Election punditry has been an agreeably straightforward matter during the South Australian campaign, with published opinion polling and reported internal polls all pointing in much the same direction. That’s all changed with two polls in today’s Advertiser covering the neighbouring electorates of Norwood and Hartley, located due east of the city. Taken on Tuesday and covering around 500 voters in each electorate, the polls suggest the Liberals are well in contention to gain the former and likely to retain the latter.
Rightly or wrongly, the Poll Bludger is reluctant to junk his overall hypothesis on the basis of one poll, although it has to be noted that it’s the first to be published since the Liberals’ major policy announcements, campaign launch and belated television advertisements. The straw at which I will grasp is the steady rise in the undecided vote across the Norwood polling, which has now reached a remarkable 18 per cent. If the universal expectation of a Labor win is encouraging swinging voters to think again, it might be that a shift in the polls will be enough to bring them back on board. It’s also worth mentioning that the result is consistent with reports of Labor polling showing it on course to win seats in the outer suburban mortgage belt, but making less headway nearer the city. Other noteworthy local factors are a tradition of last-minute swings to the Liberals in Norwood, where Ciccarello had an unexpectedly close run in 2002, and the stubbornness of booths in the southern part of Hartley (the more middle-class and white-bread part of the electorate) which have a tradition of resisting broader Labor swings at both state and federal elections.
These promise to be the first in a flurry of polls over the final days of the campaign. A comment left on this site indicates that The Advertiser was conducting further polling yesterday, so it should have more results up its sleeve tomorrow, presumably statewide this time. Roy Morgan should put what remains of its reputation on the line tomorrow, with Newspoll to follow on Saturday morning. If they all point to a big swing back to the Liberals, a wholesale revision might be in order. Until then, two seats have been given back to the Liberals in the Poll Bludger election guide, although not the two covered by the poll. They are Unley, a normally safe Liberal seat just south of the city which could only have fallen under a Labor best-case scenario, and Mount Gambier, where the buzz locally suggests sitting independent Rory McEwen will struggle to stay ahead of the Labor candidate, whose preferences he will need to overcome Liberal challenger Peter Gandolfi.
Some further additions to the election guide:
Light (Liberal 2.6%): Liberal member Malcolm Buckby has become a target of Labor ads publicising a statement he made at a meeting at Northside Church in Gawler, which was told that while the Liberals would "try to maintain the promises we put out to the electorate running up to the election … not every one is going to be delivered". The Liberals have protested that he was referring in part to the potential for obstruction by the upper house (although there doesn’t appear to be anything about this in the full transcript released today to The Advertiser), and accused Labor of reaching "a new low by secretly filming part of a church service and using it in a political advertisement". The church concurs, telling The Advertiser today that its hospitality had been abused by Labor.
Unley (Liberal 9.1%): The Electoral Commission has forced Liberal candidate David Pisoni to withdraw a radio advertisement critical of "Labor’s infill plan" and its impact on suburban housing density. This has not been the only stumble related to the Liberals’ advertising campaign. Today, The Advertiser reports that the Liberals have been compelled to amend a television advertisement, correcting a claim that South Australia had the country’s "worst waiting lists" to "worst emergency waiting times". An earlier ad had to be corrected because it misspelled Labor.