Tony Abbott has problems with women” – it’s a statement so often proclaimed that it may as well be a bumper sticker. But the Roy Morgan Reactor demographic breakdowns of the audience reaction to the health debate suggest that far from women being a demographic Achilles’ heel for the Opposition leader, the opposite is, in fact, the case.

Not only did male voters as a single cohort have lower generic approval levels of Abbott at the health debate compared to females, but both Liberal and Labor voting males had lower approval levels of Abbott’s performance than their respective partisan female peers.

To give an example, if we take a random two minute section of the debate where Abbott was speaking and look at both the Male/Female breakdown of the Roy Morgan PolliGraph, as well as the partisan gender breakdowns of the PolliGraph – we see the significant gender split remain fairly consistent (click to expand):

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The most interesting gender differential for Abbott was with his own voting stock. While Labor male and female voters were relatively close in their approval levels of Abbott’s performance (but with males still having slightly lower average approval levels), the largest split was between Liberal male and Liberal female voters.

Not only were males generally less impressed with Abbott’s performance than females, but when it came to the magnitudes of their negative responses – when Abbott said something that caused a negative audience reaction – males really cranked that dial harder than their female counterparts.

A good example of this was during Abbott’s answer to Paul Bongiorno’s question about who will run the local hospital boards. When Abbott went negative, Liberal voting male responses split dramatically from female Liberal responses as you can see here. [Note –  that link is to a flash file that opens in a new window.It carries both the PollieGraph and audio from the debate. Just resize your browser window to suit your self].

Yet, not only were male audience members a problem for Tony Abbott. The cohort that was most likely to respond negatively to Abbott’s answers was the 30-49 year age group, particularly 30-49 year Liberal voters and particularly when ever the Opposition leader canned the insulation program or the school stimulus package. The first example can be seen with part of Abbott’s answer to Jayne Azzopardi’s question on whether 3500 new hospital beds was an iron clad promise. You can see that here.

The mention of pink batts and school halls was pretty toxic for males and Liberal voting 30-49 year olds. Another example of this line being dangerous for Abbott came in his closing statement. This time it was Liberal voting 30-49 year olds and Liberal voting males which you can see here.

The final piece worth looking at with the audience responses to the Opposition leader came when Abbott defended himself against Rudd’s allegations that he ripped a billion dollars out of health. When Chris Uhlmann forced Abbott to admit that in GDP terms he oversaw a reduction in health spending, the behaviour of the worm with males and 30-49 year olds tanked far more than females.

Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party might think the attack lines about the insulation program and the school stimulus package are good value and pretty slick –  but from the Morgan Reactor results, they are toxic among the demographics that have benefited the most out of them – male workers and parents with children at the very schools that are getting new school buildings. The biggest concern however must be that the toxicity of these lines aren’t isolated to Labor voters, but are strong even among Liberal supporters.

It also begs the question on whether the vote that Labor may have lost over the insulation program earlier in the year was actually self inflicted by the ALP and had very little to do with the Coalition talking about it.

There’s a lot more in these breakdowns available – and we’ll be going through a few more of of the interesting ditties. But what we won’t be doing is giving too much of the game away in terms of party politics. This is a commercial product afterall, so political parties and interested groups that want access to the full data of what was the most widely witnessed political focus group in years – Roy Morgan offers the complete respondent level package for $10K. Stop being cheapskates riding off Crikey’s analysis and go and buy it.

On something marginally related – during the debate itself, many of us were being snarky and crying out “Run the worm on the journo questions!“.

In good news, the PollieGraph might not have shown the audience response to the questions when the debate was broadcast, but it was actually running along in the background none-the-less. Next week we can have some fun and see how the audience rated the journalists 😛

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