Poll ratings for Australia’s governing party have tumbled to a near-record low in a fresh blow to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, after Labor suffered a landslide defeat in a state election at the weekend.
Labor’s primary vote slid 3 percentage points to 28 percent, while support for the Liberal-National coalition rose four points to 47, according to a Newspoll survey published in the Australian newspaper today. Labor trails the opposition on a two-party preferred basis, seen as the most accurate gauge of potential election outcomes, by 43 percent to 57 percent, from a six-point gap two weeks ago.
Labor was swept from power in Queensland on March 24 in its worst election defeat in the state and is expected to lose 44 of the 51 seats it held in the regional parliament. With national elections due within 20 months, the ballot served as a warning at the depth of discontent with Labor in Queensland and underscores the difficulties facing Gillard as she tries to restore the party’s flagging popularity.
The Queensland election was a “very severe defeat for Labor,” Gillard told reporters in Seoul today, where she is attending a nuclear conference. “My job is to both listen and lead and that’s what I will be doing as prime minister.”
The northeastern state accounted for more than half the federal seats Labor lost in the last national election in 2010, when it was reduced to a minority government. Should the 15.7 percent swing away from Labor in the March 24 ballot be replicated at the next federal poll, the party would lose all eight of its seats in Queensland, including that of Treasurer and Deputy Prime Wayne Swan.
Labor’s national primary vote has fallen below 30 percent for the first time since October and is close to the record low of 26 percent in September, according to the Newspoll survey. The poll of 925 people was conducted March 23-25 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister gained 1 point to 40 percent, compared with opposition leader Tony Abbott’s 37 percent, unchanged from two weeks earlier.
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