Will pre-poll voters determine the 2019 Federal Election outcome?

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the 2019 Federal Election campaign to date has been the record number of voters who have turned down the chance of a democracy sausage on Saturday and decided to vote early through pre-polling – but what impact will this have on the outcome?

The ABC reports that over 3 million pre-poll votes have already been cast, and that somewhat paradoxically, this could actually delay the outcome in a close contest as such votes are counted after those cast on the day of the election.

This got the Faster Horses crew thinking – how might the voting patterns of those that have pre-polled differ from those who will vote this Saturday? And could these votes be the deciding factor in who forms government – either in their own right or requiring the support of minor parties and independents?

Being the inquisitive types, we conducted a national survey of 229 pre-poll voters on May 15 to explore if actual voting patterns among this group differed from our independent poll of 1076 eligible Australian voters between the 10th and 11th of May.

The results? On face value, the actual voting patterns of pre-poll voters broadly matched the voting intent of those in our broader voter intention poll – but with some potentially interesting differences.

While the primary vote share for both the major parties was almost identical to the earlier poll, it was the share of primary votes among the minor parties that was more interesting.  Among those that had already voted, the Green’s share was 9% vs. 11% in the broader poll, while the share going to a combined group of the United Australia Party, independents and other parties was 18% among early voters vs. 15% in the broader poll.

While these differences were not statistically significant (meaning we can’t say the same patterns would be observed in similar samples of those voting early), the results do suggest these early voters could – and most likely will – play a critical role in determining the election outcome based on likely preference flows to the major parties.   

Who is the typical pre-poll voter?

At a broader level, the surge in pre-poll voting numbers suggests many Australians would rather not spend their Saturday in a polling booth queue, but who exactly are this group of people and do they differ from the broader Australian voting population? 

An examination of pre-poll voters versus our broader poll sample shows few differences by demographics including location and income level. Age was a factor where significant differences were observed – those aged 45-54 were significantly less likely to have voted early, while those aged 55-64 were significantly more likely to have cast a pre-poll vote.

Given the surge in pre-poll voting this election, the Australian Electoral Commission has flagged this will be an area for specific review after the election in examining its impacts on the final result.