The 2014 Budget is the most significant in a long time. I have an eager – some would say obsessive – interest in federal budgets, and I cannot remember a Budget that has got as much attention as this one.
Today marks four weeks since the second Tuesday in May, and Budget headlines are still around. For example:
- Budget weighs on WA consumer confidence
- ‘Definitely, it’s the budget’: Pacific brands blames consumer confidence slump, weather for profit downgrade
- Budget cuts: how ASIC, the ABS and the ATO are turning off the lights
- and this great cartoon from First Dog on the Moon entitled “Why Australians are still angry about the Budget”.
I went through the internet archive. It shows the 2014 Budget produced not only a much bigger spike in interest in the Budget, but a much longer tail. It is not common for budgets to be sparking discussion three weeks after they are released – people normally move on fast and a government only dreams about getting three weeks of “traction”.
The graph above compiles mentions of the word Budget on the homepages of The Age and The Australian in the month around the Budget. I did an analysis for 2008 too, because the first Budget of the Rudd government would be a good comparison to the first Budget under Abbott. The data is a lot more spotty, but the pattern is the same. In 2008, Budget headlines died out after no more than a week.
Google trends data confirms that this Budget was a whopper as far as public interest goes. The graph below shows share of searches from within Australia. (Google omits the vertical axis – I guess that’s proprietary data).
The massive spike in search should be a major worry for the government – search is trending away from “intellectual” topics and toward popular topics as the internet “matures” so you could expect successive budgets to show smaller spikes.
The fact that this Budget has captured the public’s imagination so sharply is a major negative for the government.
The polls show how much people like it. Newspoll has tracked the government’s fall from 51-49 on April 6 to 46-54 by June 1.
The Coalition hopes this Budget will be forgotten in 11 months when they bring down the next one, and in 23 months time when they bring down their pre-election Budget, stuffed full of goodies.
But first impressions count, and the government may actually have counted itself out with this Budget.