Bad news for Howard
Most people are still treating the opinion polls, showing a big lead for Labor, with a grain of salt and sometimes more. They may be right – views can change a lot in an election campaign. But this poll undertaken by the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney (PDF over the fold) suggests that Howard will have a fair bit of trouble winding back Labor’s lead. It doesn’t ask anything about party preferences, but it does ask about issues that seem likely to drive quite a lot of votes, including attitudes to Iraq, climate change and George Bush. It seems reasonably to bet that someone who strongly opposes the war in Iraq, strongly supports action on climate change and strongly dislikes George Bush is going to put Labor ahead of the government, and vice versa. People who have neutral qualified views on these issues are likely to decide on other grounds. So, we can use the proportion giving “strongly agree/disagree” answers to get an idea of the core votes for the parties. So here are some results
Australias involvement in Iraq*; Strongly oppose 41, strongly support 10
Climate Change; More serious than Islamic fundamentalism 40, Less serious 20
Overall opinion of Bush: Very unfavourable 39, Very favourable 4
On all these questions, there are around 40 per cent of respondents with strong support for the position most strongly opposed to that of the government. Presumably, the composition of this group varies a bit from question to question, but still it seems fair to say that Labor is going into the election with a base of 40 per cent, while the government’s core support is 5-10 per cent.
* Asking after a question about Al Qaeda reduced this to 34
An interesting sidelight is that, when people were asked how “most Australians” viewed Bush, the answers (68-78 per cent unfavorable, 19-30 per cent favorable, depending on format) were almost identical to those for the question “How do you personally view the American President”, (67-69 per cent unfavorable, 27-28 per cent favorable). This kind of finding is quite common, but it doesn’t make sense. Most people who take a favorable view of Bush ought to be aware that they are in a minority, and those taking the opposite view that they are in the majority, so that nearly everyone should respond that most Australians have an unfavorable view, regardless of their own feelings