Morgan has published results from a phone poll of 561 respondents conducted over the three previous nights, which suggests the recent flood levy debate has been one more episode of sound and fury that has no substantial effect on voting intention. The Coalition leads on the primary vote 42.5 per cent to 35 per cent, with the Greens on 12 per cent. After distribution of preferences as they split at the 2010 election, the Coalition has a two-party lead of 51-49. Morgan however has used the less reliable method of respondent allocation for its headline figure of 50.5-49.5. Also featured are results on leaders’ personal ratings, and here there has been significant movement: Tony Abbott’s approval rating has slumped eleven points since December to 39 per cent, with his disapproval up seven to 46 per cent. Julia Gillard is down three on approval to 46 per cent and up four on disapproval to 42 per cent. On preferred prime minister, Gillard’s lead has widened from 46-39 to 49-36. Since this is a phone poll, none of the usual qualifications about Morgan face-to-face polling’s bias to Labor apply. However, what does apply is a fairly substantial margin of error of about 4 per cent, owing to the small sample size.

The poll also canvassed opinion on preferred leaders of the major parties, finding Julia Gillard with only a modest lead of 31 per cent to 26 per cent over Kevin Rudd – well down on the 13-point lead Morgan recorded in a phone poll on December 8-9. While the sample on both polls was small, a question on preferred leader other than the incumbent suggests Rudd’s popularity has recovered since a post-election dive: his 36 per cent response is roughly where it was in July and August, but up nine points on December. That Gillard has lost so much ground in the head-to-head to contest with Rudd over time points to her own decline in absolute terms. The order of also-rans runs Stephen Smith (12 per cent), Wayne Swan (11 per cent) and Bill Shorten (9 per cent).

The same set of questions with regard to the Liberal Party shows Tony Abbott slipping to third place, though this is due to a gain for Joe Hockey (up four points since December to 25 per cent) at the expense of Malcolm Turnbull (down three to 28 per cent, though still in front), rather than a significant move in Abbott’s rating (down one to 24 per cent). On the question of preferred leader other than Abbott, Turnbull leads Hockey 35 per cent to 32 per cent, with no others in serious contention.

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