It’s a blip – Rudd maintains lead with interest
Evidence is now mounting that last week’s Newspoll poll showing a seven point drop in Labor support was a rogue result, with Essential Research’s weekly tracking showing no movement in the two-party preferred vote.
The Essential Report, that has Labor comfortably ahead 59-41, follows on the heels of Monday’s Herald/Nielson poll that was also steady.
Beneath the headline figures there are some intriguing sub-plots, with the public going close to welcoming the increase in interest rates, while continuing to rate the Prime Minister down on his handling of the asylum seeker issue.
The last week’s coverage of politics has been intriguing – based as it was on a premise that no-one actually quite believed – that support for the Rudd Government had collapsed under his handling of asylum seekers.
But if you want to understand how Rudd can be struggling on one issue, but still dominant in the polls you need look no further than his management of the economy.
This is the area of public policy where conservative parties are supposed to smash the bleeding hearts, but Rudd is defying political gravity.
You could argue that an recession-busting economic policy based on low interest rates and big amounts of public spending is always going to be an attractive proposition, after all who doesn’t want more money in their pocket?
Now that rates are beginning to increase, those same punters might re-evaluate their opinion of the government’s management of the economy.
But it seems that the threat of the GFC has instilled in the Australian public a degree of tolerance for government seldom before seen. Indeed, we seem to have entered a political netherworld where people actually equate rising interests rate with an improving economy.
Poor old Mark Latham must be turning in his political grave – Rudd is actually deriving benefit from rising rates, even amongst Coalition voters.
What’s happening here? My read is that Rudd is reaping the benefits from preparing Australia for an economic crisis that never occurred.
Whether the collective adrenalin that comes with weathering a near miss gets him through further rate rises and mounting debt will be a further test of his Houdini-like tenure.
For the time being, the public appears to accept that Australia has managed the situation better than most, conferring the positive outcomes on the PM while being prepared to blame the negatives on the global situation.
Meanwhile, the asylum seekers languishing in Indonesian waters continues to be a storm cloud on the PM’s ratings, albeit one that is yet to dent the polls.
For a leader who prides himself on taking the centre ground, the PM seems to, for the first time, be getting a few splinters from spending too long on the fence.
This is translating into an issue where the Coalition is actually rated at being better at managing – albeit from a low base of 27-23, with 38 per cent saying it would make no difference.
While the issue of the Sri Lankan boatpeople is likely to be resolved in the next few weeks, the broader question will be whether the incident, the first time the PM has been clearly on the wrong side of a public debate, does start to chip away at his stellar poll numbers.
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