This morning we asked Crikey readers to worm segments of last night’s leader’s debate using the Roy Morgan Reactor. Nearly a thousand have responded so far and you can now view the results here:

Meanwhile, the polls are still good – but Kevin Rudd faces a tall order: five weeks, 16 seats and a Prime Minister who finishes strongly, according to Roy Morgan’s own Reactor survey.

On Sunday night and first thing this morning, an Australia-wide sample of electors selected by Roy Morgan Research to provide a representative sample of the Australian electorate electors all over Australia reacted to the highs and lows of the debate.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd began strongly but Prime Minister John Howard gained momentum, and after the closing remarks, the debate finished with little between the two leaders, according to the Reactor.

Rudd clearly began the debate in a solid position – his supporters (the ALP red line) were positive throughout, and the blue line (Coalition supporters) was not far below the mid point. The Prime Minister began less well, the blue line was just above mid point, and the redline just below.

However, by the closing speeches, the PM had moved the blue line to the top of the chart, and the red line was just below the midpoint – a strategic positive for John Howard.

On most of the key issues, throughout the 90 minute debate, the Reactor split along party lines (the red line positive to the opposition leader and negative to the PM; and the blue line positive to the PM and negative to Rudd):

  • On the issue of Economic Management the reaction to Rudd was generally positive.
  • The Union issue divided the electorate sharply – for both leaders. Only when the PM mentioned business, and the need to be ‘balanced’ did the overt partylines soften, and he gained some support.
  • On Taxation, the generally polarised electorate reacted favourably to Rudd’s point about $3 billion tax cuts going to those earning $180K or more.
  • On Climate change, the Labor leader initially polarised the electorate, his dialogue on ‘interim targets’ then lost the red line, which only improved slightly when ‘science’ was mentioned. The PM began slowly – the reaction was ‘soft’ polarisation (the blue line slightly positive, the red line slightly negative). The ‘climate change fund’ received a similar ‘soft’ reaction, but the recognition of support needed to help the poorer parts of society with the costs associated with environmental initiatives received a positive reaction.

“The key issue is how the ‘soft ALP’ voters responded to the range of issues covered in the debate, as well as the particular reaction of country Australians and those in marginal seats,” Morgan Research CEO Michelle Levine said.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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