Another Newspoll today, the Essential Research Report yesterday, Morgan last Friday and ACNielsen last Monday, all give the same message – the Rudd Government is very popular and the PM enjoys high approval and high preferred PM ratings. Today’s Newspoll has the 2PP back at the February levels of 58/42. Satisfaction with Kevin Rudd is 68% and dissatisfaction 21%, a positive gap of 47 percentage points. He is the preferred PM by 67 to 18, a 49 point gap. All these are the best figures for this year and close to the best ever. Essential Research, which uses a methodology different from the others, has 2PP at the improbable level of 63/37 two weeks in a row. Morgan has the figure at 61/39.and ACNielsen at 58/42 with PPM at 69/24 and Rudd satisfaction/dissatisfaction at 74/22. All these are remarkably consistent, albeit with a few quite stratospheric 2PP levels. Possum’s Pollytrack aggregate figures are around 60/40, and Pollytrend is steadily edging up in Labor’s favour. [more]
Even the most sceptical, even the most rabid Government opponents, cannot deny the figures and the trend. So they take refuge in the touching belief that the people polled are sleepwalking, blind to the gross incompetence of the Government and the fatal flaws in its leader. They await the great awakening when the scales will fall from the people’s eyes, when they will realize what an awful mistake they have made, and restore the Coalition to its rightful place at the seat of power.
Now we all know that such high ratings cannot continue indefinitely, if they did until election day the Coalition would be reduced to just a handful of seats. That won’t happen. We know that, especially in the midst of an economic crisis, governments have to take unpopular decisions that will alienate some of the voters, and are bound to make moves that will upset others. In the upcoming budget, it is likely that some middle class welfare will be pared back and the tax benefits that benefit the wealthy curtailed. Taking benefits away upsets people. There is likely to be union unrest as union power is restricted by the new IR legislation, and businessmen may react adversely. The ABCC is still a bone of union contention. The introduction of the CPRS during these times of financial distress will infuriate many. As unemployment rises, with some out of work for long periods, anger will be fermented and it will be the Government that will inevitably be the target of that anger. Decisions about foreign investment, especially China’s bid for mineral resources, will upset some. Today’s Newspoll shows that by almost two to one voters oppose such investment. So the Government and Rudd himself may need the high base of support they now enjoy as a counter to the erosion of support that seems inevitable over time.
Commentators continue to express amazement that the Government’s popularity has remained so high for so long. Why is this so?
At the most simplistic level, those polled seem to regard Rudd as a decent fellow, one who can mix with all sectors of society and still associate easily with international leaders. Despite journalistic jibes about his manner of speaking during interviews, he seems to be able to connect comfortably with the man in the street, who seem to believe in him. As one journalist put it, the working man at the bar with sweaty armpits finds Rudd congenial, even if he doesn’t always cotton on to what he’s saying. We’ve seen him on Channel Seven’s Sunrise, other once-off Channel Seven programmes, Channel Ten’s Rove Live, on ABC TV’s Q&A, and at community forums such the recent one in Casey the day after his return from the G20 where he discussed mortgage stress and unemployment and seemed in no hurry to leave. People relate easily to him. They see him as ‘a regular guy’. Even his slip-ups tend to be overlooked as simply the mistakes of an ordinary man. Perversely they seem to endear him to much of the public.
Next, I suspect the public admire his work ethic, even those who would not want to work that way. They see him as someone with a big programme of things he wants to do, and the energy and determination to do them quickly.
The frenetic programme of Government activity too must appeal to those who like to see things getting done. There were 350 items posted on the ALP website during March, mostly media statements that announce Government initiatives; that’s over ten per day. Take a look at ‘Government Watch Mar’ on The Political Sword for the full list. Check out a few. The ‘all talk, no action’, ‘all spin no substance’ mantras seem to have died a natural death, mantras hard to sustain in the face of such feverish activity. Even today the Government announced its massive new broadband proposal.
The people also seem to have the view that Rudd is doing his best to protect us from the GFC. To date they do not blame him for it; to the contrary they see his Government actively countering its effects. They see him as doing a good job – the polls speak that in volumes.
Some admire his international activity and the influence he seems to have. His recent performance in the US and the intensity of his advocacy in London for the G20 goals, have attracted wide support, even from those not usually willing to give praise.
In summary, people like Rudd, relate to him easily, appreciate his hard work and what he is trying to do for the country, and his impressive international influence despite Australia being a middle-order nation.
Yet all this popularity has been sustained in the face of Coalition attacks at every turn, and unrelenting assaults by some sections of the media that try to cut him down to size. The Coalition has decided that attacking or demeaning every Government move, every Rudd announcement, is the best tactic. Nothing the Government does is ever right. It bungles at every turn; it makes the wrong decisions repeatedly; it exhibits unspeakable incompetence as it simply doesn’t understand. All this is asserted with blatant arrogance. And when the opportunity presents, the Coalition joins the chorus of media condemnation over personal matters, such as the recent RAAF meal episode. Clearly a large majority of those polled don’t believe the Coalition rhetoric. Why do they persist with it?
The media assault is of a different nature. They have preferred to play the man more than the ball. So we’ve had the ‘Burke affair’, the ‘Scores episode’, the ‘Liu association’, the ‘s-itstorm episode on TV’, the ‘hostie abuse’ scandal, and now some story about bikies at the Lodge, as well as the scandalous way he overworks his poor long-suffering staff, a Glenn Milne exclusive. All publicized ad nauseam, all repeated over and again, all picked up by Akerman and Bolt and intensified by their vitriolic bloggers. Yet Rudd survives and even seems to prosper on this fare. As a blogger on The Poll Bludger put it on seeing the Morgan 61/39 2PP “The voters must really care a lot about SASgate, Liugate, shitstormgate, hostiegate and Lodge-gategate.” Why do the media persist? I suppose journalists, determined to get Rudd, feel that sooner or later enough of the ‘dark’ side of Rudd will build up to reinforce the Jekyll and Hyde campaign that’s being run. The ‘tall poppy’ syndrome is likely the genesis of this campaign. Rudd seems to some in the media to be too intelligent, too smart, too far ahead of the pack, too earnest, too frenetic, and above all else too popular. He obviously needs bringing down a peg or two, and any journalist who achieves this gets the ‘gotcha’ prize.
What do you think makes Kevin Rudd and his Government so popular? What do you think makes Malcolm Turnbull and his Coalition so unpopular?. More of the latter later this week.