Did the Budget really make people more inclined to vote Labor?

Today’s Newspoll on the Budget response included the answers to the question:

Overall, would you say the Budget announcements have made you more likely to: vote for Labor/vote for the Coalition/neither?

Though only 12% of voters had rated the Budget as bad for the economy and just 14% of voters thought that they would be worse off as a result (that question is not in The Australian‘s tables, but you can get it from Newspoll’s website), 26% declared themselves more likely to vote Labor as a result, compared to only 19% of respondents who said that they were more likely to vote for the Coalition.

This does seem counter-intuitive and counter-other results. A Galaxy poll reported the previous day had found only 12% less inclined to vote for the Coalition as a result of the Budget and 16% more inclined. And both polls had the two-party preferred bouncing around in the margin of error (Newspoll putting Labor up, Galaxy down) rather than swinging decisively to Labor, as their 7 percentage point Newspoll-claimed premium won from the Budget would seem to indicate.

The trouble with these questions is that some poll respondents answer them strategically, intending to give the party they support anyway a boost. Unsurprisingly, when we look answers to these questions divided by ‘political support’, only 3% of Coalition voters say that the Budget was more likely to make them vote Labor and only 2% of Labor voters say that it was more likely to make them vote for the Coalition.

Newspoll’s ‘more likely to vote Labor/Coalition’ seems to prompt a partisan choice more than Galaxy’s ‘Has the federal Budget made you more or less inclined to vote for the Coalition’, perhaps because it expressly mentions Labor.

But either way I think the question is of little value, especially when it is asked of respondents who have already expressed a clear preference for one or other of the parties.

6 thoughts on “Did the Budget really make people more inclined to vote Labor?

  1. There’s always something not to like about any budget. If the electorate has taken a general dislike to the government, then a significant number of voters could have decided that they were more likely to vote Labor.

    Towards the end of his time of Prime Minister, Paul Keating could have announced that he’d found a cure for cancer and a lot of voters would have disliked him even more because of it. The same kind of thing might be happening here, on a smaller scale.

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  2. Without taking away from Andrew’s key point, it should be pointed out that there need be no conflict with the view that the budget has made one better off and also more likely to vote Labour.

    For example, if (for the purposes of argument) one presumes that Labour will leave people worse off financially over time, but will deliver people other benefits, then with the budget putting more money into people’s pockets, at the margin they could now afford to shift their preferences to the party that will deliver on their non-monetary priorities.

    Perhaps another (simpler) explanation is that while people might feel that the Budget has left them better off, they judge that had Rudd delivered a Budget in Australia’s current economic circumstances (resources boom, but dwindling productivity growth), they would be even better off – financially as well – at least over the long term.

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  3. There is an assumption that a good Budget would inspire people to vote for the Budget. The question asked is built upon this assumption, which has been proven false, rather than any correlation being established between the Budget and Labor. The poll shows that the Budget has been well received but people are voting Labor anyway.

    The question was a fair one, but the job of the articles referring to it was to explore the assumptions rather than do a facile repackaging of the numbers.

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  4. An alternative budget reaction to that supposedly captured by Newspoll comes from today’s Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence report for May, based on a survey of 1,200 people taken in the days after the budget. It rose to a record high, and the increase in confidence was particularly noticeable in those earning $40K-$60K.

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