Essential Research (53-47) and the 2010 Australian Election Study

The latest Essential Research survey shows the Coalition’s two-party vote steady on 53-47, while also pointing to a continuing drift away from Labor who for the second week in a row have shed a point on the primary vote, now at 35 per cent. The Greens have gained a point to 11 per cent, with the Coalition steady on 46 per cent. Essential’s monthly personal rating questions find approval for Julia Gillard at a new low of 37 per cent (down four points on March) with disapproval at a new high of 50 per cent (up four points). This puts her in very similar terrain to Tony Abbott, down two on approval to 36 per cent and up one on disapproval to 48 per cent. Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister is down from 44-33 to 42-33. Further questions looked at “reason for budget deficit”, measures which should be taken to restore it (63 per cent favour “increase taxes for big corporations”), Tony Abbott’s welfare proposal (reaction a bit more hostile than I might have thought) and perceptions of the difference between Labor and the Greens.

Also made available to the public last week were results from the Australian Election Study for the 2010 election, an ongoing academic endeavour which targets a sample of about 2000 respondents after each election with questions on voting intention, issue stances, party identification, personal background and media use. You can access the result by registering with the Australian Social Science Data Archive, and having done so can probably waste days on end running cross-tabulations to investigate your pet theories about why the election played out the way it did. This is done through the internet and by mailout, and while biases are introduced by the survey’s reliance on self-completion, its aggregate results reasonably approximate reality: Labor 41 per cent (38.0 per cent at the election), the Coalition 44.5 per cent (43.6 per cent) and the Greens on 9.5 per cent (11.8 per cent).

Among other things, respondents are asked to rank various election issues as of high, middling or no importance. The changes in these from the 2007 to 2010 elections make terrific reading for the Coalition. Scholars of political communications and electoral behaviour are very keen on the principle of “issue ownership”, and the need for political parties to place the issues they own high on the agendas of the media and the public. In 2007, John Howard paid dearly for the salience of industrial relations and environmental issues. Environment and global warming were respectively rated as highly important by 59 per cent and 51 per cent, respondents in the respective categories splitting 64-36 and 68-32 to Labor. Fifty-one per cent nominated industrial relations as of high importance, and although you might expect this to account for both pro- and anti-union positions, these respondents split 65-35 for Labor.

In 2010, concern for all three of these measures went through the floor: environment down to 42 per cent, global warming to 30 per cent and industrial relations to 28 per cent. However, whereas the Labor vote was actually higher than in 2007 among those concerned about the environment (65-35) and global warming (72-28), they slackened from 65-35 to 60-40 among those concerned about industrial relations. The pattern of industrial relations was reflected to a smaller extent by a 2007 Rudd showpiece, education, which was rated as very important by 69 per cent in 2007 and 62 per cent in 2010, with Labor’s lead on the issue falling from 59-41 to 56-44. The highest rated issue overall was health and Medicare, rated very important by 76 per cent, and on which Labor’s lead slipped from 58-42 to 53-47.

In each issue category noted so far, Labor held the lead. Where the election was nearly lost was economic management: not included as a distinct category in the 2007 survey, in 2010 it came second to health and Medicare with a highly important rating of 74 per cent. This three-quarters of the electorate favoured the Coalition 53-47, such that the remaining quarter had to break 63-37 Labor’s way for the ledger to be evened. The Coalition’s other leads related to other economic issues and immigration. The latter issue gained salience compared with the 2007 election; the only other issue measured both times was, for some reason, the Labor-friendly issue of unemployment.

Health and Medicare 76% 0% 53% -5%
Education 62% -7% 56% -3%
Unemployment 45% 6% 55% -2%
Interest Rates 43% 1% 48% -5%
Environment 42% -17% 65% 1%
Taxation 39% 1% 46% -2%
Population Policy 36% 5% 46% -3%
Global warming 30% -21% 72% 4%
Industrial Relations 28% -23% 60% -5%
Economic Management 74% 47%
Refugees/Asylum Seekers 38% 46%
Resources Tax 32% 45%

The next thing I found noteworthy concerned the matter of religious observance. The chart below shows the primary vote share in 2004, 2007 and 2010 for two categories of person: those who never engage in formal religious observance of any kind and those who do, however rarely (“less than once a year” inclusive). From Mark Latham to Kevin Rudd, the Labor vote among observers shot up by 9 per cent, about 1.5 per cent higher than the increase among non-observers. But with an atheist back in the Labor leadership in 2010, their primary vote among the former group slumped to only two points higher than it had been under Latham, whereas support among non-observers held firm.

