Welcome to 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.
For our first APS, we have decided to measure current levels of happiness and anger, regarding the Federal Government and the Prime Minister. We will revisit this set of measures regularly, to gauge any shifting currents of satisfaction or despair.
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 27 April-3 May 2021. The sample comprises 1,568 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 (37%) currently plan to vote against the Morrison Government, than plan to vote for it (34%)
Currently, the Federal Government is enjoying a slight endorsement of its performance, with more Australians strongly happy (26%) than are strongly angry (15%).
However, the PM Scott Morrison is equally loved and loathed, with 25% strongly happy and 22% strongly angry.
Right now, this despair with Morrison’s performance appears to be dominant in people’s thinking about the next election. For while 34% say they plan to vote for the Morrison Government at the next election, 37% say they plan to vote against it.
But how do attitudes correlate with voting intentions?
9 out of 10 people who are angry with the Morrison Government plan to vote against it
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 9 out of 10 plan to vote against the Government, including around 7 out of 10 who will definitely vote against.
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, including 3 out of 10 who will definitely vote for.
Interestingly, while only 3% of people who are angry with the Government still feel they will vote for it, around 9% of people who are happy with the Government still plan to vote against it.
Nevertheless, with some months yet before the next election, there is time and room for attitudes to shift markedly. Right now, most Australians (59%) do not have a strong opinion about the Government or Scott Morrison (53%), and 6 out of 10 people remain unsure about how they will vote.