Today marks the 1000th day in a row that 50 per cent or more of the population has been dissatisfied with Bill Shorten’s performance. That is 241 days longer than Tony Abbott’s worst stretch as opposition leader.
Yesterday’s Newspoll also chalked up a four-year run of negative net satisfaction ratings for Shorten, a period that covered 81 consecutive polls over nearly 1500 days. Abbott’s longest stretch was just over 1000 days across 65 consecutive polls.
It seems that we can now conclude that Shorten is the least popular opposition leader in Australian political history, more so even than the deeply unpopular Abbott. Yet for Shorten to fall short of becoming our next PM he would need to lose a seemingly unlosable election.
At one level the unpopular run is a testament to Shorten’s resilience — having lasted as long as he has as Opposition Leader. And to be completely fair to him, Shorten has seen off two prime ministers during that time and looks set to dispatch a third when Scott Morrison faces the voters in May.
The latest Newspoll also has the Labor Party in front of the Coalition 53-47 per cent on the two-party vote, the same advantage it enjoyed two weeks ago.
But the run of poor personal polls does also highlight a problem for Labor: its leader clearly isn’t popular, and represents a drag on the Labor vote.
Even if this doesn’t hurt Labor at the next election — with voters having already having made up their collective minds that the Coalition government must be punished — it could limit the size of the victory, or reduce the honeymoon it enjoys once in control of the Treasury benches.
Paradoxically, without Shorten’s political skills Labor may not be where it is now — in a strong election-winning position. The certainty of that trajectory would increase, however, if voters didn’t still have lingering doubts about the alternative PM. If we see a more positive campaign from Labor between now and polling day it will be a sure sign that the opposition believes it has the election in the bag, and is working on its leader’s image, aiming to elevate his standing with a voting base that wants a change of government, but still has question marks about the alternative PM.
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