With yesterday’s Newspoll, the thing that really stood out was Turnbull’s satisfaction dynamics – where his dissatisfaction rating was getting so high that his predecessor had only surpassed it twice. Carrying on from that, it might be a good time to have a bit of a squiz at how Turnbull and Nelson stack up against each other at similar times in their leadership.

We’ll start the Nelson period off in January of 2008 when the first polls came out, and the Turnbull period will start the day he gained the leadership. In all of the charts, Turnbull’s data is red and Nelson’s blue – where the time axis for Turnbull is at the top and Nelson’s at the bottom.

First up – before we get to the vote estimates – we’ll look at the satisfaction ratings and we’ll throw in Preferred PM as well (just click the charts to expand them).

tnsats tndissats

tnsatuncs tnnetsats


Turnbull is in an equal or better position on every one of the non-vote polling metrics than Nelson was at a comparable period. His satisfactions are higher, his dissatisfactions are the same, his net satisfactions are better as is his preferred PM ratings. However, the one problem Turnbull has is that he seems to be much more of a known quantity that Nelson was – notice Turnbull’s lower level of undecideds – meaning Turnbull doesnt have as much “fat” in the system to turn around his falling levels of public approval. To get his approvals back up, he has to start changing the minds of people that are already dissatisfied with him rather than just convince those that have yet to make up their mind. That’s not as easy as it sounds since public opinion is very inertial.

With Turnbull’s slightly better non-voting metrics, we’d expect him to be comparatively ahead of where Nelson was in the vote estimates – but this is where the “Oh Dear” moment comes in, for not only is Turnbull performing worse with the voters than Nelson, his trend is heading in the wrong direction. Here we’ll use all of the pollsters and run a LOESS regression through the combined results to get our trend lines.

tnprims tntpp

Not only has Turnbull taken the Coalition into a poorer vote position than Nelson achieved at a comparable time in the leadership of the two, but he’s also taken them backwards from the position he inherited when Nelson was replaced.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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