Tony Abbott’s week from hell and the continuing fallout from the floods has delivered a boost to Labor, according to today’s Essential Report.

In online polling conducted last week and over the weekend, Labor’s primary vote rose 2 points at the expense of the Liberals, marking the first time since late October that Labor has managed a primary vote of 40%. With the Greens remaining steady on 10%, the two-week average 2PP moves back to 50-50.

The Prime Minister’s personal numbers fell, with her approval rating falling back below 50% to 48%, and her disapproval rating rising 5 points to 41%. However, they remain much healthier than her end-of-year numbers, when she could only manage a three-point net approval rating.

Tony Abbott was hit hard by last week’s events, including the now-infamous “shit happens” reaction: his approval rating fell 4 points to 38% and his disapproval rating rose nine points to 46%, taking him well into net disapproval territory for the first time since October.

And while men were evenly split on Julia Gillard, she holds a strong lead with women in personal approval ratings — 15 points — in contrast to Abbott, who badly trails with female voters 34-46%, but only narrowly with male voters, 43-46%. It’s a starker story on preferred prime minister — men favour Gillard over Abbott 45-36%, but women prefer the prime minister by far more — 52-26%. Overall, the prime minister increased her preferred PM lead by two points to 48-31%.

The news wasn’t so good for Labor on the NBN. Compared to September, support for the project has fallen eight points, and opposition has increased a lot — from 18% to 31%.

Essential also asked about support for a permanent disaster relief fund, compared to handling disasters ad hoc from the budget. There was strong support for a permanent fund, 63-29%. Moreover, support was practically uniform across all voters, with Labor, Liberal and Greens voters all closely mirroring each other.

About half voters believed that the floods and cyclone made it more important that we take action on climate change, compared to 47% who thought it made no difference, with Greens voters strongest in support, followed by Labor voters, and a majority of Liberal voters rejecting the idea that it was more important by 63%.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey