The impact of leadership on polling metrics
Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 3, 2008
With the Age of Nelson possibly drawing to a close, it might be worth having a look at how the various leaders of the Opposition have changed the Newspoll estimates of the primary vote, satisfaction ratings and preferred Prime Minister ratings throughout their tenure.
What we’ll do is measure what those three metrics were before an Opposition leader took the helm of their party and compare how those three metrics moved under their watch. It’s easier explaining with a chart, so we’ll use the one for The Nightwatchman as an example (they’re all thumbnails) :
When Nelson took the helm of the Liberal Party, the previous leader of the Coalition (Howard) had a primary vote of 42, a satisfaction rating of 51 and a preferred PM rating of 44 just before he was turfed out – this becomes the starting point for Nelson.
If we compare this “starting point” to, say, the infamous Newspoll that turned Nelson into Mr 7%, it had the Coalition on a primary vote of 31 (11 less than Nelsons starting point), a satisfaction rating of 29 (22 less than his starting point) and a PPM rating of 7 (37 less than his starting point) and can be seen on the chart as observation number 4 on the bottom “Newspolls” axis.
This let’s us track over time how the metrics have changed under each leader where positive numbers represent an increase in a given metric compared to the party position at the end of the previous leaders’ tenure; negative numbers represent a decrease in a given metric compared to the party position at the end of the previous leaders’ tenure.
We can do this for every Opposition leader all the way back to Peacock and Hewson (although with these two, Newspoll didn’t have a regular PPM series so we’ve just left the PPM metric out for them). Where it says “Base” in the following charts – that tells us what the value of the metrics were when the Leader came into the leadership, effectively providing us with our base values from which we compare a given leaders Newspoll metrics. The series end at either an election or when the leaders were overthrown, whichever came first.
To start with, we’ll look at Coalition leaders of the Opposition – note that the Howard chart ends at the 1996 election:
And now the ALP leaders (I’ve left Beazley Mk1 out because of the funny things One Nation did to the polling series over the period as well as Beazley being leader for 2 consecutive elections makes his chart a bit redundant):
The interesting thing about these charts is that they show us how each Opposition leader changed the Newspoll metrics compared to when they inherited the leadership and throws a few of their tenures into a bit of context.
Latham for instance is widely seen to have wrecked the joint, but he improved the ALP standing in the polls over his tenure. Similarly, while Crean was considered a disaster, the ALP primary vote didn’t really change at all, but it was his personal qualitative ratings that plunged.
There’s lots of stuff to chew over here – although one thing is pretty certain; which ever person becomes the new leader of the Opposition, their chart will probably look pretty good considering the extreme low point they’ll be starting from.