The views of Liberal defectors

The SMH had a report yesterday on the results of the 2007 Australian Election Survey. It comes up with the following unsurprising findings:

? Industrial relations and global warming were the biggest vote-changing issues.

? Rising interest rates did not cost the Coalition as dearly as thought.

? Voters respected Mr Howard but were virtually in love with Mr Rudd, giving him the highest “likeability” rating in the survey’s 20-year history.

? Low-income battlers moved decisively back to Labor.

? The Coalition would have struggled under Mr Costello.

But the article doesn’t make use of a useful question in the AES, on which party the respondent voted for in 2004 (with a caveat, of course, on the reliability of 2004 memories). This question can be used to sort the views of people who defected to Labor in 2007 from those who were Labor voters anyway.

When we compare people who switched from Liberal to Labor between 2004 and 2007 with those who remained with the Liberals we can see that the former group was more anti-WorkChoices. Of the 19% of 2004 Liberal voters who voted Labor in 2007, 80% disapproved of WorkChoices. Only 23% of those who stayed with the Liberals disapproved of WorkChoices.

On whether Kyoto should be signed, the Howard government’s position was hopelessly lost even among its own constituency – only 15% of people who voted Liberal thought that we should not sign, and a mere 3% of those who switched from Liberal to Labor. The more important difference between the two groups is that people who kept voting Liberal were more likely to have a ‘depends’ view on Kyoto than those who defected. Nevertheless, 49% of 2007 Liberal voters thought we should definitely sign, compared to 82% of the defectors.

On interest rates, the two groups were fairly close together, with 52% of Liberal voters worried about interest rates and 62% of those who moved from Liberal to Labor between 2004 and 2007.

Despite all this, 75% of the vote changers were still prepared to say that the government had done a good job over the previous three years. Indeed, the government’s overall rating on this was down only 5% (from 75% to 70%) since 2004.

But a nearly identical proportion, 74%, of the defectors agreed that it was ‘time for a change’. Even 13% of those who voted Liberal in both 2004 and 2007 agreed – though in principle, as they did not change their vote. Even without the political mistakes on Kyoto and WorkChoices, the Howard government would still have hit the boredom factor in 2007.

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