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Morrison’s ratings slump in Resolve and Essential polls; Liberals set to retain Willoughby

A Resolve poll for Nine newspapers, conducted February 15-20 from a sample of 1,604, gave Labor 35% of the primary vote (steady since January), the Coalition 33% (down one), the Greens 10% (down one), One Nation 3% (steady), independents 10% (down one) and others 9% (up three).

As usual, Resolve did not give a two party estimate, but this would be about 54-46 to Labor, unchanged from January.

56% said Scott Morrison was doing a poor job in recent weeks (up six since January) and 38% a good job (down three), for a net approval of -17, down seven points (rounding explains -17 instead of -18). Morrison’s net approval was positive in Resolve polls until last October.

Anthony Albanese’s net approval increased one point to -6. Morrison continued to lead Albanese as preferred PM by 39-30 (38-31 in January).

The Liberals and Morrison continued to lead Labor and Albanese by 37-25 on economic management (39-26 in January). On COVID, the Liberals led by 33-26 (32-28 previously). While the Liberals’ position on COVID has improved, before January they had double digit leads.

Essential’s two-party lead for Labor increased to four points from what now looks like an outlier one point last fortnight. But it is still the worst of the four regular polls for Labor (the 49-45 Labor lead would be 52-48 excluding undecided).

Essential’s overall vote share for independents and others is also low compared to other polls, at just 4%, compared with 11.5% in Morgan, 14% in last week’s Newspoll and 19% in Resolve, although neither Resolve nor Newspoll have a breakout for Clive Palmer’s UAP.

Read more: A bad Newspoll for the Greens; Willoughby NSW byelection could be close

Some of the Coalition’s fall in both Essential and Resolve appears to be going to other right-wing parties, which may be boosted by vaccine scepticism. Votes lost by the Coalition to the right are likely to return as preferences.

In this respect, it’s striking that Morrison’s net approval in Resolve was down seven points to -17, yet his preferred PM lead over Albanese increased from seven to nine points. More right-wing disapproval of Morrison is a plausible explanation.

Last week’s Newspoll had a three-point drop for the Greens to 8%, but that’s not validated by this week’s polls, with the Greens down one in Resolve to 10% and steady in Essential and Morgan on 9% and 11.5% respectively.

Labor remains well ahead, but there are still about three months to go before an expected May election. The good jobs figures will encourage the Coalition.

Essential: Labor’s lead increases to four points

This week’s Essential poll, conducted February 16-20 from a sample of 1,089, gave Labor a 49-45 lead over the Coalition on its “2PP+” measure that includes undecided, up from 47-46 last fortnight.

Primary votes were 38% Labor (up three), 35% Coalition (down two), 9% Greens (steady), 5% One Nation (up one), 3% UAP (up one), 4% all Others (down one) and 6% undecided (down two). Gains for One Nation and UAP restricted Labor’s gains after preferences.

Morrison’s net approval was down five points since January to -5, while Albanese was up three points to +3. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 40-35 (42-34 in January).

Unlike Morgan last week, where Josh Frydenberg was the preferred Liberal leader, Morrison was easily preferred in Essential, with 30% for Morrison, 13% Frydenberg and 9% Peter Dutton. Among Coalition voters, Morrison had 58%, Frydenberg 12% and Dutton 11%.

Recent attacks from the Coalition have focused on Labor being purportedly soft on China. But Essential has Labor leading the Coalition by 37-28 on who people trust most to build a relationship with China in Australia’s best interests. 61% thought Australia’s relationship with China complex, 26% that China is a threat and 13% that China is a positive opportunity.

Read more: Elections are rarely decided by security and defence issues, but China could make 2022 different

Morgan poll: 57-43 to Labor

A Morgan poll, conducted January 31 to February 13 from a sample of almost 2,800, gave Labor a 57-43 lead, a 0.5-point gain for Labor since late January. Primary votes were 38.5% Labor (up one), 33% Coalition (steady), 11.5% Greens (steady), 4% One Nation (up 0.5), 1.5% UAP (down 0.5), 8% independents (steady) and 3.5% others (down one).

NSW byelection updates: Liberals set to hold Willoughby

After the count of about 10,000 postals in Willoughby on Saturday, the Liberals increased their two candidate share against independent Larissa Penn from 51.7% to 53.0%. In last Thursday’s article, I said that while postals almost always skew right in Australia, the COVID situation in NSW made it possible they could skew left. But postals counted so far have assisted the Liberals.

ABC election analyst Antony Green says there are still about 15,000 postals to be counted in Willoughby. To win Willoughby, Penn would need to win these extra postals by a 55-45 margin (more as some will exhaust or be informal).

But so far, postals have been 55.5-44.5 to the Liberals, and it’s unrealistic to expect the remainder to differ markedly from what’s been counted so far. The Liberal lead is likely to increase.

In the other byelections, Labor’s lead in Bega was down from last Thursday’s 55.6% to 54.8% two party, still an 11.7% swing to Labor. In Strathfield, Labor’s lead was unchanged at 55.7% two party, a 0.7% swing to Labor. In Monaro, the Nationals were up from 54.9% to 55.7% two party, a 5.9% swing to Labor.

About 10,000 postal votes were counted in all byelections on Saturday, but there are still at least 10,000 votes to go in each seat. A second large postal count in each seat will occur Thursday, with the remainder to be counted next Monday, after Friday’s deadline for receipt of postals.

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