Australians have become “disaffected with the political class” – as national election survey finds 40% distrust the nation’s democracy.
The Australian National University’s (ANU) 2016 election study has found public confidence in elected politicians and the federal election campaign are also at record lows.
The study’s lead researcher, Professor Ian McAllister, says the results should be a wake-up call to politicians to start addressing the problems in their public image and responsibilities.
“What we are seeing in Australia are the beginnings of a popular dissatisfaction with the political class that has emerged so dramatically in Britain, United States and Italy,” he said.
“Trump largely got elected because of poor economic performance and that was impacting very much on the middle class. We see very similar factors here and that’s obviously undermining support and trust in the major political parties and politicians.”
As predicted the economy, health, education and tax were the most important issues for voters in this year’s federal election, however only 30% of the 2,818 person sample said they had taken a good deal of interest in the campaign.
Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a higher popularity rating than Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, only 26% believe the government can be trusted- the lowest number since it was first measured in 1969.
Bill Shorten has the highest negative evaluations during the campaign than any major party leader since records began in 1993.
ANU researcher Sarah Cameron says the 2016 election continued the trend of elections won despite leaders’ low popularity.
“Kevin Rudd’s 2007 election was the last time a newly elected prime minister enjoyed a high level of popularity amongst Australians,” she says.
“Partisanship has declined gradually over time to a record low for both the Labor and Liberal parties, at 30 and 33 per cent respectively, while numbers who align with no party at all, or who align with the Greens, have been steadily rising over time.”
The survey also found a rise in support for many controversial issues and topics of political and social debate.
Indigenous recognition in the Constitution is supported by 79% of respondents and 70% support same-sex marriage laws.
Support for legislation of medically assisted euthanasia is up to 77%, as seen already in Victoria, with high public support for the state government’s move to legalise the process. A woman’s right to an abortion is also supported by 69 per cent of respondents.
Perhaps most controversially, the report finds 56% of Australians favour offshore processing of asylum seekers, while 40% believe in resettling in Australia.
The Australian Election Study has been conducted by the ANU after each election since 1987. The 2016 survey is based on interviews conducted in the three months following the July federal election
– Viki Gerova, Correspondent (Oceania)