Guardian Essential poll: Albanese approval rating dips in sign of gruelling political year ahead

Prime minister’s lowest result since last August doesn’t necessarily mean the end of government’s post-election honeymoon

Anthony Albanese’s approval rating has dropped five points over the summer as Peter Dutton ramped up what Indigenous leader Noel Pearson calls “a spoiling game” on the voice to parliament.

The first Guardian Essential poll for 2023 shows voter approval of the prime minister dipped from 60% in December to 55% in January – which is Albanese’s lowest result since last August. Voter approval of the prime minister had been steady during the last quarter of 2022, ranging between 59% and 60%.

Albanese’s approval slide is accompanied by a four-point rise in voter disapproval. In December, 27% of Guardian Essential respondents disapproved of the prime minister’s performance, and that increased to 31% in January.

Many Australian voters switch off from politics entirely during their summer break, and one monthly dip in voter approval does not necessarily presage the end of the Albanese government’s post-election honeymoon.

But the negative movement outside the poll’s margin of error is nonetheless a signpost to a gruelling political year ahead.

The government has battled high inflation, rising interest rates and high energy prices – and those challenges will persist in 2023. The coming year will also include the high-stakes referendum on a constitutionally enshrined First Nations advisory body, with Albanese investing significant prime ministerial capital in securing a yes vote.

The National party confirmed late last year it would oppose the voice to parliament, effectively ending the prospect of bipartisanship. Dutton also has to manage hardline opponents inside the Liberal party room. The Liberal leader has spent the summer demanding more detail about the reform as a prelude to the referendum campaign later in 2023.

A range of opinion polls suggest Australians are supportive of the change in-principle. But Pearson on Monday expressed concerns that the opposition’s calls for more details on the referendum were a diversion that threatened reconciliation.

Polling on the voice to parliament indicates voters don’t have a firm grasp on the detail, even though the reform was first proposed in the Uluru statement from the heart back in 2017, and there have been a range of detailed deliberations around design principles since – most of them initiated by the government of which Dutton was a senior member.

Albanese is seeking to have Australians vote first on the principle of enshrining a voice, with the precise design to follow, ultimately determined by the parliament. But the prime minister said on Monday that more detail would be released by the referendum working group, which is due to meet again on 2 February.

The latest Guardian Essential poll suggests Australians are entering 2023 feeling positive about their country. A significant majority of respondents agree with the statements “Australia is a better place to live than most other countries” (83% support) and “I am proud of Australia” (77% support) – and less than half (47%) agree with the statement “Australia needs to be a better global citizen”.

A growing number of respondents also believe life has improved for Indigenous Australians over the past 10 years. Last January, 36% of respondents thought things were better for First Nations peoples than they were a decade ago, and now 43% of the sample agrees with that proposition.

A growing number of Australians also support a separate day to recognise Indigenous Australians to replace Australia Day on 26 January – the public holiday marking British colonisation.

Last January, 20% of respondents were positive about that idea, and that has climbed now to 26%. But voters remain divided about the best approach. A third of the sample supports keeping Australia Day and adding another holiday to recognise Indigenous Australians, and the same percentage would not support a separate day to recognise the original inhabitants of the continent.

With an election looming in New South Wales, Guardian Essential respondents resident in the state were also asked their view of the performance of the premier and the opposition leader.

Just under half the respondents in the sample (47%) said they approved of Dominic Perrottet’s performance as NSW premier (36% said they disapproved) while 38% said the Labor leader, Chris Minns, was doing a good job (27% disapproved). These results should be treated with caution because the sample size is small.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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