Matthew Guy is right in saying the result of this month’s state election will come down to a dozen or so electorates, where the outcome may be decided by a few hundred votes.
With the election just two weeks away, it is timely to examine the close seats, how we work out electoral “swings” and the part demographics will play in the final outcome.
Labor has 47 lower house seats, the Coalition parties 37, the Greens two, with two independents – Sheed in Shepparton and ex-Nat Northe in Morwell. For the Coalition to win outright, it must win six seats from Labor and lose none.
With the Liberal Party not standing in the inner metropolitan seats of Melbourne (Greens), Richmond (Labor), Northcote (Labor) and Brunswick (Labor), there is a good chance Labor will lose Richmond, Northcote and Brunswick to the Greens.
Labor holds seven seats with margins of less than three per cent, and the Coalition three (if we include Morwell). Labor won 52 per cent the two-party preferred vote in 2014, to 48 per cent for the Coalition. A uniform swing of three per cent in the most marginal Labor held seats would see Mr Guy become premier.
But swings are never uniform and vary considerably from seat to seat, for a variety of reasons. It is often assumed that a swing in a seat from one election to the next results solely from voters changing their votes. While some voters do change, there are other important factors to consider.
First-time voters are often crucial to an outcome, particularly in marginal seats. Research shows this cohort, in metropolitan seats, generally favours Labor and the Greens. Many older voters pass away during the four-year election cycle, and this, too, impacts on the final result.
Voters also move in and out of electorates over this period, and in highly volatile seats, this dynamic is also important.
Demographic factors are important.
Albert Park, once a safe Labor seat, is now marginal. In regional seats, the tree change phenomenon has made Bendigo West very safe Labor, and won Macedon for Labor in 2014. The extent to which they will influence the result in the important sandbelt seats, remains to be seen.
The major unknown in this election is the impact that federal Liberal infighting – and the sacking of Malcolm Turnbull – will have on the result.
While Scott Morrison has been campaigning in Queensland, there’s actually an election about to take place in Victoria.
Ian Tulloch is Honorary Associate (Politics) at La Trobe University (Bendigo).