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Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of Australia

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Title: Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of Australia  
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Subject: Prime Minister of Australia, Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States, Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
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Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of Australia

Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of Australia are surveys conducted to construct rankings of the success and popularity of the individuals who have served as Prime Minister of Australia.

The Age ranking

John Curtin has been regarded as Australia's greatest Prime Minister in a survey by The Age,[1] followed by Sir Robert Menzies and then Bob Hawke. The lowest ranked Prime Minister was William McMahon.

Rankings by The Age[2]
Rank Prime Minister Years in office Notes
1 John Curtin 1941–1945 One-time pacifist who saw Australia through its darkest days during World War II, and died in office.
2 Robert Menzies 1939–1941, 1949–1966 Forced out of office by his own party, ending his first term in 1941. Triumphed in 1949 to become Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister. Promoted enormous influx of European immigrants and the augmentation of manufactures, construction and overseas commerce.
3 Bob Hawke 1983–1991 Used an accord with the trade-union movement to implement economic changes vital for Australia, but at odds with much of Labor's tradition. His innate eloquence, gracefulness and kindly humour captured the affection of common Australians and enabled him to break up the old socialist restraints on commerce and industry whilst retaining popular support.
4 Ben Chifley 1945–1949 Presided over Australia's postwar reconstruction but was trounced at the 1949 election after his attempt to nationalise the banks. Acknowledged even by his enemies to be a great man, one of noble and just vision, nevertheless his conduct of Australia's government was injured by the arrogance of his personality and carrying the program of social and economic reform too far and too fast.
5 John Howard 1996–2007 Australia's second longest-serving Prime Minister. Under Howard there were major reforms to the waterfront, tax system and industrial relations. He deployed Australia's military to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to quash various conflicts in the Pacific, such as East Timor and the Solomon Islands. In 2007 his coalition government was defeated.
6 Gough Whitlam 1972–1975 Brought down 23 years of Liberal/ Country Party Coalition Government's through Modernising the Labor Party and catching the new mood of Australia but failed to adapt to the vicissitudes of office, hence becoming the only Prime Minister to be dismissed.
7 Paul Keating 1991–1996 Promoted a republic, Aboriginal reconciliation and won the "unwinnable" 1993 federal election for Labor. He became electorally unpopular because he was seen as pandering to sectional interests and lost the 1996 federal election to John Howard.
8 Malcolm Fraser 1975–1983 Came to the Prime Ministership controversially, restored and recovered Australia from the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Had a rhetoric of the new economic liberalism, but delivered less than his supporters expected.
9 John Gorton 1968–1971 A leader whose individualistic style proved unacceptable to a Liberal Party more conservative and staid than he was.
10 Harold Holt 1966–1967 Won the "Vietnam" 1966 federal election resoundingly. He had a strong relationship with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson but was struggling politically by the time he drowned in December 1967.
11 William McMahon 1971–1972 Unable to hold back the tide of "Whitlamism" in a changing Australia. Lost the Australian federal election, 1972 to Gough Whitlam subsequently ending 23 years of Liberal/Country coalition governments.

Only Prime Ministers since 1939 were considered for listing, with three caretaker Prime Ministers (Arthur Fadden, Frank Forde, and John McEwen) excluded.

This study was conducted prior to the electoral defeat of the Howard Government and, as such, it does not take into account opinions of decision made by Howard towards the end of his premiership, and also did not consider Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard nor their Labor Governments' ministries, which were elected after the poll.

Who rated whom[2]
Prime Minister Prof Carol Johnson, Adelaide University Dean Stuart MacIntyre, Melbourne University Alistair Mant Prof Andrew Parkin, Flinders University Prof Tom Stannage, Curtin University Paul Strangio, Monash University Prof James Walter, Monash University Prof Patrick Weller, Griffith University Raters total Total after removing best and worst results
Robert Menzies 2 2 8 1 1 2 3 2 21 12
John Curtin 1 4 2 4 3 3 2 1 20 15
Bob Hawke 8 3 4 2 4 1 1 4 27 18
John Howard 3 5 9 3 5 6 4 3 38 26
Ben Chifley 4 1 1 7 7 4 5 8 37 28
Gough Whitlam 6 8 5 5 2 5 6 6 43 33
Paul Keating 5 7 6 9 8 7 7 7 56 42
Malcolm Fraser 7 6 8 8 6 8 8 5 56 43
John Gorton 10 9 3 6 11 9 9 10 67 53
Harold Holt 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 78 57
William McMahon 11 11 11 11 9 11 11 11 86 66

Rankings by highest approval rating

It is possible to compare the highest approval ratings achieved by Prime Ministers in various opinion polls.

Nielsen Poll

According to the Nielsen Poll (available since 1972), Bob Hawke had the highest approval rating in November 1984,[3] with 75%, and the lowest was William McMahon, with a 34% approval rating.

Highest Nielsen Poll ratings for each Prime Minister since 1972:

  1. Bob Hawke – 75% (November 1984)
  2. Kevin Rudd – 74%[4] (March 2009)
  3. John Howard – 67% (January 2005)
  4. Gough Whitlam – 62% (February 1973)
  5. Malcolm Fraser – 56% (April 1976 and May 1978)
  6. Julia Gillard – 56% (July 2010)
  7. Paul Keating – 40% (November 1994)
  8. William McMahon – 34% (November 1972)

William McMahon ended 1971 with an approval rating of 36.4%. By the end of 1972, his popularity had sunk to 34%, and he was defeated by Gough Whitlam in the 1972 election.


According to Newspoll (available since 1987), Kevin Rudd had the highest approval rating of 73%,[5] while Paul Keating had the lowest approval rating in the period 20–22 August 1993, at only 17%.

  1. Kevin Rudd – 73% (4–6 April 2008)
  2. John Howard – 67% (20–22 June 2003)
  3. Bob Hawke – 62% (5–7 June 1987)
  4. Julia Gillard – 57% (15–17 January 2010)
  5. Paul Keating – 52% (16–18 September 1994)

JWS research

John Scales, of JWS research, in May 2011 polled 2141 people in the 10 most marginal Labor seats and the 10 most marginal Coalition seats.

Asked "which, of the past five, had been the best government for Australia ?",[6] responses were as follows:

  • 50 per cent nominated the Howard government (1996-2007)
  • 13 per cent for the Keating government (1991-1996)
  • 13 per cent for the Hawke government (1983-1991)
  • 12 per cent for the Rudd government (2007-2010)
  • 4 per cent nominated the Gillard government (2010-2013)
  • 8 per cent responded as "unsure"

In all, 50 per cent of all respondents nominated a Liberal Party government, with 42 per cent nominating the Labor Party. At the time of the survey, the federal government was led by the Labor Party.

See also


External links

  • Australia's Prime Ministers
  • Australia's PMs - Australia's Prime Ministers
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