Turnbull starting to move in the right direction

The latest Morgan Gallup Poll shows Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating falling slightly, but a massive increase in the numbers preferring him as Prime Minister over Bill Shorten.

At last Turnbull is moving in the right direction. If he can maintain this he can win the next election.

What is most significant is the fall in Shorten’s support amongst Greens, Independents and non-Greens minor party voters.

Here are the figures including Morgan’s heading:

Analysis by Party – Turnbull leads among L-NP electors and Shorten well ahead with ALP electors

L-NP supporters: Turnbull 86% (unchanged) cf. Shorten 4% (down 8%). Lead to Mr. Turnbull 82% (up 8%);

ALP supporters: Turnbull 14% (down 4%) cf. Shorten 65% (down 16%). Lead to Mr. Shorten 51% (down 12%);

Greens supporters: Turnbull 22% (up 7%) cf. Shorten 54% (down 29%). Lead to Mr. Shorten 32% (down 36%);

Ind/Others supporters: Turnbull 51% (up 3%) cf. Shorten 25% (down 25%). Lead to Mr. Turnbull 26% (up 28%).

When people ask me to list the achievements of Malcolm Turnbull I reply that at least he has reset the political debate by having an election which he won, no matter how narrowly.

As a result of that election we are starting to see legislation being successfully put through the senate.

Turnbull has also taken stronger stances on refugees, and now human rights. This is going to cost him support on the left, but in the middle ground and the right it sharpens the distinction between him and Shorten, and that, as much as anything Shorten has done, is partially responsible for Shorten’s decline in the polls.

Were an election to be held tomorrow, and Turnbull to run on leadership, Shorten would lose decisively.

There also seems to have been a turn in Turnbull’s rhetoric. He is sounding stronger and more decisive. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, he is now taking some risks, and it appears to be paying off.

Listen to ABC’s AM from this morning to hear the new tone. It’s not quite three word slogans, but it is definitely not polly waffle either.

Another contributing factor could be the ABCC legislation. Voters generally give the ALP a pass on unions, in the same way they give the coalition a pass on big business, because they are both seen as core constintuencies.

Where the union issue resonates is when voters assess Bill Shorten’s character. At the back of their minds they know he did a bad deal for the workers at Cleanevent which had payoffs for him in terms of union representation in Labor forums, and ultimately support to become prime minister.

Voters don’t want to end up like the Cleanevent crew.

Yet another factor is likely to be gay marriage. If you are genuinely interested in seeing it legislated, and not using it as a political football, then you would support the government’s legislation, have the plebiscite, and have it over and done with.

Shorten is playing the issue for political advantage.

There are two constituencies that care about gay marriage, outside the LGBTIQ community. One is conservative Christians and the other is Greens/Left voters.

The Christians are not huge in numbers, but they distinguish between Shorten and Turnbull on this issue. At least Turnbull is going to give them a say in it, and if they are beaten, they can accept that.

Turnbull has held the line on this issue, and it is to his advantage with these voters. They could well desert him if he did anything else.

Those who are Greens/Left and not partisan warriors realise that a plebiscite is their best chance for at least the next three years. It must irk them that a man who three years ago was in favour of a plebiscite and against gay marriage, has now taken the opposite position, but to whose advantage? Not theirs – see Cleanevent above.

Labor is attempting to ape Tony Abbott’s oppositional tactics, but Abbott had something that Bill Shorten Labor hasn’t – he was seen as a conviction politician. He might have been brutally oppositional, and gained an advantage from it, but he believed in what he was saying, and the advantage was consequential.

Shorten comes up short on conviction, so opposition can easily be translated by voters as self-interested hypocrisy and gamesmanship. The political tide is running against that at the moment.

Turnbull however should not take this improvement for granted. The move away from Shorten hasn’t been directly to his benefit. The voters have parked themselves as “Neither/Can’t say”. If Turnbull shows any signs of stepping back from his new tougher direction, Shorten will be back in the game.