27 June 2016
by Tom McIlroy

Election slogans: Voters disagree 'there's never been a more exciting time to be an Australian'

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Liberal Party's 2016 federal election campaign launch.

If this was the most exciting time to be alive, you'd question the worth of living

A majority of voters disagree with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's view that "there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian", a new poll has found.

Asked their views of election slogans, 53 per cent said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with Mr Turnbull's oft repeated statement. A further 31 per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed, while 16 per cent didn't know.

The Australian-Insitute commissioned poll of 1437 people found the Coalition and Labor were near even on who was best placed to deliver "jobs and growth", at 33 per cent to 31 per cent.

Labor was viewed as better placed on their slogan of "putting people first", at 32 per cent compared with 20 per cent for the Coalition.

The poll was released as analysis of more than 75 election slogans dating back to the 1940s found many are recycled, adapted or copied from overseas.

Melbourne University academic Sally Young said the Coalition's "Jobs and Growth" slogan was adapted from former US president George W Bush in 2003.

She said suggestions Labor had borrowed its 2016 'People First' slogan from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign for the White House were incorrect.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at Labor's second campaign launch at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

"The Victorian Labor Party also used it in 2014 with their slogan 'Putting People First'.

"Parties often use more than one slogan during a campaign these days and they adopt slogans as they go along, dropping one that don't seem to resonate with voters or introducing new ones that might reflect a change in focus.

"It's not uncommon for a party to start off with a positive slogan and then to switch to a negative one criticising their opponents as polling day draws nearer."

You can overstate how important slogans are. Who remembers any of John Howard's?

Political historian Malcolm Farnsworth said Gough Whitlam's 1972 slogan 'It's Time' and Labor's 2007 catchphrase 'Kevin 07' were two of the best.

"It has a lot to with the basic advertising principle that a slogan works if it taps into existing voter sentiment," he said.

"A good slogan has to be brief. The more words it has, the more desperate you look."

He said only a few slogans remained popular years after their use, including the Australians Democrats' 'Keep the Bastards Honest'.

"Peacock's 'The Answer is Liberal' from 1990 was immediately blown out of the water by Bob Hawke saying "it must have been a bloody stupid question".

"You can overstate how important slogans are. Who remembers any of John Howard's? It didn't stop him winning four elections," Mr Farnsworth said.