As voters turn out today, many on reluctant trips to polling booths, the key question will be: Who do they distrust the least?

The electorate's cynicism towards all aspects of politics has rarely been deeper and the appeal of candidates outside the big political power structures more pervasive.

An Essential Media survey released on May 24 found 37 per cent of voters trusted Malcolm Turnbull, and 31 per cent Bill Shorten.

These outcomes, reported after the campaign had been underway for just a fortnight, indicated that the trustworthy factor could fall further the longer the election went on.


In those two weeks of the campaign opening, Mr Turnbull's trust rating dropped three percentage points, and Mr Shorten's by two.

That volatility wasn't as stark in the ABC's Vote Compass survey, but the news wasn't much better for the two leaders.

On May 16, Mr Turnbull's trustworthy rating was 4.7 out of 10 on Vote Compass. It was 4.6 by last Thursday.

Mr Shorten's rating went down in similar fashion: from 3.8 out of 10 to 3.7.

However, trust isn't presented as a central issue this election. A ReachTEL survey of six marginal seats, conducted for Uniting Voice union, found it was a vote influence for just 8.4 per cent of voters.

The interesting backup information from focus groups is there hasn't been any savage hostility towards the men themselves, just the institutions and processes they represent.

There are no divisive identities this campaign, as there was in 1996 with Labor's Paul Keating, or would have been this time had Tony Abbott hung on last September.

There has been expanding resentment of the eight-week campaign, but the antagonism towards leaders goes to broader issues.

They are carrying the baggage of leadership churn, and the fact they have been active participants in them.

There have been four Prime Ministers in three years and four days, and six prime ministerships since November, 2007.

But the anger is real.

Wages have stagnated for many over the past three years and there is a fear it will be a while before they grow again.

The same ReachTEL survey - in Forde, Longman, Banks, Eden-Monaro, Dunkley and Cowan - found 47 per cent of voters opposed cutting weekend penalty rates. Some 26 per cent nominated it as an important issue.

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten have said they would not propose penalty rate reductions. Some don't trust them.

The quest for political and economic stability this campaign has been strong and could save us from a hung parliament, but there will be voters ready to punt on an outsider as a form of insurance, or simply as a bloodyminded protest.

So in Queensland many will turn to Pauline Hanson, a constant candidate who has not had a fulltime job since 1998. They like her because she agrees with them, and is not scared of saying in public what they are saying in private.

She and similar candidates don't need a raft of policies. They just need to be against "political correctness", which is seen as a censorship imposed by political leaders.

And in Victoria, media identity Deryn Hinch, first name on the Senate ballot paper and a man who has never voted before today, will attract votes.

And frightened sections of the electorate - voters bothered by economic, political and national security convulsions - want simple answers to complex questions.

Some, for example, can't see why Moslems simply can't be deported and outright reject the idea we should send hundreds of millions in foreign aid to nearby nations.

They are torch carriers for a style of isolationism that comes from a suspicion of the outside world and the "globalisation" they are told is vital to their economic safety. They see it as a sell-out to foreigners.

These unhappy voters, particularly those who use the Australian flag as an item of clothing and include "Aussie" in their Twitter handles, believe they are losing out to outsiders.

They have not just lost faith in their political leaders, they have lost confidence in their own role in this country.