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.