Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Why it’s all about John

Posted by Possum Comitatus on November 6, 2007


This was me in Crikey yesterday.

Since February, the Coalition political strategy has played out on the ground as an attempt to focus attention on Rudd. Whether this has been more by accident than design is probably worth pondering as well, but for all the “look at Kevin” programs, not a great lot has been achieved.

From Rudd dining with Brian Burke , his childhood memories, his links to those union blokes that keep turning out the lights, right through to actual policy programs like education, environment and infrastructure initiatives (that we now know, courtesy of the infamous Crosby Textor Oztrack 33, actually worked in the Labor’s favour by highlighting issues that the ALP had position dominance on) – the strategy that actually played out on the ground was one of focusing attention on Rudd.

Yet for all those attempts at focus shifting, and for all electoral diversional therapy involved, the key measures that matter continue to be intimately linked to the performance of John Howard himself.

The Coalition two party preferred result continues to be intimately linked to Howard’s satisfaction rating since the 2004 election.


A few quick regression equations and a granger causality test on the relationship between these two series suggests that it is the change in PM satisfaction levels that leads to changes in the Coalition two party preferred vote, rather than the two series moving together as a result of third party influences.

The punditry may say that Howard is still extremely popular considering his satisfaction ratings, but with his satisfaction ratings being so intimately linked to the Coalitions TPP vote, that line of thinking quickly becomes a bit a grand non-sequitur in the general scheme of things. His satisfaction only needs to fall small amounts to have a serious impact on the Coalition vote.

The other key measure intimately linked to Howard’s performance is the ALP primary vote via the PM dissatisfaction rating, as we hinted at last week.


Again, after a few quick regression equations and a granger causality test on the relationship between these two series, it is the change in PM dissatisfaction levels that leads to changes in Labor’s primary vote, rather than the two series moving together as a result of third party influences.

What is also interesting to note here is the gap that has recently opened up between these two measures, suggesting the possibility that Rudd is starting to gain support as a result of what the ALP is actually doing, rather than simply relying on dissatisfaction with Howard to deliver them electoral support.

So while all the policy noise and political advertising fills the political brainspace of the nation, when it comes right down to it, this election is still all about John Howard.

The big danger however is that hint in the last chart that suggests that Labor might finally be gaining support on the basis of their own merit. If that relationship starts to consolidate, there will be very little that Howard can do to turn his electoral fortunes around. When you are staring down the barrel of electoral annihilation, that is probably the last thing he wants to hear.

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4 Responses to “Why it’s all about John”

  1. country kid said

    What really struck me about Howard’s 7.30 Report interview after the APEC leadership turmoil – was just how much JWH talked about himself.

    How much he wanted:

    to be leader (even though by then he’d lost support of his Cabinet),

    to continue as PM – because he wanted to (I can’t recall him drawing on any perceived support from the Australian people that he be PM)

    to do more things – again the tone was it would benefit him – rather than any of us.

    Since then I have been a bit nonplussed as to why there hasn’t been more focus on JWH’s underlying motivation to be PM..

    Is he putting himself forward out of a genuine desire to serve us???

    or is he really doing it for his own ego??

    My gut feel tells me it is the latter of the two – & I think we deserve a lot better than that.

    The drought breaking rains are moving in – ready for the new Rudd Government.

  2. Why its all about John

    Possum’s Pollytics has an interesting take on the importance of Howard to the Liberals’ chances in the election.

  3. dave said

    Interesting stuff Possum.

    Was sitting in a waiting room earlier today and had a quick browse in this weeks treeware version of the bulletin magazine – an article by former Sen Graham Richardson – “It’s a Ruddslide!”

    He calls a labor win of between 20 – 25 seats. Also claims “one iron rule of Australian politics that hasn’t changed is that the most popular leader usually improves his party’s position during the campaign.”


    Also an article by Laurie Oaks “Yesterday’s hero” – not positive about rodent at all

    Country kid. What I find fascinating about the libs is their “pretend” program for the future.

    rodent (Non use of capitals intentional) on the debate concentrated on the past, on scare tactics, on labors short-comings (his version) and right at the end started to talk about “the many plans” he had for the country’s future under conservative government. duh ? He just had a golden opportunity to roll things out.

    Also andrew robb in an interview yesterday did exactly the same.
    The “future” they plan has no detail.

    So yep – power for powers sake. Now is not the time etc etc is what they keep repeating.

    What haven’t they done in 12 years that they now what to do ?

  4. […] Just in case you ever doubted that John Howard is the problem with the Coalition’s election hopes, check this analysis by Possums Pollytics. […]

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