Attacks on state governments over energy costs seem to have worked for prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has improved his personal standing, as well as the Coalition’s primary vote in NSW, Victoria and even South Australia, but the federal government is still in danger of losing the next election according to the latest Newspoll.
The Coalition is losing ground in the regional areas, where it needs to hold several key marginal seats to retain power. Labor continues to hold a 53% to 47% lead in the two-party vote – a margin it has maintained all year, but the Coalition’s primary vote has plummeted 10 percentage points to just 34% in the regions since last year’s election, and is now being outpolled by the ALP, which is up 2 points to 36%.
Instead, voters are turning to the minor parties, but Newspoll found that support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation fell in Queensland, down from 16% to 14% over the last quarter, while in South Australia, more than a third of voters (36%) prefer minor parties, including an astonishing 18% for outgoing senator Nick Xenophon’s NXT party.
The latest Newspoll predicts a 3.5% swing to Labor and if an election was held today, Bill Shorten’s party would win 16 seats at the government’s expense to take power with 85 seats, to the Coalition’s 60, with five seats going to independents.
Even Turnbull’s support as preferred prime minister dropped slightly over the quarter from 44% to 43% while Bill Shorten was steady on 32%.
One bright spot for Turnbull was an increase in his personal approval rating, up two points to 35%, while those dissatisfied with him fell two points to 53%.
The drop in regional support is a troubling sign for the Coalition’s junior partner, the Nationals, especially with the party’s leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s future under threat as he faces the High Court this week over the dual citizenship debacle, along with Nationals senators Fiona Nash and Queensland former minister Matt Canavan.
The prime minister’s calls for more coal seam gas exploration may also be weighing on the minds of rural voters, where farmers have waged long-running political battles against the rights of mining companies to build wells on their properties.
The Australian has more on the latest Newspoll figures here.
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