Malcolm Turnbull has made an impressive debut as Prime Minister in the eyes of voters, according to today’s Essential Report poll — but the more positive mood seems to have spread to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as well.

Turnbull’s first approval rating as Prime Minister is 47%-17%, a net approval rating of 30%. Remarkably, Turnbull has a net approval rating with both Labor and Greens voters. It’s a massive contrast with Tony Abbott, whose last approval number as Prime Minister was a mammoth 24-point net disapproval rating. Turnbull, however, also has a strong “Don’t Know” level, suggesting more than a third of voters are sitting on the fence and waiting for some substance to judge.

Shorten’s approval rating hasn’t shifted significantly — it’s on 30%, up a point from September — but his disapproval rating has fallen eight points to 42%, meaning his net disapproval rating is a more tolerable -12, compared to over -20, as it has been in recent months — an impressive recovery. But Turnbull leads Shorten as preferred prime minister, 48%-19%, down a little from Turnbull’s initial outing as preferred PM in the immediate aftermath of his elevation, 53%-17%.

Turnbull, though has had mixed results for party trust. With the removal of Abbott, we can test the impact of the leadership change on how much voters trust each party as being better at handling issues, which Essential asked about last month under Abbott. On the economy, the Coalition has extended its lead from September, when it led Labor by 16 points as the party most trusted to manage the economy. Now it leads Labor by 41% to 23%. But on health, the next most important electoral issue, the Coalition’s deficit has widened from -4 to -7 since September; on education it’s widened from -2 to -5; on industrial relations it has widened from -8 to -11; on housing affordability it has gone from 0 to -7; its lead on treatment of asylum seekers has shrunk from 12 to 7 points.

Asked about domestic violence, 62% of people agreed it “can affect people like me and people I know well”, with little difference across voting intention; 27% agreed it “probably doesn’t affect people like me and people I know well”, with women a lot more likely than men to say it can affect people like them.

And more voters — 56% — agreed it was more important to expand public transport than to build roads and freeways (33%), with Liberal voters least supportive of public transport (52% to 41%) and Greens most supportive. Young people and Victorians were more likely to be supportive of public transport. But voters are very hostile to road tolls: 64% say new roads and freeways should only be built if they don’t have tolls, with only 24% supporting toll roads — although Liberal voters, at 59%, were a little less averse to tolls than other voters.

On voting intention, there’s little change in the primary vote, suggesting the Turnbull surge has stabilised now for the Coalition. The Coalition primary vote remains on 44% and Labor on 35%; the Greens are down a point to 10%, for a 2PP outcome of 52%-48% in the Coalition’s favour, the same as last week.

Peter Fray

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