The dramatic extent of Labor’s reputational damage with the electorate is made clear in today’s Essential Report, which concentrates on the perceived attributes of the major parties and the Greens.

Essential has asked about a series of positive and negative attributes of the parties twice before, in 2009 and last year. Just over a year ago, Labor performed significantly more poorly than in 2009, but the party’s perceptions have dramatically worsened since then.

Seventy two per cent of voters believe “will promise to do anything to win votes” applies to Labor, up nine  points since March last year, while 66% believe “divided” applies — a massive 30-point increase since last year. “Out of touch” has increased 13 points to 61%, and “moderate” has dropped 12 points to 51%. Even otherwise uncharacteristic descriptions such as “extreme” now garner significant support, up 12 points to 38%.  And whereas even last year 52% of voters thought Labor had a good team of leaders, only 34% now feel that way.

For the Liberals, however, it’s all positive: a drop in the number of voters who think they’ll promise to do anything to win votes — down from 72% to 65%; a rise in “moderate” perceptions by five points to 55%; “out of touch” down to 54%, “divided” down from 66% to 49%. There was also a big improvement on “good team of leaders”, but off rather a low base, up nine points to 40%. The Liberals lead Labor on nearly every positive indicator and trail on nearly every negative indicator. Labor still has a one-point lead on “looks after the interests of working people.”

Essential also asked the same questions about the Greens. They did poorly on attributes such as “extreme” (61%) and “out of touch” (60%) but were lower than the major parties on “will promise to do anything to win votes” (52%). But they also performed as well as or better than Labor and Liberal on “clear about what they stand for” (51%) and “have a vision for the future” (49%). Labor only scored 28% on “clear about what they stand for” (the Liberals scored 44%) and 43% on “vision for the future” (Liberals 48%). There’s also little risk of the Greens being perceived as too close to corporate and financial interests — the Liberals were way ahead on that, on 60%; 46% of voters thought that of Labor, but only 22% (and what on earth were they thinking) of the Greens.

On other questions, the recent scandals around ADFA don’t appear to have tarnished the reputation of the military as a career option — 71% of people still think it provides a good career for young people, although it isn’t as well regarded as a trade, or ICT (both well over 80%) or teaching or nursing. And voters also strongly support greater regulation of poker machines — 62% want more regulation of pokies, second only to online gambling (68%) and well ahead of sports and horse racing betting.

On voting intention, it’s steady: Coalition primary vote on 47%, Labor on 35%; Greens down a point to 10%, the same 2PP as last week, 54-46% to the Coalition.

Peter Fray

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