Today’s Essential Research poll asks about when politicians should be able to break commitments. Unfortunately it is marred by poor wording, especially in the options not being mutually exclusive, but the plurality for the option ‘as situations change, it is reasonable that politicians change their positions’ suggests a pragmatic attitude. It is the common sense morality that I expect most people apply in their own lives – commitment keeping is a virtue, but sometimes things we assumed in making that commitment turn out not to be the case, and that affects the morality of whether or not the original commitment should be kept.
The pragmatic position may well have secured more support had not respondents read it as excusing Julia Gillard’s carbon tax backflip. Other polls conducted in a more neutral context do not show Coalition supporters as more cynical about politicians than Labor supporters. Not only does the correct thing to do change when relevant facts change, but also according to the identity of the people involved.