ANUpoll: Attitudes to Government and Government Services

The latest quarterly Australian National University poll on various aspects of public opinion was released earlier this week, this one targeting “attitudes to government and government services”, as well as asking its usual question on the most important problems facing the country. The poll is derived from a weighted sample of 2001 respondents to phone polling conducted between September 5 and 18, and boasts a margin of error of 2 per cent.

• Satisfaction with the “the way democracy works in Australia” produced the same results as obtained from the ANU’s Australian Election Study survey after last year’s election, with 73 per cent satisfied and 27 per cent not satisfied. Last year’s result marked a plunge from 86 per cent satisfaction recorded after the 2007 election, which was part of an apparent peak recorded in the middle of the previous decade. The report notes that of 29 advanced democracies surveyed in the 1990s, only the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and the United States had higher levels of satisfaction with democracy than Australia (I suspect the mentality at work in the latter country differed from the first three).

• The public appears to have soured on the federal tier of government since 2008, when 40 per cent of respondents were receptive to an expansion in federal power. This time it’s at 30 per cent, with opposition up from 39 per cent to 50 per cent. Western Australia stands out among the state breakdowns, recording only 18 per cent support compared with 29 to 35 per cent for the other states. The current results still compare favourably with 1979, the previous occasion when an ANU survey had posed the question, when 17 per cent were supportive against 66 per cent opposed.

• Respondents were a lot more inclined to believe taxes, unemployment and especially prices had gone up since Labor came to power than they were to believe that health, education and living standards had improved. In the case of prices, this is incontestably correct: the inflation rate may be a different matter, but this isn’t what was asked. However, 58 per cent believed prices had risen “a lot”, which is probably untrue in historical terms. The figures for unemployment offer an even more telling insight into voter psychology, with only 19 per cent believing it had done anything so boring as remain the same, which it essentially has. Forty per cent believed it had increased against 29 per cent who thought it had decreased, which no doubt tells you something significant about the government’s fortunes.

• A trend of recent years has been maintained with higher support recorded for increased social spending (55 per cent in the current poll) than for reduced taxes (39 per cent). The report notes that opinion on government spending “tends to be both secular – in that it is largely unrelated to partisan debates and changes in government – and cyclical – in that it is responsive to broader economic conditions”. Contra John Maynard Keynes, it seems that “national electorates are more likely to favour spending on social services and welfare when economic conditions are benign”. Tax cuts are preferred to government spending to stimulate the economy during downturns.

• The policy areas in which respondents most wanted more money to be spent were education (81 per cent want more spending) and aged pensions (71 per cent), with unemployment the only area where more wanted spending cut (33 per cent) than increased (20 per cent). Small businesses (66 per cent) beat people on low incomes (52 per cent) as most deserving of tax relief, with mining companies, banks and companies which produce carbon pollution essentially tied for least deserving (in each case 59 per cent thought they paid too little tax). Somewhat bewilderingly, all revenue-generating measures suggested to respondents recorded very strong support, and while “a carbon tax on the 500 largest polluting companies” was the least popular of the seven, it still had 63 per cent approval and 34 per cent disapproval.

• As always, respondents were asked to identify the two most important problems facing Australia today. Following the previous poll in July I produced a chart plotting the progression of this series since April 2008. If that were updated with the current results it would show “economy/jobs” continuing to trend upwards (37 per cent rated it first or second, up from 34 per cent) and “better government” jerking sharply upwards from 14 per cent to 26 per cent, taking third place behind a stable immigration (down a point to 31 per cent).

NOTE FOR READERS: Following a software upgrade, the feature which breaks pages down into digestible chunks of 50 comments is not working. This will be rectified, but in the meantime I will be keeping the posts frequent to keep the comments pages at manageable lengths.

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.

848 comments on “ANUpoll: Attitudes to Government and Government Services”

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  1. [my say

    Posted Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Frank who are u talking about

    Sorry. To ask e very ting is so complicated at the. Moment this end and that end

    My former local Labor Member Jaye Radisich.

  2. What is extraordinary is that the perceptions run contra to the evidence. The percentage of taxes is lower than in the Howard years, but apparently not perceived as such. The level of unemployment is low, albeit this varies in different regions, on historic levels and on international levels unbelievably low. It is a similar story with inflation/costs.

    It suggests that the constant moaning of Hockey and Robb apparently does have some effect. That is surprising because it is mostly nitpicking trivia which you would expect would make people switch off. A general observation in the past was that we didn’t need people to tell us how badly we were doing. We knew that already from balancing the family budget.

    But perhaps the reverse is true. The public may need a more constant flow of information on how well we’re doing. As Windsor said after his tour of Europe, “… our economy is the envy of the world.”

    Swan’s failing may not be in managing the economy but in convincing the average punters how well he’s doing it.

    It suggests that the government has some work to do above and beyond Abbott’s negativism. It seems as if there may be more than just uncertainty about the carbon pricing that is driving the current government support. The primary low 30s, and at one point 20s, does not seem credible in relation to the overall competence.

    Although the ructions over the Rudd coup have barely settled, this has never been a government in the same category as the recent NSW Labor one. Quite the reverse. But somehow the perception remains.

  3. The above tells me, they. Have no idea how well ofc they.are Selfish so and so s

    Should even try. USA. UK! THEn. The african desdrts of the world, which of course should of been ninclude in the survey, which also tells us academia, also should be able thik of for example

    Well would u prefer aust, to greese, usa, uk, or a refugee camp, and get overthemselves
    Many aust, need a holiday of reality

  4. Gd, you put it so well
    Get the two of usa room with this lot,
    The health service we just received, would have to be the best in the world
    I fear in some countries and well off ones, I would have lost my daughter and grandson
    These idiots all need a dose of medicne called reality bites
    I still think the question ‘ but but
    Would u now at this moment like to be living elsewhere, I bet the answer would of been
    No, but of course. The word but would be included

  5. Italy is very close to be insolvent and bankrupt. Yet, the Italian people allow their PM to behave this way. hat is wRONg with them

    [ROME: Silvio Berlusconi lavished millions of euros on a string of showgirls, actresses and female television presenters, bank records have revealed.

    The Italian Prime Minister, 74, gave nearly €3 million ($3.98 million) in cash as gifts to his female admirers and spent an additional €337,000 on jewellery which he handed out as presents, the bank details showed.

    The revelations emerged the day after he presented a reform package in Brussels which included plans for the retirement age to be raised to 67.]

    Read more:

  6. Mike Carlton gives a good take on the Occupy Sydney raid by Fatty’s wallopers:

    [Everything was peaceful. There was no noise and the kids weren’t getting in anyone’s way. It was no trouble to walk past them to and from Macquarie Street.
    Advertisement: Story continues below

    But last Sunday the coppers moved in at dawn, busted up the camp, and 40 people were arrested. A senior police officer explained that bankers had been abused on their way to work.

    How frightful. We can’t have that sort of anarchy happening: bankers copping an earful one minute, world revolution the next. Saved in the nick of time. The police had been protecting the public, doing their job responsibly, said Barry O’Farrell.

    For the next few days I scanned the media to see if there’d be any outcry about this assault on freedom of speech. You’ll remember that when Andrew Bolt, Melbourne’s village idiot, got done for racial discrimination, there were weeks of hullabaloo from the High Tory claque. The left had won an infamous victory for Orwellian political correctness; democracy itself was at stake.

    This time around, not a peep. Freedom of speech, it seems, extends only to those people the right agrees with. When that ugly rabble of Alan Jones listeners hurled abuse at Julia Gillard from the public gallery in Parliament a few weeks ago, opposition MPs invited a bunch of them to lunch.


    The whole column is worth a read, with an hilarious piece on Abbott.

  7. “Last night”
    [AUSTRALIA was among 16 Commonwealth nations that agreed last night to a request by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to change the rules of succession for the monarchy and to allow monarchs to marry Catholics.]

    Posted 21 October
    […but we would welcome other change, such as the proposal to end discrimination against women in the line of succession and to allow marriage to Catholics, because it is a sign that ancient institutions need not be anachronisms.]
    Now I havent been keeping up with the news lately, but were these changes well flagged and last night was just a process, or was this another example that Abbott can’t keep his mouth shut?

