About the Trends in Australian Political Opinion

Interpreting political opinion polls is sometimes difficult. On particular issues or with regard to particular personalities, opinions may change significantly in a short period of time as a result of an event or a changed circumstance. Small changes in question wordings or in sample design may cause what appear to be significant changes in public opinion when such changes are, in fact, an artefact of the survey's methodology. The most reliable way in which to monitor trends in public opinion is to examine responses over an extended period of time, using questions asked in the same way and included in surveys that use the same methodology.

The Australian Election Study series allows us to track trends in Australian political opinion and behaviour over an extended period of time. In most cases, our trends run from 1987 until 2016; in some cases, the same questions have been asked in the ANPAS surveys conducted in 1967, 1969 and 1979, allowing us to extend the time series back another two decades.

The AES provides the most sophisticated and exhaustive set of data ever collected in Australia on the dynamics of political behaviour. Each of the AES surveys contains questions relating to the role of media and media exposure; general political interest and knowledge; perceptions of the election campaign; party identification and prior voting history; parents' and partner partisanship; vote in the election and the explanations given for it; party images; perceptions of the major party leaders and the content of their public images; election issues; social policy issues; and a range of socio-demographic measures including education, occupation, religious behaviour, family circumstances, and income. The charts that follow are a sample from the Trends monograph and trace some of these long-term changes. Please refer to the Trends monograph for the most recent and complete set of charts. The exact question wordings and response categories, and the complete sets of responses to the questions, appear in a full online appendix.


Trends Highlights

Followed the election in the mass media

Watched the leaders' debates

Interest in the Election

The extent of voting volatility

Financial situation of country in a year's time

Satisfaction with democracy

Trust in government