The budget has done nothing for Malcolm Turnbull when it comes to winning the next election

Getty ImagesBill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull
  • Polling out today shows the government has received little credit from voters for its tax cuts in last Tuesday’s budget.
  • Labor extended its lead in the Fairfax/Ipsos poll, which Turnbull lost his 32nd straight Newspoll, although the government held its ground on the previous 51-49 2PP vote.
  • The good news for the PM is that both polls had his personal approval rising strongly as Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s approval levels fell.

There’s one major contradiction in today’s Fairfax/Ipsos poll after last week’s federal budget, which shows Labor has increased its lead over the government to 54% to 46% on a two-party-preferred basis, up 2%.

It’s the biggest gap since March 2017, with the Opposition’s primary vote also enjoying a substantial 3% lift to 37%. Last month, Labor’s lead was 52%-48% before Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget, widely perceived as a pre-election sweetener.

On that front, the 38% of voters who believed the budget would leave them better off is the best result since John Howard and Peter Costello went on a cash splash in the 2006 budget as they trailed Labor in the polls.

But after offering low to middle income voters a $530 rebate, the Coalition appears to be hoist on its own political rhetoric, with a large majority of voters, 57%, saying they’d prefer the money to go towards paying down government debt, company to 37% who’d rather have the cash in their pocket.

It seems the budget emergency the Coalition proclaimed loudly as it came to power in 2013 is still in the minds of voters amid promises of $140 billion in income tax cuts over the next decade.

And that’s the pain point for Turnbull and Morrison. Voters seem wary that the government’s not doing enough to pay down debt, but they’ll take the personal windfall anyway. Morrison’s prediction that he’ll at least balance the books are year earlier than predicted, in 2019-2020, isn’t being rewarded by voters at this point.

And the political irony for the government is that Labor’s pledge to nearly double the initial tax cut to $928 by Bill Shorten in Thursday’s budget reply appears to have greater appeal without attracting censure from voters for its additional $5.8 billion in expenditure. The Coalition’s primary vote did not budge and still sits 6 points below its 2016 election result at 36%.

The one bright spot for Malcolm Turnbull is maintaining his massive preferred Prime Minister lead over Shorten at 52% to 32%, as well as increasing his approval rating to 51% up from 47% last month, with his disapproval rating also falling 4 points to 39%.

Shorten’s approval rating also increased, but by just 1 point to 39%, with is disapproval rating dropping 2 points to 51%, but that still leaves him with a net deficit of 12 points.

But the budget didn’t stop Turnbull from losing his 32nd consecutive Newspoll, although the government held its ground with a second successive 51% to 49% vote to Labor on a two-party-­preferred basis.

Newspoll has Labor enjoying a 0.5% swing if an election was held tomorrow.

Labor faces a series of by-elections next month to hold on to four key seats after three MPs were forced to resign last week because they were dual citizens, while shadow minister and Perth MP Tim Hammond resigned from politics over concerns about its impact on his family.

Newspoll had Turnbull’s popularity at its highest levels since the 2016 election, up 8 points to 46%, and putting him 14 points ahead of Shorten, whose rating dropped 3 points to 32%.

Newspoll had both the Coalition and Labor’s primary votes both increasing by a point to 39% and 38% respectively.

The results suggest that while Shorten’s standing was damaged in the wake of last week’s High Court decision against Labor senator Katy Gallagher, which forced her from the Senate because she was a dual citizen, leading the other MPs to resign too, the Opposition leader’s budget reply matching and bettering Scott Morrison’s tax cuts appears to have halted, at least for now, any momentum the government was hoping to build from its budget.

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