Labor's lead over Coalition narrows in Guardian Essential poll

Opposition ahead of government 52% to 48% as large number of voters say they would consider voting for an independent

Labor remains ahead of the Morrison government, although the national contest has narrowed appreciably during the past fortnight, and a large number of voters say they would consider voting for an independent at the next federal election.

The latest Guardian Essential poll has Labor ahead of the Coalition on the two-party-preferred measure 52% to 48%, compared with 54% to 46% a fortnight ago. The Coalition’s primary vote is on 37% and Labor is on 35%, which is a four-point drop from the last survey.

Answers to a number of questions in the latest survey of 1,027 respondents suggest Australian voters are ending 2018 frustrated with federal politics, and deeply disaffected on a range of fronts.

A majority think the Morrison government is not doing enough to prepare for an ageing population, is failing to oversee a transition to renewable energy, is lagging in rolling out the NBN, is not doing enough to ensure the economy delivers benefits to all Australians or giving people more access to affordable housing.

When asked to nominate the most important issues the Morrison government should address, respondents were most likely to nominate the economy, renewables, ageing and affordable housing.

Voters are also underwhelmed by both the Liberal and Labor frontbench teams.

Asked to rate the Morrison government’s team of ministers, 28% said good and 35% said poor. Labor’s team were rated similarly – 28% of the sample said good and 33% said poor. Just over a third of the sample said both teams were neither good nor poor.

On a head-to-head comparison, 36% said the Labor team would do a better job of governing the country, and 35% nominated the Liberal team. Voters mainly split along partisan lines, and 29% said they didn’t know which group would do a better job.

The latest survey also suggests there is burgeoning interest in voting for independents, with 42% of the sample flirting with the idea.

With a number of candidates now mulling a run for federal parliament after Kerry Phelps’ success in Wentworth, and with Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex signalling he’ll help fund independent, locally based “small-L liberal” candidates who advocate action on climate change and can play a constructive role in the parliament – 38% of the sample agreed with the statement there should be more independents in the parliament.

Just over half the sample, 51%, agreed with the statement that the Liberal and Labor parties had no long-term plan for the country, 38% said there was no substantial difference in the policy offerings, 42% said political parties were too ideological, and 47% said they had become less interested in politics over the past few years.

With a federal election looming in the first half of next year, people are more likely to be firm in their voting intention than still on the fence.

Just under half the sample, 44%, characterised their voting intention as very firm and unlikely to change, with 37% describing it as firm “but it might change”. Seventeen percent said their vote was not firm at all and 2% didn’t know.

People who are disaffected and still undecided are much more likely to consider voting for an independent at the coming poll.

People considering voting independent in the sample are much more likely to agree that political parties in Australia are too ideological (56%), there is no substantial difference between the policies of the Labor and Liberal parties (56%), there should be more independents and minor parties in parliament (66%) and neither Labor nor the Liberals have a long-term plan for Australia (73%).

But this cohort is only a little more likely than average to say they had become less interested in politics over the last few years.

The latest Guardian Essential result is the same as a new Ipsos poll published by Fairfax Media on Sunday night, which also has Labor ahead of the Coalition on the two-party-preferred measure 52% to 48%. The Guardian Essential poll a fortnight ago had Labor ahead of the Coalition 54% to 46%.

Over the past fortnight, there has been a terror attack in Melbourne. Scott Morrison has been campaigning in marginal seats in Queensland, and has also wrapped up the opening meetings of his first summit season as prime minister.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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