Dislike of the Gillard government is the key motive for many voters preparing to vote for an Abbott government, new polling from Essential Research shows. At the same time, dislike of Tony Abbott emerges as a stronger reason for those voters intending to vote Labor.
After a week of leadership instability, culminating in Thursday’s leadership farce and the departure of several senior ministers, Labor’s primary vote has fallen two points to 33%. However, the beneficiary is not the Coalition, which stayed level on 47%, but the Greens, whose vote has returned to double figures for the first time in months, rising two points to 11%.
This may suggest the leadership farce has sent Labor supporters to the Left rather than to the Right, as happened in 2010 when the Greens achieved a record vote off the back of the Rudd-Gillard feud and disenchantment with both major parties.
The two-party preferred result remains the same at 54-46 in favour of the Coalition.
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However, disgruntled ex-Labor voters who may have shifted to the Greens could still be won back: Greens voters are the most likely to change their minds between now and the election, with just 18% of Greens voters saying they definitely will not change their minds on their voting intention. Liberal voters are the most rusted on, with 57% saying they definitely will not change their mind, and 40% of Labor voters. Some 41% of Greens voters say they may change their mind during the campaign, compared to just 16% of Labor voters and 11% of Coalition voters.
Essential found Labor’s greatest weapon is Tony Abbott. The most popular response that those who said they’d vote Labor gave was “I don’t want Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister”; 35% gave this answer. The option of “the Labor Party has been a good government” was selected by just 11% of those intending to vote Labor.
The Coalition’s greatest weapon is Labor. The most common answer given by those intending to vote for the Coalition was “the Labor Party has been a poor government”, on 34%.
On the thorny issue of media regulation — Labor shelved the most controversial parts of its package late last week — Essential found there is not a strong appetite for reform. Forty three per cent of voters said the current level of media regulation was about right, while 29% thought there should be more regulation (Greens and Labor voters were much more likely to support more media regulation, but even among those groups it was less than half).
While there’s been an outcry in some quarters about the media coverage of Labor’s proposed media reforms, with strongly negative coverage in News Limited newspapers particularly, the public is not so concerned. A quarter of those surveyed thought the media’s coverage of the issue had been poor, while 39% thought the coverage had been neither good nor bad, and 31% thought the coverage had been good. Labor and Greens voters were more likely to think the media coverage had been poor, but still only a third gave that response, while a more common answer was neither good nor poor.
Essential found the public did not loathe Labor’s proposed media reforms, but neither was there a groundswell of support for them. Thirty six per cent of respondents said “don’t know” when asked if they supported the package, 34% opposed the package and 29% supported it.
The responses to the Essential poll indicate the media may have misjudged how fascinated the public actually was in the media reform issue. While there was extensive media coverage, with pages and pages devoted to the issue in News Limited particularly, the most common responses to questions were generally along the lines of “don’t know”. Two thirds of respondents had not been highly engaged in the issue, saying they had read or heard nothing or a little about the reforms, or responding “don’t know”.