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Roy Morgan Reactor gives Kevin Rudd a decisive victory in the 3rd Leaders’ Debate

The second-by-second reactions of over 700 Australians to the third Leaders’ Debate were broadcast live in a Network Ten News Special on ONE HD. The balanced cross-section of over 700 electors from all over Australia reacted in real time via the Roy Morgan Reactor App on their smartphones.

The second-by-second reactions of over 700 Australians to the third Leaders’ Debate were broadcast live in a Network Ten News Special on ONE HD.  The balanced cross-section of over 700 electors from all over Australia reacted in real time via the Roy Morgan Reactor App on their smartphones.

The most decisive moment of the debate was when Kevin Rudd moved not only his own supporters but also the L-NP voters ‘across the line’ with his moving rendition of the rationale for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  Other winning moments for Kevin Rudd were his position on aging, aged care and particularly caring for older people at home;  education when he called Tony Abbott and the L-NP to fill the 6 year funding gap - $8billion; and his ‘virtual duopoly’ description of the hold Coles and Woolworths have on the farmers and the need for better guarantees for more competitive prices for farmers.

At the end of the debate, the reactors were asked who won The results were a strong victory for Kevin Rudd 56% with  Tony Abbott 23%.  12% thought it was a draw and 9% were undecided.

Perhaps the most creative question was when the Leaders were asked what they would like to ask each other.  Kevin Rudd used the leader-to-leader questions to great advantage – both giving a quick, eloquent, three point answer to Tony Abbott’s question on why people should vote for him and then turning the cards on Tony Abbott asking him why he wouldn’t release his ‘costings’.

Roy Morgan Reactor - 3rd Leaders Debate


  • Kevin Rudd’s three-point response about better schools, hospitals and the NBN resonated strongly with the audience.  When Kevin Rudd then asked Tony Abbott why he won’t release details of his policy costings – Tony Abbott’s response about the negativity of the question and that the details will be released before the election quickly lost voters. 
  • Both Leaders engaged voters when discussing aged care – although Kevin Rudd’s comments about focusing efforts on at-home aged care and the contribution the NBN will make to aged care resonated most strongly. 
  • Similarly, both Leaders engaged voters when discussing the NDIS. 
  • On the question of education funding for independent schools, Tony Abbott initially engaged voters when he mentioned that his wife reminds him of the importance of education.  However, he lost some traction when he mentioned he would continue to support independent schools.  In contrast, Kevin Rudd’s discussion of the Gonski reforms struck a positive chord  with voters especially the reference to Catholic as well as other independent schools. 
  • Tony Abbott initially performed strongly when he not only stated that dental care should be included in Medicare but also showed his real understanding of the issue, explaining in graphic detail why dental care should be included.  However, his comments about it being a long term ‘aspiration’ of the Coalition to go back to the dental scheme of the past saw him lose support from non-Coalition voters. 
  • When asked about boosting the economy and building local rather than outsourced jobs, Kevin Rudd engaged voters first by talking about how the Labor Government had avoided recession in Australia during the GFC, then by claiming Coalition cuts would lead to a recession.  Tony Abbott polarised voters along party lines by responding that the Coalition would get rid of the carbon tax, the mining tax and cut red tape. 
  • On the topic of underemployment, Tony Abbott engaged voters when he discussed the need to create a stronger economy with more employers taking on more employees.  However, Kevin Rudd’s comments about the Government’s record of strong growth, low unemployment, Australia’s AAA credit rating and a grant for employers to assist with taking on younger employees resonated even more strongly. 
  • Kevin Rudd won the discussion about balancing economic and environmental needs.  His comments about climate change and global warming being real and the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, followed by his belief that we need to be part of a global solution, was more engaging than Tony Abbott’s position that a stronger economy will put us in a better position to provide more environmental safeguards. 
  • In terms of foreign ownership of land, Kevin Rudd’s position of joint ventures rather than absolute equity resonated a little more favourably than did Tony Abbott’s discussion about the Foreign Investment Review Board assessing whether deals are in the national interest and that we don’t want a ‘colour bar’.  Similarly, on the question of cheap imports, Kevin Rudd strongly engaged voters with his discussion of the supermarket duopoly – whereas Tony Abbott struggled in his initial support of open markets, but gained some support for his anti-dumping position. 
  • The discussion about using superannuation funds to help in purchasing homes and investment properties was fairly flat, except when Tony Abbott referred to his ‘modest superannuation savings’ from a previous life – it’s unlikely he will make that mistake again!

For the poll nerds:

The carefully selected balanced cross-section of electors, from the Roy Morgan Research SuperPanel of over 300,000 people, was invited to React to the debate. The final sample was comprised of 23% ALP; 33% L-NP; 11% Green; 9% Other and 24% Undecided Voters. This profile is close to the current state of the voting nation. For this special Mobile Reactor survey, undecided voters are not questioned further about their party preference as they would be in a traditional Morgan Poll designed to measure voting intention.

At the offices of Roy Morgan Research, the reaction to the debate was viewed in full analytical detail – reactions of Labor voters were contrasted with reactions of L-NP voters as their leaders answered questions from the crowd and from each other. As usual ALP voters reacted more positively to Kevin Rudd and L-NP voters more strongly to Tony Abbott.

Michele Levine says:

“The Reactor and the balanced sample of electors driving the Reactor clearly favoured Kevin Rudd tonight in the debate. 

“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took every opportunity to provide a positive solution in response to all questions and issues. And we have seen in debates and political communications in both Australia, New Zealand and the US, people respond well to positive messages and solutions. Indeed our advertising research conducted over 50 years in both the US and Australia shows the most successful advertising formula is one which shows the problem and then provides the solution. Tonight the formula worked well for Kevin Rudd, the questions typically raised a problem and Kevin Rudd took the opportunity to provide a solution – it worked.

“Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did not follow the same formula and his performance was not as strong as judged by the reactions of the electors.

“Roy Morgan Research has shown that electors are frustrated with Leaders over promising and under-delivering. In this election as the Labor Government has been in power for 6 years the criticism is probably more pertinent to them. However Kevin Rudd was not called to answer for any broken promises or under-delivery of his Government so at no point did he address the issue of promises – core or otherwise.

“On the other hand. Tony Abbott sought to take the moral high ground on this issue by making a clear distinction between ‘aspirations’  and ‘commitments’. He did this on two occasions, and each time the Reactor responded negatively. This was fairly obviously a communication strategy that had not been tested with the Reactor – it didn’t work.

“Although it is clear that Kevin Rudd out-performed Tony Abbott tonight, in my opinion the moderator was a little more heavy handed in his treatment of Tony Abbott than Kevin Rudd.”

For further information:

Michele Levine: Office +61 3 9224 5215   Mobile +61 411 129 093