Julia Gillard has ended a long decline in her personal approval ratings in today’s Essential Report, with a big recovery from her truly dire approval figures of July. Last week, 35% of voters approved of her performance, and 55% disapproved. That’s a -20% net approval rating, but significantly better than in July, when she was on 29%/62%.

In the interim, furious debate over the carbon pricing package has given over to a number of big-picture reforms on health, aged care and disabilities.

Tony Abbott’s approval rating has fallen marginally, with his approval down 2 points to 37% and disapproval up 1 point to 50%, his highest disapproval rating this year. The Prime Minister also reversed Mr Abbott’s lead as better Prime Minister from July, and narrowly leads him 38-36%. There still remains a gender divide over better Prime Minister — men prefer Mr Abbott 41-35% and women prefer Ms Gillard 40-32%.

None of that has acted to significantly help Labor’s vote, which lifted 1 point to 31% while the Coalition remained on 50%, with a 2PP outcome of 57-43%. However, there’s a sense that Julia Gillard has now been through the worst; her announcement of a carbon pricing scheme in February led to a catastrophic collapse in both Labor’s vote and her standing with voters that only now seems to be moderating.

Essential also asked about voters’ perception of the economy. In an interesting contrast, 70% of voters think the Australian economy has performed better than overseas economies in recent years, but only 54% think the Government has handled the economy well, compared to 39% who think it has handled the economy poorly — Liberal voters are strongly of the view that the Government has handled the economy poorly.

Voters are also very pessimistic about the global economy: 47% of voters think another global financial crisis is very or fairly likely, and a further 39% think there’s a 50-50 chance. But they’re divided on the Government’s response is there is one: 36% support another round of stimulus spending but 39% don’t, with opposition very strong among Liberal voters.

Peter Fray

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