The latest Newspoll results have pulled the focus back on Liberal leadership tensions.
The latest Newspoll results have pulled the focus back on Liberal leadership tensions.

PM’s key to get out of Newspoll nightmare

MALCOLM Turnbull is entering the danger zone - but it's not the headline-grabbing results from today's 30th Newspoll loss in a row he should be worried about.

Recent history tells us that the canary in the coalmine for Turnbull will be the "preferred prime minister" marker.

He remains the people's choice to be prime minister ahead of Opposition leader Bill Shorten but the gap between the two is narrowing fast.

It's gone from a whopping 46 point difference in November 2015 - when Turnbull was riding high from having replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister - to just a 2 point difference in today's Newspoll.

Initially, 64 per cent of voters backed Turnbull as preferred prime minister.

That's now dropped to 38 per cent of voters with Shorten breathing down his neck with the support of 36 per cent of voters.

WHY DID AUSTRALIA LOSE FAITH IN TURNBULL?

Turnbull had the hopes of Labor voters as well as Liberal when he took the reins from Abbott in 2015.

But his star has fallen along with the Coalition's as they've faced crisis after crisis.

Turnbull's ranking as better PM and the Coalition's two-party preferred vote both tanked in February 2017 in the wake of the expenses scandal surrounding former Health Minister Sussan Ley.

News of Turnbull's tense phone call with new US president Donald Trump, the "robo-debt" Centrelink scandal, and Cory Bernardi splitting from the Liberal party also led to the Coalition scoring just 45 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media in Sydney after his 30th Newspoll defeat. Picture: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media in Sydney after his 30th Newspoll defeat. Picture: AAP

Tense infighting, spearheaded by Abbott and a small group of rebel backbenchers, as well as cost of living pressures also led the public to mark the government down for the rest of the year.

Turnbull's personal ranking hovered in the low 40s, while the Coalition trailed Labor in the high 40s.

But the divisive same-sex marriage postal vote and the citizenship saga, which saw Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce kicked out of Parliament and forced to fight a by-election, was a blow to both.

In November 2017, Turnbull's personal ranking fell to its lowest point since he became PM at 36 per cent.

Melbourne celebrates as the same-sex marriage postal survey result is announced. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Melbourne celebrates as the same-sex marriage postal survey result is announced. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The Coalition's meanwhile tanked to its equal lowest of 45 per cent.

Both Turnbull and the Coalition rebounded in early February after the Christmas holiday.

But the PM suffered in the fallout from the Barnaby Joyce love child scandal, with his ranking falling from 45 per cent to 38 per cent.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant partner Vikki Campion pictured at Canberra airport. Picture: Kym Smith
Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant partner Vikki Campion pictured at Canberra airport. Picture: Kym Smith

CAN TURNBULL RECOVER?

At this stage, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that the Coalition could turn public opinion back around and win the next election.

Liberal heavyweight John Howard did it.

His Coalition government claimed victory at the October 2004 election, winning 86 seats to Labor's 60, after suffering 10 months of Newspoll defeats.

Labor had led on a two-party preferred basis for almost the whole time but on the preferred prime minister marker, the polls showed the public wanted Howard and not Mark Latham.

On the surface, Turnbull could do the same thing.

John Howard’s government claimed victory at the October 2004 election, winning 86 seats to Labor’s 60, after suffering 10 months of Newspoll defeats. Picture: James Croucher
John Howard’s government claimed victory at the October 2004 election, winning 86 seats to Labor’s 60, after suffering 10 months of Newspoll defeats. Picture: James Croucher

His Coalition is only trailing Labor 48-52 per cent on a two-party preferred basis at the moment, having recovered after the Joyce scandal.

Labor's announcement of a tax policy that would hit pensioners, which it later tweaked, also offered a boost.

But if Turnbull fails the personality test, his government is likely doomed.

Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and John Howard were all rolled after suffering hits to their personal ratings as PM.

Gillard's rating as preferred PM plunged in 2013 from 45 per cent in January to 33 per cent in June when the Labor Party replaced her with her own predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Julia Gillard during her famous misogyny speech. Picture: News Limited
Julia Gillard during her famous misogyny speech. Picture: News Limited

Then-Opposition leader Tony Abbott had overtaken her as preferred PM in March.

She had survived earlier dips in support but it became fatal as an election neared.

Rudd was a maverick when it came to the polls - he only suffered one Newspoll defeat in his tenure as PM and remained preferred prime minister ahead of Abbott 46-37 per cent until he was rolled by Gillard in 2010.

But Abbott suffered a similar fate to Gillard when he finally won government.

He fell behind then-Opposition leader Bill Shorten within eight months as PM and regained his place as preferred PM briefly a few times before he was eventually rolled by Malcolm Turnbull when the Newspoll defeats started racking up.

On September 13, when Turnbull challenged for the Liberal leadership, Shorten had superseded Abbott as preferred PM by 41 per cent to 37 per cent.

Howard was ranked as the preferred PM for almost his whole time in government.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott (second left) speaks with fellow riders at Warragul before taking part in the Pollie Pedal Bike Ride today. Picture: AAP
Former prime minister Tony Abbott (second left) speaks with fellow riders at Warragul before taking part in the Pollie Pedal Bike Ride today. Picture: AAP

But he was overtaken swiftly as preferred PM by Labor leader Kevin Rudd in February 2007 and eventually lost government to Rudd later that year.

It's not the only measure that's significant - the markers of the two-party preferred result, a party's primary result, the leaders net satisfaction rating and who the public consider to be a better PM all contribute to the picture.

But in the count down to the next federal election - which is now looking to be in early 2019 - Turnbull's colleagues will be keeping an eye on who the public want as their leader.