Archive for December 28th, 2008

Are Australians losing faith in the integrity of our political system?

Jamie Briggs is cloaking his attempt to nobble GetUp! with electoral law in concern about how Australians feel about their political system. He told The Age that

“We are heading into dangerous territory where Australians are losing faith in the integrity of our political system because of the large amounts of money being spent on access and donations.”

Alas Jamie, a subject on which there is empirical evidence!

As this publication on trends in Australian public opinion (largish pdf) records, satisfaction with Australian democracy in 2007 was, at 86%, the highest it has been in a series of questions going back to 1969. It has been trending up since 1998. No sign of losing faith in the system there.

A question which more directly targets the issue of ‘access and donations’ is this:

Would you say the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, or that it is run for the benefit of all the people?

Here people are more cynical, with 65% saying ‘big interests’. But contrary to the losing faith theory, this is trending down from a peak of 82% in 1998. On a slightly different question, 71% gave the ‘big interests’ response in 1969. There is no long-term rise in cynicism, despite the vast increase in the cost of election campaigns and consequent need for more donations.

Voters are wisely sceptical of what politicians tell them. But there is no crisis of integrity in government or public perceptions of that integrity.