Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Heading in the Right Direction

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 23, 2007

You might have noticed how over the last few days, Howard has really flicked the switch to the “heading in the right direction” slogan as his weapon of choice. This in itself says a fair bit about the problems the Coalition have had over the campaign. To get the gist of it,  if we go back to the Crosby Textor OzTrack 33 document and look at the issue positioning chart (here it’s NSW because it has the Right/Wrong direction issue clearly marked):


If you look in the top right quadrant, you can see the “Right/Wrong Direction” issue sitting there. It’s a little box, representing a low confidence issue, or an issue that influences the vote, but is only a moderately weak issue in terms of how it resonated with the electorate as a key vote driver in the recent polling. (this document comes from June mind you).

Howard, by resorting to this “Right/Wrong Direction” issue is essentially abandoning the field when it comes to selling himself and his party to gain votes. It’s aimed squarely at saving the remaining votes he has in the more unsophisticated end of the electorate.

Likewise, to be using this issue without having any momentum behind him suggests that it is one of the few issues in that positioning chart that the Coalition still enjoys on their side of regression outcomes that has any resonance with the electorate at all.  It suggests nearly all of the policy issues have been lost to the ALP, it suggests most of the meta-issues likewise have been lost to the ALP – and this is the issue that’s left.

The irony here is that it’s still probably a low confidence interval – and Howard seems to be just going through the motions trying to talk it up, hoping that it bites and becomes a high confidence issue. If it bites, it might stop a few voters from changing.

It basically says, “I’ve lost”.


55 Responses to “Heading in the Right Direction”

  1. denise said

    dear possum,
    i thought i would not be nervous today but i am a mess.
    That Galaxy poll and the other site attached to the links here mentioned they have a good record, But i did confirm with my labor rep that last time A.C. neilson where spot on.
    hope you can cheer me up again. i bought some beautiful music sang by the nuns in the abc programme the ABBEY andi am letting them do the praying by plaing the music all day.

  2. Mike said

    Here’s the PM doing exactly that.

  3. Diana said

    I have had my say on this blog about what I believe to be the misinterpretation of the polling response ‘do you believe the country is heading in the right direction’ by people who nominate themselves as intending to vote Labor. And I’m not changing my stance – I believe a) that there is a significant section of the population who have very little interest in politics as a rule and who don’t regard the direction that the country is going in as being dictated by politicians and b) there’s another segment of the population who do give more credence to the politicians and the political process and they tick ‘heading in the right direction’ because they believe the process of Labor winning will be part of that direction.

    Oh, and I do hope someone is paying publishing copyright fees to Mark Punch and Gary Paige, the composers of that classic Renee Geyer song, ‘Heading In The Right Direction’!

    And Poss, you are a dead set legend, this blog has made the past few months of political watching so much more interesting and informative.

  4. denise said

    Hi Mike i read the article do you mean howard thinks he had it.

  5. Cat said

    Maybe it is aimed at NSW voters where Heading in the Right Direction reminds them of Iemma’s campaign. Trying to reinforce how crap Labor governments can be?

  6. denise said

    we should of worked out, your from brisbane as the time is different.
    Well i wondered about that.
    Can you please explain QLD to me, re the seats one day i hear there is a big swing to labor then i go to the courier mail site and see they are the only newspaper who poll that seems to be heading the other way, is this just loyal liberals at work do you think.
    I would be so proud if Mr. Rudd where in my state

  7. Mike said

    Hi Denise. Just chucking another example of Howard doing the “right direction” line. I think the “I know something you don’t know, I can feel the comeback” line is more likely to be a last-minute ditch to stop undecideds from breaking in Rudd’s direction assuming they’re going with the flow.

  8. denise said

    thankyou mike.
    did any of you hear that last time a.c. neilson where spot on, sent them an email to see if that was the case wonder if they will reply.

  9. geoff kricker said

    Denise, dont worry – Qld is going to swing big time to Rudd – I heard on the ABC this morning that a listener said his kid voted 30 times on a TV poll (didnt say which side)- I never take any notice of online or TV polls as they are usually flooded by Liberal trolls. Put it this way I am handing out HTV cards for Rudd’s electorate of Griffith and have received a personal invitation to his election party – he has booked SUNCORP STADIUM so I think Labor in Qld is pretty confident!

  10. ae said

    Hi Poss, have not posted on your site before but have been keenly reading your articles and the following postings. Echo what Diana said above – your Possum Politics has been the “must visit” site for me over the last few months. Thanks for your hard work and insight. Am looking forward to tomorrow, but still a little nervous. I do expect some surprises (both ways) but am confident of a Labor win.

  11. Chatswood Statsman said

    Have really enjoyed your analyses.

    I did stats for a living back when Menzies was around, so it was a pleasure to get reacquainted with Mr Moe and Madame Regression.

    Just one more sleep!

  12. jim said

    I have a thought: Perhaps the Galaxy poll (which terrified me beyond belief) is a good thing. There is a prevailing belief in the electorate that Rudd is already measuring for drapes. This COULD (probably won’t) force the hand of those terrifying “undecideds” to try to even the balance… If it is believed to be close, they may think that you may as well give Rudd a shot.

    This is a joke. I am so nervous. My Hands are ACTUALLY sweating and my heart is pounding like a jackhammer… bring on 10pm tomorrow..

  13. Mr Denmore said

    What exactly does “heading in the right direction” mean, though? It just seems the most nebulous statement. I presume Howard means “the economy” – the big macro-economic indicators that the pundits tell the punters are so important, but no-one really knows how they intersect with their lives.

    But what is the economy anyway, but the material things in our lives – health, housing, education, work, the environment. And when you break it down that way, Labor controls the agenda.

  14. Ron Brown said


    Do you have an opinion on the Galaxy & Morgan polls BOTH showing a 2% drop in Labor’s primary vote (from their respective last polls 1 & 2 weeks ago) ?

    YOU SAID EARLIER IN WEEK: ‘narrowing , where art thou’……is this the narowing

  15. denise said

    Hi Geoff,
    you have really helped me get through the after noon, wish i lived in QLD
    so i could come, i would so love to give Kevin and Teresa a hug.
    Remember me when you are there i have been a lobor voter since National Service and my husband tobe happened to win the lottery.
    The country is morally bankrupt and i do love my country dearly and just know it will be as use to be we will again be proud to australian, the others do not get it do they.

  16. John said

    I don’t think we will be waiting for 10pm EST (Queensland time)We will know well before then, Antony will give us a heads up in 45 minutes. Go you good thing

  17. denise said

    p.s. silly me when i was ask if the country was heading in the right direction i thought they meant the polls, so i said yes, wonder how many other’s thought that

  18. Mr Denmore said

    See this story from the ABC, suggesting the Newspoll tomorrow will reflect Galaxy:

    A polls analyst from Newspoll is expecting tomorrow’s federal election to be an extremely close contest and says it could be a week before a definitive result emerges.

    Martin O’Shanessy says that, based on a poll to be published tomorrow, the result is certain to be a cliffhanger.

    “I think we might find it very very close in those key marginal seats that we have to see and there may be a lot of recounts and protests around the edges,” he said.


  19. Diana said

    Mr Denmore @13, as pointed out by Cat @5, the slogan ‘heading in the right direction..but still got a long way to go’ [I think that was it] was used by NSW Labor in this year’s election. The meaning, as best anyone could work out was ‘we’re incompetent, and have stuffed things up, but our hearts are in the right place.’ It’s a reflection of the dire state of the Coalition in NSW that Labor was re elected. Unfortunately for Howard, Kevin07 is in a different league to his NSW bretheren.

  20. Lomandra said

    Okay, now I’m starting to feel sick with nerves too.

  21. Mr Denmore said

    A late surge to Howard? Based on what? Are people really that stupid? Apparently so. Time to introduce voluntary voting, as Mark Latham said a couple of weeks ago in the AFR.

  22. ruth johnson said

    Please dont say the model for frog cellphone ringtone is going to get another term or should i say half term. but i am prepared for the worst have plenty of batteries for remote so am ready to give the flick whenever he comes on screen.
    But having a look at msn site for all seats in australia they have a gain of 22 seats last time i looked hope they are right.

  23. ruth johnson said

    thats labor 6 more than they need

  24. Possum Comitatus said

    Mr Denmore – the “is Australia heading in the right/wrong direction” question they ask is just about the general vibe of the thing.It’s really a meta question that encompasses everything from “we havent been hit by a comet” through to “there’s money in my bank account”. In a way it’s a bit of an anchor to questions on “future directions” and things like that. It’s one of the ways to pick up general levels of dissatisfaction and some of the underlying vibe of why.

  25. denise said

    have you all read simon jackson on the abc.election site, Possumm is this how you do your polling.

