Labor is hanging on to its small lead in two-party preferred terms, slipping back to 51-49 from 52-48 last week, according to the Essential Report poll. But voters are rating the party poorly on its handling of key issues, while the Greens have surged to 14% to record their highest-ever level of support.

Labor’s primary vote has fallen 2%, while the Coalition is steady.

It is Labor’s comparative performance on key issues that will concern party strategists. On handling the economy, representing the interests of voters, dealing with immigration, having a vision for the future, being honest and ethical and even handling international relations, Labor trails the Coalition, often substantially. Only on representing the interests of workers, standing up to multinationals and understanding the needs of average Australians does the government outperform the opposition.

Essential included the Greens in the same question for the first time. But the party only performed strongly on handling environmental and climate change issues, suggesting the high Green vote is driven by anger at Labor rather than any Greens appeal to voters.

The poll again showed voters evenly split on the RSPT, with 42% agreeing with the mining industry that the RSPT would curb investment, and 40% agreeing with the government that mining companies will continue to enjoy strong profits.

The only good news for Rudd from the poll is that he managed a net positive rating as a good leader of his party of 4%, compared to Tony Abbott who had a net negative one of -4%.

Neither leader, however, could hold a candle to their respective prime ministerial predecessors. John Howard scored 51-26% approval rating as a party leader, and Paul Keating managed 40-26%. Malcolm Turnbull had similar ratings to Tony Abbott — 28-33%.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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