Are interest rates a vote changer?

Labor and the commentariat are very excited about interest rates – what with a broken promise to keep them low and the possibility of rates going up during a campaign. But as with household finances generally, do the voters have a sense of perspective that the political class lacks?

Back in August, Andrew Leigh wrote an op-ed suggesting that interest rates did not affect the 2004 election in the way conventional wisdom presumes. Today’s Newspoll suggests that the 2007 election may be similar.

In a question asking whether the respondent would be less likely to vote for the Coalition if interest rates went up, only 9% said it would. That was largely driven by people who had already said they were going to vote Labor. Only 2% of those indicating support for the Liberals said that they would be less likely to vote Liberal if rates went up. But 4% of Coalition supporters said that they would be more likely to vote for the Coalition, as did 2% of Labor voters.
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The GetUp! argument for voting Liberal, National or Family First

The activist business GetUp! is running an unusual three-party election ad. It features Greens leader Bob Brown, Democrats leader Lyn Allison, and Labor Senator Kate Lundy under the banner ‘Save Our Senate’. You can watch the ad on their site, but its message is that to restore balance in the Senate voters should support one of the three anti-Coalition parties.

GetUp! supporters will, of course, vote for one of the three left-leaning parties. But I’m not sure that the ad’s logic quite works for other voters. It was never very likely that the Coalition would hold its Senate majority. Indeed, all the polls suggest that Australia is headed towards being a one-party state, in which Labor governments may not be very competent or popular but are nevertheless entrenched in power.

What we need here -as GetUp! itself thinks we have needed over the last three years – is some balance on otherwise unchecked power. But how likely are the Greens and Democrats to provide that in the Senate if they are so close to Labor that they are participating in joint advertising?

So on the logic of GetUp!’s ad, even those who want a change in government and will vote Labor (whether directly or via one of other parties) in the House of Representatives should vote Liberal, National or Family First in the Senate.