I’ve summarised the differences here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading “The continuing cooling of climate change belief”
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.
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.
More polling today, this time from Essential Research, on same-sex marriage.
This 53% support, 36% oppose result is less decisive than the 62%/33% result recorded by Galaxy Poll in October.
There were differences in the questions, with Galaxy prefacing its question by telling respondents that gay marriage already existed in other countries. Perhaps that helped sway respondents without strong views. Continue reading “And more gay marriage polling…”
Australians like the idea of meritocracy – the idea that rewards should allocated on the basis of ability and effort. Meritocracy is often contrasted with rewards being based on luck or privilege. In an unmeritocratic society, rewards go to people who are already privileged.
Some overlapping questions from the Australian component of the 1992 International Social Science Survey and the 2009 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes let us see how perceptions of opportunity in Australia have changed.
The question are about ‘opportunities for getting ahead’, and ask how important various characteristics are. Most Australians see race and gender as ‘not very important’ or ‘not important at all’ for getting ahead. Indeed, there has been a dramatic change in perceptions of how important race is in getting ahead. Continue reading “The rise and reproduction of meritocracy”
Australian public opinion has long been protectionist, with majorities agreeing with statements such as ‘Australia should continue to use tariffs to protect its industry’. But some Essential Research polling published today partially qualifies this finding.
Q. Thinking about Australian industries and the ways in which the Government can give them assistance and support – which forms of assistance and support do you think the Government should give to the following industries? (multi-response) Continue reading “The renewable energy industry as another popular burden on taxpayers”