  8. [Guy Sebastian wrote this for CHOGM]
    If ever anyone wanted to know what the term “over-rated” means they should be referred to Guy Sebastian.

  9. Good morning, Bludgers.

    [The health service we just received, would have to be the best in the world]

    Indeed, my say. So glad your news is so good! We Aussies are lucky.

    We’ve been in the top tier of medical services, at least since our hospitals (inc my local one) and doctors had such critical roles in treating Pacific War (inc US) casualties (inc with still experimental serum penicillin). I’ve said re OH’s treatment last year that, if we had Murdoch’s billions, we could have bought a more glamorous hospital suite, food, nurses etc, but as he was being treated through a Princess Alexandra hospital Adjunct (PA hosts Prof Ian Frazer’s Diamantina Institute cancer research centre) we were getting World’s best treatment, free of charge. So who cares if the grotty building’s years overdue for major refurbishment! Better the money goes to research and staff.

    The sad thing is that, in a nation where Murdoch & other Big Media dominate the MSM, we are fed endless Bad News stories about government hospitals’ incompetence and almost none of the Good News stories which prove that, grotty and crowded as our public hospitals are, treatment is up there with the World’s best.

    Even sadder that we pay sportspeople (esp footballers) gainormous salaries and such adulation for no real long-term good to humanity and the nation; yet our top medical researchers earn only modest salaries and are dependent on grants (many from OS) and charities – if they’re lucky enough to be fronted by famous/glamorous people who drive the fundraisers.

  10. From today’s Letters to The Age:
    Andrew Bolt should sue for defamation, dontcha think?

    [Two sides to a story
    THERE are usually two sides to a story. In my case, there is another story about an ”engagement” I reportedly had and which I and my relatives do not remember. To tell that story and rebut the allegation of having lied (”Bolt from the past”, The Saturday Age, 22/10) I would need to quote from a private letter I received from my ex-girlfriend in May 1987, after I proposed to my now wife. But I would never do something so intrusive and tawdry as what The Age did in publishing my private mail from so long ago. Shame on you.
    Andrew Bolt, Southbank]

    Link to article Bolt is commenting on:

  11. Peter Reith attacking Abbott;s approach to IR in the OO today. need to jump over the paywall to read. even more dissension with Abbott in the broad church:

    [Mr Reith backed Ms Gillard’s stance on practical and policy grounds. The former industrial relations minister said he couldn’t remember when a government last formally intervened in a dispute, because that was an outdated approach to strikes. He said that if Ms Gillard intervened it would represent a return to the way of handling strikes of 30 years ago.

    “In 1997 and 1998, the government was actively supporting waterfront reform, but that did not give rise to an intervention in the Industrial Relations Commission,” Mr Reith said. “The reason that there is little interest in the concept of government involvement . . . is that, since the early 1990s, there has been general agreement that workplace relations issues should be the responsibility of the parties at work and if there are disputes then they should be settled by the parties.”

    Mr Reith added: “I understand that the short-term politics for the Coalition is to make Qantas the PM’s problem but I find it rather strange to hear Tony Abbott say that Julia Gillard should step into the dispute. I thought Tony’s position was that Julia is a hopeless negotiator and everything she touches turns to mud. So why would the opposition want the government involved? The answer seems to be that they do not otherwise have a policy response.”]

  12. [AUSTRALIA was among 16 Commonwealth nations that agreed last night to a request by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to change the rules of succession for the monarchy and to allow monarchs to marry Catholics.]

    How long before Abbott/ his media junkies credit this t him, because of his speech at Fed Parliament reception – even though it had been in the news since THE wedding and Cameron was also pushing it?

    BTW Did like Julia’s quip about her enthusiasm as Oz’s first female PM (3.21 into video clip)

  13. [Peter Reith attacking Abbott;s approach to IR in the OO today. need to jump over the paywall to read. even more dissension with Abbott in the broad church]

    After Abbott’s very public double-cross & back-stab over the Lib’s Presidency, Reith is sure to keep stoking Lib discontent until he destroys Abbott. He’s not the forgiving type.

