By David Crowe
Many Australians are in no rush to decide their verdicts on Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese in a pandemic that has a long way to go.
Some are parking their votes between the two leaders and their parties, waiting to see whether to make a permanent move from the Coalition at the next election.
It is a complicated picture. The Coalition has lost some of its primary vote since the last election, but it has stronger support than Labor on some of the issues that matter most, like managing the economy and the pandemic.
But the complexity is the point. The new survey is the result of long planning by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, with research company Resolve Strategic, to develop a deeper way to gauge Australian’s attitudes to their political leaders and parties.
While it is tempting to reduce opinion polls to a single number for each side, declaring Labor or the Coalition to be ahead by one or two percentage points, the purpose of the new approach is to focus on more measures, such as primary vote, and the issues that matter most to voters.
A key finding in the new survey is that one-fifth of all voters remain uncommitted in their vote. They are undecided or thinking of changing, with the Coalition and Labor equally likely to win or lose their support.
About one-third are considered “rusted on” in the Resolve Political Monitor’s analysis of responses from 2006 voters from April 9 to 15.
The new survey takes about 15 minutes for every respondent to complete and therefore produces greater detail on how different groups are responding to their political leaders.
One finding is that the shift against the Coalition since the election was strongest among immigrants and people from “non-Anglo-Saxon” backgrounds.
Immigrants have reduced their support for the Coalition from 48 to 40 per cent since the election, while increasing their primary vote for Labor from 30 to 35 per cent. Changes like this will be explored over the months ahead.
A lot of the commentary about opinion polls focuses on whether they predict elections accurately, but that is not the only point of asking Australians what they think.
This new survey starts a monthly measure of how Australians feel about the prospects for themselves and their country, giving an insight into the national mood.
The result is broadly positive on the national outlook, with more people thinking things are getting better. The result is 116 points out of a possible 200 points.
Australians were also positive when asked if their personal circumstances would get better or worse over the next year or so. The result is a score of 114 out of 200 points.
How will these measures change? The message from Australians about their own circumstances, and their confidence about the country’s future, may be more important than any judgment on a single politician or party.