Voters say they would be far more likely to back Labor if it was led by Kevin Rudd, according to today’s Essential Report.

Essential asked voters about their voting intention if a Rudd-led Labor Party was up against Tony Abbott’s Liberals. The result is a surge in Labor support that reverses its current dire polling position. This week, Labor’s primary vote remains at 32%, with the Coalition on 48% and the Greens on 11%, for the same 2PP result as last week, 55-45% in favour of the Coalition.

Asked for whom they’d vote if Rudd led Labor, Labor’s primary vote rose to 45%, at the expense of  the Greens (8%) and the Coalition (42%). With Don’t Know respondents removed, Labor’s 2PP lead would be 53-47% — slightly bigger than the 52-48% 2PP result in Rudd’s last poll as prime minister in June 2010.

Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are preferred leaders of their parties with voters, though not among their respective party’s voters. Essential also asked voters how a Turnbull-led Coalition would perform against Julia Gillard. Turnbull drives the Liberal vote up to 53%, but Labor’s vote only falls one point — the extra support for a Turnbull-led Coalition comes from the Greens vote, which falls to 8%. A Turnbull-led Coalition would lead Gillard Labor by 59-41% in 2PP terms.

Part of the explanation lies in the continuing problem for Gillard and Abbott that voters don’t have a high regard for them — a situation that is getting worse for both leaders. This week Essential asked voters about the attributes of Gillard and Abbott.

The Prime Minister recorded falls, in some cases substantial falls, in positive attributes since the same question was last asked in February, before the announcement of the carbon pricing scheme. Gillard has lost 10 points on trustworthiness — down from 40% to 30%, and 10 points on “a capable leader”, down from 52% to 42%.  “Out of touch” rose from 50% to 60%. She’s still regarded as intelligent and hard-working, but she also had big falls on “more honest than most politicians” and “understand the problems facing Australia”.

Abbott didn’t see such big falls from February but he went backwards across the board: up four points on “superficial”, up three points on “out of touch”, up three points on “narrow-minded”, down two points on “trustworthy”, down two points on “understand the problems facing Australia”.

Despite Gillard recording such big falls, Abbott still trails the Prime Minister, often significantly, on several attributes. She has a big lead on “intelligent” (73-61%), trails by 12 points on “arrogant” and trails by eight points on “narrow-minded”. She trails slightly on “trustworthiness” — two points — and leads by three on “out of touch” and superficial. Neither leader is regarded as visionary — 26 and 27% — and neither receive an endorsement as “capable leader” — 42 and 45%.

Peter Fray

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