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Jan 14, 2013

Essential: don't make me vote, especially for Abbott

Australians are not entirely convinced on compulsory voting and certainly don't like being forced to give preferences. The latest poll from Essential Research shows a lack of public support for some of our electoral laws.

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Less than half the population supports compulsory voting — but whether forced to vote or not, no one is in a hurry to cast a ballot for Tony Abbott as prime minister.

The latest poll results from Essential Research show voters are not enamoured with Australia’s electoral system, which is based on compulsory voting, often with mandatory preferencing thrown in. When Essential asked its online panel about a bid to make voting voluntary at the state and federal levels, just 49% said they’d oppose the move. Forty per cent said they’d support it and 11% said “don’t know”.

Coalition voters were the most enthusiastic about making voting voluntary, while Labor voters were more inclined to keep it compulsory. However, Labor voters were the most likely to give the ballot box a miss if they had the choice; 61% of Labor voters would “definitely vote” if it was optional, compared with 67% for Coalition and Green voters. Lumping all voting intentions together, 25% said they would “probably vote”, leaving a small minority — 15% — to say they would probably or definitely not vote (or “don’t know”).

Last week, Liberal figures including Brownyn Bishop floated the prospect of compulsory voting with optional preferencing (some experts predict such a system would most help the Liberals, while stripping Labor of some Greens preferences, and perhaps disadvantaging the Nationals). Essential found the public are certainly no fans of mandatory preferencing in elections.

When asked which of three systems they preferred — preferential, optional preferential or first past the post — the preferential option came last, with 23% making it their choice. First past the post was the most popular option, with 44% support, while optional preferencing came second on 25% support. The public split along party lines; Coalition voters were particularly keen on first past the post, Labor voters liked a preferential system and Greens voters went for optional preferential.

However you ask the question to Australian voters in an election, the answer is rarely “Tony Abbott”. Essential found Abbott’s low popularity has sunk further, while Julia Gillard has staged a modest resurgence with punters.

Approval of Gillard has lifted four points to 41% in the last month — her best result in almost two years — while disapproval of her has fallen to 49%. She’s still in net disapproval territory, but in contemporary Australian politics those numbers aren’t bad.

Abbott just can’t get off the mat — he’s on 33% approval and 57% disapproval, his highest disapproval rating in at least three years. Despite recent attempts to improve his standing with women — including media appearances by his wife, and chief of staff Peta Credlin — 30% of voters strongly disapprove of him.

When asked who would make a better PM, more than a quarter of Coalition voters (27%) responded “don’t know” or “Julia Gillard”. Overall, Gillard leads Abbott 42% to 33% as preferred PM.

However, while the public loves to hate Abbott, it’s not proving an election winner for Labor. Essential found voting intention was largely unchanged from last month, on 54-46% to the Coalition on two-party-preferred. On the primary vote, which if voters had their way could be a lot more important than 2PP, the Coalition leads on 48% from Labor (36%) and the Greens (8%).

Essential polled just over 1000 respondents between Thursday and yesterday.

Cathy Alexander —

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

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22 thoughts on “Essential: don’t make me vote, especially for Abbott

  1. The Pav

    The crazy thing is that despite Abbott’s low numbers & Gillard’s relatively better numbers the Coalition are still ahead.

    Both parties need to do something

    The Govt need to get the positive part of what they have done out there ( Good luck with that given the News Ltd bias) but they certianly don’t need to knock Abbott.

    Whne the issue arises they should be statesman like. For example when he’s running around as a fireman don’t knock him but be daming with faint praise and point out it would be far more impressive if the camera weren’t there and if the real praise could go to the true fighters etc

    Or on other issues just be dismissive and say that’s typical Abbott what can you expect but we ( the govt) don’t focus on his failings but are keeping our eye on the ball and doing this positive thing. If people want to vote for an extremist like Abbott then that’s their perogative and its called democracy

    The other thing is if I was the govt I would schhedule an early morning press conference to announce/reinforce some positive intitiative. This would require Abbott to respond therefore he wouldn’t have tiome to get on his bike. As his office well knows that if Abbott can’t burn some energy off then he goes troppo during the day

    The Govt just need sto let Abbott destroy himself and stand aloof and promote positive actions. Avoid the politics of the negative which is Abbotts strong point.

