Post-Budget poll number two is another stinker for the Government. Newspoll this morning puts Labor on 59% of the two-party-preferred vote: a swing of 2% in its favour in the past fortnight, and almost 12% since the 2004 election.

For the reasons I gave yesterday, this one poll on its own is basically meaningless. Even in conjunction with yesterday’s Galaxy poll it tells us very little; the most we can say is that there is no evidence so far for a Budget “bounce” for the Government.

But Newspoll does provide some interesting information in the form of its historical table of previous post-budget polls, which prompts some thoughts about the correlation (or lack of it) between people’s perceptions of policy measures and the way they vote.

As The Australian prominently announces, last week’s Budget received the most favourable reception of any in the last 15 years: 60% rated it good for the economy, compared to the previous best of 59% for Peter Costello’s first in 1996. Also, the highest ever, 36%, said it would make them personally better off.

But looking back at the record, there is no correlation between approval of budgets in the polls and the Government’s electoral fortunes.

Of the Howard Government’s previous three election-year budgets, the best received (51%) was in 1998, which was followed by the worst election result. The budget with the highest disapproval rating, 2002, was followed by one of the Government’s best-ever periods in the opinion polls.

The correlation with assessment of a budget’s personal effect is better, but not much. Only 11% thought the Keating government’s 1992 budget would make them better off, but it still won the subsequent election; in 1995 that figure was still 11%, but it lost the next election in a landslide.

Voters may like the Budget, but the evidence suggests that budgets don’t play a big part in their decisions about how to vote. So far, this year’s poll results bear that out, but it will be a few more weeks before we can be confident about what they are saying.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey