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Unpopular leaders lost the 2022 federal election

Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were the most unpopular leaders of any Australian political party since 1987, analysis of the 2022 federal election shows.

The analysis comes from a survey of more than 3500 voters conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) before and after the May 2022 federal election. The survey asked respondents about their political attitudes to certain people and subjects.

The Liberal and National Party leaders were the most disliked leaders in decades, a factor study co-author Professor Ian McAllister says played a big role in the election result.

“Our findings show both Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were very unpopular, and both were especially not popular with their own voters,” he says.

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“We also found Labor leader and new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was moderately popular across the electorate.”

Mr Morrison was given an overall rating of 3.6 out of 10, with Mr Joyce receiving three out of 10, making them the lowest scoring leaders of their respective parties since the late 1980s.

While Mr Albanese received a better score of 5.6, he starts his term in government ranked lower in popularity than previous Labor leaders Kevin Rudd (6.3), Bob Hawke (6.2) and Kim Beazley (6.1).

The study also took a deeper look at what policy issues drove the election outcome.

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“We found there were four key policy areas where Coalition voters switched their allegiance this election,” says Professor Nicholas Biddle, another author of the study.

“These include dealing with global climate change, improving disaster relief, improving the way the political system works in Australia, and addressing issues around race in this country.

“If the Coalition opposition is able to turn the focus to the areas that helped them maintain its support, then the Albanese government may be lucky to win a second term.”

The survey also found the COVID pandemic, and perceived federal government responses to it, had a further negative impact on the Coalition’s vote.

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“How the Coalition handled the COVID-19 pandemic was a major factor in determining their leaders’ popularity among voters,” Prof. McAllister says.

“Voters were divided on how well the government handled the pandemic. However, negative perceptions about the pandemic were channelled through [Mr] Morrison’s leadership and were a major drag on the Coalition vote.”

The impact of ‘teal’ independents was also queried and the answers the pollsters got may surprise some LNP supporters.

“We found teal voters appear to more likely be tactical Labor or Greens voters rather than dissatisfied Liberal voters,” Prof. McAllister says.

“Among teal respondents, 35 per cent voted Labor in 2019, 23 per cent Green, and only 19 per cent had voted Liberal in 2019.”

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