New polling from Essential Research has yielded no further rise in Labor’s primary vote but a surprisingly strong lift in voter sentiment towards Julia Gillard. The results on Essential’s semi-regular “leader attributes” questions (coming the week Julia Gillard was absent from Parliament due to the death of her father) showed a marked rise in her positive characteristics and a fall in her negative ones.

For Tony Abbott, however, the news is rather less positive.

Fifty six per cent of voters now believe Gillard is out of touch from ordinary Australians, compared to 65% in April. This brings the Prime Minister much closer to Abbott on this aspect, as 57% of voters believe he is out of touch from ordinary Australians, compared to 54% in the previous quarter. Only 37% believe Abbott is a capable leader, down four points from last quarter, while 43% believe Gillard is a capable leader, up five points on last quarter. Gillard also trumped Abbott in several other categories, including intelligent (68-62%), arrogant (46-63%), intolerant (37-53%) and narrow-minded (46-59%).

Essential also added some new attributes: on “aggressive”, Abbott’s score of 59% vastly overshadows Gillard’s score of 42% (unsurprising given the focus on his behaviour 35 years ago last week), while he also has a big lead on “intolerant”.

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Essential also explored attitudes towards drug use and drug regulation among voters. There appears to be little support for decriminalisation except among Greens voters: while 23% of Greens voters thought current drug laws were too harsh, only 8% of all voters did so (and even 26% of Greens voters thought they were too soft).

Voters with close friend or relatives who use illicit drugs are more likely to view current laws as too harsh, but 47% of them think they are “too soft”. The strongest support for decriminalisation was in relation to cannabis, for which 38% of voters supported decriminalisation compared to 49% who opposed it. But for ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, opposition to decriminalisation was around 80% or more.

There was also strong support for government legislation to curb online abuse following controversies over “trolling”, with 83% of voters supporting legislation to “prevent people from using social media to attack and bully individuals”, including 55% who “strongly supported” it.

Yet again, there has been minimal change on voting intention, with the Coalition’s primary vote up a point to 48%, while the other parties recorded no change, with Labor on 34% and the Greens at 9%. The two-party preferred vote recorded no change: the Coalition leads 55-45%.

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