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 2004 survey by The Age, followed by Sir Robert Menzies and then Bob Hawke. The lowest ranked Prime Minister was William McMahon though only Prime Ministers since 1939 were considered for listing. The three caretaker Prime Ministers (Arthur Fadden, Frank Forde, and John McEwen) were excluded.
|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. Australia's third longest serving Prime Minister.|
|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 gun control, 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 Governments 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 [assumed] 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.|
This study was conducted prior to the electoral defeat of the Howard Government in 2007. As such, it does not take into account opinions of decisions made by Howard towards the end of his premiership, nor does it include his successors as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.
|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|
Rankings by highest approval rating
It is possible to compare the highest approval ratings achieved by Prime Ministers in various opinion polls.
Highest Nielsen Poll ratings for each Prime Minister since 1972:
- Bob Hawke – 75% (November 1984)
- Kevin Rudd – 74% (March 2009)
- John Howard – 67% (January 2005)
- Gough Whitlam – 62% (February 1973)
- Malcolm Fraser – 56% (April 1976 and May 1978)
- Julia Gillard – 56% (July 2010)
- Tony Abbott – 47% (November 2013)
- Paul Keating – 40% (November 1994)
- 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.
Highest Satisfaction Rating
According to Newspoll (available since 1985), the highest satisfaction rating of any Prime Minister was Kevin Rudd's at 71% in August 2008, while Paul Keating has had the lowest high-mark satisfaction rating at 43%.
Voters are asked the question: 'Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way -name- is doing his/her job as Prime Minister?'
- Kevin Rudd – 71% (18–20 April 2008)
- John Howard – 67% (10–12 May 1996)
- Bob Hawke – 62% (24–26 January 1987)
- Malcolm Turnbull – 60% As of 19–22 November 2015)
- Julia Gillard – 50% (18–20 February 2011)
- Tony Abbott – 47% (25–27 October 2013)
- Paul Keating – 43% (2–18 April 1993, 16–18 September 1994 & 18–20 November 1994)
Lowest Satisfaction Rating
Since Newspoll began in 1985, the lowest satisfaction rating of any Prime Minister is by far Paul Keating's at 17% in August 1993, with an 6% difference between Keating and the nearest low rating of Julia Gillard at 23% in September 2011.
- Paul Keating – 17% (20–22 August 1993)
- Julia Gillard – 23% (2–4 September 2011)
- Tony Abbott – 24% (6–8 February 2015)
- Bob Hawke – 27% (29 November - 8 December 1991)
- John Howard – 28% (26–29 June 1998 & 9–11 March 2001)
- Kevin Rudd – 32% (30 August - 1 September 2013)
- Malcolm Turnbull – 34% (As of 30 August 2016) 
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 ?", 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.
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- "Curtin: our greatest PM - National". Melbourne: www.theage.com.au. 2004-12-18. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "The historians' verdict - National". Melbourne: www.theage.com.au. 2004-12-18. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Nielsen Australia - News - Press Releases - Latest ACNielsen Poll". Au.acnielsen.com. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Kevin Rudd rivals Bob Hawke in polls | Herald/Neilsen poll". Brisbanetimes.com.au. 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- http://www.newspoll.com.au/opinion-polls-2/opinion-polls-2/%7CNewspoll Results
- http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/senior-ministers-defend-malcolm-turnbulls-government-over-poor-polling-results-20160829-gr45it.html |The Sydney Morning Herald - Accessed 30 August 2016
- "Polls Show Gillard/Labor In More Trouble". Smh.com.au. 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2012-06-10.