Essential Research: Coalition 56, ALP 44

The Essential Research poll I alluded to this morning is out, showing the Coalition maintaining an unchanged lead after preferences over the government, 56-44. At least I think it does: its primary vote figures this time add up to 101% again.

This seems to be becoming a trend with Essential — for whatever reason, their numbers either aren’t rounded off and/or contain errors. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but clearly, it is not possible to (legally/legitimately) have 101% of the electorate cast a vote. Essential seems to do just that, regularly.

Essential records unchanged primary votes of 46% for the Liberals, 3% for the Nationals, and 32% for the ALP. It also finds the Green vote up two points at 12%, the “Don’t Knows” down a point at 8%…and again, a spare percentage point from somewhere else.

Enough said.

Even so, this poll doesn’t show anything other than a clear continuation of what is becoming a settled trend: no change from an exceedingly poor position for the government. Again (like Groundhog Day), were these figures to be replicated at an election, the Coalition would win by miles.

And speaking of elections — in light of the renewal of rumblings emanating from the Labor camp — it’s a bit of a surprise that there is no approve/disapprove questions on Abbott and Gillard, or a “preferred PM” question, with this poll.

Curiously enough, however, it does contain a question on Tony Abbott’s leadership of the Liberal Party.

There were two statements put to Essential’s respondents: “Tony Abbott is performing the role of Opposition leader well and is keeping the Government accountable” was agreed to by 38% of those surveyed; “Tony Abbott is just opposing everything and is obstructing the work of the Government” was agreed to by 45%. 17% of Essential’s respondents didn’t know.

These questions were also asked by Essential in both March and early June 2011 (before I really got The Red And The Blue up and running fully) but as these findings show an effective progressive deterioration in approval for Abbott, I’m a bit sceptical.

Especially as there is no corresponding question for Gillard, such as “Julia Gillard is an opportunistic liar who [won] the 2010 election on a false premise” versus “Julia Gillard is a responsible, trustworthy PM with vision and policies for the future.” I’d love to see how that might score!

Yes, perhaps the example is silly. But at the very least, if you’re going to ask loaded questions about one leader, you should as a matter of course do so for both leaders in the one poll.

And especially when Gillard’s leadership of the ALP is increasingly in question, whereas Abbott’s tenure as Liberal leader is not.

Overall, I don’t think there’s too much to read into Essential’s figures — other than to say they hold no comfort for Julia Gillard and the ALP.

And to hope their figures next week add up to 100%…