Prime Ministers, opposition leaders and government popularity in Australia

Ian McAllister*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    There is little doubt that political leaders are more important, and more visible, than at any time since democratisation. This article uses monthly public opinion poll data collected since 1973 to test four hypotheses concerning the relationships between leader approval, economic and political performance, and government support. The findings show that Prime Ministerial approval is based on public perceptions of both political and economic performance, with ministerial resignations, by-election defeats and the party complexion of State governments forming the major components of political performance, and unemployment and GDP being the major contributors to economic performance. There is support for the hypothesis that Prime Ministers mediate the effects of political performance on government popularity, but no support for the hypothesis that economic performance has a direct impact on government popularity. Overall, the results emphasise the extent to which the leader has absorbed the functions once exercised by the party, a pattern now common across the other advanced democracies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)259-277
    Number of pages19
    JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


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