Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were the most unpopular party leaders to go into an election since 1987, new analysis of the 2022 federal election has found.
Researchers from the Australian National University said "parties and politicians are now on notice" as new trends among younger voters could shape future elections where the leader popularity is no longer one of the most significant factors.
Using data from the joint ANUpoll/Comparative Study of Electoral Systems survey of more than 3500 voters before and after the May election, the study found the two Coalition leaders eclipsed all but the historic unpopularity of John Howard in the double dissolution election of 1987.
Study co-author Ian McAllister said the findings show leaders were more important than in previous elections.
"Our findings show both Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were very unpopular, and both were especially not popular with their own voters," Professor McAllister said.
"We also found Labor leader and new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was moderately popular across the electorate."
Mr Morrison's popularity suffered a major decline between the 2019 election and when Australians cast their vote in 2022, making him the most unpopular Liberal Party leader since 1987 - with a rating of 3.6 out 10.
Barnaby Joyce was the most unpopular Nationals leader since 1987, with a rating of three out of 10, and was also the most unpopular of all the 2022 leaders within their own party's supporters, rating just five out of 10 among Nationals voters.
"How the Coalition handled the COVID-19 pandemic was a major factor in determining their leaders' popularity among voters," Professor McAllister said.
"Voters were divided on how well the government handled the pandemic. However, negative perceptions about the pandemic were channelled through Morrison's leadership and were a major drag on the Coalition vote."
Teal independents, who ran on a platform of climate action, integrity reforms and improved gender equity, were a major upset in the election, claiming several seats and one Senate spot from the Liberals, but their support base was not entirely dissatisfied Liberal supporters.
"We found Teal voters appear to more likely be tactical Labor or Greens voters rather than dissatisfied Liberal voters," Professor McAllister said.
"We found among Teal respondents, 35 per cent voted Labor in 2019, 23 per cent Green, and only 19 per cent had voted Liberal in 2019."
Young people were an especially powerful voting force, if not quite a bloc, the study found.
PhD researcher Intifar Chowdhury said the findings showed young people were more inclined to cast their vote based on policy rather than partisan lines.
"Millennials and Gen Z will make up about 44 per cent of the electorate in the future. This may lead to major generational replacement as the polls populate with more progressive, apartisan younger voters," she said.
"Policy voting compared to partisan voting might become the norm in Australia. Parties and politicians are now on notice."
Earlier findings from the study found that young people were more likely to switch their allegiance in this election, with the new analysis identifying four key policy areas in which Coalition voters were most likely to cite when switching their vote: global climate change, improving disaster relief, improving the way the political system works in Australia, and addressing issues around race.
Professor Nicholas Biddle said those issues helped shape the election outcome and voters decision at the ballot box.
"If the Labor government is able to respond adequately to these policy areas that helped them win the election, then they will be very well placed to win the next federal election, and consolidate major policy gains," he said.
"If the Coalition opposition is able to turn the focus to the areas that helped them maintain their support, then the Albanese government may be lucky to win a second term."