Today’s release of a devastating Newspoll has the Liberal Party and their supporters well and truly rattled. One feature of the numbers that has been observed is the improvement in Kevin Rudd’s share of respondents who think that he is more capable of managing the economy. While many pundits are putting this down to a positive reaction to the ALP’s tax package I think it’s something completely different.
Here are the figures printed in The Australian today.
As you can see since Rudd became leader there has been a big change in these figures. Before Rudd became leader Howard’s average rating was 63%, since Rudd took the helm Howard’s average rating has dropped by around 15%. Most of those respondents jumped into the Uncommitted group as they waited to see what Rudd was about, but have since moved into supporting Rudd.
Has Kevin Rudd done anything in the past ten months to bring about these improving numbers? He’s labeled himself an economic conservative and generally agreed with everything that the Government has thrown up, hardly enough to make you believe that he’s suddenly more capable of running the economy than Howard.
I have a different theory as to why Rudd’s numbers are improving and it’s one that any second year psych student can explain, cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the term for the unpleasant feeling that you have if you try to hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, in order to remove this unpleasant feeling we modify our beliefs so that they are consistent.
No one wants to believe that they would vote for someone who was not capable of governing the country well and therefore they need to believe that the person they are voting for would be a good economic manager. Since Rudd took over the leadership of the ALP he has consistently led in the polls, people decided that they were tired of Howard and Rudd was someone that they were comfortable voting for. What we are now seeing is that people are trying to justify their support for Rudd and remove the cognitive dissonance between their support for Rudd and their belief that he was perhaps not the best economic manager. As a result of this we should see Rudd’s poll numbers regarding economic management continue to improve as people commit to voting for the ALP this time around.
People are beginning to believe in Rudd because they want to vote for him, not the other way around.