When it comes to unsuccessful Opposition Leaders, some burn their way through public goodwill slowly, while others like Peacock, never really had any goodwill to begin with — but in the modern history of federal leaders of the Opposition, there have been only two that have burnt their public approval like phosphorus.

Forget the comparisons of Turnbull being like Nelson or Latham — no, we have to go all the way back to Alexander Downer to find a situation in any way comparable to that which the Coalition now finds itself in.

While the problem of political support always comes back to vote estimates — they are essentially the only polling metric that really counts — the satisfaction/approval ratings of a leader have an uncanny knack of becoming a threshold test for short term electoral success. Forget “Preferred Prime Minister” — it’s a meaningless beauty contest that rides on the coat tails of the vote estimates, the action is with the satisfaction ratings.Once an Opposition leader has more people disapproving of their performance than approving, warning bells start to sound. However once an Opposition leader has significantly more people disapproving of their performance than approving, their vote — and their electoral fortunes — are generally set in concrete.

If we look at the net satisfaction ratings of every leader of the Opposition over the last two decades at the ninth month of their leadership (or in the case of Downer, the 8th since he couldn’t make nine) — Turnbull finds himself in auspicious company.

Compared to Turnbull, after nine months of leadership Nelson looked positively popular, Crean was doing well and Latham was a superstar. Only Downer and Peacock experienced such public disapproval after such a short period of time.

Not only has an opposition leader never won an election with large negative net satisfaction ratings, but the polling on the vote estimates rarely improves after that large negative split has occurred — certainly not in any significant manner over the last 20 years worth of Newspoll. If we track the net satisfaction ratings of recent failed opposition leaders over the months of their leadership, a typical pattern emerges.

Once a leader has their net satisfaction ratings drop to a certain level, they never recover, to the point where the leadership itself starts to pull the party vote down. Whether that bottoming out is achieved in nine months or 20 matters naught, for once it has occurred, recovery has never been witnessed. The only thing that differs with these leaders is the length of time it took for their party to remove them — but remove them they did.

Turnbull on a net satisfaction rating of negative 33, where 58% of the voting public disapprove of the way he’s doing his job compared to only 17% approval, has reached the level where recovery is pretty much impossible. It might move a few percent over the next few months one way or the other, but a proper recovery is little more than a fantasy.

The question left to answer is whether the Coalition will leave Turnbull hanging for a period of time like the ALP did to Crean, or whether they’ll be humane, cut him down relatively quickly and give a new leader the time needed to prepare for the next election.