Both the prime minister and opposition leader are falling in voters’ estimation, according to today’s Essential Report.

Last week, Essential’s online survey asked voters about the attributes of both leaders, following up the same questions asked since last July. Both leaders are scoring more poorly with voters, although the Prime Minister leads Abbott on most counts. Gillard came to the Labor leadership with strong scores across positive attributes.

In July last year, for example, 87% regarded her as “intelligent”, 72% as “capable”, 61% as “good in a crisis”. In October, after managing to stay in office following a disastrous near-loss in August, her attribute numbers began falling. More than 80% regarded her as “hard-working”, down 7 points. Almost half (46%) regarded her as “good in a crisis”. “More honest than most politicians” fell from 45% to 37%.

Those falls have continued.

Three quarters now regard her as “hard-working”; 40% regard her as “trustworthy”. Her negative attributes have also increased — 43% now regard her as “narrow-minded”, compared to 28% in July; 44% see her as “arrogant”; 50% as “out of touch”.

Abbott also scored worse, but his numbers aren’t as volatile as the PM’s and many of the falls are insignificant.

Like the Prime Minister, he’s not regarded as “intelligent” and “hard-working” as he used to be. His score as “capable leader” has fallen from October to 48%, though it is about the same as it was in July. His score on “understands the problems facing Australia” has fallen 3 points; “more honest than most politicians” 1 point. However, he managed slightly lower scores on “arrogant” and “narrow-minded”.

Problem is, he scores worse than Gillard on all the positive attributes and better than her on negative ones — she scores much more highly on “intelligent” (11 points), well below him on “arrogant” (14 points) and lower on “narrow-minded” (8 points).

Essential also asked voters how they rated the different components of the government’s funding for its flood recovery package. Scrapping the cash-for-clunkers package was popular — 59% support, 29% opposition, and scrapping the Green Car Innovation Fund and CCS programs both had more support than opposition; the levy attracted 44% support and 50% opposition, and dumping solar energy programs was very unpopular, with only 32% support and 56% opposition.

The government’s overall package was preferred by 36% of voters, compared to 28% support for the opposition’s approach, with a very high “Don’t Know” figure. Only 60% of Liberal voters thought Abbott’s approach to funding the flood recovery was better.

And climate scientists might have their work cut out for them explaining how climate change increases the probability of extreme weather: only 31% of voters said they thought the floods were linked to climate change, while 59% said they were simply a natural occurrence.

On voting intention, the two-party preferred numbers remain locked at 51-49 to the Coalition, with Liberal and Labor each picking up a point on their primary vote.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey