When do voters make their decision?

In a post at his very useful Oz Politics Blog during the week Bryan Palmer said:

We know from past election studies that roughly half the electorate reports that it decided how to vote during the election campaign.

The source of this statistic is probably the Newspoll conducted after each election that asks voters which party they voted for and then follows up with ‘when did you yourself finally decide to vote for …. party?’ In 2004, 30% of voters gave various times in the last week, and another 19% in the last month (ie, during the campaign). That makes 49%. Similar numbers were recorded in the 2001 election (46%), the 1998 election (50%) and even the 1996 election in which the baseball bats had supposedly been out for Paul Keating since the ‘recession we had to have’ (43%).

The Australian Election Study comes up with generally lower, but still significant, proportions of late deciders. They ask ‘when did you decide how you would definitely vote in this election?’, and adding up the answers from ‘about the time the election was announced’ to ‘election day’ we get 38% in 2004, 41% in 2001, 51% in 1998, and 38% in 1996.

But does this exaggerate the impact of the campaign? There are a couple of reasons for thinking that we should put a lot of emphasis on the ‘finally decide’ in Newspoll and the ‘definitely vote’ in the AES.
Continue reading “When do voters make their decision?”