The last part of the December survey to cover off is what people thought of their local MPs… this was part of the leadership questions, and people struggled a bit with these questions.
Firstly we asked if people knew who their local MP was. If they answered yes, we asked what their local MP’s name was.
A couple of people got their MP’s name wrong, but not many. This is probably a little reflective of how many political nerds are in the panel. Although it was noticeable that the higher profile MPs had much better name recognition – Rebekha Sharkie for example was identified by 100% of the Mayo panel members, as was Tanya Plibersek in Sydney. Barnaby Joyce almost was too – although a number entered his name with some descriptor between Barnaby and Joyce (beetrooter, f’ing, idiot) or some other negative connotation. The 3 New England voters who didn’t name Joyce, named State MLAs Adam Marshall or Kevin Andrews, as did 4% of respondents generally. That’s about the same as the proportion of voters that give us their state electorate when we ask for their federal electorate.
For the analysis of whether your local MP was a leader in the community, we removed those who didn’t correctly name the federal MP as it wasn’t clear who they were talking about.
A mixed bag on the report cards for current MPs, but a clear message that MPs should be a leader in the local community. The state versus federal division interestingly came up in the ‘other’ responses and comments about whether a local MP should be a leader. A number commented that it was more important for the State politician to be a local leader, while the federal MP had a bigger role and sometimes had to be a national leader, delegating local matters. Others commented that it is more important for a local MP to listen to and represent the community than be a leader.
The perception of a different role of State and Federal politicians is not something I’d expected, and is worthy of further study, but it’s unlikely the Voter Choice Project will get there.
We also asked if people could think of someone else they would rather vote for in the House of Representatives. Not many answered this question with a name (743 answered, just over half endorsed the sitting candidate, said their party’s nominee whoever that was, or simply said they couldn’t think of any, or hadn’t been in the area long enough to know). Of the names that were generated by this question, those people were easily categorised as follows:
- Past politicians (e.g. Scott Ludlam, Tony Windsor)
- Declared or endorsed candidates
- State politicians
- Local government councillors (mainly mayors)
- Church leaders
- Local community group leaders (especially if involved in more than one group)
- Successful, prominent business people – not just business owners, but people good at their jobs
Important to note that it wasn’t just religious people nominating people from their church:
Geoff Barker. I’m an atheist but he is a local minister with the Uniting Church.62 year old female voter in Wannon
A number of Gosford voters indicated they’d like to vote for Father Rod Bower, and few of them were religious people.
The common theme was trust – people want to vote for someone they can trust to represent them. Although the problem of being able to identify a potential good MP was clearly amplified in these results – most could only think of people they already have framed in their head as politicians. When we talk about why there are so few women in parliament, it has a lot to do with women needing to be recruited or encouraged more than men… but it also has to do with people not seeing them as a politician until they are presented to the community that way.
Tough question! I honestly don’t have a person I can pinpoint locally. I wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint Rebekha Sharkie as a preferred leader – she has taken some time to gain my trust and for her personality and capability to emerge.44 year old female voter in Mayo
Bek Sharkie is one of the hardest working members of the House of Representatives with name recognition and a personal approval rating many Government ministers would die for. And she was working in a political role prior to becoming a candidate. That is to say that identifying potential candidates – even when it should be obvious they’d be great at the job – is tough. Thanks to all who gave it a go.
Next month – The Nationals, public transport, and community involvement.