When he announced the election just six days ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared it would be a battle fought on trust.
“So the choice to be made by Australians on May 18 is like it always is at every election, and that is, who do you trust to deliver that strong economy which your essential services rely on?” Mr Morrison said.
“Who do you trust to deliver the strong economy and the budget management that these services can be funded, that the business that you work for will be there in three years, in five years, in 10 years?”
It’s a line – who do you trust? – that worked for John Howard in 2004, when he started an election campaign behind Mark Latham by the same margin that Mr Morrison trails in the polls.
The Coalition started that 2004 campaign behind Labor 54-46 per cent on a two-party vote but that tightened up to 52-48, just as it has in the latest Newspoll.
So, who do voters trust? And is the trust gap enough to ensure Mr Morrison secures an unexpected victory over Labor?
Now, the results of a new SMS survey of 1000 voters are in and it reveals Bill Shorten is trusted by 30 per cent of voters while Mr Morrison is trusted by 32 per cent.
But it’s voters aged under 24 who are the the most dissatisfied by the major parties and all politicians, with a massive 37.5 per cent stating ‘none of the above’ when questioned over who they think they could trust.
And one in five Aussies is completely disaffected by the major parties, the minor parties and the independents.
If the Prime Minister can win the next election, seniors will be the key.
Support for Mr Morrison is strongest among voters aged over 65. When asked if they trust the PM, 40 per cent of over 65s say they did.
That compares with only one in three seniors – 33 per cent – who say they trust Mr Shorten.
The survey results come as the Prime Minister spent the sixth day of his official campaign focusing on older Australians.
On Tuesday, he was shooting pool at an aged care home in Geelong, Victoria, and meeting voters at a senior citizens hall on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Those tours were followed by lawn bowls at the Torquay Bowls Club on the Surf Coast, while throughout the day Mr Morrison’s social media accounts posted about “retirees” and “older Australians”.
Support for Labor, meanwhile, is more evenly divided among voters across all age groups.
But both major party leaders are struggling with a common problem: Women are not impressed by either one.
Only 28 per cent of female voters say they trust Mr Shorten or Mr Morrison when asked who they trust to look after the long-term future of Australia.
Men are slightly more forgiving, particularly to Mr Morrison, with 35 per cent saying they trust the Prime Minister. More men also trust Bill Shorten – 32 per cent – but the gap is not as large.
The research was commissioned by the Australian Futures Project, a philanthropic, not-for-profit group that states its goal is to end “short- termism” in Australian politics.
The group has launched The Perfect Candidate – a digital tool that allows voters to compare parties and candidates to determine how closely they align with their values.
To date, it finds the ALP is more aligned to voters’ concerns than any other party or independent, despite the results suggesting a tight contest between the leaders on trust.
If Mr Morrison can convince voters to decide on trust, not just policies, it could prove decisive.