Anthony Albanese is ending the parliamentary year on a high, with the latest Guardian Essential poll suggesting Labor is comfortably in front of the Coalition, while voter disapproval of Peter Dutton remains 10 points higher than for the prime minister.
Six months on from the federal election, the survey of more than 1,000 voters indicates Labor is ahead of the Coalition on the two-party-preferred “plus” measure 51.4% to 43.1%, with 5.5% of respondents undecided.
While voter disapproval of the prime minister has crept up since a low of 17% recorded in September, 46% of respondents have a positive view of Albanese in the latest poll, 26% are neutral and 23% are negative.
When it comes to Peter Dutton, 28% of respondents are positive, 32% are neutral and 33% are negative. Some opposition leaders struggle to build a public profile, but the Queensland politician is well known to voters (only 3% of respondents say they have never heard of him) and negative voter sentiment about Dutton has been steady since August.
Guardian Essential’s two-party-preferred “plus” measure is a change in methodology adopted after the 2019 election to highlight the proportion of undecided voters in any survey, providing accuracy on the limits of any prediction.
The positive reception for the prime minister aligns with responses to a regular question in the survey that invites voters to nominate whether or not the country is on the right track.
More voters believe Australia is on the right track than the wrong track (44% to 36%, with 20% of respondents undecided) even though the final quarter of this year has been dominated by consumer concerns about surging inflation and higher borrowing costs.
Sentiment was a bit rosier before the October budget underscored the cost-of-living crisis by forecasting a 56% increase in power prices by the end of next year. Back in September, 48% of respondents said Australia was on the right track, 29% said wrong track and 23% were undecided.
The survey suggests a majority of voters also support the government’s efforts to stabilise Australia’s relationship with China. Albanese met the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, which was the first diplomatic contact at that level between the two countries since 2016.
Voters were asked this fortnight whether they wanted the new government to look for opportunities to rebuild the bilateral relationship, take a more confrontational position with Beijing, or keep the current set of policies.
A majority – 54% –opted for rebuilding relations, which is up three points since May. Only 13% said look for more confrontation (down from 19% in May) and 12% supported the status quo. Just under half the voters surveyed (47%) thought the new Labor government would improve the Australia-China relationship (only 9% thought Albanese would make the relationship worse).
While Australians seem to want stability in the relationship, the Guardian Essential data suggests voters are more sceptical about the value China adds to Australian life across a range of fronts. In 2019, 59% of respondents thought China was a positive for international trade. In 2022, only 37% of respondents hold that view.
Voters are divided about whether or not the Aukus nuclear submarine partnership will make us more secure at a time of rising great power competition and regional tension – 44% of respondents think more secure, 16% think less secure and 39% think it won’t have a material impact one way or the other.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, declared that the Aukus submarine deal increased the risk of a nuclear confrontation with China.
Scott Morrison’s decision to proceed with Aukus and dump a $90bn contract to supply diesel submarines from French manufacturer Naval Group sparked a furious diplomatic row with Macron which culminated in the French president declaring Morrison had lied to him.
Voters were also asked this fortnight to express a view about how the media covers politics. In the lead-up to the Labor premier Daniel Andrews’ victory in the Victorian election at the weekend, there was a significant public debate about whether coverage of the contest was fair and balanced.
The data from the poll suggest voters don’t have a great deal of respect for the quality of political coverage, with 63% of respondents agreeing with the statement: “The media treats politics like a game” while 55% agreed with the statement: “The media is too biased to one side of politics”.
But the news wasn’t all bad, with 47% of respondents saying they felt well informed about federal politics and 40% saying issues of importance to them were covered well.