Malcolm Turnbull's pollster just shared a key political insight on the federal budget

Scott Morrison on budget night. Photo: Getty Images

The Turnbull government has been fighting political fires on a few fronts since its first budget was delivered at the start of the month: mainly accusations that its corporate tax cuts favour the big end of town, and that it is raiding people’s retirement savings with new limits on superannuation accounts and taxes on their earnings.

However, Treasurer Scott Morrison was insisting for weeks before the event, and has done since, that it was “not a typical budget”, and it has been noted for the absence of political sweeteners customarily seen in pre-election budgets.

In fact, it was all rather tame, especially compared to budgets of previous years.

The Coalition’s top political strategist, Mark Textor, has shed some light on the thinking behind this in a column for Business Insider. Here’s an excerpt (my emphasis added):

Treasurer Scott Morrison’s delivery of the Budget was seen as calm, measured and confident. To the extent that this political yarn was salient to voters, the lack of aggression or political point-scoring they are accustomed to in Parliamentary debate or near election – which might normally be a purely political story – is relevant, because that style meant most concluded Morrison was determined to focus positively on our economic future. This is personally salient, whilst the consolidation and clear structure of the Coalition’s economic plan gave them confidence as consumers.

So whilst dull for commentators, the Government’s plans for an innovation and science programme for start-up businesses, its defence plan for local hi-tech manufacturing and technology, its export trade deals to generate new business opportunities, its tax cuts and incentives and for small business and hardworking families, its focus on a sustainable budget with crackdowns on tax avoidance & loopholes and its guaranteed funding for heath, education and roads will continue to be the issues that matter.

Putting aside the obvious caveat that as a Coalition advisor Textor has an interest in insisting these will be the decisive issues in the campaign, this does go some way to explaining the softening of Scott Morrison’s edges and shows that amid the noise over some issues, voters have been largely receptive to the budget.

In his campaign diary, which will be appearing regularly on Business Insider over the coming weeks, Textor also outlines the issues-tracking methods used by major parties to inform strategy on a daily basis, and how “with polling and maths, hundreds of individual issues and the importance of each issue, the subjects of millions of Twitter references, and literally thousands of pages of polling data, can be represented on one page.”

He also takes a big swing at “feel-pinions” from self-important commentators who miss the lessons of Descartes. As you do. Here’s the full column.

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