Last week’s traumas for the Liberal Party have only had a minor impact on voters, today’s Essential Research poll shows. A small lift in Labor’s primary vote, at the expense of the Liberals, has pushed Labor back out to a 52-48% lead.

Labor’s once massive polling lead had collapsed to 50-50 in recent weeks, a result reflected across all major opinion polls, but the fall appears to have stabilised in the wake of the Budget.

Last week was dominated by self-inflicted wounds by the Coalition, with Tony Abbott’s 7.30 Report brain-snap and Joe Hockey letting his clumsy attempts to media management obscure his Budget reply speech. However, the government has also been battling a campaign from the mining industry against its new super profits tax.

Support for the RSPT appears to be softening.  Two weeks ago, in the wake of the release of the Henry Review and the government’s response, 52% of voters supported the proposal, with 34% opposed — a lower level of support than other aspects of the government’s proposal like the increase in the compulsory superannuation rate, or even its increase in tobacco excise. Last week, 43% of those polled said they supported the overall package of reforms — involving the RSPT funding a cut in company and small business taxes and superannuation changes — compared to 36%.

The prime minister still appears to be on the nose with voters: 58% of voters said they had a less favourable impression of Rudd in recent weeks; a third had a “much less favourable” view. Their reasons for the change of heart, however, are more complex than pundits have suggested. The dominant reason given is failing to honour election commitments (24%) rather than asylum seekers (15% say too soft, 4% say too hard), insulation and BER (13%), the RSPT (12%) or the most commonly-cited issue by commentators, the government’s ETS decision, which only 7% said was their main reason for changing their view of Rudd and Labor.

Abbott, too, has fallen in voters’ estimation, with 34% saying they viewed him less favourably — although 26% regarded him more favourably (alarmingly, 21% said they viewed him much less favourably). Both Abbott and Rudd have remarkably similar figures on trustworthiness. Asked if they regard Rudd and Abbott as more or less trustworthy than average political leaders, voters gave both the thumbs down. Twenty percent for Abbott and 19% for Rudd regarded them as more trustworthy; 32% for Abbott and 34% for Rudd regarded them as less trustworthy — and 22% for Abbott and 21% for Rudd viewed them as much less trustworthy.

Significantly for Rudd, fewer Labor voters regard him as more trustworthy than most political leaders than Coalition voters believe Abbott is.

Rudd had high levels of trustworthiness until this year, but appears to have blown whatever credit he had with voters on that score. His only consolation is that Abbott — who early in his leadership appeared to be engaging more voters — is now stuck in the same rut he is. Misery loves company.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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