Tony Abbott is set for a comfortable win in Saturday’s election, but his lead has been clawed back by a late shift toward the minor parties, the final pre-election Essential Research poll shows.

The poll, conducted this week with a sample size of 1035, shows Labor on 35% — steady compared to last week — and the Coalition down a point to 43%. The Greens are steady on 10%, and “others” are now on 12%. Just two weeks ago, the minor parties’ collective was on 8%.

The two-party preferred result is 52-48% to the Coalition.

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State breakdowns of the figures, which Crikey will reveal tomorrow, suggest minor parties are performing very strongly in Queensland, certainly well enough to secure a Senate quota with favourable preference deals, and to tip a number of marginal House of Representative seats via preference flows. On a national basis, the 2.1% swing to the Coalition suggested by the final poll would allow the Coalition to pick up eight seats, plus Lyne and New England, for a comfortable majority.

However, making seat predictions in Queensland will be much harder even with state breakdowns because of the strong support for minor parties like Clive Palmer’s PUP and the unpredictable nature of their preference flows. On-the-ground reports suggest Palmer is drawing voters from both Labor and the Coalition and preferences might not break 60:40 to the conservatives as has been assumed (and which is the basis for Essential’s allocation).

A Labor vote of 35% would be well below its 2010 level and barely above the level Julia Gillard had the party at when she was removed. What’s changed is that the Greens — at that stage languishing on 7% — have got back to double figures and their preferences tend to flow strongly to Labor, giving Labor a stronger, but by no means strong enough, 2PP result.

Some 15% of voters are still flagging that they might yet change their minds, but that is now mainly “other” voters, nearly a third of whom are saying they may switch their vote. Liberal, Labor and now even Greens voters are much more fastened onto their choices.

And 42% of voters identified the economy as the main reason for the way they were voting, including 69% of Liberal voters. The most important reasons for Labor voters was that “they are more likely to represent the interests of all Australians” and they are “better at looking after the interests of people like me”. The most important reason for Greens voters was “they have better policies on things like environment and climate change”.

On the leaders, 16% of voters said their opinion of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had improved through the campaign; 40% said it had declined. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s numbers were 25-35%.

*Essential Research is a part of Essential Media Communications. EM Advertising, a business wholly owned by EMC, is contracted by the ALP to provide advertising for the federal election campaign. Directors, staff and contractors working on the EM Advertising business have no involvement in the production of the Essential Report. Your Source manages Essential’s online research panel. Essential Research and Your Source are ISO accredited market research companies.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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