Oct 17, 2012

Generation game: age a factor in views on Abbott v Gillard

It seems old Queensland blokes like Tony Abbott and young Victorian women like Julia Gillard, detailed polling finds. But some of the poll results are more surprising ...

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

While there's a significant gender gap among voters in relation to both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, there’s also a large generation gap. In polling conducted by Essential Research examining voters' attitudes toward the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader over gender and temperament issues, differences among age groups loom as large or larger than the differences between men and women. On age, sample sizes are smaller than for gender even with the large number of respondents, so the gaps need to be larger to be of statistical significance. But younger voters view Gillard much more favourably than Abbott. Sixty per cent of 18-24 year olds think Gillard has the right temperament to be PM; 53% of over-65s do, in an almost linear progression through age. Only 39% of 18-24 year olds think Abbott has the temperament to be prime minister (and 38% of 25-34 year olds), but 49% of over-65s do. On whether Abbott can "effectively represent Australia’s interests," only 37% of 18-24 year-olds and 40% of 25-34 year-olds agreed, compared to 52% of over-65s. Fifty one per cent of under-25s believed Gillard represented Australia’s interests effectively, compared to 45% of over-65s. Those aged under 35 (both under-25s and 25-34 year-olds) were much more likely to believe Abbott would be embarrassing as PM compared to the over-65s; 39% of under 35s thought Gillard was embarrassing compared to 50% of over-65s. And while there was minimal difference between age groups over whether Gillard understood the challenges facing Australian women, 30% of under-25s and 35% of 25-34 year-olds thought Abbott understood the challenges facing women; 51% of over-65s did. What's interesting about the age difference is that it fits poorly with voting intention: younger people are less likely than older voters to support either of the major parties, so views on Gillard, for example, don't at all reflect how different age groups say they'd vote. There's also a strong geographic flavour to reactions on gender issues. Queenslanders are far more likely to be pro-Abbott and anti-Gillard than NSW or Victorian voters (the latter particularly). Fifty two per cent of Queenslanders think Gillard is embarrassing as PM compared to 42% of NSW voters and 43% of Victorian voters; only 26% of Queenslanders think she's the best person to lead her party, compared to 36-37% of NSW and Victorian voters; 47% believe Abbott has the right temperament to be PM, compared to 40-41% of southern voters. The WA and SA sample sizes are too small for meaningful observations. What conclusions can we draw from all this? Firstly, there's the issue of whether Gillard has a "problem" with male voters. The answer is, only comparatively, given her stronger support among women. She still leads Abbott on every positive indicator and trails on every negative indicator, except one: Abbott outscores her 39-36% on "will serve my interests as prime minister" (which arguably may be a better indicator of voting intention than most of the other attributes). Often times the comparison is starkly in her favour: she trails Abbott 25-44% on "has difficulty controlling their aggression", despite the bump in male responses after her misogyny speech; she leads 58-42% on "has the right temperament to be prime minister". Second, Abbott's "women" problem seems to apply particularly to young women. This may be because issues around reproductive choice and workplace s-xism are more live issues for younger woman than seniors, although they are of course issues close to the heart of many older women who've fought hard for decades for basic rights. But an alternative explanation may simply be that older, more financially-secure male and female voters are more inclined to support the Coalition and its economic policies compared to younger people with less financial security (there's no clear pattern based on income, though higher-income voters generally seem more favourable to Abbott than to Gillard), and this flows through to their views on leaders. Third, regardless of the animosity toward Abbott displayed by female voters, many are still prepared to vote for the Coalition anyway. Labor has narrowed the once-vast gap between the parties by lifting its primary vote into the mid 30% range, but it needs to push it into the high 30s to be competitive, and it has to do it by luring back voters currently in the Coalition camp, rather than cannibalising the Greens vote. And it's likely it can only do this by getting the Prime Minister's approval ratings back to neutral or even positive territory. That is, regardless of how voters feel about Abbott, it's ultimately the performance of Gillard that's crucial for Labor.

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15 thoughts on “Generation game: age a factor in views on Abbott v Gillard

  1. Salamander

    “the gaps need to be larger to be of statistical significance.” In other words, meaningless.

  2. anthony kelly

    Bernard, “Salamander” has said it all…did you flunk Stats 101?

  3. Karen

    Why do voters think that Coalition policies will be better for their economic interests when it is a minority of people who are genuinely wealthy?

    And why do people rely on financial self-interest before any other concern as the key driver of voting intention?

  4. JMNO

    In Qld the only newspapers with state or national coverage are Murdoch-owned and The Australian might as well be the Liberal Party News.

    In Vic, The Age seems pretty anti-Julia Gillard herself but when it reports on policy it mostly gives a reasonable overview. So there is at least a diversity of opinion and viewpoint in Vic. Not so in Qld, in the press at least.

    Don’t know how many people are influenced by newspaper reporting and I don’t watch TV news so don’t know how TV covers the various political parties. However if the main news coverage continuously misreports what the Government is doing or reports everything they do as a fiasco, surely that must have some influence on people’s views of the major parties.

    Anyone done any research on this?

  5. elknwit

    Dear JMNO, if you think The Age is any less a vehicle for “advocacy journalism” of the left variety than the Oz is for the right you must have patch over your left eye. Both contain many fine contributions of interst but they are equally slanted – -the Age’s usual technique is just to ignore views on favourite topics that conflict with the journalistic groupthink there. The Oz’s technique seems to be involve giving some space to the least articulate reprsentatives of an opposing view making subsequent “ridicule” easier. Take your pick.

  6. Mike Flanagan

    It is because of what they are fed by the mainstream press and in particular the ABC, Fairfax and Murdoch.
    In todays Fairfax Press we get a dozen pars on the PM losing her balance, complete with a potted history of the PM high heel failures.
    Michelle Grattan, the author, has not given a substantive piece on what is happening in India, in politics, trade or diplomacy since she has been there.
    Many of these senior correspondents have been with us for twenty or more years and we are all familiar with their prejudices, perceptions and bias’s. Their perception, of the world and their specialities, are define by their personal retention of a historical data (much of which is unconfirmable gossip) knowledge. Their modus operandi is built on a conservative philosophy and is engendered by their personal perceptions of history while they inform their audience that we must adapt and confront change. To me thar is an elemental contradiction
    Many of these purveyors of gossip are well past their use by date and they should seek challenges in other careers

  7. G E

    What conclusions can we draw from all this? Simple really. The benefit of wisdom that comes with age!

  8. Liz45

    Once again I’m outside the ‘norm’ it would seem. I’ll be 68 next April. I can’t stand Abbott – for anything, let alone PM, and I think Julia Gillard has a better personality to accept and cope with difficulty and responsibility.

    I’ve never been approached in any poll in all the years that I’ve voted – since 1967 at least!

    I also believe that the current view re the word ‘misogynist’ as amended by Macquarie Dictionary is correct and DOES fit the manner in which the PM used it! I’ve been fighting misogynistic attitudes most of my adult life!

    Tony Abbott behaves more like a pubescent boy in the playground. Not a mature, sensible, sensitive adult person! And certainly not equipped to be PM or represent Australians, anywhere for any reason! Full stop!

  9. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Abbott will win because in Qld and WA you will see or read anything favorable to the Government.ïpso facto the party with the most favorable media commentary will win. Is it democratic, no; is it the “real politic”yes.

  10. moe hassan

    it’s amazing how some queenslanders still favour a conservative like abbott despite the fact their state being ravaged with austerity by an ideologically driven lunatic campbell newman,I guess… masochism is a growing trend.

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