Saturday, November 27, 2010
IF THE numbers in today's Age/Nielsen poll are reflected in the tally room tonight, Victoria is headed for a change of government a change hardly anyone expected when the campaign began.
The poll implies a two-party swing to the Coalition of about 6.5 per cent. Technically, the Coalition needs a uniform swing of 6.6 per cent to win, but swings are never uniform. If it gets 52 per cent of the two-party vote, the seats will come somewhere. All the polls show a late swing to the Coalition. The Galaxy poll, taken early in the week, reported the two sides as 50-50. The Morgan poll, taken through the week, called it as 51-49 for the Coalition. And our poll, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, found it 52-48 to the Coalition.
The big question is: is this the trend it appears to be, with a late swing sweeping Team Baillieu to victory? Or is it rather that the luck of the draw means the 1533 voters in our survey were not a perfect sample of the voters of Victoria?
We'll know tonight. Nielsen pollster John Stirton points out that even his poll, the largest of the three, has a margin of error of 2.5 per cent.
Over the years, I've found the most reliable guide is the average of all the polls taken through the campaign. That won't be true if there is a late swing, but it usually works.
This time the three-poll Nielsen average shows voters split 50-50. That implies a swing to the Coalition of 4 to 4.5 per cent.
Given the resources Labor has put into sandbagging its marginal seats, that probably wouldn't be enough for the Coalition to win. Labor would lose seats, but get back with a narrow majority.
Yet it will be touch and go. The poll shows there are voters out there waiting with baseball bats to give the Brumby government a belting. We just don't know whether there are enough of them to belt it out of office.
Our polls reveal that most of them are men. Most of them are in Melbourne. And most of them are over 40, with the latest poll showing the Coalition ahead in the key demographic of people aged 40 to 54.
This is the generation of parents with mortgages, kids to educate and bills to pay. In Victoria, it usually votes Labor. But in the three Nielsen polls, it did so by just 51-49, with a 6 per cent swing to the Coalition.
The 55-and-overs as a group usually vote for the Coalition, but this time it's by an overwhelming 58-42 margin, also a 6 per cent swing.
By contrast, the only shift among voters under 40 has been from Labor to the Greens. The three polls found 22 per cent of them plan to vote for the Greens, with most of them then going to Labor, giving it a two-party vote of 57-43, a swing of just 1 per cent. As in the federal election, there is a widening gender gap. In 2006, men and women voted as one to re-elect Steve Bracks. But in 2010, our poll average shows men going to the Coalition by 52-48, while women favour Labor by 53-47.
Men have swung to the Coalition by 7 per cent, women by just 2 per cent. Let's hope no relationships break up over it. And the swing is strongest in Melbourne. At the federal election, Labor won almost 60 per cent of the city's two-party vote. But now it is heading for just 52 per cent, a 5 per cent swing from 2006.
In regional Victoria, Labor trails the Coalition by 46 per cent to 54, but the swing has been just 2 per cent. And that could decide the outcome tonight.
Forget the inner suburbs: the battlegrounds that will decide who wins government today are the marginal seats of eastern and southern Melbourne, and the regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
On the poll figures, the Liberals will pick up a swag of marginals in the south and east: Mount Waverley (0.4), Gembrook (0.8), Forest Hill (0.8), Mitcham (2.0), Frankston (3.3), Mordialloc (3.6), Prahran (3.6) and Burwood (3.8) are all at risk.
But to win government, the Liberals need to win virtually all of them, plus some of Bentleigh (6.4), Monbulk (6.7) and Carrum (6.8), or the northern seats of Eltham (6.5) and Yan Yean (8.0) and the urban fringe seats of Seymour (6.7) and Macedon (8.2). They will need to pull in some of these because, if the poll is right, Labor will hold most of its eight seats in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. South Barwon (2.3) is likely to fall, but the Liberals might struggle to win the tough asks: Bendigo East (5.4), Ballarat West (6.6), Ballarat East (6.7) or Bellarine (8.0).
But it's anyone's guess. The Liberals could cause a surprise by taking one of the seats in the outer south-east, like Narre Warren North (9.3). Labor could score an upset win in a Coalition marginal such as Kilsyth (0.4), Hastings (1.0) or Morwell (2.2). An independent candidate could bolt home in Brunswick or Mildura. And the Greens could win a seat or two even without Liberal preferences.
My tip? Labor back, with a majority of two.
THE SEATS THAT MATTER - SWINGS NEEDED
SOUTH OF THE YARRA
0.8 Forest Hill
NORTH OF THE YARRA
8.0 Yan Yean
IN REGIONAL VICTORIA
2.3 South Barwon
5.4 Bendigo East
6.6 Ballarat West
6.7 Ballarat East
10.6 Bendigo West
ALP v GREENS
NATIONALS v INDEPENDENTS
6.1 Mildura (Nats)
8.5 Gippsland East (Ind)
HOW TO FOLLOW THE COUNT
TV: ABC from 6.30 pm RADIO: 3AW 693 from 6 pm. 774 ABC from 6.30 pm.
LIVE: Tally Room is open to the public at Etihad Stadium, gate 9.
PRINT: Results, news and analysis in the Sunday Age.