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May 13th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

Six Appeal

All those photo ops and shopping-mall walks -- when they aren't cancelled, that is -- what do our leaders hope they will achieve? Basically, to win the hearts, minds and votes of the very few Australians who have not yet decided which party they least detest

stupid and voteNever was so much done by so many for so few. Or something like that.

My email inbox tells me that I’ve received over 500 media releases and advisories from the parties and various special-interest groups in this first formal week of the election campaign – actually, just the first full five days. That’s one hundred a day. A hundred announcements of street walks and visits to schools and small businesses, to farms and factories. A hundred interviews, rebuttals, bitches and moans. So much for so few people.

The Australian Electoral Survey, the massive studies of voting behaviour after each poll the Australian National University has been undertaking for a generation, told us back in 2013 that close to half of the electorate, 45%, had already made up their mind which way to cast their ballots “a long time ago”, well ahead of the election. Another 14% had decided “a few months ago, before election day was announced.”

In other words, when the last election campaign kicked off just under 60% of voters were already decided. Just over 7% settled for one camp or another “about the time the election was announced”. And then came a late rush. According to the ANU’s boffins, 14.3% of voters decided which way they would go “a few days before election day”, while another 12.5% only settled on the day itself.

Which leaves the smallest of all groupings, the 6.8% who decided “in the first few weeks of the campaign”. All the activity of the past five days has been just for you. Tonight’s leaders’ forum is your special treat. And no doubt there will be some weekend surprise, the election equivalent of breakfast in bed.

Statistically, you might be the smallest of the groups, but at the big party headquarters they know that size doesn’t matter. For they’re thinking of a figure very close to your 6.8% — 6.98% to be precise – the two-party-preferred gap between Labor and the Coalition last time around.