Essential Report

The real leadership story: Abbott remains unelectable

Jun 22, 2010

First published in The Punch 21st June 2010

This is the week when another round of disastrous opinion polls was meant to spark a mass uprising within the Labor Caucus, as members convinced they were facing one-term oblivion hitched their wagon to Julia Gillard.

Everything was in place, a bunch of unsourced comment pieces predicting a move on the PM, an early Newspoll published in Monday’s Australian. And then? Well apart from a slight narrowing in preferred PM, no real movement in the polls.

Entering the spirit of leadership speculation, Essential Research asked our own series of leadership questions. What emerges is a completely different story – the failure of Tony Abbott to convince voters he is the man to lead the Coalition to the election. Now before you all start flaming me (again) for being a Left-ist agent of the evil ALP, let’s have a look at the questions we asked.

First, given the falling approval ratings for both Abbott and Rudd we asked voters, whether they thought either leader was the best person to lead their party to the next election.

First, the Prime Minister. On it’s face, this is a less than resounding result, but the key point is that among Labor voters Rudd is still regarded as the best bet.

Compare this result, however, when the same question is asked of Tony Abbott, where there is significant support for a change of leader. While Rudd is struggling, Abbott is wallowing – with a quarter of all Coalition voters wanting to see him replaced before the next election.

Things get even more interesting when we go head to head.

Rudd v Abbott: Despite the battles of recent months, the PM has maintained a big lead over Abbott as preferred PM. Where he has lost support, it has been to Don’t Knows.

Rudd v Gillard: Of course, the question on the insiders’ minds is whether a shift to Julia Gillard would improve Labor’s political situation. On these figures it is clear support for Gillard has improved over recent months, but a majority of voters – and a strong majority of Labor voters –  still support their leader.

Gillard v Abbott:  So assuming the Caucus moved on Rudd, would the polls improve? The short answer is no, head to head Gillard basically matched Ruff in giving Abbott a thumping.

The real Leadership story in Australian politics is that Tony Abbott is unelectable.

If you were to factor in the results among women voters, the position is even worse – women prefer Rudd over Abbott 49-23; and with Gillard the gap is even greater (53-25).

Labor’s number one electoral priority is to clear the agenda so the political debate can focus on Abbott, which is the real reason the campaign being waged by the Mining Industry is causing such concern in the government ranks.

Clear air is what Labor needs now: clear air to turn the election into a contest between the leaders and their parties.

And that’s another reason why a leadership challenge that again takes the attention away from the Opposition Leader is not going to happen any time soon.


Peter Lewis, Director EMC

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