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Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce least popular leaders since 1987, ANU study finds

Former prime minister Scott Morrison and his deputy Barnaby Joyce were the most unpopular party leaders in more than three decades, a study has found.

New analysis of the 2022 election results shows Mr Morrison suffered a major decline in popularity from the time of his “miracle” election win in 2019.

The Australian National University (ANU) examined the political attitudes of more than 3500 voters before and after they went to the polls on May 21 this year.

Mr Morrison – under whose leadership the Liberals suffered a historic 20-seat loss – was ranked as the most unpopular Liberal Party leader since 1987, with a rating of 3.6 out 10.

Mr Joyce was ranked as the most unpopular Nationals leader since 1987, with a rating of three out of 10.

Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce least popular leaders since 1987, ANU study finds
Camera IconFormer prime minister Scott Morrison has returned to the backbench after the May 21 election. NCA NewsWire / Tracey Nearmy Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce held onto their respective seats of Cook and New England, though both men have returned to the backbench.

This year’s election was widely regarded as having been fought largely on the personal qualities of Mr Morrison and Anthony Albanese.

Professor Ian McAllister, the co-author of the ANU study, said its results showed leaders of the parties were more important than in previous elections.

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

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

Professor McAllister said voters were divided on how well the Morrison government had handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, negative perceptions about the pandemic were channelled through Morrison’s leadership and were a major drag on the Coalition vote,” he said.

The study also examined the people who voted for the “teal” independent candidates who swept through Liberal heartland to claim six seats.

Professor McAllister said: “Teal voters appear to more likely be tactical Labor or Greens voters rather than dissatisfied Liberal voters”.

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

Former leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, was replaced by David Littleproud. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor
Camera IconFormer leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, was replaced by David Littleproud. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor Credit: NCA NewsWire

ANU Professor Nicholas Biddle said the study found four key policy areas that prompted Coalition voters to change allegiances.

These were dealing with climate change; improving disaster relief; improving the way the political system works in Australia; and addressing issues around race.

Professor Biddle said the Albanese government would be “very well placed” to win the next federal election if it could effectively address these policy concerns.

ANU PhD researcher Intifar Chowdhury said the study found young people were less likely to be partisan and more inclined to vote based on policy.

“Millennials and Gen Z will make up about 44 per cent of the electorate in the future. This may lead to major generational replacement as the polls populate with more progressive, apartisan younger voters,” Ms Chowdhury said.

“Policy voting compared to partisan voting might become the norm in Australia. Parties and politicians are now on notice.”

Their study was based on data gathered through a combined ANUpoll/Comparative Study of Electoral Systems survey that was conducted in May.

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