SYDNEY – Australia’s opposition has regained the lead over Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government, with 52 percent of respondents in an opinion poll published Saturday saying they will support the coalition in the Sept. 7 national election.
The ruling Labor Party had a 48 percent share of the final two-party preferred vote in the poll of 1,400 people, conducted Aug. 6 to 8 by Nielsen and published in Fairfax Media Ltd. newspapers. It was the first national poll to be conducted since Rudd kicked off a five-week election campaign last Sunday.
The Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott was preferred for its ability to steer the economy by 56 percent of those polled, against 36 percent for the government, rising from a 52 percent to 41 percent lead in the previous survey.
Rudd, who led Australia as it escaped recession after the 2008 financial crisis, has said since returning to the leadership in June that the nation faces challenges as China’s economy slows and the Reserve Bank of Australia lowers its growth outlook.
“It was always Abbott’s election to lose, and he’s not losing it. He’s not giving Rudd a chance to claw back a lead,” Andrew Hughes, a lecturer in marketing and politics at Australian National University in Canberra, said. “He won’t win by much, but he doesn’t have to win by much.”
The opposition’s four-point lead compares to a 50-50 tie in the previous Nielsen poll, conducted July 11-13.
Rudd still leads Abbott as the preferred prime minister by a margin of 50-42, narrowed from a previous 55-41, according to the Nielsen telephone survey, which reported a maximum margin of error of 2.6 percent.
“I said on the day that I called the election that we enter this election as the underdogs. That remains the case. I don’t gild the lily about any of that, so we remain the underdogs,” Rudd said at a news conference Saturday in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.
The government’s deficit is still short of the 57-43 two-party result from Nielsen’s June 13-15 poll, the last taken before Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as prime minister after an internal vote of the governing Labor Party. Abbott was preferred by 50 percent in that poll, compared to 41 percent who backed Gillard.
“The Rudd honeymoon has well and truly come to a shuddering halt,” Christopher Pyne, shadow education minister, said Saturday on Sky News. “The Australian public is starting to remember all the reasons why they wanted him gone three years ago.”