Morrison holds lead but Albanese narrows the gap as preferred prime minister

Voters have given Prime Minister Scott Morrison a sign of approval after a series of downgrades over winter, restoring his net performance rating to a small positive figure of 4 per cent from a result below zero one month ago.

Asked to judge the Prime Minister’s performance, 49 per cent of voters said it was good and 45 per cent said it was poor, leading to a narrow positive result and his strongest net rating since June.

Voters continue to say they prefer Scott Morrison as prime minister to Anthony Albanese but the gap between the two is narrowing.

Many voters also backed the way Labor leader Anthony Albanese was doing his job, slightly improving his net performance rating to minus 16 per cent compared to minus 19 per cent one month ago.

But the shift was too small to halt a trend of negative results for Mr Albanese, with 31 per cent of voters calling his performance good but 47 per cent judging it to be poor.

Voters also backed Mr Morrison over Mr Albanese as preferred prime minister even though the gap between the pair narrowed from 22 to 18 percentage points.

Support for Mr Morrison as preferred leader slipped from 46 to 45 per cent over the past month while support for Mr Albanese rose from 23 to 26 per cent, with remaining voters undecided.

The findings are part of a new survey that shows slight falls in support for both major parties, with the Coalition’s primary vote slipping from 40 to 39 per cent and Labor’s support falling from 32 to 31 per cent over the past month.

The Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by research company Resolve Strategic, finds an increase in the number of voters backing independents and minor parties.

While support for the Greens fell from 12 to 10 per cent over the past month, other parties gathered more followers, with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party emerging with 3 per cent of the primary vote after it bombarded Australians with text messages in recent weeks.

Support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has increased from 2 per cent to 4 per cent over the past month, while support for independent candidates fell slightly from 10 to 9 per cent.

The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 1,606 people during the period from September 15 to 19 to produce findings with a margin of error of 2.5 per cent.

There is no “undecided” category in the results, a key difference with some other polls, because the Resolve survey asked voters to nominate their primary votes in the same way they filled in their ballot papers for the lower house at an election.

The survey coincided with rising coronavirus case numbers, continued lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, the arrival of the first Moderna vaccines, an increase in shipments of Pfizer vaccines and a political row over former industry minister Christian Porter.

While the polling period included Mr Morrison’s announcement on Thursday morning of a foreign policy agreement with the United States and United Kingdom and a decision to build nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide, it did not include his statement on Sunday afternoon on Mr Porter’s resignation from cabinet.

Resolve director Jim Reed noted the Coalition and Mr Morrison lost ground on some issues when voters were asked about policy performance.

On managing the economy, for instance, 42 per cent favour the Coalition and Mr Morrison while 24 per cent prefer Labor and Mr Albanese, a lead of 18 per cent for the government. The government had a lead of 25 per cent on the same question one month ago.

On managing the nation’s finances, 42 per cent back the Coalition and Mr Morrison while 22 per cent favour Labor and Mr Albanese, a lead of 20 per cent for the government. The lead was 25 per cent one month ago.

On transport policy, an issue that included divisions within the Nationals over the inland rail in recent weeks, 32 per cent favour the Coalition and 27 per cent back Labor, a lead of five percentage points for the government. The lead was 11 per cent one month ago.

“The fairly static vote position masks some losses for the Coalition on the economy and inland rail, but in truth voters seem to be more and more willing to park their vote with minor parties and independents when given that option, so they are not benefiting Labor,” he said.

“Scott Morrison has begun to rebuild his personal ratings, which were on a serious downward slide in previous months.

“He is now back in positive territory on personal performance as vaccination and defence become positives, but still has a long way to go to regain the popularity and trust he enjoyed throughout 2020.”

Most of the changes in the latest survey were within the margin of error, including the changes in primary vote, but the improvement in Mr Morrison’s performance rating was outside this range, as was the improvement for Mr Albanese as preferred prime minister.

The results confirm the government’s overall advantage on personal leadership measures even though the Coalition primary vote is lower in the survey than at the last election, when the Liberals and Nationals received 41 per cent of the vote.

At 31 per cent in this latest survey, Labor’s primary vote is below the 33 per cent it received at the last election and has continued a slide since reaching 36 per cent in the Resolve Political Monitor in June.

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