Long Way Back For Liberals And Morrison, Polls Show
The Coalition is still facing electoral wipeout under new PM Scott Morrison, but the polls are slowly moving in the right direction for the government.
When Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as Liberal leader, the Coalition trailed 49-51 in the influential Newspoll figures -- not the ideal number, but not catastrophic and not unexpected for a government in its fifth year in office.
A record-breaking string of poll losses to Labor was one of many reasons variously given by Liberals who moved against the sitting PM.
But if anyone was hoping for an instant poll turnaround under Morrison -- hardly a household name after his run as treasurer -- they would have been sorely disappointed.
The Coalition's vote dropped to a historic low in his first Newspoll as leader on August 26, dipping to a 44-56 two-party result against Labor. The Liberal primary vote plummeted to a dismal 33.
Little changed in the next poll on September 9, only two weeks after the spill, but Monday's latest Newspoll -- coming a month after the change -- was slightly better news.
The Coalition two-party vote share rose to 46.
It's a small change to be sure, but at least the worm started moving the right way for the government.
It's not worthy of popping champagne corks, but some tried to play up the news. The Australian newspaper, which commissions the Newspoll, accentuated the positives when tweeting "Scott Morrison lifts Coalition, cements lead over Bill Shorten".
Never mind the "lift" is still three points shy of where Turnbull's Coalition sat when he was dumped as leader.
The last three Newspolls have recorded the Coalition's worst result since November 2017.
Morrison retains a commanding lead over Labor leader Bill Shorten in the 'preferred PM' stakes, a metric that many fixate on but which has little material bearing or influence.
Turnbull held a commanding lead over Shorten in this stake for most of his time in the top job, but was still knifed because he couldn't drag his party's vote up to a similar level.
Conversely, Tony Abbott led the Coalition to a 2013 election win despite lagging personal popularity.
Morrison's own popularity, even boosted by a so-called 'honeymoon period' that usually follows the ascension of a new leader, is only at 44 in the current poll -- just one point above where Turnbull was when he was dumped, and still below the 47s and 48s Turnbull recorded over much of the last year.
While the numbers are going the right way for Morrison, what is now clear -- and what should have been clear to all, considering the past decade in Australian politics -- is that voters just plain don't like their leaders being cut down mid-term.
They didn't like it when Kevin Rudd was dumped, with Julia Gillard's Labor having to cobble together crossbench support to scrape into minority government; they didn't like it when Rudd took over from Gillard again, dumping Labor out; they didn't like it when Turnbull knifed Abbott, voting the Coalition back in but only with a one seat majority.
Why should anyone think Morrison would buck this trend?
The Coalition are still on track for a thumping defeat in any election, and Morrison's 'honeymoon period' has not eventuated.
The two-party vote will likely stabilise as election time approaches, as voters forget "the Muppet show" of recent weeks and the Coalition papers over the yawning cracks that have ripped the party open.
But for Morrison to have any prospect of electoral victory, there will need to be a much bigger -- even historic -- shift in public perception, and so far, it appears he has done little to excite the populace.