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Gillard faces challenging week as voters desert her

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Mark Kenny

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Poll fuels Rudd talk

Why did Labor's poll recovery, turn sour? Nielsen's chief pollster looks at when things went wrong for the government.

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Julia Gillard enters a politically dangerous last sitting week before the May budget, with support for her government stuck in the basement and her standing with voters losing ground to a more popular Tony Abbott.

A sharp drop in support for the ALP in February, which sent shockwaves through the party and fuelled leadership anxiety, is now showing signs of becoming entrenched with less than six months to go to the federal election on September 14.

The latest Age/Nielsen poll has confirmed Labor's share of the primary vote is languishing at a landslide-losing 31 per cent - up a statistically insignificant 1 point from February.

This compares with support for the Coalition being unchanged on 47 per cent.

The telephone survey of 1400 people, taken from Thursday, March 14, to Saturday, March 16, also showed Ms Gillard's satisfaction rating continuing to drop and Mr Abbott's continuing to improve with the Opposition Leader now preferred prime minister by 49 per cent of voters against Ms Gillard on 43 per cent - down 2 points.

The two-party-preferred split sits at 44 per cent for Labor and 56 per cent for the Coalition, which represents a 6 per cent swing to the Coalition from the 50/50 result in 2010 and would leave the ALP electorally devastated if carried through to the election.

With some Labor MPs and ministers favouring a late leadership change back to Kevin Rudd or perhaps a third candidate, the poll showed Mr Rudd was easily the most popular choice among voters for prime minister, out-pointing Ms Gillard 2 to 1, with 62 per cent up against the PM's 31 per cent.

However, low voter enthusiasm for three other Labor leadership possibilities - cabinet ministers Bill Shorten, Greg Combet, and Bob Carr - suggest the party would not improve its September chances with any of them installed as prime minister. Of the three, the Foreign Minister, Senator Carr, had the most support with 41 per cent to Ms Gillard on 50 per cent.

Pollster John Stirton said that this showed voters were taking the view that if it is not to be Kevin Rudd in charge, they would prefer no change at all.

On the separate index of approval ratings, 38 per cent approved of the way Ms Gillard was handling her job compared to 58 per cent who disapproved. This put her net approval rating at negative 20 per cent, a deterioration of four points in a month.

Mr Abbott's net approval rating was half as bad on negative 10 per cent (an improvement of three points) with 43 per cent approving his performance and 53 per cent disapproving.

The shifting approval ratings and the preferred prime minister findings confirm that neither leader is particularly popular with voters, but that sentiment may be moving in the direction of the alternative prime minister, Mr Abbott.

The poll comes as dispirited Labor MPs began filing into Canberra on Sunday hopeful, if not confident, that a series of populist appeals by Ms Gillard in recent weeks - including a new campaign against foreign workers, and moves to protect penalty rates - might have begun turning things around.

Yet the poll suggested that Ms Gillard's tough rhetoric had failed to spark a recovery.

Labor's one-point improvement in the primary vote came from the Greens, which dropped one point to 10 per cent.

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202 comments

  • I have never been asked which Party I would vote for nor which preferred Prime Minister, and I wonder where they continually get their figures from. One week it is the Labor party in front and Julia as preferred Prime Minister, the next week it is the Liberal Party in front and Tony as preferred Prime Minister. I would be interested to know where they do their polling. It looks like one week they go to a Labor area and the next a Liberal area???????

    Commenter
    Mary
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    March 18, 2013, 8:16AM
    • Yeah, the only poll that counts is the Morgan/Gallop poll. That's done closer to the election.

      Maybe The Age is trying to create its own headlines. It's obvious they want Kevin back.

      Although, single mothers are angry. Maybe they've accounted for the drop. They've lost more per week that Swannie calculated, I've heard of one that's lodged a complaint with the UN on behalf of vulnerable families. So, who knows.

      And both Julia and Tony wanting to "penalize" indigenous families for truancy, it makes me feel ashamed to be Australian.

      I personally wish they'd both go.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 9:18AM
    • Mary,
      I don't know where you get your information, but of the three polls, every one has shown the Coalitions in front since Labor bent over for the Greens in 2010, except for 2 newspolls. That's about fifty independent polls by 3 polling companies.

      Commenter
      Rodrigo
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 9:30AM
    • Gillard et. al., couldn't organise a chook raffle in a pub let alone run a country.

      This most recent attempt by Conroy and Gillard to ram through so called media reform is the height of arrogance. What genius decided to pick a fight with the media 6 months out from an election?

      Note to the ALP: the media don't pick on you becuase your from the left or that they support Abbott and the coalition, they pick on you becuase you guys because you're utterly incompetent. You just give everyone so much ammo to question your judgement and competence, why do you find it so surprising that they do?

      Commenter
      Mickle
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 9:33AM
    • Actually, one week it is the Liberal party in front, the next week it is the Liberal party in front by more, or maybe a little less. Been a while since the Labor party has been in front.

      Commenter
      Shawry
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 9:54AM
    • Not sure where your 'one week Labor is in front...the next the Liberals are' comment comes from. There have been 27 monthly Nielsen polls since this dreadful government came in and ALL 27 have had the Coalition as the preferred party.

      This gap should only widen come closer to election date...

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 9:58AM
    • Penalising truancy isn't a bad idea. We already spend millions of dollars on indigenous specific projects and positions and have done so for many, many years. All reports indicate that much of the money is wasted, as we are teaching 'learned helplessness'.

      Educating citizens is how we correct this situation. Putting a penalty on getting the kids to school and the kids just may learn something by accident.

      Commenter
      Zerotwoalpha
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 10:13AM
    • Penalizing vulnerable families is a lazy solution that will only bring about suffering.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 10:30AM
    • How are you going to fine kids who have no money? It's another of Gillard's thoughtless-bubbles.

      Commenter
      Rodrigo
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 10:34AM
    • Indigenous communities shouldn't be held to ransom. "Be like us or suffer".

      So much of their culture has been lost already, soon to join the ranks of lost all together.

      Their culture needs to be integrated into their education, and they should have some say in how that's achieved.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      March 18, 2013, 10:39AM

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