We’re now into the second half of April; the weather’s still nice, but there’s a slight chill in the air. And this is the point where, in both 2001 and 2004, Labor’s opinion poll results started to come off the boil. It didn’t seem much at the time, but with hindsight it was the beginning of a downward trend.

But, so far this year, it’s not happening. Not only is Labor’s support higher than at its peak in the last two cycles, it’s very stable. (Bryan Palmer’s graphs at Ozpolitics) are indispensable background for this story; he doesn’t have one of past years’ Morgan results, but they show a similar pattern — you can find them here.)

Today’s Newspoll is just more of the same. Labor leads 59-41 two-party preferred, a swing of about 12%, or enough to wipe out about two-thirds of Coalition MPs. That’s the fourth successive result putting Labor between 57% and 61%.

The satisfaction ratings give the same message of stability: Kevin Rudd’s approval is unchanged again at 66%, while John Howard’s is mired in the low 40s (now 42%, down from 44%). Howard trails as preferred prime minister, 48%-36%, also stable for the last month.

It’s that stability that is so dispiriting for the Government. As long as polls are going up and down, politicians can always shrug off a few bad ones. But recent results suggest that people have made up their minds, and that it will take something major to shift them. The Brian Burke beat-up certainly didn’t do it, and so far the Sunrise/dawn service affair hasn’t made an impact either.

In 2001 and 2004, the Government was at least looking competitive again by June. If Howard’s much-vaunted political genius is going to accomplish a similar turnaround this year, he’s fast running out of time.

And in other news for election junkies, Adam Carr has a detailed election guide up at his Psephos site, stealing a march on both Antony Green and the Poll Bludger. It’s well worth checking out.

Peter Fray

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