Archive for the 'Public opinion' Category

Muslim migration

An Essential Research poll asked about attitudes to Muslim migration, and found 25% support for excluding Muslims from the migrant intake:

That’s 11% lower than a Morgan Poll this time last year, with the proportion supporting Muslim migration the same on 55%.

As is often the case with soft opinion, polling methods rather than opinion shifts probably explain the difference. Essential does its surveys online, so people can see the ‘Don’t know’ option and easily choose it, while with telephone polls there is a stronger pressure to give an answer. When pressed, it seems people tend to go to negative on this issue.

A more abstract Essential question on whether migrants should be rejected on the basis of religion found only 19% in favour of doing so.

Selling a carbon tax to an unconvinced public

Today Julia Gillard took important further steps on the way to a carbon price.

The IPA also put out another Galaxy Poll on climate science. It’s almost exactly the same as their poll from last year, suggesting that the substantial inroads the sceptics had made have stabilised.

However a comparison with an Essential Research poll from last December suggests that attitudes are still fluid. An option in Galaxy reading ‘There is conflicting evidence and I’m not sure what the truth is’ takes numbers from both both camps.

So it looks like about a third of the population are manmade climate change true believers, with another 10% leaning that way. We’ve debated this recently, but I think things are looking bad for Julia Gillard on this one.

Flood levy, pollster 3

A third pollster, Nielsen, has now joined Newspoll and Essential Research in asking voters about the flood levy. Annoyingly – but in line with typical poor Fairfax broadsheet practice on these things – we are not told the actual question.

However the result is that 52% of voters support the levy, and 44% oppose it.

Corrected Nielsen flood levy pie chart


That’s quite similar to Newspoll’s 55%/41%.

Of more concern to the government will be the 46% in favour/ 44% against result on a carbon price. This is the issue that is most likely to be fatal for the Gillard government.

Does the public have a majority view on the flood levy?

As Rajat Sood points out, the second poll on the flood levy has come out with an opposite majority conclusion to the first poll.

I’ve summarised the differences here:

Read the rest of this entry »

Assorted links and comments

The first poll on the flood levy finds opinion heavily polarised on partisan lines, but overall against, 53% disapproving to 39% approving.

A different question on the same poll finds that 64% of respondents believe that universities would be better run by the public sector and 20% believe universities would be better run by the private sector. This dichotomy does not include the public-private hybrid nature of Australian universities as an option.

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In the context of the fascinating events in Egypt, Tyler Cowen reminds us of an outstanding book on public opinion, Timur Kuran’s Private Truths, Public Lies. In authoritarian regimes people conceal their true political views, but new dynamics can take over in which more and more people are emboldened to express their opinions. With no real support, in these circumstances regimes can crumble quickly when they lose the will to kill.

An interesting post on the signalling dynamics of cutting communications.

——- Read the rest of this entry »

False cynicism about politics

An Essential Research poll out today asks whether, in general, governments make decisions that favour corporate interests or favour the interests of voters. 60% say that governments favour corporate interests, and only 9% think that voters interests are favoured.

Only last month, however, another Essential Research survey came up with results that seem rather in tension with this. Asking about the attributes of the political parties, only 29% thought that the Liberals were too close to the ‘big corporate and financial interests’, and just 15% believed that of Labor. So many voters seem to believe that governments in general favour corporate interests, despite the two possible governing parties not generally being viewed as too close to those interests.

What’s more, 50% of voters thought that Labor ‘will promise to do anything to win votes’ – including ignoring corporate interests? – and 36% though the Liberal were also willing to promise anything to get votes.

When asked about politicians in general the public tends to resort to lazy cliches without worrying too much whether or not they are consistent with each other. Politicians are too poll driven, and they don’t listen to the voters enough. They favour big interests, and they will do anything to win over voters.

Though there are still contradictory views about political parties, the more specific the question the more other sorts of information than stereotypes come into play. Their own partisan loyalties, for example, or specific examples (or non-examples) of the attributes in question.

When asked about individual politicians, views tend to improve still more. I’ve noted before that named politicians always get higher trustworthy ratings than politicians in general, even politicians like John Howard who were continually accused of being economical with the truth.

