Today’s Essential Report shows that Labor has pulled back some voters lost to the Greens in recent weeks. Coupled with a marginal fall in the Coalition’s primary vote, it gives a 2PP result of 52-48%, up 1% in Labor’s favour since last week. Labor has pulled back 3% from the Greens, who had reached a peak of 14% last week.

Like other polls apart from Nielsen, Essential is picking up a remarkable steadiness in the Coalition vote since early May.  It is within touching distance of Labor but appears unable to overtake it when translated into 2PP terms. Labor’s primary vote remains weak, but mostly because it has lost support to the Greens. Even with this week’s 3% drop, the Greens remain on 11%.

However, there is bad news for both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott in the poll.

First Rudd: more voters think Labor would benefit from dumping him than not, 40% to 37%. Critically, only two-thirds of Labor voters want to keep Rudd, and nearly a quarter think Labor would benefit from his departure. Rudd only leads Julia Gillard as preferred PM by 3%, 36-33%, down from a 19% lead back in February. However, among Labor voters, his lead is more solid, 56-30%.

Interestingly, however, Rudd is only down 3% as preferred Prime Minister over Abbott from 22 March when Essential last compared them, 47-30%, suggesting his opposite number has not been able to capitalise on the collapse in Rudd’s satisfaction ratings with voters.

And if Kevin Rudd is facing leadership difficulties, Tony Abbott should be in deep trouble. 47% of all voters think the Liberals would be better with another leader, and only 29% want to see them keep Abbott. 25% of Liberal voters think they’d do better with someone other than Abbott, and only 62% want to see him retained — both numbers even worse than Rudd’s amongst Labor voters.

As better Prime Minister, Julia Gillard outscores Abbott slightly more than the Prime Minister does, 50-32%. Gillard scores much higher than Rudd with Liberal voters, only three-quarters of whom rate Abbott above Gillard.

There’s been quite a bit of media hysteria over recent days about Rudd’s leadership. But nearly all polls show a consistent story for more than a month: Labor holds a small lead, and the Coalition’s efforts to bridge the gap appeared to be hampered by a leader even more disliked than Kevin Rudd.

Essential also asked voters about their support for our continuing presence in Afghanistan. 61% of voters want Australia to withdraw its forces from the conflict, and only 24% retain our current level of commitment. There is little support for increasing our presence. The numbers are interesting for their relative consistency across party alignment: even 55% of Liberal voters want to see our forces pulled out, and only 7% — the same as all voters — support Tony Abbott’s stated intention of increasing the number of Australian troops there.

Labor is committed to an ongoing Australian role in the conflict for the foreseeable future. On the long-running conflict, both parties have policies at odds with the views of most voters.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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