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Jan 14, 2013

Essential: don't make me vote, especially for Abbott

Australians are not entirely convinced on compulsory voting and certainly don't like being forced to give preferences. The latest poll from Essential Research shows a lack of public support for some of our electoral laws.


Less than half the population supports compulsory voting — but whether forced to vote or not, no one is in a hurry to cast a ballot for Tony Abbott as prime minister.

The latest poll results from Essential Research show voters are not enamoured with Australia’s electoral system, which is based on compulsory voting, often with mandatory preferencing thrown in. When Essential asked its online panel about a bid to make voting voluntary at the state and federal levels, just 49% said they’d oppose the move. Forty per cent said they’d support it and 11% said “don’t know”.

Coalition voters were the most enthusiastic about making voting voluntary, while Labor voters were more inclined to keep it compulsory. However, Labor voters were the most likely to give the ballot box a miss if they had the choice; 61% of Labor voters would “definitely vote” if it was optional, compared with 67% for Coalition and Green voters. Lumping all voting intentions together, 25% said they would “probably vote”, leaving a small minority — 15% — to say they would probably or definitely not vote (or “don’t know”).

Last week, Liberal figures including Brownyn Bishop floated the prospect of compulsory voting with optional preferencing (some experts predict such a system would most help the Liberals, while stripping Labor of some Greens preferences, and perhaps disadvantaging the Nationals). Essential found the public are certainly no fans of mandatory preferencing in elections.

When asked which of three systems they preferred — preferential, optional preferential or first past the post — the preferential option came last, with 23% making it their choice. First past the post was the most popular option, with 44% support, while optional preferencing came second on 25% support. The public split along party lines; Coalition voters were particularly keen on first past the post, Labor voters liked a preferential system and Greens voters went for optional preferential.

However you ask the question to Australian voters in an election, the answer is rarely “Tony Abbott”. Essential found Abbott’s low popularity has sunk further, while Julia Gillard has staged a modest resurgence with punters.

Approval of Gillard has lifted four points to 41% in the last month — her best result in almost two years — while disapproval of her has fallen to 49%. She’s still in net disapproval territory, but in contemporary Australian politics those numbers aren’t bad.

Abbott just can’t get off the mat — he’s on 33% approval and 57% disapproval, his highest disapproval rating in at least three years. Despite recent attempts to improve his standing with women — including media appearances by his wife, and chief of staff Peta Credlin — 30% of voters strongly disapprove of him.

When asked who would make a better PM, more than a quarter of Coalition voters (27%) responded “don’t know” or “Julia Gillard”. Overall, Gillard leads Abbott 42% to 33% as preferred PM.

However, while the public loves to hate Abbott, it’s not proving an election winner for Labor. Essential found voting intention was largely unchanged from last month, on 54-46% to the Coalition on two-party-preferred. On the primary vote, which if voters had their way could be a lot more important than 2PP, the Coalition leads on 48% from Labor (36%) and the Greens (8%).

Essential polled just over 1000 respondents between Thursday and yesterday.


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22 thoughts on “Essential: don’t make me vote, especially for Abbott

  1. The Pav

    The crazy thing is that despite Abbott’s low numbers & Gillard’s relatively better numbers the Coalition are still ahead.

    Both parties need to do something

    The Govt need to get the positive part of what they have done out there ( Good luck with that given the News Ltd bias) but they certianly don’t need to knock Abbott.

    Whne the issue arises they should be statesman like. For example when he’s running around as a fireman don’t knock him but be daming with faint praise and point out it would be far more impressive if the camera weren’t there and if the real praise could go to the true fighters etc

    Or on other issues just be dismissive and say that’s typical Abbott what can you expect but we ( the govt) don’t focus on his failings but are keeping our eye on the ball and doing this positive thing. If people want to vote for an extremist like Abbott then that’s their perogative and its called democracy

    The other thing is if I was the govt I would schhedule an early morning press conference to announce/reinforce some positive intitiative. This would require Abbott to respond therefore he wouldn’t have tiome to get on his bike. As his office well knows that if Abbott can’t burn some energy off then he goes troppo during the day

    The Govt just need sto let Abbott destroy himself and stand aloof and promote positive actions. Avoid the politics of the negative which is Abbotts strong point.

    Any criticism he makes can be easily disarmed by just saying ” Well Mr Abvbott would say that …and then go into a positive amswer”

    For the Libs. Just get rid of Abbott & they’re home & hosed

  2. Mike Flanagan

    Hi Pav, how goes it?
    I am not entirely in accord with your suggested political strategy for the ALP.
    Ninconpoops like Abbott should be exposed for what they are, ambitious empty heads who intellectually vasilate between thought bubbles to serve their own ambitions regardless of there implications to the nation.
    They must be exposed to show any Opposition Party should attend to the real reason they are in opposition is because of past inadeqaucies and lack of updated policy development.

  3. The Pav

    G’day Mike,

    Absolutely stuffed after the holiday break.that’s me.

    TRouble with pointing out Abbotts failings then it becomes a bit of a school yard squabble andthe voters turn off to both sides.

    Like the old saying goes. Don’t argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and beat you wioth experience”

    Although our generally supine media has yet to really call Abbott out I detect a slight breeze of change.

    I also believe that the numbers show the voters have rumbled to Abbotty so there is little benefir in further underlining his incapacity and unfitness. That’s a given. What is need ed for the govt is to establish a narrative that show cases tjeir considerable achievements.

    They can’t do both so it is better they don’t focus on Abbott

  4. Hunt Ian

    Essential Research needs to double its sample size before we can be very confident that the views in their sample match the overall population, provided we don’t have any other reason to think their sample will not match the overall population. That said, it does seem that Abbott draws disapproval. Since he gets a good run in the press, we have to ask why so many disapprove, despite the many opportunities he has to put his views in a good light, in any part of the media, including the ABC.

    One impression I have is he will wield power ruthlessly, if he gets a chance. Perhaps others pick up this scary side of Abbott, since not so many would share my rejection of what he stands for.

  5. geomac62

    An online panel for the poll result . Well how many in the sample ? 49% said they would oppose the move to voluntary voting as against 40% would support it . Maybe the heading should be more prefer compulsory voting than oppose it .

  6. tonyfunnywalker

    In my conversation with Liberals – they seem to be in a holding pattern – they want to vote Liberal but they cannot stomach Abbott but find they cannot vote for Labor.
    The redemption of Abbott is another failed campaign – they have made up their minds.

    Rudd is right – Abbott is the only hope that Labor has of winning and I have predicted that his early election promise for 2 years and the dirty vilification of the Independents and the series of beatups and dirty tricks would leave an odium on the electorate which will be hard to remove.

    The Gillard campaign at far better managed – Abbotts is all about Abbott (and that’s what is galling to the electorate) whereas Gillard is taking the more holistic view and focussed on the disadvantaged and on community concerns for issues like child abuse.

    The election should be about the economy and this is where the Liberals have the only advantage in the polls, but,even their conviction here is being eroded as Abbott is still remenbered as an econosceptic to add to his other scepticisms and the Ricardian bleatings of Judith Sloane are not helping his cause.

    It is obvoius that the Fairfax press have given up on Abbott and are increasingly in the Turnbull camp.

    News Ltd is in denial and are trying everything to support Abbott from Climate Scepticism based on the Met Bureau in the UK slowing the trend line for Global Warming — ( its still pointing North) and the misinterpretation of the IMF report or so they Claim. I remember the Fraser / Howard Fist Full of Dollars outcomes when I was paying 17% on our Mortgage – so much for the Howard Battlers at that time with the rampant inflation that Hawke and Keating had to fix. (the recession we had to have).

  7. The Pav

    Tony FW

    I think you fare right. The ALP needs to make the campaign about what they have done not Gillard.