Finally, something I’m not entirely sure what to make of. The following chart breaks down the primary vote according to when respondents say they decided how to vote. This tells a counter-intuitive story of the Coalition having it all over Labor among those deciding a long time before the election, with other punters breaking for Labor in increasing numbers up to and including on polling day. The chart also shows that this pattern was not followed in 2007, lest it be surmised that late voters incline to break for Labor due to their tendency to be of lower income and educational attainment. The first thing to be noted about this is that it doesn’t reflect the story told over time by the opinion polls, but this is not to say the findings are incompatible: pollsters rarely get a non-response rate of more than 4 per cent,
so the great majority of late deciders are not so undecided earlier in the piece that they are unable to offer some kind of response. One narrative which might be imposed on the figures is that a great many Labor voters who might have responded with “long time before” had their confidence shaken by the leadership change, but ultimately came home during the campaign.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

6,039 comments on “Essential Research (53-47) and the 2010 Australian Election Study”

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  1. grey,

    So do you reckon it is because someone actually punching Kevin Foley in the nose has released a lot of pent up tension in the electorate?

  2. Tom

    [Malcolm was toxic.]

    At the time. However, Abbott is making hin look less toxic. The latest polls bear this out.

    As you said Rudd is still a matter of conjecture (look how much debate it generates here). No doubt there will be debate over that until the cows come home.

    It’s out there in voter land that matters, and out there reality means nothing – perception is everything.

    The latest poll shows the perception out there in Disengagementville is Rudd and Turnbull are more popular than the incumbents.

    Right or wrong (in either case) doesn’t really mean anything to people who are more interested in who wins the next series of Dancing With The Stars.

  3. Gus! I have been reading your comments over the past view days and though maybe you had not read or heard Jules speech and therefore would discover that there is nopthing wrong with wanting to help long term unemployed and Disabled people into employment.

    But you appear to still be going on about some sort of attack on the disabled and quite frankly i think thatr is B.S

    It is total B.S to say that the current system works in heping a person with a Disabilty into the workforce for that erson is currently put at a disadvantage.

    When you are outside the workforce your access to education is limited and you can only have one DEP (Disabiltiy Employment Provider) or in the case of the long term unemployed only one Job Network provider.

    And if you want to change provider you need to go though a lenghty process and sit on a waiting list before changing provider

    The simple reality is that the current system for people with a Disabilty works against the disabled and therefore should be overhaulled.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to have in place a situation where a disabled person can acheive his/her ambitisiopns in life just because they have some sort of disabilty.

  4. You all better watch yourselves, I’m trying to think of who I should get banned next. I am the real power here on Poll Bludger now, I’ve trolled William Bowe right out of the way. Bow down before me bludgers, and pray for your salvation.

    The world is mine!

  5. [Gus! I have been reading your comments over the past view days and though maybe you had not read or heard Jules speech and therefore would discover that there is nopthing wrong with wanting to help long term unemployed and Disabled people into employment.]


    with due respect

    JG’s speech ranks with thatcher bush1/2 and howard for false rhetoric

    when i read it at first, triggers fired

    upon subsequent readings, i found corrollary’s with, among others, calvin, thatcher etc

    JG has wrpped herself in the cloth of the lamb

    sadly the policy is basicaaly wolf driven


    I stand by my stance as does ACOSS and the wel;fare sector


  6. Gusface – Poor little Acoss and the usless welface sector are worryied and for good reason for they have been using the Disabed to feather their own nest.

    The sooner the Disabled are freed from that system the better.

  7. [So do you reckon it is because someone actually punching Kevin Foley in the nose has released a lot of pent up tension in the electorate?]

    It certainly did for someone. Foley just seems to have a punching bag like effect on people. Most people will give one a tap if it’s in the room. I don’t think he’s a bad bloke, but he can rub people up the wrong way.
    The local rag isn’t as virulent towards Gillard as the rest nationally. There have been some positive editorials which surprised me. (Flood levy was one).
    Members like Amanda Rishworth and Kate Ellis also seem to be quite well liked.
    Or maybe it was Foley getting thumped. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. mb,

    Its a sado masochism thing.