    Any criticism he makes can be easily disarmed by just saying ” Well Mr Abvbott would say that …and then go into a positive amswer”

    For the Libs. Just get rid of Abbott & they’re home & hosed

  2. tonyfunnywalker

    In my conversation with Liberals – they seem to be in a holding pattern – they want to vote Liberal but they cannot stomach Abbott but find they cannot vote for Labor.
    The redemption of Abbott is another failed campaign – they have made up their minds.

    Rudd is right – Abbott is the only hope that Labor has of winning and I have predicted that his early election promise for 2 years and the dirty vilification of the Independents and the series of beatups and dirty tricks would leave an odium on the electorate which will be hard to remove.

    The Gillard campaign at far better managed – Abbotts is all about Abbott (and that’s what is galling to the electorate) whereas Gillard is taking the more holistic view and focussed on the disadvantaged and on community concerns for issues like child abuse.

    The election should be about the economy and this is where the Liberals have the only advantage in the polls, but,even their conviction here is being eroded as Abbott is still remenbered as an econosceptic to add to his other scepticisms and the Ricardian bleatings of Judith Sloane are not helping his cause.

    It is obvoius that the Fairfax press have given up on Abbott and are increasingly in the Turnbull camp.

    News Ltd is in denial and are trying everything to support Abbott from Climate Scepticism based on the Met Bureau in the UK slowing the trend line for Global Warming — ( its still pointing North) and the misinterpretation of the IMF report or so they Claim. I remember the Fraser / Howard Fist Full of Dollars outcomes when I was paying 17% on our Mortgage – so much for the Howard Battlers at that time with the rampant inflation that Hawke and Keating had to fix. (the recession we had to have).

  3. tonyfunnywalker

    Abbott obsession with Abbott is right PAV and once you take that away the Libs are a blank sheet especially no policies and a reluctance to declare their hand.

    Sacrificing the privacy of PM’s PA will not sway the electorate one bit. Who is driving this infatuation with Abbott – he is a born loser and he hates losing – he cannot handle it – and its not just punching in walls near people’s heads – his behaviour in and outside the Parliament as a potential leader has been abominable.

    He is the alternative PM or would like to be, but at the moment its not a case of the Liberal glass being half full it is totally empty of anything but the Abbott obsessions of ” Scrap the tax, Stop the boats, and Cut the Waste.

    These slogans failed at the last election and will fail again. In answer to the IMF report – all that Hockey could muster was ” pink bats” and ” tin sheds” .

    Perhaps he should rephrase that as as those ” tin sheds” in my home area in Adelaide are very practical and well constructed utilitarian buildings.

    Rhetoric is not going to win the next election and the electorate are loosing patience.

    We have 9 months to go – you do not sell a policy agenda and gain credibility in that time, meanwhile Gillard is reducing the options where an alternative can be adequately sold in the time available and to allow public debate.

    A few commercials will not achieve that- also I do not think that the nativity of the Labor Campaign will occur again, this time Gillard is on the front foot- and the Real Julia is rearing to get out there.

    The Labor electorate and the Media is losing its obsession with Rudd

    In the meantime there is Malcolm hovering in the wings but I think it is too late for leadership change now but the reaction of Liberals in their blogg in these and other pages is that a walkover at the next election is no longer a foregone conclusion as Obama proved in winning – no routing the Republicans in the US last November.

    Its never over till the final results are announced on election day and calling the outcome for 3 years as a win to the Liberals is naive. Nothing is a foregone conclusion in the current political climate anywhere.

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