Essential poll: more voters disapprove of Scott Morrison and see him as arrogant

The prime minister’s handling of the bushfire crisis has seen his disapproval rating rise 9 points from 43% in December to 52%

Voters have marked down Scott Morrison for his handling of the bushfire crisis, and increasingly see him as arrogant and out of touch, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

The survey, undertaken from 7-11 January, also shows Anthony Albanese has overtaken Morrison as preferred prime minister for the first time since he became leader of the Labor party following the May election.

As the government fends off criticism of its response to the fires, the survey of 1,081 voters shows a shift in the number of people who disapprove of Morrison’s performance, which has increased from 43% in December to 52%.

This has been driven by an increase in those who strongly disapprove – up from 22% in December to 32%.

However, the gauge of voter sentiment shows that those who are increasingly unhappy with Morrison are Labor and undecided voters, with the prime minister’s approval rating among Coalition supporters changing only from 82% in December to 79%.

The number of Labor voters who now “strongly disapprove” of Morrison’s performance has increased from 36% in December to 52%, indicating an increased polarisation of political views compared to last year.

Overall, only around a third (32%) of people approve of Morrison’s handling of the current bushfires crisis, while 36% strongly disapprove of his performance.

This compares unfavourably with how voters rate the performance of state premiers, with 55% of voters in New South Wales endorsing Gladys Berejiklian’s response, and 58% of Victorians believing Daniel Andrews has performed well.

Just 11% of Labor voters and 23% of those voting for another party approve of Morrison’s performance.

On Sunday, Morrison rejected suggestions that the federal government was unprepared for the risk of bushfires, saying “the recommendations that were put to us were acted upon”.

However, according to the survey, 78% of people agreed that the federal government was “underprepared for the risk of bushfires this season”.

A similar number (79%) believe the prime minister should have met with experts before the fire season “to plan a coordinated response to the risk”, in response to revelations that a group of former fire chiefs had been trying unsuccessfully to secure a meeting with Morrison since April.

The prime minister has also argued that Australia has always had bushfires like those experienced in the current season, but around half of voters (52%) disagreed with the statement.

As support for Morrison has softened, so too has his standing as preferred prime minister, with 39% now saying Albanese would be better in the role, compared to 36% for Morrison.

This is a 6 percentage point drop for Morrison since November, which has coincided with an 11 percentage point increase for Albanese.

A quarter of voters are still undecided, slightly fewer than when the question was last asked in November when 29% did not know.

While the majority of the Coalition base (64%) approve of Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis that has so far claimed 28 lives and more than 2,000 homes, a growing number of voters are associating him with negative attributes.

Since October last year, the view that Morrison is “good in a crisis” has fallen from 51% to 32% – a massive 19% drop, while the prime minister is also less likely to be seen as visionary (down from 42% to 30%), and as hard-working (down from 63% to 53%).

Coalition voters were equally damning in their assessment of Morrison’s performance, with those believing he is “good in a crisis” dropping from 79% to 61%.

Fewer people see him as a “capable leader”, down 9 points to 45%, while more people now see him as narrow minded (now 54%, from 47% in October), arrogant (now 51%, from 44%) and out of touch with ordinary Australians (now 62%, from 56%).

A majority of voters still regard Morrison as “intelligent”, a trait that remains one of the top three attributes associated with the prime minister.

For Albanese, approval of his performance has remained steady, moving from 39% to 43% between December and January.

Among Labor voters, 64% either approve or strongly approve of Albanese’s performance, with just 13% of the Labor base registering disapproval.

Voters are also becoming more familiar with Albanese, with those who don’t know about the opposition leader’s performance now at 27%, the lowest since he became leader and down from 33% in December.


Sarah Martin Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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