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Turnbull held aloft by projection and likeability

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 11 March 2016


Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity seems a lot like Kevin Rudd’s on the basis of our polling. So will it disappear just as quickly and catastrophically for his own party?

Voters saw in Rudd what they wanted to see, and he was more acceptable than the conservative, much older Howard, but as soon as he started making decisions, or didn’t, voters started to peel off.

Rudd’s initial appeal was to be a sort of John Howard-lite, a self-declared “fiscal conservative” who wouldn’t do much more than change the optics of government. Some voters bought that and voted for him, and others thought they saw straight through it, and voted for him as well, expecting him to change in government.

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A similar dynamic characterises responses to Malcolm Turnbull.

The table below shows how fluid the vote is between the major parties

 

Voting intention now

Vote last election

ALP

Minor

Grn

LP

Total

ALP

71.28%

2.70%

8.45%

17.57%

100.00%

Bob Katter's Australia

0.00%

66.67%

0.00%

33.33%

100.00%

CD*

16.67%

66.67%

0.00%

16.67%

100.00%

AD*

0.00%

100.00%

0.00%

0.00%

100.00%

DLP*

0.00%

100.00%

0.00%

0.00%

100.00%

FF*

11.11%

66.67%

0.00%

22.22%

100.00%

Grn

28.44%

2.75%

58.72%

10.09%

100.00%

Ind*

27.27%

27.27%

9.09%

36.36%

100.00%

LP

3.44%

11.88%

1.25%

83.44%

100.00%

National*

0.00%

40.00%

0.00%

60.00%

100.00%

Other*

33.33%

33.33%

16.67%

16.67%

100.00%

Palmer's United*

33.33%

0.00%

0.00%

66.67%

100.00%

Grand Total

33.04%

10.68%

12.05%

44.22%

100.00%

*Small sample, not statistically relevant

Source: AIP qualitative poll

The movement to the LP has been driven not just by Labor deserters, but by Greens as well. 18% of last time Labor voters say they will vote Liberal now, as do 10% of Greens voters. In fact, when you eliminate those from the table who voted LP or NP last election, you find that across the board there has been a 17% swing to the LP amongst the 58% that didn’t vote NP or LNP.

As an aside, the right wing voter, whilst many regard Turnbull as possibly “the best Labor Prime Minister we’ve had”, seems to have locked in behind him for lack of anywhere else to go.

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When you look at the reasoning of those swingers you find that there are two major reasons for voting for Turnbull. One is a belief that he will change the Liberal Party to be a party more in line with the voter’s views of life. The other is that Malcolm Turnbull is more likeable than Bill Shorten, and certainly more likeable than Tony Abbott. He brings a calm and civility to the political debate that has been missing.

Turnbull is the political equivalent of the Rorschach blot. But the reality is that he can’t be all things to all men. In the coalition he doesn’t personally have the numbers. If National Party members had voted in the leadership ballot as well as Liberals, then Turnbull would not be leader now.

So dreams of some voters that he is going to change the coalition policy on climate change or taxation to be more Green Left are just that – dreams (assuming that Turnbull would actually agree with these voters, which is an untestable proposition).

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This article is based on a qualitative poll of 1568 Australians carried out in December, 2015. You can download the report by clicking here.



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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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