December was a jam packed survey, with leadership and both major parties covered, and we threw in Adani for good measure. In this first post we’ll cover the all important numbers, the preferred PM and job performance questions. We’ll do Adani, the Labor and Liberal party evaluations, and the other part we explored in the Leadership questions about your local MP as separate posts, which we are aiming to have all out this week.
Top line numbers
1674 people participated in the December surveys, including 892 members of the panel. Our samples continue to be underweight for women under 40, but we got a few more Liberals this month, which is great. All following numbers are weighted by age, gender and reported 2016 vote.
Very little movement from last month in the two party preferred figure. Both major parties first preference votes have increased as we continue the trend towards the electorate settling down for the election. Note too: this survey was launched the day of the incredibly farcical scenes on the last sitting day of parliament – there was a surge of anti-all of ya sentiment on the first two days, but it settled out to still increasing both Labor and Liberal first preferences. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation makes a slight rebound after two months of sharp decline, but we have both the PHON and Green’s votes as very soft, and likely to drop as the election nears.
The vote retention heat map (which is only panel members) for this month shows votes from across the board continue to bleed into the not sure and independent columns, but far more are coming back to the major parties. Note in particular the continued substantial loss from Greens to ALP, and PHON to Australian Conservatives. Read across the rows to see where they have gained votes from, down the columns to see where they have lost votes to, percentages shown is the percentage of last month’s vote (or the percentage of vote lost or retained).
Alternative Prime Minister
The preferred Prime Minister numbers (above) are the opposite to other polls which have Morrison ahead. I did opt for a forced question, requiring an answer, and not giving an ‘other’ or ‘don’t know’ option which is not very Voter Choice Project, I know, and apologies to those who were upset by the forced choice. No, I didn’t do anything tricky to have both the preferred PM numbers and 2PPH6 numbers come out exactly the same – and yes I did check them a few times.
The reason for the forced choice was because the next question opened it up, and in a more informative way than just a simple ‘don’t know’ – although we did get a lot of comments that the question was hard to answer. We asked who respondents would want as PM if it could be anyone at all. The trend towards ‘please can we have women’ continued from previous surveys, or to quote a respondent:
Equally any of Julie Bishop, Marise Payne, Penny Wong or Tanya Plibersek.25 year old male voter from the western suburbs of Sydney.
Many commented they know what they want, but they don’t know who that person is.
It would be a female version of Malcolm Turnbull, but with more guts to stand up to forces against her beliefs. I don’t know who that person is, but she must be somewhere.52 year old female voter from the Geelong area.
The following is the top 20 named people nominated as preferred PM if it can be anyone.
Penny Wong wins again by a mile, as she did when we asked about ‘most liked politician’ back in July. There’s a notable political personality with a ‘for PM’ campaign missing from the list… can you spot it?
There were many very funny suggestions, including Jimbo from Gary the Goat, Don Bradman’s grave, and one voter suggested their 9 year old could do a better job. Special hat tip to the nomination of Josiah Bartlett. From the beginning of the study I’ve always been clear that the jokers are some of my favourite voters, and one I’m hoping to be able to reveal through this study. I’m not sure yet if the nominations for Lee Lin Chin are being funny or serious (she’s at 21, just outside of the graphic…).
Serious non-politician nominations were very interesting as an insight to what people value and look to for leadership. Aside from Dick Smith and Gillian Triggs who made it in to the top 20, a number of journalists were named, as well as sports stars and scientists. Father Rod Bower, Nayuka Gorrie, Nyadol Nyuon, Simon Holmes à Court and Yassmin Abdel Magied all rated a mention; Waleed Aly and Susan Carland were the only couple who were both nominated in their own right.
In the two party surveys we also asked people to nominate an alternative leader for the party, limiting it to people in the parliament.
Many people said they would be happy to see either Albo, Tanya or Penny as leader (and yes, many referred to them affectionately by their first – or in Albanese’s case nickname). Why no queen Penny Wong on this one? The conservatives like Albanese – in other questions they’re nominating right wing personalities. The Julie Bishop domination is not an error.
But what of the rules that prevent any of these people toppling their leaders? Cautious approval. Some concern was expressed about the difficulty of removing a bad leader as a result of the rules.
In July we asked people to tell us what qualities they looked for in political leaders. In the December survey we asked what leadership meant to them, and gave them how important top 6 qualities nominated in July were to them.
Honesty has the highest overall rank when the top two are combined (95%) but surprised us by not being the ‘most important’.
Job approval and leader qualities
In the party specific questionnaires (quite deliberately separated from the preferred Prime Minister questions) we asked about job performance of the two leaders, and had respondents rate each leader on the same top 6 leader qualities. Morrison has a much higher total disapprove (48%, as opposed to Shorten’s 39%), but Shorten has an enormous number of people who haven’t really made up their mind about him yet. Given Morrison has only been in the job a few brief months and Shorten has been there for years, you’d expect those numbers to be the other way around.
There were a great many ‘other’ comments, some of which could be coded, and some couldn’t. You certainly didn’t hold back this month (which we love). The general theme of Bill Shorten’s comments are that he’s weak, bland, too rehearsed, needs to do more… but he hasn’t stuffed up.
He’s a rat-faced political hack but the party hasn’t stuffed up under him.26 year old male voter from inner west Sydney, commenting on Bill Shorten
I think he’s a steady leader of the party which is great but it’s just a ship in the Neoliberal flotilla54 year old female voter from the West Moreton area of Queensland, commenting on Bill Shorten
His charisma bypass is fatal61 year old male from rural NSW, commenting on Bill Shorten
The dominant theme was that Morrison is doing a great job of getting the Labor Party elected.
I like that he’s so bad at it. Hopefully the party are completely wiped out at the election.38 year old male voter from rural South Australia, commenting on Scott Morrison
Strongly approve because at this rate there’s less and less chance they’ll be re-elected41 year old female voter from Brisbane’s north, commenting on Scott Morrison
A moron could do a better job…….oh…wait?69 year old male voter from Melbourne, commenting on Scott Morrison
There was also some sympathy for Morrison’s position, a ‘better than Dutton/Abbott’ sentiment, and general feeling that he’s just saving the furniture. There were a number of references to Scott Morrison being the ‘relief teacher’… I haven’t been able to establish if is there a meme going around somewhere saying that, or it is an organic response.
The sentiment expressed in the comments about the two leaders is reflected in the ratings on the 6 leader qualities, with both faring quite badly on strong leader, honesty and vision. Bill Shorten scored somewhat better on being capable and compassionate, but these are not great scores generally – consistent with the ‘none of ya’ sentiment that we get from a lot of voters in every survey.
Overall leadership was scored similarly low by participants, asked to give a score out of 100 the average was 28.
Stand by for part 2 tomorrow.