This morning’s Newspoll suggests that Mark Textor was a bit hard on Prime Minister John Howard in his June report on the state of national opinion.

The Liberal Party’s own pollster described Mr Howard as “old” and “dishonest” but there are still slightly more people who approve of the job he is doing than disapprove. The problem is not that the PM is friendless; it is that he is not as highly regarded as those he is attacking.

Several months ago government ministers were confident they could tarnish the image of new-boy Kevin Rudd. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer kept calling the kettle black with references to Rudd’s vanity. Health Minister Tony Abbott delighted in the embarrassment of Mr Rudd’s wife when there was a problem or two in the payment records of her business. Even Mr Howard himself joined in with a little bit of mud-slinging.

It was to no avail. Playing the man seemed to enhance the image of the Opposition Leader rather than hurt it. This latest Newspoll has him cruising along with an approval rating of 62% with only 19% of respondents voicing disapproval. That positive gap of 43 points compares with Mr Howard’s meagre surplus of 3 points.

The frustration of Liberals and Nationals is obvious. The worst criticism Ministers like Immigration dunce Kevin Andrews can make is that Mr Rudd does not play fair because he keeps agreeing with the Government.

On the way in to Parliament House this morning the very minor Minister of Revenue Peter Dutton could not contain himself. Mr Dutton turned positively scatological.

“People at the moment are looking at Kevin Rudd like they’re looking at a promo for Big Brother,” he opined. “I mean it’s exciting, it’s fresh and when the big night comes, and people actually have a closer look and they look at the detail and they get a better understanding about what the show is about, they actually realise that the show is a load of crap.”

Comments like that are unlikely to do anything other than confirm in the public mind the sense of desperation that Mark Textor referred to in his leaked piece of research.

That the Government listens to Mr Textor’s advice is clear enough from the way that the target of attacks by the Prime Minister himself has moved from Mr Rudd to the state premiers but there is evidence in other recent Newspolls that this too might be barren ground. State premiers, you see, are generally a far more popular lot than the beleaguered Mr Howard. Only Queensland’s Peter Beattie is rated worse than the PM, as the following table shows:



Mr Howard



WA Premier



SA Premier



Qld Premier



NSW Premier



Vic Premier



Ryan Perry enters the Hall of Fame

Ryan Perry joins our Psephology Hall of Fame as the winner of this morning’s Pick the Newspoll contest. He narrowly beat Heather Witham and Stephen Luntz and will receive a dozen bottles of wine along with the fortnightly bragging rights.

One again our entrants were very accurate forecasters getting the two party preferred vote spot on at 44% for the Coalition and 56% for the ALP.

You will find the full scorecard on our blog here.