The good news keeps on coming for Kevin Rudd. Today it’s Newspoll, reported in The Australian, in which Labor has maintained and indeed slightly increased its lead from the last two polls. It’s now on 56% two-party-preferred, up almost 9% on the 2004 election.

On a uniform swing, that would win Labor 37 seats, for a 44-seat majority.

The improvement since the last poll is not significant, but the fact that such a high vote has been maintained over three polls can hardly be ignored. As far as I can tell, it’s the first time in the life of the Howard government that Newspoll has put Labor at or above 55% in three successive polls. (See Bryan Palmer’s invaluable graphs at OzPolitics.)

For comparison, here are the summer poll results at this point in the last three election cycles:

 

 

2000-01

2003-04

2006-07

Early December

50

49

 

Mid-December

52

49

55

Mid-January

50

50

55

Early February

55

53

56

 

(For some unexplained reason, Newspoll only did one poll in December; the previous poll, on 24-26 November (before the leadership change) had Labor at 51%.)

Even Dennis Shanahan can’t find much comfort for the government in those numbers. Shanahan’s perverse insistence on the “primary vote [as] the key indicator and essential ingredient” actually works against him here, because Labor’s primary vote is up by more: to 47%, its highest since March 2001.

For what (little) they’re worth, the approval ratings and beauty contest figures are good for Labor as well: Rudd records 60% “satisfied”, and is virtually neck and neck with John Howard (39-40) as preferred prime minister.

Poll results like this must eventually start to shake the conviction held my most commentators (including this one) that the Coalition are still favourites for this year’s election.

They will also make us await more eagerly the next AC Nielsen poll. Nielsen hasn’t released a poll since Rudd took the leadership, but its last one, taken just before the change, also put Labor on 56%.

Peter Fray

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