  26. Rocket said

    From 0800 tomorrow most Australians will be heading in the right direction- to the polling booth to vote Howard out. I also just realised that Adelaide’s time will be 30 minutes behind Vic/NSW/Tas but 30 ahead of Qld.

  27. denise said

    possumm must be out to lunch or are you looking over the many polls
    we have had many comments today

  28. Ronin said

    Given the disastrous last week of the Coalition campaign, it is not possible for their primary vote to go up. A 52/48 number is possible under 2 circumstances : 1) All the polls have overstated the ALP primary vote for the last 6 months, or 2) Its whacked.

    Howard needs to fire up his troops as it has a direct bearing on how long the Liberal volunteer will remain to hand out the ‘How To Vote’ cards. I went around and saw a lot of deserted post well before 6:00pm in the last NSW State election.

  29. Ed said

    On an unrelated topic, the Oz are suggesting that ‘Newspoll Says Cliffhanger’, results being published at 4pm….

  30. Kymbos said

    This is on the Australian website: NEWSPOLL SAYS CLIFFHANGER – RESULTS HERE 4PM

  31. beentoolong said


  32. KeepingALidOnIt said

    Mr Denmore at #18, I too saw the Martin O’Shanessy remarks in the Fin Review. For me, now, anyone predicting cliffhangers and close fights is simply trying to corral the horses. Of course many seats will be close. But overall the polls tells us that a Labor victory at this stage is a near-certainty. Therefore a person who says otherwise has an aim to achieve, such as keeping the party workers going, or keeping the voters on track to do whatever they were already planning to do. Perhaps Newspoll is simply trying to focus its audience’s attention in the next 24 hours because Newspoll is still pollling and will only deliver its final result tomorrow. Newspoll may want to preserve the trends that its polls have been showing over the campaign.

  33. Ralph said

    Hi all,
    another long time reader, first time poster – on the penultime day of all things. I hope I’m not the only spooked by the so-called cliffhanger newspoll coming at 4pm. How is it possible that people could desert the cause so close to voting? My guess is that the ignoramuses out in voter-land are rushing back to the ‘safety’ of the devil they know.

    Possum, you said Teh Narrowing was unlikely to come, but perhaps it’s just presented itself at the worst possible moment.

  34. steve_e said

    Simon Jackman (See ABC website)has made up a Monte Carlo simulation of possible election outcomes.

    This simulation exercise indicates that the probability of Labor getting more than 75 seats to be 97%. [THAT’s A NEW GOVERNMENT]

    Moreover, Labor is on track for a win in the neighborhood of its 1983 win under Hawke, if not bigger. [COMFORTABLE MAJORITY]

  35. Mr Denmore said

    KALOI at 32, you’re right, of course. It’s in the commercial interests of Newspoll and The Australian to play up the prospect of a cliffhanger, but it does make me nervous.

    It just defies logic that the coalition would narrow Labor’s lead that much after the disastrous final week of the campaign. Indeed, the entire campaign has been a disaster for them. The polls all year have been pointing to a 54/46 or 55/45 2PP split.

    But then you reflect on what Sol Lebovic has said all along – that a significant proportion of voters simply are not engaged with politics at all and make up their minds at the last moment based on not very much at all (surely an argument for voluntary voting BTW).

  36. Rudi said

    Teaser on the Australian website:


  37. PASOK said

    Simple answer, slow news day.

  38. Guido said

    The ‘cliffhanger’ is based on marginal seats polling.

    “A polls analyst from Newspoll is expecting tomorrow’s federal election to be an extremely close contest and says it could be a week before a definitive result emerges.

    Martin O’Shanessy says that, based on a poll to be published tomorrow, the result is certain to be a cliffhanger.

    “I think we might find it very very close in those key marginal seats that we have to see and there may be a lot of recounts and protests around the edges,” he said.”

    But it has been said that marginal seats swing less anyway than others.

  39. 2 tanners said

    It’s surely not in Newspoll’s interests to bodge the results. HOWEVER, we should all calm down – what we might see, going on past experience, is a narrowing (down to ‘only’ 54% tpp), and Shanahan pointing out that voters often change their minds so ‘only another 3%’ have to turn around between now and tomorrow and it’s all over for Labor.

    Let’s wait for the article and our distinguished marsupial (plus his mumbling, bludging and politicking friends) before allowing anything to panic the horses.

  40. Alan said

    Ronin (28) I’m not sure if the Libs actually have volunteers. Last WA State election the Libs’ HTV guy knocked off at about 11am, leaving the cards to scatter to the winds. When I asked him if someone else was coming he said: Dunno mate, but they only paid me for two hours, so I’m off. No-one else turned up. I couldn’t believe the Libs actually paid their booth workers! The LHMU organised the booth for Labor with at least eight VOLUNTEERS there at a time, and another doing sandwich and coffee runs.

  41. Alan said

    Oh yeah -Denise, and any other last-minute worriers -relax! Take a pinch of Zen with your politics:

    Winter has ended.
    Dessicated coconuts
    drop from the palm trees.

  42. PASOK said

    Okay, calm down everyone. Let’s look at the facts:

    1. The bookies say it is Labor’s. Not just over all, but even in 20 individual seats and a handful of others neck and neck.

    2. The pundits on screen and in print across the spectrum say Johnnie is gone.

    3. Tim Fischer and Gary Humnphries have conceded defeat (see story on GG).

    4. Some News Limited papers have given editorial preference to Rudd – they can detect the change coming.

    5. Howard has convincingly lost the campaign.

    6. Libs are campaigning heavily on seats with a 10% margin.

    7. Average Joe isn’t sitting at his/her computer screen waiting for polling data for marginal seats.

    8. The polling is being released early because it generates publicity and sells papers, especially if they get a aired on the 6pm bulletins. The ones a couple of weeks ago predicting a Labor demolition got no print space because it wouldn’t sell papers.

    9. Re-read the Possum’s analyses.

    10. Even Paul Keating had a “comeback” happening in polls for the final week of 1996.

  43. Ron Brown said

    POSS , we are all nervous because of Galaxy & Morgan’s 2% Labor’s primary drop

    Are you going to give us the ‘POSS’ view OR send us some tranquiler tablets

  44. Ron Brown said

    POSS , we are all nervous because of Galaxy & Morgan’s 2% Labor’s primary drop

    Are you going to give us the ‘POSS’ view OR send us some tranquiler tablets

  45. Kymbos said

    Does anyone else see this site as like a self-help group for political junkies? “My God, there are other people just like me? I’m not really alone!!!” etc etc…

  46. Stephen said

    I’m with 2 Tanners…

    Let’s wait till the result is published. We all know how accurate The Australian’s headlines can be…

    And if it does show a sudden narrowing, perhaps it will push voters back towards Labor… back into landslide territory perhaps? Let’s not forget that the vote has been with Labor ALL YEAR and the momentum has been going Labor’s way ALL WEEK.

    That being said, there’s only one day that counts.

    Like everyone else, I’m nervous – but still cautiously optimistic. Don’t Panic!

  47. nomad3 said

    Just a couple more thing I would like to add to what PASOK has said….

    1. The polls over the last 8 mths have been very consistent, isnt it sus that on the eve of the election one of the Murdoch tabloids says its going to be a cliff hanger based on a Newspoll ?

    2. There are alot of unknowns here in this new Newspoll , when was the poll taken ? before or after ‘brochuregate’? Size of the sample ? MOE etc etc

    I would like to echo what PASOK has said ..everybody calm down and go mix yourselves an ouzo and Coke ..make that a double

  48. Neilbris said

    Calm down folks. Neilsen was by far the most thorough poll (they did two with differing methodologies and both came out the same) – and has the best track record. 57/43 to ALP is what we will see. Possum was right all along. All is well and Australia is about to reclaim her soul – loudly!

  49. dave said

    go mix yourselves an ouzo and Coke….nomad3

    Come on nomad3. At least a VB 🙂

  50. Neilbris said

    Newspoll 52/48 ALP/LNP. Humbug!

  51. Droo said

    4:09 according to my computer clock and still nothing on the Oz website re the 4pm newspoll.

  52. Droo said

    Newspoll results in the OZ, TPP:
    ALP 52
    Coalition 48

  53. Droo said

    Oops, I see Neilbris beat me to it. Still I agree with him – seems like an aberration after all their polling up to today. What’s going on, poss?

  54. Neilbris said

    Perhaps if we all shout loudly enough, Possum will descend from his tree and settle our minds with his wisdom…all together now….PPPOOOSSSSSSUUUMMM!!! Nah seriously folks, it’s all bollocks. No way the LNP could gain 3% in the week they’ve just had. Tomorrow will be a merciless caning of the LNP. Relax.

  55. russman said

    Thanks Pasok (42), just what we needed to hear. To the anxious – get a grip, the possibility of loss is worrying, but panic and hysteria are pointless. Hold tight and all will be well – if its not, well lets cross that bridge when we come to it.

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