Men like Tony Abbott, women don’t — but there’s one thing both sexes can agree on. They rather like Joe Hockey.

As Tony Abbott faces his first day in Parliament as Prime Minister today, his old friend — the disapproval monkey — is on his back once more. Abbott has long struggled against relatively high net disapproval ratings. According to ongoing polling by Essential Research, he was in net negative approval territory for much of this year, but managed to post a positive result two weeks after the September election. He followed this up with a good October, scoring a net positive rating of +11 points.

Now he’s heading backwards. The latest Essential poll, taken from Thursday to Sunday, found 45% approved while 40% disapproved, a net approval of +5 points.

His problem is not with men, where his net approval is +12 points. It’s among women; his approval rating is -3 points, and that’s getting worse.

This is an unusually stark difference between the sexes on a political questions and indicates Abbott, despite his promise of more generous parental leave, is failing to appeal to women.

Women are more prone to approve of new ALP leader Bill Shorten (net approval of him is +6 points among women, and +1% among men). However, many people have not made their minds up on the new Labor leader; 43% of respondents said “don’t know” to that question.

When the two leaders are compared, Abbott is easily ahead 42% to 27% as preferred prime minister. The legacy of Labor’s new leadership selection process — which gave members a say, although it wasn’t a very loud one (members preferred Anthony Albanese as leader) — could be impacting on polling results. Over a third of Labor voters responded “don’t know” when asked for their preferred prime minister. On the other side, Coalition voters lined up strongly behind Abbott.

But would they line up even more strongly behind Treasurer Joe Hockey one day? The Treasurer is polling well, with a net approval rate of +17% (that’s 45% approval to 28% disapproval). Men like him and women like him. His numbers are better than Abbott’s and Shorten’s. Food for thought if Abbott struggles in Parliament?

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Joe Hockey is doing as Treasurer?

The online Essential poll of just over 1000 people found Labor’s way out of the carbon-pricing obstacle course is playing fairly well. The ALP has decided to only vote for the repeal of the carbon tax if it were replaced by an emissions trading scheme (the Coalition wants to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a grants scheme). While some Tory commentators are agitating for Labor to simply vote to scrap the tax, Labor’s approach has won 48% approval in general (26% disapprove), with voters from each party giving it a net positive approval rating. Those numbers would encourage Shorten to stick to his guns on the carbon tax.

As for Coalition policy, voters are reasonably happy with plans to dump the mining tax and the increased tax on super earnings from those with more money in the bank. They also don’t mind the plan to scrap Labor’s cap on self-education expenses. But there’s one change voters don’t like at all — dumping the government subsidy for people with lower super contributions. A whopping 59% disapprove of that move (just one in four voters thought it was a good idea).

There was little change in voting intention this week. The Coalition remains ahead on the two-party-preferred by 53-47% (that’s pretty similar to the election result), while the primary vote hovers at 44% for the Coalition, 35% Labor and 9% Greens. So while voters aren’t going mad for Abbott, that’s not putting them off the Coalition.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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