Essential: the polling slide that evicted Rudd from the Lodge

Jun 25, 2010

First Published on Crikey Thursday 24th June

Essential Reports polls taken over the last 2 years show how Kevin Rudd’s approval ratings have declined since he almost unprecedented figures he achieved following his election through to early last year. Up to March last year approval hovered around the high 60% level into the low 70%.  Is net approval (i.e. approve minus disapprove) was around the mid 40% level.

Throughout 2009 and early 2010 his approval went into steady decline but still remained in positive territory. At the end of March he recorded 53% approval and 36% disapproval. However, the most dramatic shift occurred in April and May when his approval first entered negative territory with 41% approve and 47% disapprove. The decline appeared to be accelerating.

Some of the reasons for this sudden decline can be found in how the personal perceptions of Kevin Rudd changed from 2009 to May this year.  His attribute ratings showed significant falls in the percentage of people who considered him to be a capable leader (72% to 55%), good in a crisis (60%-44%) and trustworthy (51%-41%). Meanwhile his ratings for “out of touch with ordinary people” increased from 41% to 55%. It indicates a significant loss of confidence in his performance as Prime Minister.

Last week’s Essential Report showed only weak support for Kevin Rudd to lead the Labor Party to the next election – 40% thought the Labor Party would have better chance of winning the election if they changed leader and 37% thought Kevin Rudd was the best person to lead the labor Party. Even among Labor voters only 66% supported Kevin Rudd as leader and 23% though they should change.

This poll also showed that Julia Gillard was a more than acceptable replacement – she was preferred over Tony Abbott by 50% to 32% and appeared to have stronger support than Kevin Rudd among women and non-Labor voters. This suggests that Julia Gillard has more potential for attracting the soft and swinging voters than Kevin Rudd. She had also significantly improved her position when tested head-to-head with Kevin Rudd – 36% preferred Kevin Rudd and 33% Julia Gillard.

The combination of the continuing and rapid decline in support for Kevin Rudd and the perception that in Julia Gillard, the Labor Party had a ready-made alternative with growing support appears to have provided the necessary ingredients for a change in leadership.

Approval of the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd

Q. Do you strongly approve, approve, disapprove or strongly disapprove of the job Kevin Rudd is doing as Prime Minister?

12 Jan 09 9 Feb 09 30 Mar 09 18 May 09 29 Jun 09 10 Aug 09 28 Sept 09 9 Nov 09 30 Nov 09 14 Dec 09
Strongly approve 14% 17% 21% 14% 14% 13% 15% 14% 9% 10%
Approve 52% 50% 50% 48% 48% 47% 51% 47% 47% 47%
Disapprove 16% 15% 14% 18% 18% 17% 17% 19% 20% 20%
Strongly disapprove 6% 8% 7% 11% 9% 10% 6% 13% 15% 12%
Don’t know 11% 9% 9% 9% 11% 12% 11% 8% 10% 10%
Total approve 66% 67% 71% 62% 62% 60% 66% 61% 56% 57%
Total disapprove 22% 23% 21% 29% 29% 27% 23% 32% 35% 32%
Net 44 44 50 33 33 33 43 29 21 25
18 Jan 10 22 Feb 10 29 Mar 10 3 May 10 31 May 10
Strongly approve 11% 11% 12% 8% 7%
Approve 44% 41% 41% 38% 34%
Disapprove 19% 20% 22% 25% 25%
Strongly disapprove 14% 17% 14% 17% 22%
Don’t know 12% 11% 12% 12% 12%
Total approve 55% 52% 53% 46% 41%
Total disapprove 33% 37% 36% 42% 47%
Net 22 15 17 4 -6

Attributes to describe the Prime Minister

Q.  Which of the following describe your opinion of the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd?

29 June 09 7 Dec 09 10 May 10 Change
Intelligent 84% 82% 73% -9%
Hard-working 83% 77% 76% -1%
A capable leader 72% 69% 55% -14%
Demanding 67% 60% 69% +9%
Arrogant 46% 49% 57% +8%
Out of touch with ordinary people 41% 45% 55% +10%
Understands the problems facing Australia 67% 59% 53% -6%
Visionary 49% 48% 37% -11%
Superficial 40% 41% 52% +11%
Good in a crisis 60% 58% 44% -14%
Narrow-minded 32% 36% 43% +7%
Down to earth 56% 55% 47% -8%
Too inflexible 32% 38% 45% +7%
Complacent 28% 38% 38%
More honest than most politicians 47% 49% 39% -10%
Trustworthy * 51% 41% -10%

*Not asked in June 2009

Changing Leaders – Kevin Rudd

Q. Do you think Kevin Rudd is the best person to lead the Labor Party to the next election or would the Labor Party have a better chance of winning the next election if they changed leaders?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat
Kevin Rudd is the best person to lead the Labor Party to the next election 37% 66% 18%
The Labor Party would have a better chance of winning the next election if they changed leaders 40% 23% 58%
Don’t know 24% 11% 23%

Best Leader – Rudd/Abbott

Q. Who do you think would make the better Prime Minister out of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat 22 Mar 10
Kevin Rudd 47% 90% 9% 50%
Tony Abbott 30% 3% 80% 30%
Don’t know 23% 7% 11% 19%

Best Leader – Rudd/Gillard

Q7. Who do you think would make the better Prime Minister out of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat 15 Feb 10
Kevin Rudd 36% 56% 26% 45%
Julia Gillard 33% 30% 36% 26%
Don’t know 31% 14% 38% 29%

Best Leader – Gillard/Abbott

Q. Who do you think would make the better Prime Minister out of Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat
Tony Abbott 32% 6% 76%
Julia Gillard 50% 85% 16%
Don’t know 18% 9% 8%


Andrew Bunn, Research Director, EMC

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