Yes, it’s another poll and another cheesy movie headline, but this time it’s best summed up by the famous misquote of this line from Casablanca:

“Play it again Sam”.

The latest ACNielson poll in the Fairfax papers is the same old song that’s been playing over and over again since December.

ALP primary vote stuck somewhere around 49, the Coalition primary vote stuck somewhere around 39 and the TPP stuck somewhere around the 58/42 mark.

The polls for the last 7 months are really starting to resemble that Goodies episode “Radio Goodies”, where the Goodies pirate radio station only had one song to play.

“And now, it’s ‘A Walk in a Black Forest’”

And now, its ALP 49, Coalition 39 and a TPP of 58/42.

This ACNielson poll like the stream Morgans before it, has simply verified the data that came out of the two big whopping Newspolls last week. The ACNielson voting intention by age cohort is consistent with the Newspoll quarterly data as is the ACNielson “city vs. rural” breakdown consistent with the Newspoll “capital city vs. non capital city” breakdown.

All of these polls suggest that the primary vote splits are no longer a trend, but a level and probably have been for quite some time.

But the interesting thing that came out of this ACNielson poll was on the issue of housing affordability.

Longer term readers here (if by longer you mean “have been reading for the last 2 months” since this blog is still wearing nappies) would know that I’ve been carping on about Interest Payments to Disposable Income having a long term relationship with the Oppositions primary vote. You can see the graphs and commentary about this HERE and HERE if you haven’t already.

One of the key arguments I’ve been making about how this arcane little figure is impacting upon Howards electoral prospects is that its not only the housing stress created by greater debt servicing burdens that is causing grief. I’d even argue that housing stress is the smallest of the electoral effects that IPDI is creating for the government.

The big one, the big elephant in the IPDI room is how higher debt servicing burdens (and higher rents trickling down from that) are reducing household discretionary income.

That discretionary income is what households use to fund the conspicuous parts of their standard of living. It’s not only the oft cited Plasma TVs, home electronics and new cars – but other types of consumption that frame the narrative for household living standards.

“How many kids can we send to that entry level private school this year? “

“Can we go on holidays to the Sunshine Coast in that unit like we usually do, or will we have to go camping instead?”

“I know all your friends have a new Playstation but we can’t afford one at the moment and you’ll just have to make do with your X-Box.”

“I know we usually order Pizza on a Friday night – but not this week”.

These aren’t profound issues when ranked against world poverty or the spread of HIV/AIDS in developing countries, and nor are they as trendy as global warming and climate change.

But they are important to many households because it is, to put it simply, their life.

Discretionary spending creates the visual yardstick by which large parts of households standard of living is judged against their neighbours, or against media archetypes of “what their standard of living should be”, or even against their own personal experience of the recent past.

The ACNielson poll asked “Which of the following statements best describes how you personally have been affected by the decline in housing affordability?”

20% of respondents agreed that “you have cut spending in other areas a lot” while a further 17% agreed that “You have cut spending in other areas a little”.

1 in 3 Australians are saying they have reduced their discretionary spending. “Housing Stress” might grab the headlines because its one of those sexy crisis things that sells copy, but it’s the little things that sometimes have the bigger effects.

When we add into this mix the policy formerly known as Workchoices , and the apprehension (real or imagined) that the policy itself and the campaigns against it have created over earnings, job security and working conditions – the behaviour in the suburban marginals does not surprise me at all. The Workchoices apprehension feeds into household discretionary spending by creating uncertainty over future discretionary spending budgets, which compounds the way housing affordability is impacting upon current discretionary spending budgets.

The IPDI/Housing stress/discretionary spending/Workchoices nexus is powerful, and for me it explains a very large chunk of the electorates behaviour in the polls.

On another note, three big cheers to Phillip Coorey over in the SMH.

In his article on this poll he stated at the end, “Mr Rudd’s approval rating fell two points, which is within the margin of error, but is still high at 61 per cent, while his disapproval rating stayed steady at 23 per cent.”

How refreshing it is to see some proper reporting of polls. “margin of error”… wow, there’s hope for the fourth estate yet.

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