Election 2010: It’s the year of the softie
If you are already sure who you are going to vote for at this year’s federal election then consider yourself a member of a minority group: the ‘rusted-on voter’.
As this week’s Essential Report illustrates, we have become a Nation of Softies, voters who can be wooed and repelled by our politicians all the way up to voting day.
It is a change in our political culture from previous generations who inherited a party from their parents and stuck with it through thick and thin.
It’s a change that gives real bite to the political contest in an election year.
How strong is your voting intention?
Where elections used to be determined by the mythical ‘swinging voter’ - the 10 per cent of the population which changes its mind - modern campaigns need to not just target a narrow centre but engage a majority of the electorate who blow in the wind.
So how do you woo the softies? The trick is no longer to mobilise the heartland, but to engage the disengaged with an issue that will break through the white noise.
A look at recent issues shows how the winner has managed to create (or been presented with) an iconic issue to mobilise the softies across traditional political lines– asylum seekers, WorkChoices, Mark Latham.
As 2010 progresses, both sides of politics will; be looking for the iconic issue that will engage the disengaged, that crosses the traditional Party divide to win a majority.
More than most previous election years, 2010 begins as a black canvas – with Labor well ahead of a new Opposition Leader working hard to establish a clear point of difference with a first-term government.
Here are some of the issues ripe for the contest:
Climate Change – Abbott’s ‘great big new tax on everything’ has certainly shifted the Climate Change debate. The ETS is discredited and people have forgotten what it was for in the first place. This clearly neutralises Labor’s advantage on managing the environment – the problem for Tony Abbott is if the election is run on climate change, no-one actually thinks the Liberals have a solution to a problem that will not disappear with the next spin cycle.
Economic Management – Labor has rightly taken the credit for avoiding the worst of the GFC, but is now stuck in the old place of being the big-spending, high deficit party that you wouldn’t trust with your savings. Abbott’s ability to cast the ETS as a tax will helps the Liberals on this front (softies hate taxes), although once the ETS is dead so is this line of attack.
Leadership – The softer the voter, the more important the personality of the leader – Abbott is the wildcard here –with his budgie smugglers, copious body hair and much-quoted views on virginity, is he refreshingly human or a little creepy? 70 per cent of people we polled don’t want politicians to tell lecture them about morality. The big question is: can Abbott put a sock in it (and we don’t mean the Speedos).
Health: Health is looming as Kevin Rudd’s proxy campaign if he decides that unpopular State Governments are becoming to big a liability. A hostile federal takeover of state health systems would send the softies the message that Kevin Rudd hates your state government as mush as you do.
Education: Labor seems hell bent on going to war with teachers over League Tables, if it sparks strikes in the back half of this year how will this play with the softies? Rest assured the research is underway even as we speak.
Asylum Seekers – An oldie but a sure fire way of gaining traction with the softies. Incumbents can turn border protection into an iconic event – this is a little harder from Opposition.
WorkChoices: The softies moved against John Howard when he started attacking their industrial rights. Tony Abbott is still wedded to the idea but will he risk re-running the 2007 election – and has Labor done enough to convince the electorate that they are that different?
The Sleeper: or is there another issue lurking underneath the national agenda; something that will tap into the hopes, or more likely, fears of the majority of voters who are no longer loyal foot soldiers, but rather sceptical consumers of politics?
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
KRudd gives marriage equality folk hope, but odds still against it passing on June 6. http://t.co/QmQffMkSvH
ACL says gay marriage would lead to gay sex (how to do it) being taught in schools. You really haver to credit them with vivid imagination.
Welcome to your wombiverse. On orgasmic births and being so happy you could cry http://t.co/7JrbQSCV6j
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