In practice, the Australian public isn’t really very cynical about politicians. If anything, it has a naive faith that politicians and government can fix their problems.

A case for voting Labor in NSW?

Today’s Newspoll, as reported in The Australian, shows NSW Labor’s support at a catastrophic 24%, having hovered around a quarter since the middle of the year.

Certainly they deserve to lose.* But even as a Liberal supporter, I am not at all sure that a Labor wipe-out would be a good thing – and NSW’s own political history shows why.

After a modest defeat and loss of minority government in 1995, in 1999 the NSW Liberals went down to bad defeat, with a swing of 10% and a loss of 13 seats. This combined with factional and other problems severely undermined their credibility as an alternative government.

Effectively, in delivering devastating blows to major political parties voters risk severely constraining their choices at the next election, and quite possibly (as in NSW) another one after that. So even if they are unconvinced of the government’s merits – in 2007 a NSW Galaxy poll found most people did not believe Labor deserved to be returned – they don’t vote them out.

Due in part to the severity of the 1999 Liberal defeat, NSW has endured four more years of a government that was by 2007 already tired and under-performing. If Labor gets anything like the vote the current polls suggest, in 2015 and 2019 NSW voters may again face the dilemma of a government that needs to go but an opposition that does not yet seem ready to arrive.

* Except my friend Sacha Blumen, running against Clover Moore in Sydney. I have never forgiven Clover for her role in bringing down Nick Greiner.

The continuing cooling of climate change belief

Maybe I’ve just stopped listening, but my impression is that there are many fewer climate change catastrophe stories in the media now than a couple of years ago. This may be contributing to the on-going cooling of belief in the science and politics of climate change which became evident last year.

Today’s Essential Research survey shows that less than half its respondents now believe that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity. However the main shift has been to the ‘don’t know’ category rather than to an option that says weather changes are just normal fluctuations.

This plus already skyrocketing electricity prices make the politics of an ETS diabolical for the Gillard government. Read the rest of this entry »

And yet more gay marriage polling…

The Fairfax broadsheets this morning have the third recent gay marriage poll, with the usual pattern – a small but safe majority in favour, and a bit over a third against.

Though so far this is causing Labor most grief, Peter Hartcher argues in the SMH that it may eventually be more troublesome for the Coalition.

This is because while Labor voters clearly support gay marriage, Liberal voters are fairly evenly divided. In this poll Coalition voters were 51% against /42% favour. But in the Essential Research poll earlier in the month they were even at 45%/45%, and in the Galaxy poll last month 48% favour/ 46% against.

The Coalition members who spoke in the debate on Adam Bandt’s motion last week reflected this balancing act, supporting just about every aspect of gay equality except marriage.

Should pollsters ask ‘offensive’ questions?

Yesterday the Fairfax broadsheets published some Roy Morgan research on attitudes to homosexuality, including responses to the proposition ‘I believe homosexuality is immoral’. In the Age’s letters page, Benjamin John Doherty objects:

AS A gay man, I find it offensive and astonishing that Roy Morgan Research could ask such a leading question as whether people believe homosexuality is immoral, and then have the results used for serious political analysis.

Gay people are born gay, a simple fact that some heterosexual people seem to have profound difficulties getting their heads around. …

If Mr Morgan and his researchers went around asking people if they thought it was ”immoral” to be white-skinned, Aboriginal or to have red hair, the outcry would be swift and loud, and the results would be denounced as absurd.

Pollsters do actually write survey questions that could cause offence. 20 years ago in Perth a pollster put to its respondents the proposition that ‘most Aborigines are dirty and unkept’ (45% agreed). A 2001 survey asked for responses to the proposition that ‘all races of people are equal’ (12% said no).

This is all legitimate research – pollsters exist to report opinion, whatever it might be. All the major religions in Australia currently or traditionally view homosexual acts as immoral, and that’s the view the Morgan question is alluding to. It’s a little clumsy in blurring desires which are hardwired with actions that are choices (which may be why it gets slightly lower negative results than other questions which specify actions). But for tracking broad opinion trends over time the question is good enough.