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.

HIGH IMP CHANGE ALP 2PP CHANGE
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. [Gusface: the sight of a Labor Prime Minister attacking the most vulnerable in our community and branding them as “dole bludgers/welfare cheats” really saddened me.]

    evan

    the exact mo i switched alllegiance

    better for a green BOP

    than a labor FLOP

    🙁

  2. evan,

    I’m amazed you keep going with your pro Lib bulldust now you’ve been exposed as a Liberal troll.

  3. evan, same old story. I expect these polls to last for some time. A government making hard decisions will cop this. That was the problem with Rudd he wouldn’t take these chances. To be honest your constant harping on this every time a poll comes out just says more about you and your problems than it does about Labor.

  4. GG

    I’m amazed you keep going with your pro Lab bulldust now you’ve been exposed as a Laberal troll.

    the game is up, GG

    the fibs and fabs are the same blowhards

    the G’s are the sane way to progress

  5. [Probably no chance of that happening]

    Not unless they form their own parties as the ones they belong to despise them.

    The public always want what they can’t have and what they’ve got is taken for granted.

    The polls reflect an electorate that is feeling sorry for itself. A Nation of sooks.

  6. [If the poll showed Labor leading 56-44, would Gary & others similarly describe it as meaningless?]
    Of course. Just like all those polls in the first two years of Labor’s first term. Those polls wouldn’t have saved Labor at the last election had Rudd still been leader at the last election IMHO.

  7. Probably no chance of that happening – a Rudd vs Turnball matchup.

    The two people people would prefer running the country and not likely to happen. There is democracy and their factional crapocracy.

  8. I’m sure that Turnball is liked predominately by Labor/Green voters – I for one wish for a more moderate Liberal Party.

  9. [Gusface: the sight of a Labor Prime Minister attacking the most vulnerable in our community and branding them as “dole bludgers/welfare cheats” really saddened me. I’m amazed that so many Labor supporters here are giving Julia a free pass over what I consider a betrayal of the ALP’s core values.]

    I know you’re going to disagree, but I think that’s way too reductive a reading of her speech. Though I do wonder how many people read the reportage of it (because who besides politics geeks would have watched or read the actual thing?) and took that as what was actually said. I’m guessing a high percentage. 🙁

    Besides, even with this whole lame argument about Gillard lurching to the right and becoming the new Thatcher (after knifing left-wing icon Kevin Rudd and leaving his socialist corpse to rot away in the Foreign Ministry), the circumstances she’s in would prevent it happening anyway. Even if places like Larvatus Prodeo seem to assume that Windsor and Oakshott are conservatives, just because that fits the story they’re currently telling.

  10. [The two people people would prefer running the country and not likely to happen.]

    If they were the leaders what makes you think they’d be popular? They’ve both had their time and were rejected by their parties and the electorate.

  11. Thomas Paine: Rudd’s just got to be keep being an effective Foreign Minister. I think that he and Stephen Smith are perhaps the government’s two biggest assets right now, whereas Gillard and Swan are the two biggest weaknesses.

  12. rishane,

    You’ve been pwned by a troll.

    A subject is raised in a negative way and you, for good reason, respond.

    evan is a troll.

  13. [I know you’re going to disagree, but I think that’s way too reductive a reading of her speech. Though I do wonder how many people read the reportage of it (because who besides politics geeks would have watched or read the actual thing?) and took that as what was actually said. I’m guessing a high percentage]

    quiggin, among others, pointed out the calvinistic tone of JG’s approach to welfare.

    i compared and contrasted JG’s supine suck of the neo lib teat as opposed to chiffs vehement defencof the stae and the role of welfare

    choose wisely who you wish to align with!

  14. [rishane,

    You’ve been pwned by a troll.

    A subject is raised in a negative way and you, for good reason, respond.

    evan is a troll.]

    OH NOEZ. THE PWNAGE. 😮

  15. [gary

    btw

    i suggest as your alter ego bruce the goose, you should just duck shove

    that is all you have been good for]
    How grown up of you Gus.

  16. [Rudd’s just got to be keep being an effective Foreign Minister.]

    And then what? You make it sound like there’s some consequence if he remains effective. There is no consequence. FA will mean FA at an election. This is about the economy and CT and Rudd and Smith (both of whom are doing excellent work) haven’t got their hands dirty with either issue – and nor should they.

    I think Rudd’s ego trip on Q&A last week may have cost Labor another point or two with no upside for Rudd at all. If Labor go under Rudd will sink along with many others.

  17. Gary

    At least evan’s reading TP’s posts.

    Not like you and others then who no doubt only read those posters they know they will agree with.

  18. CORRECTION

    CORRECTION:

    They’ve both had their time and were rejected by their parties.

    They’ve both had their time and were rejected by back room faceless factional hacks.

  19. [They’ve both had their time and were rejected by their parties.]

    Dan

    We could argue about Rudd but there can be no argument about Mr. T

    Malcolm was toxic.

  20. [ris

    the raw pwnage?

    or a masasged pwnage?]

    PWNED PWNAGE—the worst of all! :O

    And seriously, even with the possibly ‘Calvinist’ rhetoric (Though I wasn’t aware education and equal opportunity was such a big concern for them), I’d wait until the actual Budget before making these sort of ‘NEW THATCHER!’ judgments. If it really is that bad, then yes… but I suspect people are overstating it at this point. And that its quite possible more middle-class welfare is going to be targeted than people suspect–particularly with the impending Green balance of power. Hell, even something like the flood levy was pretty carefully designed to avoid hitting lower-income earners.

  21. [I know you’re going to disagree, but I think that’s way too reductive a reading of her speech.]

    Esp given the Neilsen PV movement has gone from Labor to the coalition, not to the Greens.

    I reckon it’s the carbon tax that’s dragging Labor’s and Gillard’s vote down.

  22. [They’ve both had their time and were rejected by back room faceless factional hacks.]

    Nup

    kev was ides of march by weak and scared pussy’s

    mal was done by strong willed businessmen

    tho the common factor seems to greed and self interest

    🙁

  23. You can quote me all you like TP. I still won’t read your post.

    You are not worthy, having not graduated beyond level one echo.

  24. [Hell, even something like the flood levy was pretty carefully designed to avoid hitting lower-income earners.]

    well the original prop was a flat tax

    🙁

  25. [damn the impertinence of the internet

    ps gary

    try harder, try hard]
    What is your problem? Are you peeved because I’m not phased by these polls?

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