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Tony Abbott still unpopular with voters

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Government clings to poll lead

The government is having some success at selling its tough economic message, according to the latest Nielsen/Fairfax opinion polling.

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The big take-out from the latest Age/Nielsen poll is that the Abbott government continues to be the least popular incoming administration in four decades.

Sit these results alongside those of other respected polls and the conclusion is that the two sides are virtually on level pegging, almost seven months after a triumphant Coalition swept to power.

Voters taking part in an anti-federal government rally in Melbourne on Sunday.

Voters taking part in an anti-federal government rally in Melbourne on Sunday. Photo: Luis Ascui

Why? Because Tony Abbott still carries the baggage of being a very negative (and effective) opposition leader, and because his government, in too many areas, continues to behave as if it were in opposition.

There is also apprehension about the pain that will be inflicted in the May budget - apprehension that has been increased by the reluctance to release the recommendations of the Commission of Audit well before the budget, as flagged by Treasurer Joe Hockey last month. ''What is being hidden?'' voters are asking.

The clarity in the Coalition's message on industry policy (''We do not believe in government by chequebook'') has not been matched by its message on spending priorities. Here, the need is to reconcile the commitment to deliver on expensive promises such as the paid parental leave scheme while administering tough medicine in other areas.

Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott.

Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

While the first Age/Nielsen poll of the political year in February was a bad one for Labor and Bill Shorten, these results are more consistent with earlier polls and the most recent Newspoll and Essential results. They paint a more troubling picture for the Coalition.

Shorten now has as many voters approving of his performance and disapproving, with some 15 per cent of voters uncommitted either way. This puts him in a better position than most new opposition leaders after their party loses government.

His - and Labor's - challenge is to start doing more than talking in slogans about jobs and the protection of entitlements such as penalty rates, and to spell out an alternative vision. It is also to flesh out the picture of a man and his beliefs that remains relatively unformed for many voters.

Not surprisingly, the Coalition is least popular in the two mainland states where voter apprehension about job security and the squeeze on pay packets is most acute - Victoria and South Australia.

This helps explain why the expectation of conservative rule in every state, for the first time since 1969, did not materialise on Saturday night, with a real prospect that Labor will be able to continue its 12-year hold on power in minority government in South Australia.

These are early days in the life of the government, but the danger for both sides, and both leaders, is that first impressions will be hard to shake at the business end of the electoral cycle.

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176 comments

  • He might be unpopular as far as the vanquished Australian Lying Party voters are concerned but if there has to be a double dissolution because of the whingeing of the ALP and the greens Tony Abbott and the LNP will win because the silent majority is sick of the lawyers in the ALP line up and the unions forcing costs up in our cost of living.

    Commenter
    Old Voter
    Location
    The Overfed Mushroom Patch
    Date and time
    March 17, 2014, 7:01AM
    • Sick of lawyers, Old Voter? Have you actually looked at the Abbott front bench?!

      Commenter
      Max Gross
      Location
      Sapphire Coast
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 7:43AM
    • Old voter,

      The Labor/Greens alliance has been an utter fail. Even Tasmanians have deserted the Greens after their destructive influence over a weak Labor government.
      Bill Shorten is also trying to distance himself now from the "alliance".

      Commenter
      notlad
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 7:54AM
    • They may hang in in SA due to thumping gerrymander. How can you win 53% and not win a majority. Only in SA

      Commenter
      Mh
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 7:57AM
    • He's only there because Julia was even less popular.

      Shorten only has to become more popular than Julia and Tony will get the boot.

      And he'll do that over time.

      By being a reasonable and nice guy. And by sticking up for things that matter.

      Tony only sticks up for Gina.

      And how hilarious is the sudden disappearance of the PUP party in local elections.

      He got in by promising pensioners an extra 150 a week, then the first thing he did was get three new mines for himself approved. Ha!.

      Oh, the hilarity.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Here, here Old Voter....totally agree.....the ALP lefties and radical greenies are a dying breed.

      Commenter
      Grumpyoldfart
      Location
      Tuggers
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 8:02AM
    • Oh please....cut the cheap 3-word jibes out (pssst....you guys are in government now). Look at the double standard, backflips and triply tumbles this government has done..."boats will be turned back" (not towed), "we are a unity ticket on Gonski", "this government is about jobs", " we are open for business", etc, etc, etc..... if you want to judge the ppl you don't like by a standard, you should also apply that standard to those you back. But of course, the right have the right to hold double-standards.

      Commenter
      OMG
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 8:04AM
    • Gee for an old voter you sure act like a child "Australian Lying Party" wow. Are you really that blind that you cannot see any mistruths that have been told in the last 6 months?

      Commenter
      Mitch
      Location
      Muswellbrook
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 8:06AM
    • When I was younger I had the option of moving overseas and gaining a far superior professional career. I stayed in Australia because I believed in my country. I now regret my decision, Australia was not worth the sacrifice. The fact that Abbott and the LNP have been elected without showing a trace of constructive intent proves that. The whole mindset is wrong when that can happen simply because people want to believe neoliberal/neocon bullshit.
      My whole life was spent developing better engineering materials and processes - I have wasted my time.

      Commenter
      adam
      Location
      yarrawonga
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 8:16AM
    • The cost of living goes up no matter which Government is in power, it's world wide. In Australia what contributes to the higher costs could possibly be that most people do not like paying their fair share of tax. Let's hope you are paying tax on those mushrooms, if you are selling them !

      Commenter
      Rod
      Location
      the Coast
      Date and time
      March 17, 2014, 8:30AM

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