The federal budget looms, and as we’ve been hearing for weeks, it’s going to be a tough one (with a few conspicuous sweeteners on the side.)

As we learnt last year in the wake of the ridiculous “an income of $150,000 doesn’t make me rich” argument which blitzed all other coverage in the wake of the 2011 budget, so much of the take-home message from Wayne Swan’s annual handout comes down to the disconnect between public perception and reality on the economy.

Essential Media delves into this disconnect today. On the first question, the public seem rooted in some kind of reality:

Q. Thinking about the state of the world economy, how do you think the Australian economy has performed over the last few years compared to other countries?

Around 66% believe the Australian economy performed better than other countries over the last few years, 16% say about the same and 15% think it has been worse.

So by extension, given Swan has been in the chair since the GFC hit, his government should gain some kudos for their handling of the economy — or if not that, get points on the question “if there was another Global Financial Crisis, which party would you trust most to deal with it?”.

Right? Wrong.

If there was another GFC, 40% would trust the Liberal Party more to handle it. Only 31% would want Labor in charge. When a similar question was asked last week, the results were 27% Labor/43% Liberal.

This disconnect doesn’t just apply to the Labor government’s perception problem. As Keane and Cox discussed last week, it goes as deep as people’s ideas about their own personal wealth. And this neat little infographic from the Australia Institute illustrates the disconnect between the public’s perception of Australia as one of the highest-taxing regimes in the world and, again, the reality (we’re not).

Good luck tomorrow Mr Swan, you’re going to need it — regardless of your bottom line, given that no one seems to be paying attention to any of it.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey