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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Tony Abbott a quick study in poll pain - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Tony Abbott a quick study in poll pain - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Tony Abbott a quick study in poll pain

Wed 28 May 2014, 12:43pm AEST

Tony Abbott has taken a battering in the
personal polls in record time, and this could spell trouble when it
comes to selling his agenda, write Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods.
Tony Abbott is just a fast learner. It took John Howard five years in
government to earn "mean, tricky and out of touch" status, according to
the infamous memo from then Liberal Party President Shane Stone.

Abbott has got there in just 10 months, with voters judging his leadership harshly in the wake of his first federal budget.

This week's Essential Report shows voter dissatisfaction with the budget attaching firmly to Abbott's personal standing.

mid-April when we last tested leader attributes, Essential has recorded
sharp spikes in voter perceptions Abbott is out of touch with ordinary
voters and untrustworthy.

And that's not all. Capable leader: down
nine points. Good in a crisis: down 10. Intolerant: up eight. We're
also less likely to see Abbott as hard-working as we were a month ago,
and more likely to see him as erratic and superficial.

Q. Which of the following describe your opinion of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott?

Out of touch with ordinary people56%67%+11
Hard working66%57%-9
Aggressive 45%52%+7
Understands the problems facing Australia48%42%-5
A capable leader50%41%-9
Good in a crisis45%35%-10
More honest than most politicians37%30%-7
For voters, this budget isn't just about balancing the national accounts. It's personal.

Abbott can recover voters' confidence remains to be seen. But he would
understand the dire implications of the loss of trust.

opposition, Abbott single-mindedly pursued the demolition of the
minority Labor government, in the perpetual hope it could topple over if
put under enough pressure. Central to his task was undermining Julia
Gillard's personal standing by linking her inextricably to the carbon
tax "lie", fuelling "Juliar" fever.

Now, when he should be
enjoying the fruits of his long political game, Abbott finds himself in
the same political quicksand he was so eager to see swallow his then

Voters' punishing post-budget assessment leaves Abbott
with personal attribute ratings on many measures equal to or worse than
Gillard's at the end of her prime ministership.

 Abbott - May 2014Gillard - June 2013Difference
Out of touch with ordinary people67%57%+10
Aggressive 52%45%+7
More honest than most politicians30%27%+3
Good in a crisis35%41%-6
Understands the problems facing Australia42%42%-
A capable leader41%44%-3
On the key issue of trustworthiness, Abbott has already managed to outdo Gillard's rating of just 30 per cent.

she arrived after a relentless internal destabilisation and a sustained
attack on her credibility over a couple of years, Abbott has turned up
on the occasion of his first budget.

And while they're neck and
neck on trust deficiency, Abbott is well behind where Gillard was before
her final political execution on a number of other measures. He is
considered more out of touch with ordinary people; more intolerant, less
intelligent, and much more arrogant.

Does it really matter what
people think about their leaders? Outside the increasingly presidential
election cycles should a leader care if the majority of voters think
they are a myopic, lying manipulator? They are all bastards anyway.

problem for Abbott is the same one that Gillard faced as her leadership
imploded. Embedded in these perceptions of a leader's personality is
the asset broadly described as "political capital".

A leader seen
to have integrity and the nation's better interests at heart uses this
goodwill to convince the masses their policies are in the national
interest; they are the context of the public conversation.

politicians bemoan they need to "sell the message" of an unpopular
policy better, they are really talking about the messenger. If you start
from a position of goodwill, a leader has the chance to confront
unpopular issues: think Hawke, think Howard. If the public don't trust
you and don't like you there is little you can do to advocate your
agenda: think Gillard, think Abbott.

Normally the slide in
personal attributes is a result of these difficult conversations over a
number of years. The warning for Abbott is the slide has occurred before
he has really got started.

Peter Lewis is a director of Essential Media Communications. View his full profile here. Jackie Woods is a communications consultant at Essential Media Communications. View her full profile here.

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