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Budget sinks, but budget measures float, while government is seen as uncaring

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 20 May 2014


As far as voters are concerned it would appear that this budget is worse than the sum of its parts.

Budget Approval Longitudinal 2014When asked about the budget in toto it is even less popular than Wayne Swan's "tough" 2012 budget. 57% disapprove of this budget compared to 50% who approved of his, although Swan's support at 35% was a little lower than Hockey's at 39%.

Yet when broken down into its elements there is support for a large number of the savings measures, and stronger support for those on the spending side.

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This analysis is based on an online panel of 518 Australian voters selected to mirror voting intentions in the wider population as reported in the latest Newspoll.

These voters are more engaged in politics than the average, and their views tend to predict the positions less engaged voters will adopt after they have had time to absorb the information.

We have figures for six budgets going back to 2005. Most budgets struggle to find friends. In fact the average figure for approval is 39%. But they also don't tend to make too many enemies as 39% is also the average figure for disapproval.

So most treasurers upset roughly equal numbers of voters, and leave around 20% neutral.

Hockey's budget is the outlier as it has the highest disapproval rating, and only 4% of voters are neutral, indicating a high degree of polarisation. This is confirmed by the fact that most opponents "strongly disapprove", while most supporters only "approve".

We also polled our panel on some of the headline positives and negatives in the budget, and these tell a different story.

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Budget Measures 2014Out of the six measures we tested, four of them – polly perks freeze, Budget Repair Levy, abolition of Family Payments B and indexation of fuel excise - scored net positives.

The ones that attracted negative assessments were the increase in the pension age and the Medicare copayment with 52% and 54% respectively opposed, and 32% and 38% in favour.

In the case of the Medical Research Fund and the Growth Package support was very strong at 60% and 59% respectively.

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 An edited version of this appeared in The Australian as "Apparent lack of compassion bigger woe".



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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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