How influential will the Iraq war be on the 2007 vote?

According to a poll reported in today’s Australian, 71% of voters say that the federal government’s handling of the Iraq war will be important in how they will vote in the federal election.

It sounds like a lot, but when you look at Newspoll’s tables more carefully its significance becomes less clear. For example, though 65% of people who say that they support the Coalition regard the government’s handling of the war as an important issue, only 41% of Coalition voters say they are against the government’s handling of the war. This suggests that some people are saying that they support the Coalition because of the Iraq war. And of Coalition supporters who are against the war, if it would influence their vote why isn’t it influencing what they tell Newspoll now? After all, surveys are an opportunity to send the government a message without actually risking putting keen Kevin in the Lodge.

On the Labor side, 78% say that the Iraq war will be important to their vote. There is some consistency here, since 79% of Labor voters are against the way the government has handled the Iraq war. Yet most of the 46% of people who say they will vote Labor would have done so whether the Australian troops were in Townsville or Baghdad. The ALP’s primary has not been below a third since the last election.

It’s hard to believe that the government’s position on Iraq is helping them electorally, whatever a few Coalition voters are telling Newspoll – but it is also hard to use single-issue polls to estimate the effects of policies on voting behaviour. What we can say is that for a range of reasons the two-party preferred isn’t good for the government – 55-45 in Labor’s favour. Things haven’t been that bad since March 2004 – six months before an election in which Labor lost seats.

10 thoughts on “How influential will the Iraq war be on the 2007 vote?

  1. Someone rings you out of the blue and asks what political issues you’re concerned about – ah, wasn’t really thinking about politics, let’s see – the Iraq war is the only real issue in the media at the moment, so yes, Iraq. Definitely a big issue that, Iraq.

    A major attack on Australian troops in Iraq would change this issue for Australian voters. Since Rudd was elected leader, Labor have concentrated on administrative errors in Defence rather than putting it in a wider foreign policy context.


  2. I suspect Iraq won’t make a difference either way. Two reasons:

    Labor does not have an alternative plan that makes sense. (Neither do the Democrats in the US, for that matter.) While a majority might say we should not have gone to Iraq in the first place and might even disagree with how the war has been fought, they are not keen on the idea of folding our tents and going home. They don’t like the answer to the question, “who would have won?” Australians are also pretty resistant to isolationism. They know we (usually) sell wheat to Iraq, for example, so there’s no point pretending it should just go away.

    Second, as Andrew says, there have been no major casualties. So long as that stays true, it’s not close enough to home to change votes. The usual WIIFM issues of tax, health and education are more relevant.


  3. Is it known how the questions regarding support/opposition to the government’s position re. Iraq, and regarding its importance as an election issue, were combined in the survey?

    So, was it something like: “Do you regard Iraq as an important election issue? If so, do you support or oppose the government’s position?” Or were the questions posed as if they were mutually independent?


  4. directly not a large effect but indirectly it helps a lot.
    it concentrates on the character of Howard of whom a large majority believe he is a liar if newspoll is correct,
    it also associates him with a disaster which can negate a lot of pluses in terms of internal security,
    it also exacerbates the its time feeling as well.

    From where I sit the Kruddmeister is exploiting this shrewdly and patiently.


  5. The questions:

    ‘Overall, are you in favour or against the way the federal government has handled the war in Iraq?’

    ‘Would you say that the federal government’s handling of the war in Iraq is very important, fairly important, or not important to how you personally would vote in a federal election?’


  6. I don’t think that people who originally supported the war but now are changing their minds will punish Howard.

    And for those who were always against the war, the 2004 election was a more likely place to show their opposition.

    Personally, opposition to the Iraq war was a big reason I didn’t vote for the Liberals in 2004, but my vote is up for grabs now as the invasion moves further into history.


  7. I think if a tank load of Australian soldiers happen to get killed between now and the next election, it will make a huge difference.


  8. The fact is Australia has very few soldiers actually in Iraq anyway.

    It will be a big deal in the US election but won’t make a whit of difference to Australia’s elections.

    The most relevant issue in Australia is that the Labor party are a bunch of disorganised rabble. Unless John Howard personally murders at least a dozen babies I don’t see how he could lose to them.


  9. Maybe some voters understand that Howard’s primary policy objective was to cement the economic and political alliance with the US, and not to benefit the people of Iraq – and that this policy has been implemented very efficiently. He and Downer have provided uncritical and unwavering rhetorical support for the US at every opportunity, while restricting our commitment of military and financial resources. The policy has been hugely successful – the NAFTA sailed through Congress and Australia’s image in the US as a loyal friend is entrenched. At the same time, opposition to the war has been constrained because it has hasn’t cost us much. Even if Bush’s Iraqi adventure is a complete disaster (which it is IMHO) it will not have much political impact, because the US alliance is supported by both major parties.


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