NEWSPOLL — that political oracle the ALP has for so long lived and died by — has released its first poll with Kevin Rudd leading Labor for tomorrow’s issue of The Australian; it mirrors an earlier Galaxy finding of a 51-49 lead to the Coalition, and lays solid political pressure squarely on Rudd’s shoulders.
For the second time in two days, a major reputable polling outlet has found that in spite of its change of leaders this week, Labor would still lose an election to the Coalition, albeit by the relatively modest margin of just 10 seats.
Newspoll — to appear in The Australian tomorrow — finds the ALP primary vote up six percentage points from its survey last week, to 35%; it finds the Coalition at 43% (-5%), the Greens on 11% (+2%), and “Others” at 11% (-3%).
This translates into a 6% swing to Labor since last Sunday night’s poll, with Labor now sitting behind the Coalition, 49-51, after the allocation of preferences.
On the “preferred Prime Minister” measure, Rudd heads Abbott by a 49-35 margin; as I said earlier today in discussing the Galaxy results, this is by no means a disaster for Abbott as the “preferred PM” question overwhelmingly favours an incumbent for the simple fact they are already sitting in the chair — as a new Prime Minister or otherwise.
(Although it does illustrate just how poorly regarded Julia Gillard had become in the end).
Of far greater interest are Kevin Rudd’s personal approval numbers: of Newspoll’s respondents, 36% approved of the way he was performing as Prime Minister, whilst another 36% disapproved; 28% were undecided.
Abbott, on the other hand, sees his approval number fall by a point to 35%,and his disapproval number climbing three points to 56%, based on Newspoll’s findings a week ago.
The change in Tony Abbott’s personal approval numbers is within the margin of error of this poll, and — to the extent it can be attributed to the events of the past week — probably reflects the fact the Coalition generally has had to shift its attacks on Labor up a gear to accommodate the change of leadership, and it is Abbott who has done the bulk of the heavy lifting in this regard.
The Labor Party, however, faces a big problem if these first numbers for Rudd are indicative of the type of ratings he is to record moving forward.
Some may have thought that given the stratospheric figures Rudd has recorded for a couple of years now across all polls, whenever respondents were asked if they preferred him or Gillard to lead the ALP, his approval figures now would be far more impressive.
Instead, this result is an early hint that what I and many other commentators on politics have been saying incessantly — that such figures are absurd, as they merely reflect a hypothetical — is deadly accurate.
For Labor to be comfortable with Rudd’s first batch of figures, the split probably needed to be about 50-25 among those nominating an opinion.
36-36 — if perpetuated in similar proportions or worse after another two or three surveys — is disastrous.
And it shows that of what they have seen so far of Rudd in his “resumed” role of Prime Minister, they don’t like.
My initial read of the voting numbers is that this survey must have gone very close to a 52-48 result for the Coalition; for Labor to have recorded a 49% result on the back of a 35% primary vote, the split of preferences Newspoll has allocated from Greens and “Others” votes seems abnormally high.
As I said in my earlier article, I was expecting the bounce the ALP received from its leadership change to put it, for one survey at least, in an election-winning position.
Thus far, the results we have seen still have Labor losing — admittedly, by a lot less than would have been the case a week ago — but losing nonetheless.
Yet it is entirely fair to expect, given the appalling record the ALP must defend at the ballot box after six years of inept, inefficient, wasteful and unstable government, that the early polls will probably be among the better numbers Rudd can expect as his honeymoon with voters wears off in coming weeks.
The temptation for the Liberal Party will be to panic; it must not do so, and must lock in behind Abbott: any hint of leadership tension in the face of what has transpired in the ALP this week will quickly level the political playing field and give Labor a real chance to win.
Even so, and with Nielsen and Essential still to post surveys with Rudd returned as Prime Minister, I contend the pressure is piled onto Rudd by this result, rather than onto Abbott.
I ran into a (Liberal-inclined) mate of mine this evening who bluntly opined that in the past three days, Rudd has “carried on with all the same bullshit” as he did as Prime Minister the first time; an indelicate assessment perhaps, but not at all inaccurate.
With ordinary polling numbers now beginning to accumulate at a time they should be sensational, Rudd is about to name a ministry in which many of his colleagues have refused to serve, and which many backbench MPs have reportedly refused to join.
The signs in Rudd’s demeanour and language are dangerous: even on the night of his return as Labor leader he turned up to his press conference an hour late, spent part of the speech directing coded jabs at his predecessors and the rest talking Rudd-esque gobbledygook, before announcing — at close to midnight — that he and “Albo” were unable to field questions as they had “other work” to attend to.
There are reports in the press, too, that Rudd had an altercation with a volunteer fundraiser on the hustings in rural NSW this afternoon, which isn’t a good look.
And there is certainly no indication he is being received anywhere as a messiah, or seen as the “natural” Prime Minister of this country he clearly believes himself to be.
I think there’s a good chance that the government will find a way to implode over the next month or so; that’s a judgement on Rudd, the way he operates, and its likely consequences.
But two polls in two days, still showing Labor losing an election, makes me think — as expected — that the surge in Labor support is illusory, will quickly fade, and leave Rudd and Labor in a position little better than that most recently presided over by Julia Gillard.