Thursday, October 15, 2015

Switching sides. Now Coalition voters get the glooms

It's as if they have switched sides

Since the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull, it's Coalition voters who have been feeling downbeat - the most downbeat since the election - and Labor voters who've been feeling better.

It's usual for consumer confidence to change as soon as there's change at the top. Usually what happens is that supporters of the party that lost become pessimistic and supporters of the party that won become optimistic and stay that way that way as long as their side is in power. Throughout the entire life of the Rudd and Gillard governments Labor voters were more optimistic than Coalition voters and stayed that way right through until the 2013 election when positions swapped.

Coalition voters have been clearly more optimistic than Labor voters in the Westpac Melbourne Institute survey ever since the election of Tony Abbott. Until now.

The October survey is the first since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister. Confidence among Coalition voters dived from a clearly positive 105.9 points (on a scale where 100 means optimists and pessimists are evenly balanced) to 102.1, the lowest reading in the two-year history of the Coalition government.

It's Labor voters who have had a surge of enthusiasm. Their confidence has surged from a deeply gloomy 86.7 to 93.3. It's the second-highest reading in the life of the Coalition government...

If all of Australia had reacted as did Labor voters, consumer confidence would have surged 7.6 per cent. Because Coalition voters turned bearish, confidence surged only 4.4 per cent.

"The result is a little short of the increase we would had expected given the strong boost the government received in the polls," Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said.

Labor voters appear to have found a prime minister that makes them feel better while Coalition voters feel worse but still plan to vote for the Coalition.

The consumer sentiment index is made up of five questions, dealing with perceptions of changes in family finances, perceptions of future changes in family finances, economic conditions over the next year and economic conditions over the next five years as well as whether now is the right time to buy a major household item.

On all but one of those measures consumers are more confident since the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull. The exception is their assessment of the Australian economy over the next five years.

A separate part of the survey revealed that expectations of house price increases fell by 3.9 per cent between September and October. They are down by around 15 per cent over the past three months and 25 per cent from their peak in December 2013.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald