Public Opinion and Polling in South Australian Politics

Public Opinion and Polling in South Australian Politics

While internet connected technology has transformed how people conduct many of their day-to-day transactions, voting remains a paper based process.

Marshall’s pitch to voters centres on the state’s economic performance including record low unemployment, unprecedented nett migration and the management of the pandemic.

ECSA has operated pre-poll voting centres at 10 metropolitan locations and 12 regional SA locations. It has also offered voting at eight interstate locations.

Political Parties

South Australia is the only state in the country that holds regular elections to a two-house legislature. The state parliament, called the Legislative Assembly, is made up of the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council, both of which are elected using a proportional representation system. Elections for both houses are held every four years, with by-elections being held to fill casual vacancies between elections. All Australian citizens who are enrolled to vote can take part in a state election.

The South Australian Labor Party has governed the state since 1919, although there have been a number of brief periods where the Liberals held the majority of seats in the House of Assembly. The state’s economic base is relatively narrow, making it vulnerable to swings in the economy. During the 1980s and 1990s, the state experienced higher than average unemployment rates. This, combined with the introduction of family benefits, led to an increase in support for Family First.

By the end of the 1990s, the Liberal Party had regained control of the state, with Family First losing its influence. The state’s economy has been strong since 2000, with sustained growth and lower unemployment than the national average. This has helped to maintain the state’s low level of debt and low interest rates.

Political parties use polling to gauge support and to make policy decisions. Polling can also be used to measure public attitudes towards specific issues and politicians. During the 2014 state election, polling indicated that voters were unhappy with the quality of politicians and the way they represented the community. This was partly a reaction to the state government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether SA-BEST (formerly Nick Xenophon Team) or the SA Labor Party can take advantage of this disillusionment is unclear. Haydon Manning, an adjunct associate professor in politics, policy and global affairs at Flinders University, says it is too early to know how the state election will play out.

It is important for voters to be aware of the ownership of the polling organisations they are dealing with. Knowing who owns a polling organisation can raise questions about the impartiality of its surveys. This was an issue in the case of uComms, commissioned by Nine to conduct a poll for it. It is also an issue when a newspaper carries polling it has not purchased from an outside source or conducted in-house.

Public Opinion

In the late 1850s, South Australia’s image as a progressive colony led to strong popular support for social experimentation. South Australians were willing to try new ideas about land ownership, urbanization, education, religion, and parliamentary representation. They were also highly image conscious and committed to cultural development. They wanted to be known as a technological, design, and social reform centre of the nation.

These changes reflected changing public sentiment and expectations. They are a clear example of how electoral processes and procedures can respond to public demand in ways that improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of the electoral system.

The last state election was held on 17 March 2018 to elect members of the SA House of Assembly and half of the members of the SA Legislative Council. Electoral laws stipulate that state elections must be held on the third Saturday in March every four years, unless the state is recovering from a major disaster, the date is within six months of a federal election, or the polling day clashes with a major religious festival.

Since then, the Australia Institute has surveyed nationally representative samples of South Australians about who they intend to vote for in the federal election and about the referendum on adding an Indigenous Voice to the national Constitution. The Institute’s survey work shows that while the Marshall Government has a clear lead on the issue of COVID, it has a much harder time convincing voters about other issues that may determine their vote in a close Senate election.

Unlike in the past, where polls indicated that Labor would win a large majority of seats, it now appears that a tight race between the Liberal and Labor parties is more likely. This is in part due to the Marshall Government’s stewardship of the state economy. Its record low unemployment rate, unprecedented nett migration, and booming growth in the mining sector are now key elements of its political pitch to voters.

It is also partly due to the growing popularity of convenience voting. The demands of the public to allow people to vote early have increased and ECSA is responding by increasing the number of pre-poll centres and extending their opening hours. However, the soaring demand for convenience voting has prompted calls from voters to remove eligibility requirements such as proving you are not travelling or caring for someone.

Polling Methods

In South Australia a state-wide electoral district, sometimes called an electorate or, at local government level, a ward, is the unit of voting for elections to the state parliament and some councils. The boundaries of an electoral district may change from time to time, depending on population movements and other factors.

An election to the state parliament is held every four years, with the state divided into 47 single-member electoral districts of varying size. The state’s citizens vote to elect members of the House of Assembly (the lower house) and half the members of the Legislative Council (the upper house). Voting is by universal suffrage and uses a preferential system. Legislation requires assent of both houses.

From 1965 to 1993, the Labor Party dominated South Australian politics, with only two years of Liberal-Country coalition governments between 1968 and 1970. Labor’s success was based on a highly image-conscious commitment to cultural values and its belief that, with the help of a burgeoning mining industry, South Australia could become an advanced center for research, design, social reform, and innovation—the ‘new Adelaide’.

By the early 1980s, however, the state’s reliance on a largely export-oriented economy had left it with a comparatively low standard of living. This was reflected in an erosion of public confidence in the leadership of the Labor Party and a decline in its support from traditional trade unions.

As a result, the reshaping of the electoral map in the 1990s shifted power from the traditional urban-rural divide and, by the time of the 2008 election, voters in rural seats had on average one-quarter as many votes as those in suburban Adelaide. This was despite the fact that more than two-thirds of South Australians lived in urban areas.

To conduct a public opinion poll, researchers interview people by phone or face-to-face to ask questions about their political views and opinions. They try to get a representative sample of the entire population and then analyze their results. Polls can be conducted by individual companies, academic institutions, or non-profit groups. Public opinion polling can be an effective way to inform political decisions and policy. However, it can also be misleading. Pollsters should carefully consider how they select their samples and the methods they use to conduct interviews. They should also be clear about the potential error in their polls and the way they report them.


In the Australian state of South Australia, voters are given the opportunity to vote on state-wide issues that have been debated by Parliament. If a majority of the voters at a referendum approve a proposal it is sent to the Governor for official consent and may become law. Referenda are held on a variety of issues, including daylight savings, shop trading hours and pub closing times.

As a result, the Australian Institute conducts regular polling in the seat of Mackellar, with results reported in the media and online. This polling reveals that, despite a resurgence in support for the Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, the government remains well ahead in this marginal seat.

The Mackellar results are consistent with the overall pattern of the SA election. Labor has taken a commanding lead in the lower house, and it is likely that the Liberals will lose a number of seats as their primary votes decline. However, it is still too early to determine if the Liberals will be returned to office or whether Labor’s Peter Malinauskas will regain power.

In the upper house, which is elected using a quota system, Labor’s current lead in Waite is a little less clear cut. On current count, it looks like the seat will be a close contest between Labor and the Liberals, with the final outcome likely to be six Labor, four Liberal, two Greens and one SA-Best. There is also a small chance that Lib Dems or Family First could win a seat through above the line preference voting.

The federal Coalition was not as active in the campaign, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison only visiting the state once to make an infrastructure announcement. The Liberals will be hoping that the state result doesn’t send a warning signal to the national party, but they remain the favourites to retain power in the upcoming federal election.

A new wave of electoral reforms is sweeping through Australia, designed to reduce the influence of big money in politics. If implemented well, these reforms should have a major impact on the way elections are conducted across the country. But if they are not executed properly, they will have the opposite effect, concealing rather than exposing the undue influence of wealthy interests over politicians and parties.