Campaigns versus personal experience

Another poll on WorkChoices today, confirming that opinion on this is extraordinarily stable. In this latest ACNielsen poll, 59% oppose WorkChoices. This is the sixth poll they have conducted on the issue since July 2005, and opposition has ranged from a low of 57% (October 2005) to a high of 60% (July 2005). As I noted in January, Newspoll is also showing little movement on this support/oppose question.

What is changing is opinon on WorkChoices’ personal effects. In the first poll, 31% of respondents thought that they would be worse off. In June last year, a few months after WorkChoices came into effect, 27% of respondents thought that they would be worse off. In early March this year when the poll was taken, 21% thought that they would be worse off.

Given the massive effort that has gone into convincing people that they would be worse off, this seems to support the theory that in matters people can decide for themselves from their general experience neither propaganda nor expert opinion are likely to have a large impact.

The unions and the ALP instantly won the battle over whether or not WorkChoices was a good idea; with a strong economy most people didn’t see a need for change. But on the issue of personal impact, consistent campaigning against WorkChoices hasn’t been enough to overcome the realisation that for most workers nothing has changed.

6 Responses to “Campaigns versus personal experience

  • 1
    Russell
    March 26th, 2007 21:42

    “people can decide for themselves from their general experience” – and pity those under 30 who’ve never seen a recession. Perhaps it’s they who are feeling increasingly relaxed and comfortable with Workchoices. The lesson is ahead of them.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    March 26th, 2007 22:51

    Russell – Real wages dropping during recessions is not a bad thing in a macroeconomic sense, since that will help limit the increase in unemployment. But of course the individuals involved may not see it that way.

  • 3
    Fred Argy
    March 27th, 2007 11:32

    You are very clinical in your anlaysis of polls, Andrew. Well done.

    I never expected Work Choices to affect more than 10 to 15% of workers – at least at least at this stage of the economic cycle. Even 21% saying they will be worse off seems surprisingly high – but it is declining, as you say.

    I think the message from the iR polls is that people do care a great deal about a law that threatens their relatives or friends or their sense of ‘fairness’ – even when they themselves do not expect to be worse off. It could affect their vote – unless Howard can convince them that their jobs are at risk.

  • 4
    Rajat Sood
    March 27th, 2007 11:54

    But isn’t it typically the case that most people vote on the basis of hip pocket or security reasons rather than on the basis of principle? Is there solid evidence of an “issue cycle” that is distinct from the economic cycle?

  • 5
    Andrew Norton
    March 27th, 2007 14:08

    Rajat – I had a post on this topic.

  • 6
    Leopold
    April 3rd, 2007 10:32

    Newspoll today on IR.

    A curious difference between Newspoll and ACN on this topic – 33% of Newspoll respondents reckon they are worse off under WorkChoices. And ‘a lot worse off’ is rising in Newspoll, while in ACN the overall figure ‘worse off’ is falling.

    The age distribution is however interesting – 44% of those under 35 (who vote Labor anyway) while only about 25% of those in older age groups. People aged over 35 are also more likely to believe the changes are good for jobs and the economy, particularly the 35-49 age group.

    Am I right in thinking 35-49 is usually the key swing demographic?