Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the prime ministership has turbocharged the Coalition vote, today’s Essential Report shows.

The Coalition now leads Labor 52%-48% on a two-party preferred basis, its first lead since March 2014, based on a primary vote of 44% (up three points), compared to 35% for Labor (down two points) and 11% (unchanged) for the Greens. That marks the first full fortnight of the Turnbull era. Based on results from last week alone rather than a fortnightly rolling average, the Coalition’s lead is even higher — 53.5%-46.5%, suggesting the Turnbull effect is taking some time to play out.

Voters also think Tony Abbott should now leave politics, with 41% saying he should resign from Parliament compared to 25% who think he should remain on the backbench. However, more Liberal voters would prefer Abbott remain in Parliament (34%) than resign (27%).

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However, there’s little evidence that the Turnbull ascendancy has translated into a more optimistic view of the economy for voters. Asked how they viewed the overall state of the economy, just 26% rated it as good, 32% rated it as poor and 39% said somewhere in between. Compared to March this year, that’s a drop of one point for both good and poor and a rise of three points for “neither good nor poor”. Even in August last year, as the Abbott government’s woes deepened in the wake of the disastrous 2014 budget, optimists outnumbered pessimists 37%-26%. And more voters (39%) think the economy is heading in the wrong direction than the right direction (34%) — about the same levels as before the leadership spill (41%-35%).

Essential also asked about perceptions of the major groups that benefit under each political party, and the numbers show a tale of profound disillusionment with the Coalition since the question was last asked, on the eve of the 2013 election. Back then, voters recognised that the wealthy and big business would do well under a Coalition government but thought there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the parties for a number of other groups. That’s now significantly changed. Large corporations are better off under a Coalition government according to 55% of voters, compared to just 10% who think they’re better off under Labor — about the same difference (45%) as the difference in July 2013; ditto for people on high incomes (45-point gap, compared to a 41-point gap in 2013). But other numbers shows a marked difference. In 2013, “people and families on middle incomes” were on balance seen as better under the Coalition (by a five-point gap); now that gap is -6 (26% say better under the Coalition, 32% say better under Labor).

And on which party “average working people” are better under, the Coalition trailed Labor only by two points in 2013; now that’s -20. “Families with children at public school” have gone from -14 to -23; “single parents” from -15 to -31; pensioners from -11 to -23; unemployed people from -14 to -32, “people on low incomes” from -21 to -33, while on families with children in private school, the Coalition has extended its 2013 lead of 27 points to 36 points. Even for traditional heartland Coalition constituencies, the news is bad: for farmers, the Coalition’s lead fell from 15 to 5, and for the iconic small business sector the Coalition’s lead fell from 18 to 12.

Virtually every number tells of a significant shift in voter views on the Coalition compared to the relatively high hopes held before the 2013 election. And that’s the Abbott (and Hockey) legacy: to turn the Coalition into an outfit seen as only good for corporations and the rich, and bad for everyone else. Once the Turnbull honeymoon ends, he’ll have some work to do to repair that damage.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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