SPolls consistently show that senior care, climate change and education are among voters’ top concerns in this federal election. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from watching politicians’ press conferences or reading some media coverage.
A Guardian Australia analysis of election issues shows that while voters’ number one issue, the cost of living, has received significant political and media attention, other issues of concern to voters appear to have been neglected.
The disconnect is striking on elderly care and education. Aged care is ranked second by voters, but scored much lower in terms of executive statements, media coverage and questions at press conferences.
The first few weeks of the campaign were also punctuated by so-called “stinging” questions from reporters, such as Anthony Albanese who was asked to name the cash rate and unemployment rate.
While the “gotcha” issue may make headlines, the quality of their service to voters is questionable, and it’s possible that coverage of “goofs” leaves less room for coverage of actual politics and issues. who voters really care about when making the important decision about who to vote for.
This begs the question: given that we know from polls which election issues matter most to voters, how do those issues rank in terms of media coverage, and how often are leaders polled? on these topics?
Priorities of voters against politicians and the media
To assess disconnection, Guardian Australia compared the results of a ANU survey on voters’ priority policy areas with the media coverage they received, the frequency with which they featured in reporters’ questions to Albanese and Morrison, and the frequency with which these topics featured in press releases from Liberal leaders and Labor and in the Facebook posts of major party candidates during the first three and a half weeks of the campaign.
While the original data uses the proportion of ANU survey respondents who ranked it as their top priority and the percentage of text for each source containing keywords for that issue, we converted those numbers into rankings to allow easier comparison. You can see the original percentages here.
There was no exact match for many of the issues identified by UNA respondents. The closest match was used (where there was one), otherwise the topic was left blank. Media coverage results are based on Streem data.
One of the biggest gaps between voter priorities and political attention concerns care for the elderly. More than 60% of respondents to the ANU survey place care for the elderly as a top priority, but it was the subject of less than 2% of questions at executive press conferences. This is despite care for the aged being one of Labor’s main political platforms entering the campaign. It also ranked 14th in media coverage, with only 3% of stories featuring elder care related keywords.
There was also a significant gap between the importance voters placed on education and the attention it received from the media and politicians during the campaign.
While more than 50% of people place education at the top of their priorities, it is the subject of less than 1% of journalists’ questions to the two main party leaders. Neither side appears to be making education a priority – issuing fewer education-related press releases than jobs, regional Australia and the budget.
The cost of living is an issue that everyone is focused on. Among respondents to the ANU survey, 64.7% ranked it as a top priority – the most important of all issues – and it received a great deal of media attention. While not as prominent as some other topics in press releases, it is more prominent in politicians’ Facebook posts.
Climate change is more present than expected, but this is partly due to the Coalition’s message on emission reduction technology, with green hydrogen centers and related projects featured in press releases.
The one topic that has dominated reporters’ questions but doesn’t appear as much in other areas is foreign policy – this is partly due to numerous questions about Australia’s relationship with China, which are not included in the keywords used for media coverage data. . However, defense and foreign policy topics were ranked as lower priorities in the ANU survey.
Gotcha questions and media coverage
Nearly a third of questions, or 31%, asked at Albanese and Morrison’s press conferences in the first three and a half weeks of the campaign were about politics itself, such as polls, leadership issues , election dates, relations with prime ministers.
About 5% of questions could be described as “gotchas,” or follow-ups to previous pitfalls (with the caveat that this is a tricky category to define). By way of comparison, only 3% of the questions were about climate change, Covid or housing.
Coverage of the “blunders” following some of these “gotcha” questions has also been spotty, with Albanese featuring far more prominently than Morrison. Here, we compared the number of news articles that matched search terms related to four “blunders”: Albanese being unable to list the correct unemployment and cash rate, Albanese not listing the six points in the NDIS plan of the Labour, Morrison getting the JobSeeker payment rate wrong, and Morrison saying he was “blessed” to have children without disabilities:
While this includes duplicating articles in multiple publications, the difference in coverage of each leader’s mistakes is stark.
Notes and methods
Media monitoring company Streem analyzed more than 153,000 media articles published between April 10 and May 5 using keyword searches to identify media articles published on campaign topics. .
Guardian Australia used these same keywords (available here) to search campaign press releases from party leaders and more than 15,000 Facebook posts retrieved for our Pork-o-meter.
Transcripts of Morrison and Albanese’s press conferences and home interviews since the start of the campaign have been pulled from their respective websites, and the text has been split into questions and answers. Over a thousand questions were manually identified and categorized as “gotcha” or not, and placed into one of 30 categories.