  14. Article by Laurie Oakes what he thinks the govt is trying to achieve at CHOGM.

    [Big guns down weapons for UN Security Council seat
    by Laurie Oakes

    Despite what Tony Abbott would have us believe, the striking thing about the build-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth was not division between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. It was the way they worked together.

    The two rivals put differences aside to try to ensure that CHOGM is a success. And they will consider it a success if the Commonwealth leaders leave Australia with smiles on their faces.

    That’s what it’s all about. Keeping all of the 53 delegations happy. Because folks, behind the talk about strengthening the Commonwealth’s commitment to democracy and human rights, the Gillard Government is approaching the summit as a $60 million PR exercise.

    And the ultimate aim of that exercise is to help Australia win a place on the United Nations Security Council in 2013. It’s all part of drumming up the required 128 UN votes.]

    More in the article

  15. Good morning all. A comment at another place by Andrew Elder, who has consistently said that Abbott will never be PM.

    Basically, the Libs were ready to move on from Howard after 2007 and elect Costello, accepting that he’d do a few things differently. He never gave them the chance so they thought they were safe with Nelson. After a while they realised that Nelson wasn’t going to take them anywhere so they took a risk with Turnbull. Turnbull represented the post-Howard future.

    What Abbott promised them was a way of getting back into government without the messy business of rethinking everything. The promotion of staffers in byelections means that there is some sort of continuum, that no random band of preselectors is going to throw up a member who wants to rethink things from first principles.

    When Turnbull stumbled, they thought the protege could be trusted to bring them home. Howard remade the Liberal Party in his image from the mid-’90s. The rule that sitting members shouldn’t be challenged at preselection made him popular amongst the troops and ensured he stayed that way – and that the Libs kept his imprint on it, and stayed loyal. Abbott promised a Howard Restoration and everything he says and does is geared around that, pleasing rusted-on members rather than hard-to-please swinging voters.

    The hatred that oozes out of them – the insistence that Gillard is hopeless, that she’s hated across the nation, the chaff-bag thing – comes from a determination not to face the post-Howard future (they tried post-Howard and it didn’t work), which involves oblivion for probably the oldest third of Liberal Parliamentary Party members. Rage against the dying of the light, the rage of Caliban, call it what you will: but the tumult that the Coalition should have gone through in 2007 will only start around Easter or so and intensify throughout next year.

    If he is right then easter promises major, major Unhinging.


    [LNP treasurer Barry O’Sullivan rang cop over inquiry into the party’s financial irregularities
    by: Steven Wardill From: The Courier-Mail October 29, 2011 12:00AM

    CONTROVERSIAL LNP treasurer Barry O’Sullivan boasted to colleagues about calling one of Queensland’s top cops during an investigation into financial irregularities within the party.

    The Courier-Mail can reveal Mr O’Sullivan told fellow party officials last year that the pair had agreed on a plan to progress the complaint.

    The officer, Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon, yesterday confirmed he had spoken to Mr O’Sullivan at the outset of the investigation but insisted that the discussion had been “formal” and “in line with standard police procedures”.]

    More in the article

  17. oops forget to post a link

    Dennis Atkins

    [THE start of November usually marks the time when young children begin counting down for Christmas, working out there are eight weeks to the big day, with the more numerate translating it into 54 sleeps.

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be having her own methodical countdown, focusing on a closer horizon of just 24 sleeps from Tuesday. That should get her past the last scheduled sitting day for the House of Representatives for the year and past the week which has in recent times been the most popular killing season for political leaders.]

  18. I hadn’t realised Turnbull had something to say pokies this week.

    [Malcolm Turnbull made a nuanced contribution on pokies reform this week. The day after Tony Abbott ”predicted” the Coalition would oppose and then rescind mandatory pre-commitment reforms if they actually managed to get through this all-singing, all-dancing Federal Parliament, Turnbull was asked to advance his own view.]

  19. On ABC National Radio this morning the program By Design will be looking at the stimulus response to the Great Depression in the USA with all the public infrastructure that was built, and how much of it now is crumbling, and in need of repairs.

    The opportunity is there if only the Tea Party and it’s insane billionaire backers weren’t standing in the way.

