The latest monthly Nielsen phone poll provides supporting evidence for the battering taken by the government – and the Prime Minister in particular – in last week’s Newspoll. In this case the poll comes off a low starting point, the previous Nielsen having been what was then a record low for the government with a two-party split of 51-49. This time it’s 50-50, with Labor’s primary vote down two to 37 per cent, the Coalition’s steady on 42 per cent and the Greens up one to 13 per cent. With the exception of last week’s Newspoll, this is the worst two-party rating recorded by the government in any national poll. More striking is the reversal in Kevin Rudd’s personal ratings: his approval rating has collapsed 14 points to 45 per cent, while his disapproval is up 13 to 49 per cent. There is some consolation for the government in that Tony Abbott’s ratings are nothing to write home about either, with both his approval (46 per cent) and disapproval (45 per cent) ratings remaining steady. Rudd’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 59-34 to 53-38. Also:

• Worringly for the government, more respondents oppose (47 per cent) than support (44 per cent) the new resource tax.

• Support for an emissions trading scheme has risen slightly since the government shelved it until 2013: up two points since February to 58 per cent, with a slight majority (45 per cent to 43 per cent) opposing the postponement.

• We are told Western Australian respondents favoured Tony Abbott over Kevin Rudd 53 per cent to 37 per cent, though this would have been from an unreliably small sample.

• Kevin Rudd is considered trustworthy by 43 per cent of respondents, and Tony Abbott by 40 per cent, against 38 per cent and 34 per cent who deem them untrustworthy.

The poll was conducted between Thursday and Saturday from a sample of 1400, for a margin of error of about 2.6 per cent.

UPDATE: Essential Research has joined the party with a 50-50 result which is by far the worst result the outfit has produced for Labor since it opened for business at the start of 2008 (although it does seem to me that Essential’s traditional inflation of the Labor vote relative to phone polls has not been evident for several months now). Bear in mind that Essential is a two-week rolling average: I calculated that last week’s 53-47 result was likely a combination of a 52-48 in the more recent week and a 54-46 the week earlier, which suggests to me the most recent week’s polling was 52-48 in favour of the Coalition. Despite that, the government’s tax package gets a more positive response than from Nielsen: 52 per cent approve of the mining tax compared with 34 per cent disapprove, 72 per cent approve of higher super contributions against 17 per cent disapprove, 54 per cent support lower company tax against 29 per cent disapprove, and 63 per cent support higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol against 31 per cent disapprove (the first measure of the latter I’ve seen). However, 38 per cent think the government’s overall reforms in “the wrong direction” against 34 per cent in “the right direction”. There are also questions on the Prime Minister’s personal attributes such as have been asked twice before by Essential, which predictably have the positive ones down and the negative ones up, with double digit shifts recorded in many cases. Tony Abbott’s ratings by contrast have hardly changed since he arrived in the job in December. Respondents were also asked to nominate the three most important issues that will determine their vote in the federal election, the only noteworthy result being an 11 point decline in “political leadership” since January.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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