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Howard hunts down Latham.

By Tim Grau - posted Thursday, 5 August 2004

While speculation has been rife about possible election dates as pundits try to read the Prime Minister’s mind, it’s the changing mood of the electorate that provides a greater insight into when the election will be held and the likely outcome.

An analysis of voters' attitudes about key issues and which party is best to handle them reveals the Howard government’s fight back is working and Labor’s rise under Latham appears to have stalled.

The most recent Newspolls published in The Australian show a significant shift in voters’ attitudes to the Howard government and its management of key issues.


In March 2004, these polls revealed the government was well behind the new-look Labor Opposition on the issues that voters thought were most important.

By June, while the Coalition still trails Labor on many key issues the Howard government has made significant improvements across the board.

Most notably, the government’s position in these regards has dramatically improved since October 2003.

The key issues for voters still remain health, medicare, education, welfare and social issues. Leadership and national security are the other two key issues for voters.

On all these issues when voters are asked who is best to handle them, voters are in increasing numbers saying the government is.

In the area of health and medicare, for example, the government has improved its rating by one third.


Sure, it still trails the Opposition as the best party to handle the issue but between October 2003 and June 2004 the percentage of voters willing to nominate the government as best to handle health and medicare has risen from 27 percent to 36 percent – a nine per cent increase – and within striking distance of the Labor Opposition stuck on 42 percent. The same percentage it received in October.

In education, similarly, the government has significantly improved its position – up from 28 per cent to 33 per cent between October and June.

On welfare and social issues, the government has improved from 25 per cent to 29 per cent. On family issues, unemployment, tax, defence industrial relations and interest rates the government has improved its rating between October 2003 and June 2004.

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About the Author

Tim Grau is a one-time adviser to former Queensland Labor premier Wayne Goss and ex-federal attorney-general Michael Lavarch. He is the founding director of the public affairs firm, Springboard Australia.

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