    Standard answer by PM should bbe along the line “This isn’t about me but about what is best for Australia and we have done this.that and son on”

    Make it clear that Abbott is Abbott obsessed

    Then on the economic argument it should be put out there that the two profligate PM’s were Howard & his hero Menzies

    That the Liberal claims for economic credibility are built on sand and Joe Hockey’s inability to add up. Just repeat adnauseum their stuff up just before the lkast vote and ask how they can have any credibility

  8. Mike Smith

    @Pav: Like the even older saying goes – “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” – George Bernard Shaw

  9. The Pav


    10 out of 10

    Hope the PM heeds it

  10. zut alors

    Mike S, that’s my motto, it’s a ripper,

  11. tonyfunnywalker

    Abbott obsession with Abbott is right PAV and once you take that away the Libs are a blank sheet especially no policies and a reluctance to declare their hand.

    Sacrificing the privacy of PM’s PA will not sway the electorate one bit. Who is driving this infatuation with Abbott – he is a born loser and he hates losing – he cannot handle it – and its not just punching in walls near people’s heads – his behaviour in and outside the Parliament as a potential leader has been abominable.

    He is the alternative PM or would like to be, but at the moment its not a case of the Liberal glass being half full it is totally empty of anything but the Abbott obsessions of ” Scrap the tax, Stop the boats, and Cut the Waste.

    These slogans failed at the last election and will fail again. In answer to the IMF report – all that Hockey could muster was ” pink bats” and ” tin sheds” .

    Perhaps he should rephrase that as as those ” tin sheds” in my home area in Adelaide are very practical and well constructed utilitarian buildings.

    Rhetoric is not going to win the next election and the electorate are loosing patience.

    We have 9 months to go – you do not sell a policy agenda and gain credibility in that time, meanwhile Gillard is reducing the options where an alternative can be adequately sold in the time available and to allow public debate.

    A few commercials will not achieve that- also I do not think that the nativity of the Labor Campaign will occur again, this time Gillard is on the front foot- and the Real Julia is rearing to get out there.

    The Labor electorate and the Media is losing its obsession with Rudd

    In the meantime there is Malcolm hovering in the wings but I think it is too late for leadership change now but the reaction of Liberals in their blogg in these and other pages is that a walkover at the next election is no longer a foregone conclusion as Obama proved in winning – no routing the Republicans in the US last November.

    Its never over till the final results are announced on election day and calling the outcome for 3 years as a win to the Liberals is naive. Nothing is a foregone conclusion in the current political climate anywhere.

  12. GF50

    Totally agree with all above. Never mention the A word and get on with it.

  13. Kym Afford

    Tony Abbott should be given scant attention, labor should get on with doing what has to be done and continue to point to the good of doing something that, like the Carbon Tax, which has not hurt anyone, has indeed turned around some of our CO2 emissions .
    Necessary changes for our common good are not going to come without personal cost – people just do not understand that there is going to be a cost, but not as great as doing nothing.
    We have a long way to go and politically it is probably suicide to suggest we should dispense with GDP as a measure of our success, but as we live in a finite world and are running well beyond capacity to produce, we inevitably will have to.
    Right now we need strong leadership and direction, and I believe the Labor party has it, it just has to sell it.
    Abbott’s war is over, his not accepting responsibility for supporting the Carbon Tax and in wanting to scrap the Mining Tax are both losers.
    Mentioning the latter makes me irate, knowing that 70% of the mining wealth is owned by overseas interests and that c.80% of that wealth goes overseas is wrong.

  14. The Pav

    Tony FW

    My understanding is that with the Pinl Batts the CSIRO report cleared the govt and with the schools the Auditor Generals report also said the program went well with the execption of a few in NSW ( no surprise there)

    If I was Gillard I would face Abbott & his henchmen and demand that rather than make a general accusation of wrong to give specifics then and there.

    Natuarlly they would bluster and say they coul;dn’t

    The next challenge would be to ask if they have actually read the reports…My bet is they haven’t

    Gillard could then thump dwon a copy with tags and suggest that they do so before shooting their mouths off

    If the govt cob=nfronts the likes of Abbott & Hockey on fact and detail day in day out their sloppiness and lack of capacity to master tghe breif will come through

  15. Steve777

    We really need to have a decent Civics education component in school curricula. Preferential voting is, in my opinion, one of the best systems in the world , but so many reasonably intelligent people don’t understand it. But it is so simple I remember my teacher explaining it to the class when I was in Sixth Class (Year 6). Anyone capable of passing Primary School Maths should be able to understand it. It is not foolproof and can be abused, but this applies much more so for First Past the Post. One big advantage is that it allows space for new parties to develop. In the USA the two big parties are pretty much entrenched with no possibility of viable third parties.

  16. Mike Flanagan

    Tony FW;
    I agree it is getting far too late to change horses but I did notice, over the weekend, Turnbull is mastering his penny farthing and gave Jenny Macklin a good natured wave as he passed her in the back straight.
    His problem is Abbott’s legacy in his saddle bags of the Bernardi, Pyne, Hunt, Kroger and Abetz et al, Tea Party clique of the Liberal Party.

  17. Victor

    It beggars belief that 44% of Australians would prefer so-called first-past-the-post voting to preferential.

    However, the poll result is deceptively reported. In fact support for preferential voting is 48%: that is, 23% who would require voters to show a preference for all candidates plus 25% who want this to be optional.

    Indeed, the deceptive report amounts to non-preferential vote counting, and precisely illustrates what is wrong with it. Where you have two broad options (in this case preferential or not) but one of them is split into two sub-options, the one that is not split wins an unfair victory.

  18. Bill Hilliger

    I’m for an Abbott/Pell government. Back to the 1950’s for me.

  19. beachcomber

    How long will the Liberals keep Abbott as leader? Abbott’s entire strategy this term has been to create a sense of impending crisis leading to an early election. This kept the pressure on Gillard and the Independents. And more importantly for Abbott it kept the Liberals, who only gave him the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull thanks to Peter Slipper’s vote, backing him. That strategy has now achieved nothing. Support for both major parties are back to where they were last election. The incumbent Government has many advnatages in an election year, and that wafer thin lead in the polls can easily disappear. And what then? Will the Liberals break tradition and go into an election with a leader who lost last time? Who is the most unpopular Opposition Leader in history? They won’t. They will dump him and turn to someone they think will assure them of victory. Malcolm Turnbull is far more popular than Abbott, and has the advantage of having policies. Sure, some of his policies scare the Liberals, and even more scare the Nationals. But the Liberals have never put ideology ahead of victory.

  20. Andybob

    Abbott is only attractive to rusted on Liberals whose votes will never go to Labor. If the Libs replace Abbott with Turnbull a month or so before the election, and attack Labor from the centre, then they would win a two term majority.

  21. The Pav


    Abbott is not attractive to the rusted on Liberals.

    Their support is a Pavlovian response.

    Abbott only retains power in the party because the Liberal MP’s know he is toxic but lack the courage to displace him.

    Has any other member had a reputaion for violence ( not necessarily physical) greater than Abbott. I can think of one recent ALP leader who approached Abbotts levels and we know how well that turned out.

    The electorate has shown it can discern bully boys and rejects them. The cover Abbott has been given by NoNewsLtd has delayed the process but the truth will out.

    If the govt ignores Abbott and focus’ on policy then they will romp it in.

    Apart from anything bullies like Abbott can’t stand being ignored

  22. John Hargrave

    The Prime Minister is always going to be more popular than an Opposition leader-the last time this was reversed was Whitlam and McMahon in 1971-72. It’s not Rocket Science.
    Gillard will be rolled..am counting the days till Sept…then she’ll be gone as well as her promises of more committeess, investigations etc.. Can anyone please tell me just ONE successful thing this PM and her useless Govt have done for this country???


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