Union Power Polling and Electoral Campaigns

Via Gary Sauer-Thompson: The Australian Electoral Study’s Trends in Australian Political Opinion 1 is a goldmine of graphs, polling and trending all thoughtfully gathered into the one document. Especially for graph junkies.

It is also interesting to see where the polling is at odds or in opposition to some of the narratives being told by special interest groups, of which political parties are an example. The graphs on Trade Unions is especially interesting. Fred Argy has already expressed bewilderment as to why the fear of union power is an issue:

Associated with this collective bargaining issue is fear of union power. Here too I find the debate mystifying. In todays highly competitive, globalised economy, unions cannot determine market wages and conditions except in rare situations where businesses have monopoly power (in which case unions are merely giving their workers a share of the monopoly profits).

Which I agree with, and from the graphs in the AES trending, the population seems to as well.

Since the 1970s the public seems to think that the trade unions have been declining in power. Note that this trend occurs long before Keating’s or Howard’s industrial relations reforms. Support for industrial action has seen an ever steeper decline with public opinion preempting any political or policy changes by the Keating or Howard governments.

The ersatz election campaign from the Liberal Government has been hammering on about Trade Union power and how the Labor Cabinet is composed of Unionists who would Mao the country down. Presumably the Textor-Crosby polling duo would have provided the empirical background for such a media message, but from these trends it suggests they are appealing to a minority of the population who still think unions are powerful.

Why would a majority government make appealing to a minority of the country such a big part of their media campaign? Are they hoping that the 44% in the second graph for 2004 thinks that prohibition of unions through Workchoices is not enough and gives all their primary vote to the Coalition? If that trend is consistent then the number thinking tougher laws are required for unions is probably around 39% in 2007. Which makes even less sense why the Government is banging on about it. I don’t understand it.

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16 years ago

Policy-based evidence making, baby.

Richard Green
Richard Green
16 years ago

They must know it only appeals to a minority. They’ve given up and are circling the wagons to protect a rump for opposition.

Geoff Robinson
16 years ago

Liberal anti-unionism draws on many sources. The media thinks it is all about economic liberalism but more influential are conservative values, a belief that managers and business owners have proven themselves to be better people.