By Swinburne Journalism students Sam Geddes, Michaela Hickey and Monique Kuzeff
Despite an attempted makeover and almost four years as Opposition Leader, a survey has found that only a third of voters can recognise a photograph of Daniel Andrews, the man expected to be Victoria’s next Premier.
With just over a month until the state election, the survey of 206 enrolled voters in the CBD found that less than two thirds of voters (61 per cent) can name Premier Denis Napthine.
The poll conducted last week by Swinburne University journalism students, as part of the state election reporting project, Unipollwatch, found widespread ignorance of candidates and electorates.
While only 35 per cent of enrolled voters recognised Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews, his deputy, James Merlino, was recognised by just five per cent of voters.
The state Treasurer, Michael O’Brien, fared only marginally better, with a recognition rate of just six per cent.
Interviewees were shown official photographs from the State Parliament’s website of the Premier, Treasurer, Opposition Leader, Deputy Opposition Leader and the leader of the Greens, Greg Barber.
Less than one in five Greens voters (18 per cent) recognised their party leader, the man who may hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council after November 29.
The survey sample had an equal number of men and women and was broadly representative of different age groups. Just over 35 per cent were Coalition voters, nearly 37 per cent Labor and 27 per cent Greens. Most others said that they were undecided or would refuse to vote.
Referring to Mr Andrews’ low recognition rate, political commentator and former Liberal adviser, Grahame Morris said “Jeff Kennett’s dog would have a higher profile than that.”
He said: “In a close election, as this one is likely to be, many marginal seat candidates will be relying on their leader to drag them into the Parliament and if people don’t know who the Labor leader is, or they don’t care, or they’re not listening, then he can’t give them the push they need to get over the line.”
The survey also found that while 43 per cent of people claimed they knew the name of their lower house electorate, many provided the name of their federal electorate or one of the seats that became defunct in last year’s state redistribution. More alarmingly, only one of the 206 people could name their upper house electorate.
Twenty-nine per cent of the men who were surveyed could not name any of the politicians, compared to 37 per cent of the women. Forty per cent of all respondents could not name the job that any of the politicians did.
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Coalition voters, 30 per cent of Labor supporters and 31 per cent of those intending to vote for the Greens, failed to identify any of the candidates.
One interviewee, who thought Daniel Andrews was former Liberal Premier, Ted Baillieu, said he intended to vote Labor. Another identified the Opposition Leader as the “Defence Minister”.
One of those surveyed thought Denis Napthine was “The Prime Minister of Victoria”. The Premier was twice identified as his predecessor, Ted Baillieu, and once as his predecessor, John Brumby.
A voter, asked about Greg Barber’s job, said he was the “Liberal Party member of Parliament”.
Two voters thought James Merlino was the controversial Independent for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, and a third thought he was Adam Bandt, the Greens Federal MP for Melbourne.
Mr Morris, who was chief of staff for former Prime Minister John Howard, said there was one upside resulting from Mr Andrews’ low profile. “If they can’t recognise the Opposition Leader at least they won’t equate him with a negative.”
A spokesman for Mr Andrews did not return our call.
For full details of the survey, and other state election coverage, visit unipollwatch.org.au
This story was published in The Age newspaper.