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Federal

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 ...

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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 comments

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Salamander
Member

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

elknwit
Member

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

Karen
Member

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?

JMNO
Member
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… Read more »
elknwit
Member

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.

Mike Flanagan
Member
Karen; 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,… Read more »
G E
Member

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

Liz45
Member
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… Read more »
Pedantic, Balwyn
Member

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.

moe hassan
Member

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.

drmick
Member

Spot on Liz 45. I cannot understand a world without normal, common sense, and being able to identify bull without treading in it or tasting it. FMD they did it in England; & the possibility of Murdochs mob hacking phones here has not even been reported, let alone investigated.

Liz45
Member
drmick – Agreed! I can’t understand people some times? How is it, that a grotty one sided ‘revelation’ about young women on supporting parent benefit brings out all the ‘pea brained’ people in the state or country, and yet the conservatives can do whatever they like and the media/same ‘pea brained’ people lets them get away with it? Buggers me! IF Abbott is elected (says I with fingers crossed) and he goes back on the price on carbon; NBN and particularly his version of paid maternity leave, the same msm will let him get away with it. They’ll repeat his… Read more »
john smith
Member

@moe

“ravaged with austerity” is a bit harsh. What’s the alternative you are suggesting? Follow the path taken by Greece, Spain, France, Belgium, et al? Austerity is the necessary antidote for decades of spendthrift Labor irresponsibility.

Newman is not an ideological lunatic, he just knows how to drive a calculator, something no lefty is capable of doing.

Mike Flanagan
Member
Karen; 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,… Read more »
Reg Davies
Member

Was this about a poll or was it just political commentry hopeful that Labor are really in the mid 30’with its primary vote. Would have thought myself 33% was low 30’s but there you go.

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