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Coalition slumps in first poll of 2022 as voters lose confidence in Morrison’s handling of pandemic

In the first national poll of the new year, a Resolve survey for the Nine newspapers, Labor had 35% of the primary vote (up three percentage points since November), the Coalition 34% (down five), the Greens 11% (steady), One Nation 3% (steady) and independents 11% (up two).

This is the first time since Resolve began doing its monthly surveys last April that Labor has been ahead of the Coalition on primary votes. In late 2021, Resolve showed better results for the Coalition than other polls conducted at about the same time.

The slump in the most favourable poll for the Coalition should be concerning for them, with a federal election due by May. This Resolve poll was conducted January 11-15 from a sample of 1,607 respondents.

Read more: Morrison's political judgement goes missing on rapid antigen test debacle

No two-party-preferred estimate was given by Resolve, but applying the previous election’s preference flows to the primary votes gives Labor a clear lead. Analyst Kevin Bonham estimated a 53-47% lead for Labor, a three-point gain for Labor since November.

I have previously criticised Resolve for not providing a two-party-preferred question and for its unrealistically high “independents” vote share.

In the survey, 41% gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks (up one percentage point from November) and 50% a poor rating (up one), for an unchanged net approval of minus-nine points.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s net approval was also still negative, with 34% saying he was doing a good job, while 41% said he was doing a poor job. His net approval was minus seven, up seven percentage points from November.

Morrison led Albanese by 38-31% as preferred prime minister, a narrowing from the 40-29% result in the November survey and 44-26% in October.

The Liberals and Morrison continued to lead Labor and Albanese by 39-26% on economic management (compared to 40-24% in November). On handling the COVID pandemic, the Liberals’ lead was cut to just 32-28%, from 36-23% in November.

Before the Omicron variant outbreak began in December, Australia’s strict lockdowns and border closures had kept our daily COVID cases to under 5,000. Daily cases have recently surged to over 100,000. While cases have probably peaked, daily deaths are unfortunately likely to keep rising for some time owing to a lag in people becoming seriously sick.

The current COVID situation probably explains the Coalition’s slump in the Resolve poll. While other countries, such as the UK, have had high case counts before the Omicron surge, Australia’s recent spike in cases is unprecedented.

Will the Coalition’s poll ratings recover once Omicron wave passes? I believe this depends on how much voters in the long term blame the federal government for allowing the virus to run free and the number of deaths that occur.

By 71-14%, voters also thought Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic should not have been allowed to stay in Australia to play tennis due to his unvaccinated status.

Highlights of December and January polling

In a late November and early December Morgan poll from a sample of 2,805 voters, Labor led by 56.5-43.5%, a one percentage point gain for Labor since the mid-November poll.

Primary votes were 36% Labor (up 0.5%), 34.5% Coalition (down 1%), 12.5% Greens (up 0.5%), 3.5% One Nation (steady), 1% UAP and 12.5% for all others.

Continuing a decline from the height of his popularity in February 2021, Morrison’s approval was 46% in the mid-December Essential poll and his disapproval 44% for a net approval of plus-two points, down from plus-six in November and plus-37 in February.

Albanese’s net approval dropped one point to plus-four from November. Morrison’s lead as better PM was cut to 42-31% from 44-28%.

Anthony Albanese
Albanese got a boost in the Resolve poll, though it remains to be seen if voter sentiment will remain the same after the Omicron wave. Darren Pateman/AAP

Voters rated the federal government’s response to COVID as good by 41-32%, down from 47-25% in early December, before the Omicron surge began. This was the government’s worst net rating since September. The Victorian state government took the biggest hit, with its good rating down eight points to 43%.

Newspoll also released its aggregate data for all polls conducted from October to December. Labor led by 53-47% in NSW, a five percentage point swing to Labor since the 2019 election.

Labor also led by 56-44% in Victoria, a swing of three percentage points to Labor. In both WA and SA, Labor led by 55-45%, a swing in WA of 11 points and in SA of three points. In Queensland, the Coalition led by 54-46%, a 4.5-point swing to Labor. More details from The Poll Bludger.

Read more: As COVID rips through Australia, is Scott Morrison's media strategy starting to fail as well?

An Utting Research federal poll in WA, conducted January 5 from a sample of 650 people, gave Labor a 55-45% lead in that state, in agreement with Newspoll.

While the massive COVID spread has dominated the media recently, the November jobs report, which the ABS released on December 16, was very good for the government.

With lockdowns ending in NSW and Victoria in October, the unemployment rate fell 0.6 percentage points from October to 4.6%, and the underemployment rate fell two percentage points to 7.5%. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Australians employed – increased 1.8% to 63% to return to where it was in July.

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