The election had a long ten-week campaign and a high rate of informal voting for the House of Representatives, but decreased rate in the Senate (due to the introduction of the Group voting ticket). The election was held 18 months ahead of time, partly to bring the elections for the House of Representatives and Senate back into line following the double dissolutionelection of 1983.
The legislated increase in the size of the House of Representatives by 24 seats and the Senate by 12 seats came into effect at the 1984 election. Prior to 1984 the electoral commission did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the previous election were put through this process prior to their destruction – therefore the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences.
The results of the election surprised most analysts; the expectation had been that Bob Hawke – who had been polling a record ACNielsen approval rating of 75 percent on the eve of the election – would win by a significantly larger margin. Labor instead suffered a 2-point swing against it and had its majority cut from 25 to 16. Hawke blamed the result on the changes to Senate vote cards, which he believed confused people regarding their House of Representatives votes and contributed to the relatively high informal vote, the majority of which apparently was Labor votes. Andrew Peacock did well from a good performance in the one leaders' debate, held on 26 November 1984. This was the first televised leaders' debate in Australia.
^Hawke, RJL (1996). The Hawke Memoirs. Port Melbourne: Mandarin. pp. 275–276. "Attracted to the simplicity of the Senate ballot, a number of voters thought they could mark their Lower House ballot in exactly the same way. Unfortunately for both them and us the informal vote for the House of Representatives swelled from 2 per cent to nearly 7 per cent. On the best surmise the bulk of the informals were Labor votes."
^Fraser, Bryce (1998). The Macquarie Reference Series: Government in Australia. Sydney: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. p. 44. ISBN1-876429-02-X.