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Nov 12, 2012

Essential: Gillard pulls clear of a troubled Abbott

Tony Abbott is struggling with voters, and particularly female voters, according to new polling from Essential Research. And voters like Gonski's recommendations on education.

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Julia Gillard has pushed further ahead of Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister and the Opposition Leader has plumbed new depths of disapproval with voters, new polling from Essential Research shows.

In Essential’s monthly leadership approval questions, the Prime Minister has further narrowed her net disapproval gap, with her approval rating remaining at 41% and her disapproval rating falling two points to 49%. That Gillard is now into a single-figure net disapproval rating is a remarkable turnaround even from September, when it was nearly 20 points, let alone March, when it was nearly 30 points.

Abbott, however, has gone further backwards. His approval rating is down four points to 33% and his disapproval rating is up four points to 58%, giving him his worst ever net disapproval rating of 25 points. That’s still well shy of Gillard’s worst performance, however — at one stage she reached -36 points — which suggests he can still retrieve the situation with voters.

The Prime Minister’s lead over Abbott as preferred PM has also increased to 13 points, 45-32%, indicating she has decisively broken the long deadlock between the two leaders that saw them swapping small leads on that question for most of the last 18 months. Her lead is the biggest since February 2011, before the government’s carbon price commitment sent them plunging in the polls.

What appears to have happened is that much of the visceral dislike of Ms Gillard has vanished. At times the Prime Minister had well over 30% of all voters saying they “strongly disapproved” of her. That figure is now down to 24%, while simple “disapproval” hasn’t shifted anywhere near as much, and “approval” has steadily crept up.

And while Gillard continues to perform better with women — who are evenly split on her performance — than with men (net disapproval of -16), Tony Abbott has a huge problem with female voters. Both men and women don’t like Abbott’s performance, but this month his net disapproval among women blew out from -19 to -30. Gillard also now leads as preferred PM among both men and women, although among women she leads by a huge 21 points.

Gillard’s improved performance seems to be narrowing the gap between the parties, but only slowly. Labor’s primary vote remained at 37%, but the Coalition’s vote fell a point to 45%, on top of last week’s 2 point fall. With the Greens remaining steady on 9%, the 2PP outcome is now 52-48%.

Voters also indicated they saw the Gonski recommendations about increased schools funding as the most important reform currently before the government, with 31% nominating it as the most important, ahead of aged care resourcing (29%). The NDIS was nominated as most important only by 16%, with the Murray-Darling on 12%.

Asked to nominate preferred spending cuts to pay for reforms, slashing the Baby Bonus was by far the most popular option, with 53% of voters saying they favoured reducing the Baby Bonus to $2000 or eliminate it for people earning over $75,000. I

nterestingly, for all the claims of “class war” from the Opposition and the media, the support was almost exactly the same across Labor, Liberal and Greens voters. There was similar strong support for higher taxes on high income earners as the best method of increasing government revenue, with 46% nominating lifting taxes on high incomes, although Liberal voters (40%) were somewhat less likely to back that than Labor or Greens voters; 27% preferred no additional revenue measures at all.

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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60 thoughts on “Essential: Gillard pulls clear of a troubled Abbott

  1. Jimmy

    “Abbott, however, has gone further backwards. His approval rating is down four points to 33% and his disapproval rating is up four points to 58%, giving him his worst ever net disapproval rating of 25 points. That’s still well shy of Gillard’s worst performance, however — at one stage she reached -36 points — which suggests he can still retrieve the situation with voters.”

    While this statement is true, there is still plenty of time, you have to look at what has trigger3ed Gillards turn around and ask does Abbott have the capacity to do it.

    Firstly Abbott’s attacks on the Carbon Tax have been shown to be false, the automatically makes Gillard more trustworthy and makes here appear as though she knows what is going on while making Abbott look a fool who doesn’t know how the economy works.

    Secondly Gillard has been able to shift the focus on to voter friendly policies like the NDIS & Gonski, Abbott’s massive blackhole prevents him from being able to fully back these commitments (or make any other big promises) and his big spending policy to woo women (paid parental Leave) is seen for what it is, an overly generous bribe.

    Third Gillard has the power of incumbency which has allowed her to strut the world stage and take the glory of winning a seat on the UN security council, while Abbott blew his chance with SBY and overplayed his hand with the UN seat.

    Third Gillard is starting to get grudging respect for they way she has persevered through the constant attacks from News Ltd, the shock jocks and Abbott himself, while Abbott has only shown himself to be a negative attack dog, great at tearing things down but no vision other than getting elected.

