Today’s Newspoll via The Oz comes in with the primaries running 44 (down 1)/38(up 1) to Labor, washing out into a two party preferred of 55/45 the same way — a 2 point gain to the Coalition since last fortnight. The Greens come in on 9 (down 1), while the broad “Others” are sitting on 9 (up 1). This comes from a sample of 1151, giving us an MoE that maxes out around the 2.9% mark.

The interesting thing to come out of this poll isn’t so much the small increase in Turnbull’s satisfaction levels (still dismal), not the 2 point jump to the Coalition (swings and roundabouts). The interesting thing is that this poll has the “Undecided” responses for Turnbull at the lowest level they’ve been since he became leader, lower even than Nelson experienced at the end of his period as Leader of the Opposition.

When Newspoll asks the satisfaction question, they provide three options as a response — are you satisfied, dissatisfied or otherwise uncommitted about a leader. Similarly on the preferred PM question, you can answer that your preferred PM is Rudd, Turnbull or that you’re uncommitted.

If we track the uncommitted responses for these three question, you can see how public opinion has slowly hardened up.

In Howard’s final term, when the public had seen 11 years of him, the level of uncommitted respondents on his satisfaction ratings was around 10%. It generally doesn’t go lower than that for any prolonged period of time outside of the last week or two of an election campaign. Interestingly, the level of uncommitted respondents for Rudd has been sitting around that 10% mark for all of this year, suggesting that the public have structurally come to a decision about the Prime Minister — the number of umm’ers and ah’ers has been reduced to it’s approximate smallest level of potential.

Turnbull on the other hand still has voters crystallising their thoughts — still having some fat there in public opinion being capable of giving him the benefit of the doubt as that group of undecideds make up their mind. This is what happened this fortnight — Turnbull’s satisfaction ratings didn’t improve because people on net changed their mind about him, it improved because the size of the uncommitteds decreased and those uncommitteds all ran, on net, into Turnbull’s satisfaction column – giving him a small boost in the overall satisfaction ratings.

But that level of uncommitteds is now the lowest it’s been for an Opposition leader this term — sitting on 14 — resulting in the size of that potential fat shrinking. It’s also worth mentioning that 14 is a pretty low level of uncommitted responses for any Opposition leader.

Turnbull did a good job this week in crystalising those people out and into his column — and it might be worth pondering why. But he needs to realise where it came from — not in changing peoples minds who already had an opinion about him (at least not in net terms), but from convincing those that had yet to make up their mind that he was doing a good job.

Although, on this, a Labor hack told Crikey that the reason was pretty obvious — Turnbull was shown this week to have once wanted to join Labor, so the public realised he couldn’t be all bad … the shamelessness of some people.

The usual charts come in like this.

Peter Fray

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