months ago and front pages are not going to make any difference.

At the bottom end of the socioeconomic ladder, however, and outside the dense urban centres, the “Other Austr-aliens” are indicating that their vote is still to be determined away from either of the major parties.

These voters are going to make for some very tight contests that will make the largest ever Senate ballot paper a significant source of variance in the weeks after the election. There are some real differences between the two major alienated populations:

NOT issue priorities:

1. The needs of people outside cities

2. Open and honest government

3. Australia’s ageing population

4. Reducing crime and maintaining law and order

5. Defence and national security

6. Improving health services and hospitals

DBM issue priorities:

1. The needs of families

2. Reducing the taxes you and your family pay

3. Open and honest government

4. Reducing unemployment

5. The needs of people outside cities

6. Improving education

A telephone Morgan Poll has found that there is growing support for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister. The poll, which was conducted on August 12-13, shows that the number of Australians who rate Kevin Rudd as “Better Prime Minister” has fallen by 6% to 46% from mid-July.

Abbott’s rating as “Better Prime Minister” has risen by 7% to 43%. Roy Morgan Research CEO Michele Levine says the poll also found that Abbott decisively won the first election debate.

All of the various polls indicate that the margins between the two major parties are within the margin of error, but their sampling of the NOTs and the DBMs needs much more attention if predictions are to be believed.

If a mere 15,310 of these alienated voters in the most marginal electorates switch away from the ALP, Tony Abbott will hold at least 76 seats to form government. Kevin Rudd is not only right to say that his party is the underdog, it is more than likely he will face 75% of his caucus room signing up for a new leader if he does not run away with his electoral tale beneath his legs.

Three issues to watch:

1. Gay marriage

Response analysis of the first debate shows that the big surprise in the Morgan REACTOR tracking (their worm) was a distinct surge towards Rudd from both NOTS and DBMS when Rudd indicated he intends to bring on a vote for marriage equality within 100 days.

The cross-party AME campaign being launched in seven seats on Monday may represent a surprise shift in the otherwise certain election of Tony Abbott as PM as young people and women take this up as an anti-economic issue on social media.

2. China’s economy

The conflict in China between the factions that want to slow their economy and those that want to see significant Asian and European export-driven development may lead to increases in both energy costs and prices for our economy, making for significant market volatility in the last months of our election business environment.

This could mean that the debate about Chicago v Keynesian school economics flows through to real concerns about Joe Hockey’s austerity approach versus Tony Abbott’s business stimulus orientations.

3. Another international crisis

The crisis in Egypt and the battle that Merkel is having with her elections in September may mean that there will be a 2007-style correction to the equities market that may lead to a drop in our stock market.

Such a crash would shatter the sense of security of many voters, with a focus on a rapid rise in unemployment that shifts NOT and DBM sentiment towards the incumbents in most seats.

The decisions made by the US Fed board in the middle of the last weeks of our election could create a rise in the gold price and a significant fall in business confidence, which does not augur well for major changes in the Australian consumer’s propensity to go out and spend.

Dr Colin Benjamin OAM is the chairman of Cultural Infusion Ltd and director general of the Life: ‘Be in it’ Australia charity.

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