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Jul 12, 2010

Essential: Labor opens a lead again, asylum seeker approach popular

According to the latest Essential Research poll Labor continues to move ahead of the Coalition and has now accumulated a handy lead. Voters also approve of Julia Gillard's shifts on the RSPT and asylum seekers.

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Federal Labor has cemented its recent comeback and has now opened a substantial lead on the Coalition, today’s Essential Report poll shows.

Based on Essential’s two-week rolling sample, both Labor and Liberal have drifted slightly lower in primary votes, with the Greens picking up again to 13%. Labor has retained a three-point primary vote lead, 41-38%, and the 2PP gap has widened to 55-45%.

And while the gap between the parties has closed among men, it remains solid with women, with another 7% lead to Labor among female voters, although these are raw numbers and inclined to be volatile.

The poll, taken last week after Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker announcement and subsequent shifting of position, also focussed on reaction to the mining tax deal and the government’s handling of the asylum seeker issue.

The mining tax deal gathered strong support from voters, with 50% of voters approving it and only 28% disapproving of it. Gillard’s handling of the issue also scored highly, with 58% of voters approving of the way she negotiated a deal with the largest mining companies, versus 20% who weren’t happy.

Gillard’s announcement of an East Timorese version of the Pacific Solution last week — since the subject of dispute by both the East Timorese government and Gillard herself — also appears to have enhanced the government’s hitherto-poor credentials on the issue. The number of voters thinking the government was ‘too soft’ on the issue fell from 65% in April to 56% last week; the number agreeing it had the right approach has gone up by three points to 21% and, significantly, the number of people thinking the government was “too tough” on the issue rose from 6% to 10%, suggesting the key message Gillard wanted to convey, of toughening up Labor’s stance on the issue, has been imparted to voters.

Gillard’s own handling of the issue, despite her bizarre fumbles on the issue last week, also has support, although not as great as on the MRRT: 42% approve of her handling of the issue over 33% who disapprove. As a result, Labor has narrowed the once-large gap between the parties in voter assessments of who is best at handling the issue: 57% of voters now think either the Labor Party is the best party to handle the issue (24%), or think there is no difference between the parties (33%), compared to 51% in April.

The poll also found the proportion of voters convinced the Liberals are likely to bring back WorkChoices — despite Tony Abbott recently signing a contract committing not to — remained high, at 56%, albeit slightly lower than in May. But voters were now slightly more concerned about the possibility the Liberals would renege on their commitment.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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