More women than men voted against Morrison government in federal election, polling shows

by Paul Karp
Australia Institute survey finds Coalition’s treatment of women seen as ‘weakness’ by two-thirds of voters

More women than men voted against the Morrison government and women have continued to drift from the Coalition since the election, according to a new poll.

Just 30% of women cast their first preference for the Coalition at the May election, compared with 37% of men, an exit poll of 1,424 voters conducted for the Australia Institute on the evening of the 21 May election found.

A second poll in mid-June found the gender gap had widened to 10 points, with 28% of women saying they would vote for the Coalition, compared with 38% of male voters.

The poll asked about the Coalition’s handling of key issues, with aged care, the treatment of women in politics and the failure to legislate an integrity commission rated as the three biggest weaknesses.

The Coalitions’s handling of aged care and treatment of women in politics were rated as “weaknesses” by about two-thirds of voters (67% and 66% respectively). Just 12% rated aged care a strength, as 9% did for treatment of women.

Women were particularly concerned about aged care, with 69% rating it a weakness for the Coalition compared with 65% of men. Both genders marked the Coalition down for treatment of women.

About 60% of voters rated the following to be weaknesses: failure to legislate a national integrity commission; the then deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce; handling of bushfires, floods and other natural disasters; the cost of living; and the then prime minister, Scott Morrison.

The controversy over transgender women competing in sport, which dominated the early part of the campaign due to Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves’ advocacy against trans-inclusion, was either a negative or non-issue for voters.

About 45% rated it a Coalition weakness, while 42% said it was neither a weakness nor a strength.

The Coalition’s signature policy, to allow first-home buyers to dip into their superannuation to pay for a home deposit, produced mixed reviews: with 44% labelling it a weakness, 27% a strength and 29% saying neither.

The Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, has recommitted to the policy after the defeat, but Labor’s campaign director, Paul Erickson, said they “struggled to find a friend” for it in their polling on the issue.

The Coalition got a few more plaudits for its “handling of the Covid pandemic”, which 30% of respondents thought was positive, but this was still outnumbered by the 48% who said it was a weakness.

Similarly the stage three income tax cuts, which had bipartisan support from Labor, was rated a strength by 29% of voters, compared with 38% who said it was a weakness.

In June the Australian National University and researchers at the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, released results showing that women, under-55s and those with higher levels of education drove Labor and Anthony Albanese’s victory over the Morrison government.

Speaking at the National Press Club in June, Erickson rated ignoring women’s experiences as one of the eight most influential factors that drove the Coalition defeat.

Erickson said Labor had assembled a broad coalition of voters, including winning full-time workers, Tafe-educated voters, renters and mortgage-holders in low-income households earning less than $50,000 a year, and in medium-income households earning between $50,000 and $100,000.

During the campaign the ANUpoll found that reducing the cost of living and fixing the aged care system were voters’ two top priorities.