Today, The Australian, as it does occasionally for little reason that I can think of other than it wants to make sure the media follow the narrative it wants to set, brought out the Newspoll a day early, showing the ALP and LNP split on 50% each. As Possum has noted, this poll makes a lot more sense than the last one, as “the Others” is down from the dopey 12% mark to 8%. If we ignore the last poll and focus on the movement since April 18, we see the ALP has lost 6% of its Primary vote – 3% going to the Liberal Party, 2% to the Greens, and 1% to the others. There’s a fair bit of media talk about no Budget bounce etc, which unfortunately ignores that a Budget bounce is a media fantasy. It doesn’t exist. So the media might as well report that the Budget has not increased the number of unicorn sightings as talk about a Budget bounce in the polls.
On the PM’s satisfaction rating, Rudd is still on the nose – 39% satisfied, 51 dissatisfied. It is never a good thing when over 50% are dissatisfied with your performance, but it’s not as fatal for a PM as it is for an opposition leader. The interesting thing is Abbott’s satisfaction rating fell 3% to 42%, and his dissatisfaction rating rose 2% to 45%; meaning we have two leaders no one is really all that excited about.
On preferred PM, Rudd goes below 50% for the first time, dropping from 50% to 49% (so really no real movement statistically), and Abbott goes up 1% to 33% (again no real movement). So we have a case where people are less satisfied with Rudd than they are with Abbott, but more still prefer Rudd as PM. Also, given the LNP has a primary vote of 43%, this means at least 10% of voters who say they would vote for either the Liberal or National Party but are either uncommitted on the PM question, or prefer Rudd. That does not bespeak of a movement for change.
Again, not a great poll for the ALP, but not wrist slashing time (unless you’re prone to panic, which I think some are). Especially when you look at how the Budget fared – 44% said the Budget was good for Australia’s economy, compared to 31% said who said it would make things worse. The interesting thing is only 19% said they would be better off because of the Budget, compared to 30% who said they’d be worse off – suggesting that people don’t mind not getting handouts, so long as they think the Budget is solid. This was the ALP’s hoped for outcome, and I’d say they’ve succeeded.
This is supported by today’s poll from Essential Media (which also had the 2PP at 50:50) which also asked about the Budget. In that poll, 36% said it was good for the economy, despite only 22% saying it was good for them personally. And more importantly when asked about the economy as a whole, 51% said it was heading in the right direction and only 25% thought it was heading in the wrong direction. That gives the Government a pretty solid foundation on which to sell its message (if it can articulate one that is).
Of note as well is that Essential asked how interested people were in the Budget. Fifty three percent said they paid attention compared with 66% last year. Obviously last year was in the midst of the GFC and so people were worried about the economy, but given it is an election year, it is a little odd that less people were interested. It suggests there isn’t a great engagement in politics generally – highlighted by pretty low ratings for the Budget, and lower ratings for Abbott’s reply. In 2007, when Rudd was leading Howard as Preferred PM, more people tuned in to hear what he had to say than they did to watch Costello actually deliver the Budget. People were engaged, and certainly were interested in hearing what Rudd had to say, perhaps to check whether or not he was “safe”. With Abbott there certainly does not seem anywhere near that level of engagement.
The Newspoll also asked who would people prefer as leader of the ALP – Rudd or Gillard. The poll found 45% for Rudd, 40% for Gillard. This was the big story of the day; I’m not sure why. Rudd is on the nose, and yet he’s still preferred as PM to Julia. Why any member of the ALP would look at that and think it was time to change leaders is beyond me – especially when Rudd is still comfortably preferred PM to Abbott.
Interestingly the Newspoll didn’t ask who voters preferred as Leader of the Liberal Party – especially as last week’s Morgan Poll found Turnbull was favoured with 29%, and Abbott and Hockey were tied on 27%. All I know is, when an opposition party is equal or just ahead in the polls, but its leader is behind on preferred PM, the smart question is to find out if any other leader would be more preferred. I guess The Australian isn’t interested in that narrative…
Interestingly as well they didn't ask who was preferred PM – Julia or Abbott. They did ask this back in February, when they last asked who the preferred ALP leader. At that time Abbott’s satisfaction rating was 44% (compared to 42% now) and his Dissatisfaction rating was 37% (compared to 45% now). So he was actually more popular then than now. So how did he go against Julia? Well, he lost 49% to 38%. Now maybe you think Julia has gotten less popular since then, but I don’t think so. My supposition is she would still be beating him... in fact I would bet by more than then.
Why do I think this? Well the drop in Rudd’s lead as preferred leader over Julia in that time is has been 20% (from a 25% lead in Feb to a 5% lead now). By comparison Rudd’s lead as Preferred PM rating has dropped only 12% (from 28% to 16%). The shift of voters from Rudd to Julia has been bigger than the shift from Rudd to Abbott, and thus I think we can logically state that the number preferring Julia to Abbott would also have increased. But we’ll never know…
Interestingly as well (and yes, I swear never to use interestingly ever again), the poll didn’t ask about the Recourse Super Profits Tax. It does seem odd they didn’t ask it given the glee with which The Australian has been printing stories from mining execs about how bad it is. But who knows, perhaps it was asked and we’ll find out more tomorrow or later in the week.
All of the above may very well become historical hooey, because tonight on the 7:30 Report Tony Abbott, in perhaps a first for any political leader admitted you couldn’t always believe what he says:
KERRY O'BRIEN: But what you haven't explained is how you can make one promise in one month and then completely change it the next. What happened in that month where you had this sudden explosion of vision?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, Kerry, people will make their own judgments about me and if they ...
KERRY O'BRIEN: No, but I'd like you to explain it. Tony Abbott feels with conviction we will not have a new tax in any way, shape or form, we won't have a new tax; a month later, you do.
TONY ABBOTT: Well, again Kerry, I know politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say, but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks.
KERRY O'BRIEN: So every time you make a statement, we have to ask you whether it's carefully prepared and scripted or whether it's just something on the fly? No, seriously; this is a very serious question.
TONY ABBOTT: But all of us, Kerry, all of us when we're in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that go a little bit further.
Unbelievable, it essentially means that every statement he makes from hear on in will be met with the question – so is this a carefully prepared and scripted statement?
He also said something else that I think will come back to bite him:
KERRY O'BRIEN: But we are going to hear a lot from you over the next few months leading up to the election and what you are saying ...
TONY ABBOTT: You're not gonna hear any big promises from me.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But what you are saying is that the public are not going to know from one day to the next when you are saying something that's absolutely rock solid and when it's not. Are there two Tony Abbotts?
No big promises in an election campaign? I’ve got a feeling that that was not a carefully prepared and scripted statement.