The polls for Australian PM Kevin Rudd (prior to yesterday’s Federal Budget) seemed to be in free fall:
Since the previous poll a month ago, Mr Rudd’s approval rating has nosedived 14 percentage points to 45 per cent, while his disapproval rating has skyrocketed 13 points to 49 per cent. (from the Sydney Morning Herald/Nielsen poll)
There are a number of issues in this, but this particular huge drop was related to his decision to postpone the Emissions Trading Scheme, intended to address climate change:
The poll finds 58 per cent of voters still support an ETS. Only 30 per cent oppose it.
Mr Rudd once called climate change ”the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation” and his decision to shelve the policy polarised the electorate – 43 per cent supported the delay, 45 per cent opposed it and 13 per cent were undecided. (ibid)
The reason for the delay was basically that he could not get the legislation past the Senate, and the only solution would have been to trigger a ‘double dissolution’ of Parliament, bringing on an election immediately. Presumably he’s chosen to avoid that in the hope of being able to get some ‘runs on the board’ by later in the year when the election is required to be called.
Two things make me confident that we’ll still have a Labour government after the election. One is that although Rudd’s popularity has dropped, that of Tony Abbott, the Opposition leader, has not really risen. Mr Rudd is still the preferred prime minister by a relatively large margin: only the really rusted-on conservatives really like Abbott.
The other is that I think the disapproval of Rudd is hiding two separate groups. One is the aforementioned rusted-on conservatives: who would not approve of Rudd even if he personally showed up at their houses with a cheque for a million bucks.
The other is that large proportion of the Australian populace that cares about climate change. They are very angry that, after proclaiming that climate change was ”the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”, Rudd has ended up allowing political considerations to force him into inaction.
But where can those voters go? If their issue is climate change, and even if the impulse to punish Rudd is strong, Tony Abbott is definitely not the alternative PM they’d choose. He is on record as calling the science behind climate change ‘absolute crap’ – a statement from which he has since resiled. But he was telling schoolkids as recently as this week, on no evidence at all, that it was warmer in Christ’s time than it is now. He pays lip service to climate change because he wants to woo that nearly 60% of voters, but his true views (on this and other issues) keep sneaking out.
So although the polls look bleak for Rudd, I reckon there’s not a huge amount to worry about. Of course, that assumes the voters in general are smart enough to come to this same conclusion about Abbott and climate…