The Fraser Government had lost a degree of popularity within the electorate by 1980. The economy had been performing poorly since the 1973 oil shock. However, Hayden was not seen as having great electoral prospects. Perhaps as evidence of this, then ACTU President Bob Hawke (elected to Parliament in the election as the Member for Wills) and then Premier of New South WalesNeville Wran featured heavily in the campaign, almost as heavily as Hayden.
In the election, Labor finished only 0.8 percent behind the Coalition on the two-party vote—a four-percent swing from 1977. However, due to the uneven nature of the swing, Labor came up 12 seats short of a majority, giving the Coalition a third term in government. Hayden, however, did manage to regain much of what Labor had lost in the previous two elections. Notably, he managed to more than halve Fraser's majority, from 48 seats at dissolution to 23.
In the subsequent term, the government delivered budgets significantly in deficit, and Fraser was challenged for the Liberal leadership by Andrew Peacock. The Australian Democrats made further gains, winning the balance of power in the Senate. From July 1981 (when those senators elected at the 1980 election took up their positions) no Federal Government in Australia had a Senate majority until the Howard Government won such a majority in 2004.
Prior to 1984 the AEC did not undertake a full distribution of preferences for statistical purposes. The stored ballot papers for the 1983 election were put through this process prior to their destruction. Therefore, the figures from 1983 onwards show the actual result based on full distribution of preferences.