Each quarter, we publish the Australian Polity Scan, looking at general adult population attitudes towards topical issues across the Australian socio-political landscape, as well as regarding government performance.
This month, we continue to measure current levels of happiness and anger, regarding the Federal Government and the Prime Minister. We will track this set of measures, to gauge any shifting currents of satisfaction or despair, particularly leading up to the election in 2022.
Why measure such happiness or anger? It is our thinking that this will provide a very useful ongoing temperature check of just how much government actions (or lack of) are being noticed and judged. Furthermore, as we lead into the next election, tracking these sentiments will serve as a wake-up call, either to the current Government and PM or to those in opposition.
However, we are also running this tracking as a monitor of more direct political engagement among Australians. It is a widely accepted wisdom that, across western democracies, opposition parties rarely win government, but rather incumbents lose. This is because being in power provides enormous advantages over public hearts and minds, so long as the job is being done. Not least of all, our over-riding cognitive biases and behavioural traits towards caution and conservatism, means we are reluctant to change things unless they are dire. Just think of how many idiomatic expressions we have in this regard: “stick with what you know”; “better the devil you know”; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, etc etc.
As such, we believe the best measure of whether a sitting government and PM are in trouble, will be the level of anger current in the polity, whatever the reasons behind it. As we go, this research scan will be testing that correlation.
About this data:
Polity’s survey was conducted online between 2-6 August 2021. The sample comprises 1,502 Australian residents aged 18-74 years old, sourced from a professional research panel. The total sample has been weighted to be nationally representative by gender/age/location/education/2019 primary vote, and has an error margin of +/- 2.5% at the 95% confidence level.
More people (39%) currently plan to vote against the Morrison Government, than plan to vote for it (31%)
Currently, the Federal Government is equally loved and loathed for its performance, with 21% of Australians strongly happy and 20% strongly angry.
For the PM Scott Morrison, current attitudes are similar, with 23% strongly happy and 24% strongly angry.
As in May, this despair with Morrison’s performance appears to be dominant in people’s thinking about the next election. However, the potential election consequences of voter anger are increasing, with 31% planning to vote for the Morrison Government at the next election, but 39% planning to vote against it. This gap has widened since our first measure in May, when the split was 37% against, to 34% for.
But how do attitudes correlate with voting intentions, and how has that changed since May?
Satisfaction with the Morrison Government has decreased since May
There is a clear correlation between anger and intention to vote against the Government. Among those who currently feel angry (at any level) about either the Government’s performance or Scott Morrison’s, around 8 out of 10 continue to plan to vote against the Government.
Conversely, among people who currently feel happy (at any level) about the Federal Government or the PM, around 7 out of 10 plan to vote for it, which also remains steady since May.
In terms of key trends, there has been a clear narrowing of attitudes, regarding levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction among the polity. Whilst 44% of the population were happy with the Government in May, this has fallen to 38% in August. Similarly, while 43% of people were happy with Scott Morrison’s performance, this has now also fallen to 38%. And those previously happy people have clearly become angry, rather than just indifferent.
However, in terms of voting intention, the main shift has actually been in people who are either happy or indifferent about Scott Morrison’s performance, as 3% more of those Australians now plan to vote against the Government. Growing dissatisfaction, it would seem, is also affecting those who don’t personally feel angry.
So far, it seems, the growing dissatisfaction with the PM is the main driver in the growing gap between intentions to vote for the Government (31%), and plans to vote against it (39%).