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Four Need to Know Charts

Since there seems to be a few new Crikey readers hangin’ round these parts lately (and a great big welcome aboard to all), it’s probably worth going over a few things that we regularly dealt with at the old site, especially to provide some historical context for the way we go about looking at polls here.

The Two Howard Governments

If we look at the polling behaviour that accompanied the Howard government over its duration, we can see two clear and separate patterns come out in the polling metrics. The first pattern, the first Howard government, started in 1996 and ended in the lead up to the 2001 Election. During this period, PM Satisfaction levels, Preferred Prime Minister Ratings and the Coalition Primary Vote all walked in lockstep and stuck fairly close together throughout the period ( all charts are expandable – just click)

That was the fiscally conservative, conviction politician, reformist Howard government. In 2001, starting around the time of the Ryan by-election, the Howard government went down the path of what is probably best described as populism – the pork started to flow, massive government advertising campaigns became more frequent, the political messages became more populist (the “We Decide” and “interest rates will always be lower” slogans being good examples) . This second Howard government experienced a totally different relationship in the polling metrics than they had over their first 5 years in office. The qualitative metrics of Satisfaction and Preferred PM shifted away from the Coalition Primary Vote and became structurally higher over the period. Howard led his government from the front – his popularity transcended that of the Party he was leading. The governing style of Howard changed, and along with it changed the polling metrics.

What Moved the Coalition Vote?

If we look at the attention grabbing issues of the Howard era, turn them into dummy variables and run a regression through them, we end up with a chart that shows how the average primary vote share of the Coalition changed during various policy periods and periods dominated by certain political events.

Are Prime Ministers becoming more popular over time?

A big question where there is some evidence to back the yes case.

There are plenty of possibilities to explain this, from improving economic conditions over the period, increasingly presidential style permanent campaigning and more sophisticated, better targeted political propaganda emanating from the increased resources of government and political parties that make incumbency so valuable a political asset.
Those 4 charts provide a good context backgrounder for the types of things we do here, especially on the nature of historical polling behaviour.

Finally, for a bit of a laugh, this was one of the funniest pictures from the 2007 election campaign– I can’t actually remember where this came from, might even have been Crikey. It’s a poster for the Liberal candidate for the seat of Adelaide Tracy Marsh, after a bit of clever graffiti.

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  • 1
    Ad astra
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Another lucid analysis Poss that shows graphically how the relationship between Satisfaction/Preferred PM and the Coalition Primary Vote parted company in the latter years of the Howard Government. This remained a mystery to many columnists right to the end, and left them with the lingering expectation/hope that the Primary Vote would eventually match the Satisfaction/Preferred PM ratings. Let’s hope the lesson of this analysis will be learned.

  • 2
    Aristotle
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    For those who may be interested, I posted this over at Ozforums recently, comparing the first nine months of polling of the Howard Government in 1996 with the Rudd Government in 2007/8. 

    Two things stand out:

    1. At the same stage (6 – 9 months since the election), both winning parties increased their primary vote, L/NP 1996 (+ 1.5%) ALP 2008 (+ 2.1%) and both losing parties had lost considerable support ALP 1996 (- 3.3%) and L/NP 2008 (- 4.5%).

    2. Both new Governments held similar two party preferred leads, L/NP 1996 (56/44) and ALP 2008 (56.3/43.7).

    Full tables here http://www.ozforums.com.au/viewtopic.php?id=3938

  • 3
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    At this stage in the Howard government, they were just about to be T-boned by One Nation. That happened mid April 1997 to Howard, which would be a vote collapse around mid-December for the ALP if they were really feeling the need to mimic.

  • 4
    Aristotle
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    A vote collapse around mid-December eh? Mmmmm, maybe, finally, at long last,……..the impact of the Brian Burke saga will come into effect. Or perhaps, the Sunrise ANZAC day service, or maybe the Scores nightclub, or maybe……. etc etc etc…………..

    Failing that, perhaps the Turnbull tsunami surge will come into effect! Or maybe the Abbott avalanche!

  • 5
    Swing Lowe
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Stifler’s Mum… good memories :-)

    As for the Coalition primary vote – it will be interesting to see whether the “Turnbull” effect will reverse the “Rudd” effect. I’m tipping that there will be a definite pick-up in the Coalition primary vote in the next series of polls (although they’ll still be trailing on TPP…)

  • 6
    Posted September 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Same Swing – I’m expecting a bounce. I’ve got a post on the history of opposition leader bounces for tomorrow morning, so it will be interesting to see how Truffles compares – especially since next week we get Newspoll, Nielsen, EMC and possibly a Morgan as well.

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