Do people feel worse off?

I only lasted about half an hour with last night’s debate, but early on Kevin Rudd repeated his claim that people are feeling worse off due to rising costs, and the worm climbed to the top of the screen as he did so.

Is this a case of the objective statistics not capturing the subjective experience of the Australian electorate? There is nothing unusual about public perceptions being inconsistent with the facts. But this seems to be a case in which public perceptions are not matching what the same public tells pollsters when asked questions about their finances and standard of living.

For example, the Roy Morgan consumer confidence survey asks its respondents:

Would you say you and your family are better-off financially or worse off than you were at this time last year?

In the most recent survey, 40% said that they were better off and 21% said that they were worse off. The numbers have bounced around a little over the year (it’s a monthly survey), with an average of 36% saying they are better off and 25% worse off. The comparable numbers last year were 33% and 28.5%. This suggests that, compared to last year, more people perceive an improvement over the preceding 12 months and fewer perceive a decrease.

And nor do they seem to think that price increases are going to keep whacking them, with an average of 42% saying that they expect to be financially better off in twelve months time, and 12% expecting to be worse off.

Over a longer time period, a Galaxy poll reported in Saturday’s Herald Sun asked:
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