As Labor contemplates the smoking ruin of its Queensland branch, its federal position appears to be slightly recovering, suggests today’s Essential Report.

On voting intention, Labor’s primary vote has picked up two points to 34% while the Coalition and the Greens have dropped a point each to 47% and 10% respectively, producing a 2PP outcome of 54-46% — a substantial turnaround from a fortnight ago when it reached 57-43% in the aftermath of Labor’s leadership spill.

Labor has also picked up some ground a on brand-related indicators — bearing in mind it is coming off truly awful lows. On the question of “who is best at handling the Australian economy in the interests of you and people like you?” Labor’s rating improved to 29% from 26% last July, with the Coalition way ahead 41%.

And expectation about the Australian economy are now better than they were for much of 2011, with 25% of voters saying they believe economic conditions will improve compared to 46% believing they will deteriorate. But that’s a significant improvement on October, when only 16% expected improvement and 58% expected deterioration. Indeed, that’s the best result since Essential asked the same question in April last year. There’s also been a rise in the number of people expecting their personal financial situation to improve, up four points to 28% from October, with a corresponding fall to 37% for those expecting it to worsen.

However, there are also some notable negatives: more people are concerned about they or a family member losing their job — that’s risen two points to 49% compared to October. And only 36% of voters think the economy is heading in the right direction, down a point from July last year.

The changes have some significance because comparisons with last year are important: both broader economic and personal financial expectations tend to be strongly partisan — if you’re a Coalition voter under a Labor government, you see the economy and your own personal economic circumstances in a much worse light than Labor voters do, regardless of objective reality. But Labor was enduring abysmal polling from March 2011 onwards, giving us a relatively similar basis for comparison. One of Labor’s key goals will be to significantly lift its reputation with voters not just for economic management, but economic management in the interests of voters, an important distinction.

Essential also looked at the impact of the Kony 2012 video, which has now dropped from the media cycle in favour of the onanistic travails of its star, Jason Russell. Sixty eight per cent of people had heard about the video, including over 50% of seniors, and 78% of younger people. Seventy five per cent said they had read about the campaign in the media, and a remarkable 24% said they had watched the entire video, along with 29% who said they’d watched part of it. Five per cent said they had bought the Kony 2012 kit (wristbands, etc) and 7% said they’d pledged support on the Invisible Children website. Sixty three per cent said they hadn’t heard of Kony before the video, despite Kony’s seven-year-old indictment as a war criminal. According to voters, 41% had been sent a link to the video via Facebook or Twitter.

The numbers appear to suggest that while videos going into mass circulation (I refuse to use the word “viral”) can generate significant interest, it is still the case that exposure via the mainstream media is the real generator of mass interest.