Labor ahead in key marginals, despite One Nation vote

Labor ahead in key marginals, despite One Nation vote

An exclusive new poll in the State Government’s eight most marginal metropolitan electorates has found WA Labor leading the Liberal Party 55 per cent to 45 per cent on two party preferred terms.

The Campaign Capital ReachTEL poll of 876 voters was conducted on 23 November in the electorates of Belmont, Forrestfield, Morley, Mount Lawley, Bicton, Swan Hills, Balcatta and Perth, as the eight most marginal government-held seats on the electoral pendulum.

WA Labor currently holds 22 seats in the Legislative Assembly and needs a net gain of eight seats at the state election on 11 March to form government.

The poll recorded a primary vote of 9.9 per cent for One Nation, putting Pauline Hanson’s party well ahead of the Greens as the minor party with the strongest support in the eight electorates polled.

When asked which of the major parties they would preference higher, One Nation supporters were fairly evenly split, with 53 per cent indicating they would give their preferences to the Liberals and 47 per cent to WA Labor.

This is a very significant result for Labor.  It suggests that Mark McGowan’s team can win the election despite a sizeable One Nation vote.

This might not fit the narrative of those who believe a One Nation preference deal is a game changer for the Liberal Party.  But, a strong Labor share of One Nation preferences makes sense if you look at who One Nation draws its current support from.

Our poll found One Nation voters to be predominantly older men, working technical and trades based jobs, who are feeling insecure at work at the end of the mining boom.  You would understand many voters from this background, having decided to switch their vote from the Liberals to One Nation, being reluctant to give their vote back to the Liberals through preferences.  The Liberals will have to work hard with this group to get support for their policies of privatising Western Power and cutting penalty rates for low paid retail and hospitality workers.

The upside in any preference deal with the Liberals is likely to be further diminished by One Nation’s lack of an organisational base in WA.  It takes volunteers and significant organisational capacity to staff polling booths across the metropolitan area to hand out flyers which direct people on how to distribute their preferences.  Without such an effort, it is unlikely that One Nation preferences would flow as intended in any deal with the Liberals.

More likely, we would see preferences flow pretty evenly to both major parties, meaning that, other than keeping scrutineers up late into the evening on election night, One Nation’s impact in the Perth metro area could be negligible.

The story in regional WA could be completely different.  A Liberal deal with One Nation could see the Nationals lose seats like Warren-Blackwood, North West Central and Brendon Grylls’ seat of Pilbara.   Such a deal could also help the Liberals defend a seat like Geraldton, which the Nationals have had their eye on.  The Nationals could suffer serious setbacks in the Legislative Council, potentially losing their prized balance of power status.

However, the results of our poll suggest this could all be a distraction from the main game.  The current electoral pendulum tells us this state election will be won or lost in the Perth metropolitan area.  Given the results of our poll in their eight most marginal metropolitan seats, the Liberals have a big task ahead of them, with or without One Nation preferences.

This blog was also published on WA Today.

For more political analysis and government relations advice, please contact Campaign Capital.

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