Approval of the federal government's handling of the pandemic is at an all-time low while popularity for state and territory leaders has soared, new polling shows.
Monthly polling measuring the sentiments of more than a thousand Australians around the country has revealed less than a quarter of those asked believe the Prime Minister and his team are doing a good job.
Researchers at independent think tank The Australia Institute found support for the Coalition government's handling peaked at 25 per cent in August last year when polling first began.
The most recent figures in July show that has since declined to 16 per cent while state and territory governments reached a high of 42 per cent.
The institute's senior researcher Bill Browne believes a combination of the dismal vaccine rollout and state and territory leaders, not Prime Minister Scott Morrison, fronting the public every day with the latest news and practical updates has led to this change.
"Last year, Australia looked very favourable compared to other countries, particularly countries like us, like the United Kingdom and the United States," Mr Browne said.
"This year, our vaccine rollout is behind both those countries and other places around the world as well.
"I think you'd have to imagine the vaccine rollout is a major part of why you see [support] continuing to decline this year."
While polling began five months into the country's pandemic response, Mr Browne suspects it has been a steady decline.
During the first few months of the initial outbreak, Mr Morrison and senior health figures appeared before the public on a near-daily basis.
But after the initial country-wide restrictions were lifted, the idea of Team Australia faded to the background as some states grappled with local Covid outbreaks.
Dr Browne said this might have created the perception the federal government was stepping back from its leadership on the response.
"This year the federal government is much more conciliatory towards the states and the Prime Minister has made a point of stressing that state premiers are entitled to choose the strategy that they think will suit their state," Mr Browne said.
"I think the federal government's reacted to the evident popularity of the premiers' and the chief ministers' approach.
"That said, that hasn't seemed to have improved perception of their handling of the crisis and that might be to do with the vaccine really being the major focus of the 2021 side of the pandemic."
Recent outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne have likely contributed further to the decline in support, he said.
While outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns last year were considered failures of hotel quarantine or a result of the "new normal", frustration is being levelled at federal officials over the slow vaccine rollout, which hasn't helped to quell the virus.
"When outbreaks of Covid occurred last year, there was often confusion about which layer of government was responsible," Mr Browne said.
"Whereas this year, with vaccines being so clearly a federal responsibility, there's this feeling that if the vaccine rollout was further advanced that outbreaks might have been more limited or avoided altogether."
The renewed support for states and territories could result in a re-examination of the power and fiscal imbalance between the two tiers of government, Mr Browne believed..
With a more even playing field, state and territory leaders could agitate federal policy in the best interest of its residents.
Climate change targets were an obvious place to start, he said.
"Even before the pandemic we saw the state's filling the gap [and] taking leadership on climate change in the absence of federal government action," Mr Browne said.
"The most obvious example is with the net zero by 2050 targets that all states and territories adopted, which the federal government is yet to do.
"I think there'll be more opportunities for that going forward."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: