Today, a day before the latest Newspoll comes out, Essential Media released its poll showing that the Two Party Preferred percentages had moved in the last week from ALP 56%- LNP 44% to ALP 54%- LNP46%. Now this of course is within the margin of error – meaning there may not have been any movement at all in reality – but it still is a movement – a movement of course from a wipe out scenario for the Liberals to merely that of a slaughter.
While that was interesting (OK, it wasn't really, but you know, let’s play pretend), what is really interesting is the Approval Ratings of both Rudd and Abbott. OK, the Approval Ratings for Rudd are not interesting at all [mental note: must stop saying that everything is interesting] as his Approval Rating shifted from 52% in Feb 22 (the last time the question was asked) to 53%. Rudd’s Disapproval Rating went from 37% to 36%. So yes, not interesting at all.
But Let’s have a squiz at Tony Abbott – in February, his Approval Rating was 45%, in today’s poll it fell through the floor to 33%. His disapproval rating? It went from 36% to 50%! That is his Net-Approval Rating went from Positive 9 to Negative 17 in a month! This, I don’t need to tell you, is not a good thing. (Well not if you are Tony Abbott).
But if this happened, why did the Two Party Preferred for the Libs go up I hear you ask? Well as Dr Deane Hutton on the Curiosity Show would say, I’m glad you asked. Firstly the Two Party Preferred shift is in the last week, the Approval Rating shift is from a month ago. Back in February the Two Party Preferred was 54-46 – ie what it is now.
Now obviously you would still expect there to be a shift – but that is only if you think voters change their vote on the basis of disliking an Opposition Leader. As Possum over at Crikey has shown pretty conclusively the Two Party Preferred score is nicely linked to the Net-Approval/Satisfaction Rating of the Prime Minister – not the Opposition Leader. As there has been negligible change in Rudd’s Net-Approval Rating, it is thus not surprising that there hasn’t been any change in the 2PP (at least from last month).
The other thing to realise (and The Australian has a tough time with this when it comes to Newspoll) is that you can approve of Abbott, but still vote ALP. Back in February 28% of ALP voters “approved” of the job Abbott was doing; this month that figure fell to 16%. In February “only” 58% of ALP voters disapproved of Abbott, now it is 79%. Thus in February, Abbott’s Net-Approval Rating amongst ALP voters was Minus 30; this month it is Minus 63! So the people who have most turned off Abbott are ALP voters (or those who at least would lean that way). These people were not voting Liberal anyway, so Abbott feeling the lack of love is not going to hurt the Liberal Party. Yet…
It’s not all roses for Abbott however (especially as with 50% of the electorate disapproving of his job, he might as well carry around a sign saying “electoral poison”), because the Liberal voters also went a little bit cold on him. Liberal voters approval of Abbott fell from 79% to 72%, and Liberal voter disapproval of Abbott rose from 12% to 19% – leading to a drop in the Liberal voters Net-Approval Rating of Abbott from 67 to 53. They still like him, but perhaps they’re realising he ain’t quite the second coming.
The Essential Report also asked about the Stimulus Spending, looking at each major aspect of the stimulus and comparing its support with 12 months ago.
What you see is that each aspect of the Stimulus Spending has declined in support. In other news just to hand, umbrella sales increase on rainy days. That the support for the Stimulus has declined is not surprising. Twelve months ago it looked like the economy was about to fall off a cliff, and we wanted the Government to do something; now we’re feeling so good that the Essential Report also tells us that while 12 months ago 62% of us were concerned we or one of our family would lose their job, now that figure is only 39%.
But let’s have a look at the figures. The biggest fall in support is for the Schools spending – but it remains still the most popular item at 62%. And here’s the thing, only 15% oppose it. After a good solid 6 months of work by the Liberal Party (ably assisted by The Australian), only 15% oppose the Building the Education Revolution spending. That figure should give great pause to the Liberal Party if they are planning on winning an election by campaigning against it. As for the decline in support – show me any Government policy that gets 84% support, and I’ll show you a policy that will soon decline in support.
The least popular item is that of the Insulation Scheme – little wonder, as it has received by far the most negative media coverage (eg Neil Mitchell going on and on about poor helpless Grandmothers unable to sleep for fear). Thankfully there still exists some intelligent commentary on the issue – such as the great work done by Possum and this article by Robin Tiffen for Inside Story.org – a must read for all. However the Insulation Scheme couldn't even muster a majority support back last year when things were dire, and its shift in support of –14% is pretty much in line with the decline in support the money spent on public and community housing (-12%) and tax breaks for small businesses (-11%). So it is quite likely that the decline in support for the Insulation Scheme would have been much the same regardless of media reports and Liberal Party attacks.
The last question asked was what should be the Government's economic priorities: 52% said the Government should address the deficit, and cut back on spending; compared to 34% who said the Government should continue to invest a spend to support the economy. The interesting aspect is that result given the results of the above Stimulus questions. On the specific Stimulus items, apart from the insulation scheme, there was over 61% support. What would be interesting would be if the question were asked – “Do you think the Government should not spend money on a building in your town/suburbs school or small businesses in order to reduce the deficit?”. I think the deficit and government spending issue is a bit of a NIMBY one – Yes, cut back the deficit, but not in my back yard.
And that makes for an interesting election campaign when the Liberal’s big ticket policy is to cut the deficit. Sooner or later they’re going to have to say when and where – and that WILL be interesting.