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Abbott and Shorten – first poll

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 18 October 2013


It was only Sunday that Bill Shorten was elected Labor leader, and here we are and it's Friday and On Line Opinion has the first polls on the leadership of the parties and how Shorten shapes up to Tony Abbott.

And as you'd expect, there is not a lot happening yet. It's really too early to tell how either leader will go, although there are some pointers to how things might shape up.

We've based our analysis on the results of our online poll, weighted to reflect voting at the last election.

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The first thing to note is that Abbott may have won a landslide election, but he's not personally rating that well. While his net approval is in positive territory, with his approval 6 percentage points ahead of his disapproval, approval at 46% is less than 50% and disapproval of 40% is uncomfortably high. It also doesn't leave many undecided voters, and most of these are Labor voters.

So the Liberal Party needs to steer clear of any triumphalism. They didn't win because there leader was overwhelmingly popular, and he needs to take this into account in his leadership performance. While he had a good result the country is actually fairly bitterly divided over him.

By comparison Shorten is -8% net unpopular. 29% disapprove, but only 21% approve. These are very low figures because 42% are neutral about him at the moment. While that gives him plenty of room to improve his popularity, it has to worry Labor because it also says that despite him being a prominent frontbencher since Labor won power in 2007 he hasn't really struck a chord with the public. This figure is consistent across parties, meaning he hasn't antagonised Liberal Party supporters the same way that Abbott has antagonised Labor Party ones.

What should concern him is that our poll of last week showed Chris Bowen having a positive rating as Opposition Leader with 35% approval and only 20% disapproval. According to Reachtel, Labor improved its vote after the election, leading one newsreader to quip that this was done "even though they didn't have a leader". This table suggests that this is wide of the mark and Bowen could indeed be a good future leader.

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However popularity isn't everything, and when it comes to the question of who is the best prime minister, irrespective of whether you look at Abbott versus Bower, or Abbott versus Shorten, it is Abbott with 55% and 54% of the vote respectively.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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