Scott Morrison loses ground but Coalition gains in latest survey
Voters have scaled back their support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison on key personal measures over the past month, cutting his net performance rating from 4 per cent to minus 9 per cent even as they gave the government a small boost to its primary vote.
Mr Morrison also lost some ground against Labor leader Anthony Albanese when voters were asked which of the two was their preferred prime minister, with Mr Morrison’s lead narrowing from 18 percentage points to 11 in the latest survey.
The federal government also lost ground when voters rated its performance on the economy and the pandemic, with Labor gaining a narrow lead of three per cent on the management of health and aged care.
The findings are part of a new survey that shows a slight gain in primary vote for the Coalition to 39 per cent and a fall in core support for Labor over the past month, with its primary vote falling from 34 to 32 per cent.
The Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by research company Resolve Strategic, finds the Greens maintained their primary vote at 11 per cent while One Nation was unchanged on 3 per cent.
Voter support for independent candidates held steady at nine per cent in a period when climate change campaigners named new contenders to take on the government, while support for others was also steady at five per cent.
Because the Resolve Political Monitor asks voters to nominate their primary votes in the same way they would write ‘1’ on the ballot papers for the lower house at an election, with choices offered in random order, there is no undecided category in the results, a key difference with some other surveys.
It also assigns vote to the Liberals and Nationals depending on electorate, including in Queensland, according to which party contested the seat at the last election.
The latest survey saw a recovery in the Nationals’ support, rising from 3 to 5 per cent from a fall of the same magnitude the previous month. The Liberal Party’s primary vote declined from 35 to 33 per cent when figures were rounded to the nearest whole number.
“Our analysis showed that the Nationals lost some support in October around the time they were prevaricating about net zero, but that’s bounced back to them very quickly as soon as they got their house in order,” said Resolve director Jim Reed.
After rounding to the nearest decimal place, the result was an increase of one percentage point in the Coalition’s primary vote to 39 per cent.
The survey of 1606 eligible voters was conducted from 16 to 21 November and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, which meant the changes in primary vote for the major parties were within that margin.
But the shift in sentiment on Mr Morrison was more significant, with the number of voters who said he was doing a good job falling from 47 to 40 per cent over the month and the number who said he was doing a poor job rising from 43 to 49 per cent.
Voters also cooled on Mr Albanese, however, with the number of voters who said he was doing a poor job growing from 41 to 45 per cent over the month, without any change in the 31 per cent of voters who thought he was doing a good job.
This meant Mr Albanese had a net performance rating of minus 14 per cent compared to minus 9 per cent for Mr Morrison.
Mr Morrison kept his lead over Mr Albanese as preferred prime minister but the gap between them narrowed to 40 per cent for the Prime Minister and 29 per cent for the Labor leader, with 31 per cent undecided.
The gap has halved since the launch of the Resolve Political Monitor in April, when 47 per cent favoured Mr Morrison and 25 per cent preferred Mr Albanese.
The cut to Mr Morrison’s net performance rating to minus nine per cent also took this measure to its lowest since the survey began. His performance rating was four per cent last month, four per cent in September and minus one in August.
The changes came during a period of national debate on the climate policy taken to the United Nations summit in Glasgow, the federal moves to open the international border to more travellers, a political contest on the cost of living and comments from French President Emmanuel Macron branding Mr Morrison a liar.
While Mr Morrison and the Coalition have held a lead against Mr Albanese and Labor when voters have been asked if each party and its leader are honest and trustworthy, that lead shrank from seven to two percentage points over the past month.
On the question of which side was offering strong leadership, the government’s lead shrank from 16 to 11 points over the month.
The government also lost ground against Labor on voter perceptions of the way it was handling big policy issues, although it kept its advantage on policy areas such as the economy and the pandemic.
When voters were asked which side was best at managing the COVID-19 situation, the government lead fell from 17 to 13 per cent over the month.
On economic management, the government lead shrank from 22 to 16 per cent. On national security, it shrank from 23 to 20 per cent.
On health and aged care, an issue where the two sides were evenly matched last month, Labor emerged with a lead of three percentage points in the latest survey.
“The last three months have taken a toll on the Coalition, with significant drops in traditional areas of strength, like foreign affairs and trade, economic management, defence and communications. It is not difficult to see the connections to current affairs in these shifts,” Mr Reed said.
“All this has also resulted in Morrison’s performance rating reaching its lowest ebb as we near the Christmas break, but none of it has benefited Labor or Albanese yet.”
“While Labor have clearly been successful in pressing home their attacks on the government, they have not made the case for people to move their vote across to them. Instead, the protest vote is parked with minor parties and independents for now.”
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