    PC wants to be beaten with a lettuce. I say No!

    I’ve got an iron that works better. it sorts out the ones who are fair dinkum.

  9. MB

    you focuss on the DSP if you want

    My focus is the 1.2 ausssies underemployed nad undepaid

    and the 560k unemployed

    but please, continue your diversion

    it suits your purpose?


  10. [Since the last poll a month ago, support for a price on carbon is relatively unchanged at 34 per cent but opposition has risen 3 points to 59 per cent.]

    That’s going well. That compensation package talk has really hit the spot.

  11. My Purpose!

    Gus – My purpose on this issue is much the same as whenever i offer a comment for others to agree or disagree and to read other peoples thoughts, besides that i have no alternative purpose.

    I make no secret that i have little to no respect for cartain parts of the Welfare sector

  12. [I would like someone to explain why the current Disabled Employment Network should be maintained?]

    only the fibs or those of the
    “work will set you free” brigade

    want it

    what is your point?

  13. So Gus if you think the system is a crock then what are we actually disagreeing on.

    When you are on DSP you can oinly have one Disability Employment Provider at a time, is this really the best way to assist a Disabled person. I think not

    Waiting list for changing provider, again no abled bodied person is made go in a waiting list at normal employment agencies.

    RThe way we manage Disability is pathetic. and i say that for i have been close to it for many years.

  14. MB

    we seem to be in both furious disagreement and yet agreement

    basically the whole welfare sector is fooked

    time for someone (read the G’s ) to sort it out

  15. [i have no respect for any of it

    the system is a crock]

    The stories I could tell about the job network and what they put me through when I was unemployed (for over 3 years). It almost destroyed me as a person. It’s one of the reasons I shrugged off my ardent leftism and became an anarchist instead. Leftism is just rule by these poisonous flapping beurocrats (sp).

    It’s also one of the reasons I despise Julia Gillard. She obviously has no experience or understanding of what it is like to be unemployed and constantly rejected amidst a media and political culture that constantly demonises you.

  16. Publius Clodius

    I agree – The way people with disabilities are treated and then demonised is mind boggling, and the same applies to the long term unemployed and this is where the Government needs to move the debate way from the people on welfare to a debate about how the system operates and how it can function better for basically the current system makes giving up very easy and their is nothing more frustrating than being unemployed and thinking you are trapped in a system that is more interested in itself.

  17. PC,

    So PB is just another station on your railway of life to being “rejected amidst a life, media and political culture that constantly ignores you”,

  18. [She obviously has no experience or understanding of what it is like to be unemployed and constantly rejected amidst a media and political culture that constantly demonises you.]

    Curiously, if she had the experience of being unemployed and constantly rejected that same media and political culture wouldn’t have allowed her to become Prime Minister.
    You aren’t the only one who has been in that position.
    My grand idea for getting a job when I was on the dole was to work for Centrelink. I knew how the system worked and I knew what the situation was for the clients.
    The fact I was a scruffy, unreliable know it all who hated the world and everyone in it never entered my head as disqualifying me for any responsible position anywhere.

  19. Well I’m off to bed bludgers. What a bizarre night it’s been. *shakes head over the odd people you encounter on the internets*

    (I ) Whatever happened to Ron.?
    Just when I began to cope with his strangled syntax he has vanished!
    Re welfare receipients…attacks on them was always thus!

    Read Dickens and his accounts of the Victorian Workhouses in “Oliver Twist”
    In the 1830ies in the UK the welfare system was” reformed”…instead of assistance to the very poor coming from local parish councils,and given to the poor in their homes,and being a sort of work for the dole scheme….the poor were now segregated into “workhouses” where they were housed in”frugal comfort” and fed terrible food…
    while doing various tasks(boys from poor families were sent to work with chimney sweeps !)
    All this was seen as a way of teaching the poor the virtues of work.!!(JULIA USED THIS PHRASE RECENTLY!).
    “Oliver Twist” looks at great detail

    Dickens himself was for a time in his childhood forced to this level of degradation,and never forget it ,and the theme returns in many of his classic works
    I’m sure there are many in Oz who would think workhouses a good idea!
    Abbot would love them!,,,so would Bernardi and Joyce !
    Don’t tell them .

  21. No doubt there will be debate over that until the cows come home.

    Mooooooo! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Time to Ditch the Witch! ๐Ÿ˜›

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