  20. victoria:

    Unbelievably Abbott is promising has-beens like Ross Cameron another shot! And I read somewhere that Dave Gazzard (former Howard and Costello advisor) is likely to be preselected for Eden-Monaro again.

    It’s Class of 96 circa 2013. Where are all the fresh, up and coming talent in the party?


    For Finns set of numbers?

    [Australia’s net wealth hits $8,089,900,000
    28 Oct, 2011 07:29 PM

    While much of the rest of the advanced world is struggling through economic uncertainty, new figures show Australia is worth a record $8 trillion after the fastest growth in at least two decades.

    CommSec chief economist Craig James said new figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today showed the country’s net worth, or wealth, hit $8,089,900,000 at June 30, up 2.8 per cent in real terms. ]

    More in the article.

  22. confessions

    As Tingle said yesterday, Abbott is a hollow man. Emperor with no clothes. As you have said previously, the Liberal party are currently being run by reactionaries. Abbott is taking the party down a dangerous path

  23. As suggested in comments by Turnbull, the party room has not discussed pokies reform, and yet Abbott has gone around shooting his mouth off. I linked article last night from Crikey re pokies and the Catholic Clubs in NSW.

    [But where does the archbishop’s Catholic counterpart sit in this debate? And why has he not joined the fight?

    Last November in a speech entitled God and Mammon: Need or Greed in the big end of town Sydney’s Cardinal Pell told a business audience that his church could not condemn pokies because Catholic clubs were full of them.

    ”I must confess I do feel a bit uneasy about that,” he admitted, “But only a bit uneasy, because culturally I’m an Irish Australian and we grew up gambling.” ]

  24. sorry the article i just posted is not the crikey one, but it is very telling as to Cardinal Pell’s position. Does he have Abbott’s ear on the issue of pokies?

  25. [”I must confess I do feel a bit uneasy about that,” he admitted, “But only a bit uneasy, because culturally I’m an Irish Australian and we grew up gambling.” ]
    In other words, “I must confess I’m quite a hypocrite on this matter”.

  26. BK

    I have been raised a catholic, and have always been around caring wonderful people, but Pell makes my skin crawl! So does Abbott for that matter!!

  27. GG
    Did you see that at a rock concert last night Rudd told the crowd that today “We will announce, in conjunction with Bill Gates, a program to rid this planet of polio”?

  28. A jolly little anecdote from the hammock dweller about how to spend $400 million accidentally.

    [‘This was 1999. Neither Howard nor I had much of an idea of what a greenhouse gas was, let alone how to abate it … Trying to co-operate without blowing the financial position, I whispered to Howard, ‘Offer her four hundred.’

    ”’Okay,’ he said. ‘$400 million.’

    ”She accepted. I tapped him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, ‘That’s not what I meant. I meant we should offer her $400,000’.”

    There was no way to retract the offer.

    ”It was how $400 million got expended by mistake.”]

  29. [LNP treasurer Barry O’Sullivan rang cop over inquiry into the party’s financial irregularities
    by: Steven Wardill From: The Courier-Mail October 29, 2011 12:00AM]

    The LNP – or at least the L part – can’t help itself, can it! It eats its own. Regularly.

    I say ‘L’ because the NP’s been pretty careful since the Joh & Russ (Hinze) sleaze-mess blew up in its face in the late 80s & the Borbidge sleaze in 96-8. OTOH, the Easties/ Sicilians’ messes have a long history, culminating in the Santo Santoro ‘nursing home beds allocation’ scandal that cost him his job & seat. In addition, there was the Fed electoral-allowance rorting scandal (c2007).

    Newman, who’d been seen as a Lib ‘Westie’ – and is trying to get elected in a typical Westie’s seat (Ashgrove) is now, through his wife’s family, involved in typical ‘Easties’ sleight-of-hand, secret property dealings and lying through his teeth about them.

    What I can’t understand is why CM seems to have suddenly turned on Newman & the LNP. Did Newman turn his MCP tendencies on Madonna King/ some of its female employees/ alienated his Media Girlie cheer squad that did so much to get him elected in the first place? Does CM know something no one else has (to my knowledge) identified?

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