Julia Gillard is seen as a vastly less capable, intelligent and hard-working leader than she was two years ago, new polling reveals. While half of the electorate thought they could trust her in July 2010, only a quarter say the same thing now.

And yet her opponent Tony Abbott records similar disapproval figures in the Essential Research poll, with most voters maintaining he is untrustworthy, arrogant and out of touch.

Essential’s online panel has assessed both leaders on key indicators since July 2010. In that time Gillard has suffered significant falls in the number of people who find her intelligent (61%, down 26%), hard-working (65%, down 24%) and a capable leader (38%, down 34%). More voters find her arrogant (53%, up 5%) and “out of touch with ordinary people” (65%, up 5%).

On the question of trust, 49% of respondents said Gillard was trustworthy in 2010 while only 25% maintain that opinion now. That figure dropped a further 5% since the last time the question was asked in June 2011.

Abbott’s approval ratings across the same indicators have fallen less markedly since 2010. Less voters find him intelligent (56%, down 14%), hard-working (68%, down 8%) and a capable leader (41%, down 6%). He is also more arrogant, superficial and less visionary, though he has maintained a level of trustworthiness — just 32%, down 1% — over the last two years.

Gillard actually stacks up well against Abbott in key areas. Voters believe she is more intelligent and less arrogant and narrow-minded; the leaders compare similarly as being capable and having vision. But the trust question remains: there’s a seven-point gap between Gillard (25%) and Abbott (32%). Neither leader can be trusted, but voters will take the opposition leader marginally in a two-horse race.

Unlike today’s Nielsen poll — which shows Labor’s primary vote falling a dizzying seven points — there’s no immediate cause for concern in the Essential figures. Another point has been sliced from Labor’s primary vote, with the Liberals and the Greens adding a point to their tally. The two-party preferred split is now at 55:45% — a 10-point gap to the Coalition.

Essential’s poll of 1034 voters also asked the question of superannuation payments and the federal government’s plan to increase compulsory contributions from 9% to 12% by 2019-20. Most agree, regardless of their party support, with 69% supporting the decision and just 13% opposed.

And voters believe employers can wear the cost: 58% say the increase to their contribution is “reasonable and affordable” as opposed to the 19%, not surprisingly, who believe employees should bear the cost by accepting lower pay rises.

Meanwhile, most voters say government is too big. But then, with these leaders it’s not hard to see why …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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