What’s the use of opinion polls two and a half years out from elections? Well, today’s Newspoll

is an interesting measure of what we think of the Prime Minister and
his Government on the eve of a vital Budget – and in the wake of an
embarrassing broken promise over healthcare.

We’ve
taken that personally, Newspoll claims. John Howard’s satisfaction
rating dropped 7%, to its lowest showing in eight months, after he cut
through the strings of the Medicare safety net. It now stands at 49%,
down from 56.

It hasn’t hurt his party, though. The Government’s
primary vote is up from 43 to 45 per cent while Labor’s is down to 39.
This has flowed on to put the Government on 51 and Labor on 49 per cent
in two party preferred terms – or in what pollsters in any other
country would call margin of error territory.

Satisfaction with
Kim Beazley is little changed on 52 per cent, according to the poll –
but that’s a big jump from the 40 per cent recorded when he took over
as Labor leader in February. That at least suggests he’s considered
credible – and credibility is what you want at Budget time.

The big day is exactly four weeks away. It will be interesting to see how much faith we have in John Howard after that.

Peter Fray

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