Bill Shorten least popular leader since 1990: election study

Mr Morrison scored 5.1 points compared with 4.9 for Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, 4.3 for Tony Abbott in 2013, 4.9 for Julia Gillard in 2010 and 6.3 for Mr Rudd in 2007.

Scott Morrison scored 5.1 points compared with 4.9 for Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, 4.3 for Tony Abbott in 2013, 4.9 for Julia Gillard in 2010 and 6.3 for Mr Rudd in 2007.Credit:AAP

The study found that Mr Shorten was the least popular leader of any major political party since 1990.

“Leaders have always played a major role in shaping voters’ choices and the 2019 election was no exception,” said Sarah Cameron from the University of Sydney, one of the lead authors of the Australian Election Study.

“Bill Shorten’s historically low popularity undoubtedly disadvantaged Labor.”


Dr Cameron added that the switch from Mr Turnbull to Mr Morrison in August 2018 drew strong criticism from voters, with 74 per cent disapproval.

The Australian Election Study is produced by the Australian National University after each election and relied this year on 2179 valid responses (online and in hard copy) from a sample size of 5175.

Another study author, Jill Sheppard of the ANU, said voters swung to the Coalition on the economy, tax and leadership, while they swung to Labor on the environment.

“What the study shows is that a key concern for voters was the economy. And this is what tipped the balance in favour of the Coalition,” she said in a statement for the public launch of the report on Monday.

A series of charts to accompany the report reveals the changes in the electorate over decades, with 36 per cent of voters described as “stable Liberal-Nationals” supporters in 1967 compared with only 17 per cent today, with a similar trend for Labor.

Asked if they believed people in government could be trusted, 51 per cent agreed in 1969 compared with 25 per cent in 2019.

While 49 per cent agreed with the proposition that “people in government look after themselves” in 1969, this climbed to 75 per cent five decades later. It has risen in every election since 2007.

Support for a republic is at 49 per cent, down from 66 per cent in 1996, and voters appear more concerned about big business than the unions.

When respondents were asked whether unions and big business had too much power, the result in 1990 was 62 per cent “yes” for both. In 2019, however, 76 per cent said big business had too much power but only 42 per cent said the same for the unions.

Concerns about global warming have steadily increased, with 68 per cent naming it a “serious threat” compared with 55 per cent in 2010.

Opinions on China have shifted dramatically. Only 8 per cent agreed in 2004 that China was “very likely” to be a security threat to Australia but this climbed to 32 per cent this year. Another 43 per cent said this was “fairly likely”.

Trust in the United States has fallen sharply, with 69 per cent saying this year the country could be trusted to come to Australia’s defence, down from 80 per cent at the last election. Support for the US alliance is roughly steady at 85 per cent.

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