    In short unless Abbott can quickly and dramatically re-cast himself and start outlined his policies and how he will pay for them he will have les time than it appears.

  2. Neuromantic

    Jimmy I don’t think it’s such a long bow, Abbott does himself no favours with a response like this:


    For “bad behaviour by undergraduates” read life-threatening injury to a student, sexual harrassment and assault, intimidation and threats to whistleblowers, thousands of dollars of property damage, and well-connected parents using money and influence to try to silence the matter.

    Minimising the harm done to students and the fact that he can’t seem to keep a straight face about the whole thing adds to the impression that Abbott basically doesn’t give a rat’s. I’m sure he wouldn’t be reacting like that if it had been his daughter in hospital. (And also shows that you can have women family members and *still* not get why bullying women in ANY context is unacceptable. Or bullying anyone of course.)

    When Abbott, Cardinal Pell and the police keep appearing within the same paragraph, something is very wrong.

  3. Neuromantic

    Jimmy, I’m glad you had fun on your footy trip but this is simply not the same thing. Among the numerous examples of bullying and assault is a young woman being chased into a bathroom by three naked men and forced to hide in a cubicle until they gave up looking for her (Jessica McLean, New Matilda, 7/11/12). That’s not youthful exuberance, it’s “sexual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, frightened or threatened”, i.e. sexual assault.


    There are obvious parallels in the failure in the duty of care by the Catholic church in both the St John’s case and the widespread child sexual abuse within the church. While there are also clear distinctions between the two situations, at the heart of both matters is systemic failure to adequately address the problems.

    St John’s College “Visions” include: “providing students with accommodation and surroundings that enable them to develop in a secure and caring environment” and “resourcing the College with well qualified administrative and pastoral care staff”. That the college has failed in both instances should now be beyond dispute. All colleges would claim similar missions and those that turn a blind eye to “traditions” including bullying and assault are equally negligent. The Catholic church is absolutely relevant to the discussion at hand because Tony Abbott aligns himself with that organisation. His failure to point-blank condemn the organisational culture at his old college is one of many factors that directly influences my decision as a voter.

    In relation to the Church’s handling of abuse claims, “…victims advocate Helen Last said the ”misdemeanours” included mismanagement of complaints, neglect, absence of promised pastoral support, conflict of interest and secrecy.

    They were experiences that victims described as ”wrong, un-Christian, confusing, cruel and unusual, intimidating, coercive, anxiety-provoking, distressing and re-traumatising”(Barney Zwartz, The Age, 14/11/12).

    Any organisational culture that fails to adequately address criminal behaviour and the coercion, intimidation and traumatisation of those in its duty of care is obviously deeply flawed.

    My point remains – minimisation and rationalisation are two of the major barriers to justice and cultural change. Systemic negligence enables bullying and abuse to occur. Of course I’m not saying Tony Abbott would condone the worst aspects of the church’s failures in these cases – the man is not a monster. However his “show of concern” regarding the St John’s situation was unconvincing to say the least. If he was the head of a college where this systemic failure was occurring, I would not have confidence in my child remaining at the college based on his mealy-mouthed response. Would you?

    And if I don’t trust someone to run a school it follows I don’t trust them to run a country.

  4. Neuromantic

    Jimmy I think it’s fair to say we agree that it’s not just the Catholic church at fault, as I clearly stated. I also stated why that particular organisation, and Abbott’s connection to it, is relevant in a discussion of Abbott’s poll rating.

    You’ve also highlighted one of the issues that anti-violence campaigns seek to address, that of beliefs and attitudes. The “fine line” you mention should not be fine, it should be clear and highly visible. It’s gradually becoming more so, but there is obviously a way to go yet.

    It’s not “my” definition of sexual assault, it’s the definition used by the Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) at the Royal Women’s Hospital, as per the link I posted. Here is the link directly to CASA for your reference: http://www.casahouse.com.au/

    Saying that Jessica McLean should have just pointed and laughed is putting the onus on the victim to prevent sexual assault. Maybe you don’t understand how threatening that situation obviously was for the woman in question. She did not consent to being approached and chased. All legal definitions of sexual assault are premised on the non-consent of the victim. Running and hiding clearly constitute non-consent.

    We agree that this behaviour is widespread in many institutions, contexts and settings (in families, workplaces, the street…) Therefore we need decisive words and actions by our politicians and other community leaders. Tony Abbott has so far failed to unequivocally condemn the specific social and organisational cultural attitudes which enable abusive and violent behaviour to persist.

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