With the Prime Minister Julia Gillard pitching the Government’s new $14.5 billion education funding model to the Premiers on Friday, the fiscal federalisation of the states’ schools looks set to be a core component of Labor’s re-election campaign: but how much do each state’s voters care about the issue?
When asked to nominate up to three issues of importance to them, only around one in seven electors nationally (14%) selected improving education in the two years to December 2012. This ranks education 7th, behind keeping day to day living costs down (36%), improving health services (28%), managing the economy (22%), open and honest government (17%), and both tax and crime reduction (15% each).
However each state has different priorities: while education is a Top 5 issue in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, where school funding lags, Western Australian voters are currently less concerned with education than with illegal immigration and the problems of an ageing population.
Queenslanders rank the issue 8th, behind the needs of families, and in South Australia the issue mimics the national rank but with climate change rather than crime one spot higher in 6th.
Nationally, voters are split on which major party is better at improving education, with 36% for Labor and 36% for the Coalition.
However, of the over 2 million electors who nominate education as an important issue, Labor is a clear preference: twice as many say the ALP is better (48%) than the LNP (24%).
ALP’s lead on the issue is strongest in NSW and Victoria where over 50% of the electors who rate Education say the party is better, over 21% who say the Coalition. In Western Australia, the ALP still leads on the issue—but by a much reduced margin: only 9% points over the LNP on primary support, 40% to 31%.
Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan Research, says:
“Education is always a platform issue for the Labor Party. Among voters who rate the issue as important, the party has a two-to-one advantage over the Coalition as the preferred party to manage it. Therefore the ALP must get education on the national agenda as a votable issue come September.
“However, with rising costs of living, sick hospitals and continued anxiety about the economy in the wake of the GFC, education has taken a back seat to these issues in all states, even those where it has been chronically neglected.
“The proposed funding model could work for or against Labor: voters who care about improving education may be displeased by the reallocation of university funding to pay for it, which could neutralise the positives, while some voters that weren’t particularly concerned about education may start to care—and not in favour of Labor—now that they believe their system is threatened.”
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2011 – December 2012. Sample n = 87,416