The systemic consequences of big election victories

Today’s Galaxy poll was more of the same old bad news for the government, another week of no rain in a long electoral drought. Because of the way single-member electorate voting systems exaggerate results, a uniform swing would see the Coalition’s 44% of the vote translate into only about a third of the seats in the House of Representatives.

An election victory that big would have systemic consequences. Voters wouldn’t just be changing the government now, they would effectively also be limiting their choices for the next couple of elections at least, since even being optimistic it would take that long for the Coalition to rebuild to the point that it passed the threshold of credibility as an alternative government. And unless parties pass that threshold, even bad or unwanted governments seem secure.

This is already the problem we have at the state level. In a Galaxy Poll last November respondents were asked whether, based on its recent performance, the NSW Labor government deserved to win the next state election. Only a third of voters thought that it did. Yet the same poll showed Labor leading on the 2PP 52-48, roughly what it in fact got at the subsequent state election. The Opposition has never really recovered from its dismal showing at the 1999 state election. At this distance, the Beattie/Bligh government in Queensland looks to be struggling towards mediocrity even less successfully than the Iemma government in NSW, but it too seems secure in power, because the Opposition is not credible.
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