Yesterday’s Newspoll wasn’t exactly the best of news for the Prime Minister, but it shouldn’t have come as any surprise.
For weeks now the government has been trailing in the Essential poll, based on a two-week average, in exactly the same territory — 48 to 52 per cent.
Essential fleshed out its own figures yesterday with something more: key attributes for both the leaders.
They were a very mixed bag indeed. Malcolm Turnbull’s were “intelligent (75 per cent)” — positive — “out of touch with ordinary people (65 per cent)” — ow, ow, ow — “hard working (61 per cent)” — not bad — and “arrogant (56 per cent) — ouch.
Shorten’s were “hard working (61 per cent), intelligent (59 per cent) and understands the problems facing Australia (49 per cent),” good, solid electoral fare — if not flair.
But Turnbull still had one ace up his sleeve. Thirty-seven per cent of Essential’s respondents rated him as “more honest than most politicians”. Indeed, his figures had improved since May. Only by one percentage point — margin of error territory — but improved nonetheless.
It’s almost as if, in the face of all reason, all logic, all evidence voters are emulating that tormented investigator of the paranormal from The X-Files, Fox Mulder, and saying “I want to believe“.
It’s been more than evident to anyone who has followed public life in this country for a generation now — even longer — that Malcolm Turnbull feels he has been touched by the hand of God.
What is remarkable is that after such an omnishambles of a year such a solid chunk of the electorate still believes he offers something different, something better.
It may just be because in Bill Shorten he is up against not just a machine man but one who can rival Get Smart’s Hymie in the automaton stakes.
But whatever it is, it is still an advantage – when Turnbull needs every advantage he can get.
Will the Prime Minister squander this one, like all the others?