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Kevin Rudd's return to the Labor leadership has failed to lift the party's fortunes in the crucial state of Queensland, according to exclusive polling that also shows Clive Palmer has made inroads into the primary vote of the main parties in his home state.
The Fairfax-Nielsen poll shows more voters now trust Mr Abbott more than Mr Rudd and seven out of 10 think Mr Abbott will be the next prime minister. The survey of 1014 respondents in Queensland between August 31 and September 1 suggests the ALP is unlikely to pick up the number of seats needed to compensate for big losses expected in other states.
But while Labor's primary vote is languishing at 31 per cent, mining magnate Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party is polling as strongly as the Greens on 8 per cent.
While this means it is almost certain PUP will not win a seat in the House of Representatives, it is in with a chance of gaining a spot in the Senate.
Along with Katter's Australian Party on 4 per cent, preferences from PUP could determine the outcome in some close seats in Queensland with the poll showing voters intending to support the newcomers PUP and KAP, opting mostly to direct preferences to the ALP before the Liberal National
Party. Asked how they would allocate second preferences, 86 per cent of Greens voters nominated Labor, with a surprisingly high 62 per cent of PUP backers favouring Labor and even KAP voters mostly leaning towards the ALP with 55 per cent.
Primary support for the Coalition in Queensland is also slightly down at 45 per cent - it was 47.4 per cent at the 2010 election - reflecting the fact that a quarter of Queenslanders are looking at options other than the major parties.
According to preferences as indicated by respondents, Labor trails in Queensland with 47 per cent of the overall vote, to the LNP (known as the Coalition outside Queensland) on 53 per cent.
That is a small improvement of 2 percentage points since 2010 but is unlikely to be enough in a sufficient number of seats to change the result.
More Queenslanders now disapprove of Mr Rudd's performance (50 per cent) than approve (45 per cent), giving him a net approval rating of minus 5.
However, Mr Abbott has crossed into positive territory with a net approval rating of 1 per cent. His 49 per cent approval result just shaded the 48 per cent who disapprove. The two leaders tied on 46 all when voters were asked who they preferred as prime minister.
Voter anxiety over the economy continues to provide fertile ground for the Coalition with 58 per cent of Queenslanders rating the LNP ahead of Labor on economic prowess. This is despite a spirited Labor assault on Mr Abbott's ''hidden'' public spending cuts, citing the harsh austerity moves by the Newman LNP government in Queensland.
Labor insiders say the theme for the rest of the campaign is based on two main arguments - job security and Mr Abbott's character.
But the poll suggests neither has bitten in voter-land with the Coalition strongly ahead on economic prowess and Mr Abbott trusted by more voters than Mr Rudd, 46-39.