Since the final polling of last year, a great deal has occurred within the realm of federal politics. After the Morrison government made repeated mistakes in their attempts to manage the bushfire crisis and faced international condemnation for its stance on climate change, many were expecting the Prime Minister to be in a world of trouble when the first polls of 2020 were finally released.
After well over a month of waiting, the release of Monday’s Newspoll was accompanied with a whimper rather than a bang.
While the current headlines are dominated by articles regarding the near–record drop in Morrison’s net approval rating and his loss to Labor leader Anthony Albanese in the preferred PM stakes, overall things are remarkably good for the Coalition in relative terms.
The reality is the preferred leader metric isn’t really reliable in predicting voting intentions.
- Dennis Napthine led Daniel Andrews by 12 points in Victoria in 2014 (Albanese leads Morrison by 4)
- Paul Keating led John Howard in 1996
- Kim Beazley led John Howard in 1998
- John Hewson led Paul Keating in 1993
After arguably the largest sequence of ongoing public relations screw–ups in modern Australian political history, in two–party preferred terms, it cost the Coalition just 3 points. The last Newspoll of 2019 had the Coalition in front 52-48, while Monday’s showed the slimmest Labor lead 51-49.
Even with an angry and frustrated electorate, the Labor alternative put forward by Albanese and his team remains sufficiently unappealing that the best they can manage even with external events in their favour is mere margin of territory.
While Morrison may be relatively unpopular personally at the moment, the weakness of the Labor alternative continues to remain his biggest strength, just as it was on election day back in May last year.
After so much speculation about Morrison’s future, one can’t help but think “is that it?” after the release of this latest polling.
While one poll should never be taken in isolation — and while it will be months before we fully understand the impact of the fires on the landscape of federal politics — for the moment it appears a relatively weak Labor Party has insulated the Morrison government from the worst of its own self-inflicted screw–ups.
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