A different way to look at how the various political leaders are travelling is to contrast their net satisfaction or approval levels against their two party preferred vote share. The polls here cover a rather large time spread – from the very recent Newspolls from NSW, Vic and SA through to the most recent WA polls that came out back in March 2009 (March 2009!). Unfortunately we don’t yet have net satisfaction/approval ratings for the new NSW premier, so we’ll be optimistic and give her a notional zero on that score. Once we tally them all, this is what we end up with.

votenetsatsdec

Ideally, any leader – be it opposition or government – would want to be in the top right quadrant while forcing their opponents to be in the bottom left. While some leaders like Rudd, Brumby, O’Farrell and Barnett (perhaps, who knows – it’s from March 2009!) are approaching that typical pattern of domination, the most interesting action comes from those leaders that are behaving in odd ways.

Take the case of SA Opposition leader Isobel Redmond for instance. Her high approval ratings suggest that Rann probably isn’t as safe as his two party preferred polling implies – at least for as long as those high approvals hold up. Since Redmond isn’t seen as a liability, South Australian politics is contestable for the simple reason of there being an alternative that the public considers viable.

Queensland on the other hand has both leaders in pretty terrible satisfaction/approval positions, suggesting that Bligh is probably a little better off than the vote estimates would ordinarily have us believe. With neither the Premier nor the opposition leader considered particularly viable, Qld is in the situation of there being a known but disliked government vs an unknown and disliked opposition.

There haven’t been many examples in Australian political history of a disliked government being replaced by a disliked opposition. In these sorts of situations, the certainty of knowing just how hopeless an incumbent government is, seems to trump the uncertainty of not knowing just how hopeless a disliked opposition could become should they gain the treasury benches.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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