IT WILL provide cold comfort for Kevin Rudd, but Australians felt they were well governed during his prime ministership - much better so than for most of the Howard era.
The finding will be published next month by the Australian Centre on Quality of Life at Deakin University as part of its well-being project.
Since September 2001, it has been asking Australians to rate on a scale of one to 10 how satisfied they felt with government in Australia.
The September 2001 result was an index number of 59 meaning that, on average, Australians gave the government close to 6 points out of 10.
But it turned out to be the Howard government's highest score ever, pushed up by the September 11 bombing in the US days before. ''It was a rally-round-the-flag effect,'' said Deakin Professor Bob Cummins. ''When things look threatening, people look to their leaders and tend to find they like what they have.''
After that the Howard government's rating rarely went above 55 despite blips during the Bali bombing and the toppling of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
By contrast the Rudd era began with the best numbers on record.
Satisfaction with government soared to 62 points on Rudd's election and remained well above the Howard government's average until an April survey.
''Even in April this year, people were more satisfied with government under Rudd than they had been under Howard when they re-elected him,'' said Professor Cummins.
''I think the plotters who deposed the prime minister may have misread the feeling of the electorate by focusing on the change in its feeling rather than its absolute level.
''It's the sensation you get when you take your hand out of water of one temperature and plunge it into … another. It isn't a reliable guide. People got so used to high satisfaction with government, they panicked when they saw it change.'' Satisfaction with government soared to a record high under Mr Rudd during the 2008 world sharemarket crash. But Professor Cummins doesn't think that was a result of voters ''rallying round the flag''.
''We rally round the flag when things are bad somewhere else, such as Bali or New York,'' he said. ''We feel protected and secure because it is happening to someone else.
''The global financial crisis was different. I think we felt satisfied with government not because of the crisis but because of its response to it …
''Until very recently we believed we were exceptionally well governed under Rudd. In most other countries the scores are below 50 - Rudd at his worst fell to 54, Howard to 52. It might be that we are well governed compared to many other places.
''We will never know whether Mr Rudd would have been re-elected, but if people voted on the basis of how they felt about government he might well have.''
On some other dimensions we are feeling better. The survey finds our satisfaction with social conditions, personal relationships, living standards and the environment has climbed to an all-time high.