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 9-12 November 2021. The sample comprises 1,500 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 (43%) currently plan to vote against the Morrison Government, than plan to vote for it (31%)
The Federal Government is now slightly more loved than loathed for its performance, with 24% of Australians strongly happy and 20% strongly angry. This may reflect an uptick in public sentiments more generally, as we continue to emerge from lockdowns.
However, for the PM Scott Morrison, anger across the electorate has grown since August, with 27% of people now strongly angry with his performance, compared to 23% who are strongly happy.
This growing despair with Morrison’s performance appears to remain dominant in people’s thinking about the next election, with 43% of Australians now planning to vote against the Morrison Government at the next election. This compares with 39% who were planning to vote against it in August, while those planning to vote for the Government remains steady at 31%. Moreover, this gap has widened further 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 PM, Scott Morrison continues to decrease since May
In terms of key trends, there continues to be an increase among the polity of people who are angry, especially with the PM. Whilst 32% of the population were angry with Scott Morrison’s performance in May, this has now grown to 40%. Similarly, while only 29% of Australians were angry with the Federal Government in May, that has increased to 36% currently.
There continues to be 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.
What is more, in terms of voting intention, 87% of people angry about Scott Morrison’s performance plan to vote against the Government. Conversely, 71% of people happy with the PM plan to vote for the Government.
The growing dissatisfaction with the PM, it seems, continues to be the main driver in the growing gap between intentions to vote for the Government (31%), and plans to vote against it (43%), at next year’s election.