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The Guardian - AU

Essential poll: Labor remains in lead but race tightens after Liberal party election campaign launch

In the final Essential poll before the 2022 Australian federal election, Scott Morrison remains ahead of Anthony Albanese in the better prime minister measure, but 49% say they disapprove of his performance.
In the final Essential poll before the 2022 Australian federal election, Scott Morrison remains ahead of Anthony Albanese in the better prime minister measure, but 49% say they disapprove of his performance. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Labor maintains an advantage over the Coalition but as the 2022 election campaign enters its final days the contest has tightened in Scott Morrison’s favour, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

Labor has a two-point lead in the poll’s two-party-preferred “plus” measure with the opposition on 48% and the Coalition on 46%. Seven per cent of respondents are undecided. A fortnight ago, Labor was ahead of the Coalition 49% to 45% with 6% undecided.

The Coalition’s primary vote is on 36%, one point ahead of Labor (35%), with the Greens on 9% (down one point in a fortnight). One Nation is on 4% (up one point), with independents on 6% (up one point) and the United Australia party on 3% (down one point). All these movements are inside the poll’s margin of error which is plus or minus 3%.

Guardian Essential’s voting intention figures now express the head-to-head metric of the major party contest as two-party-preferred “plus”, rather than the standard two-party-preferred measure. This change in methodology, adopted after the 2019 election, highlights the proportion of undecided voters in any survey, providing readers with more accuracy on the limits of any prediction.

The normal polling cycle was extended to cover this past weekend to capture the fallout from the Liberal party’s offical campaign launch on Sunday and the political wash-up on Monday – and to provide a larger sample for the final opinion survey of the campaign. The sample size of the latest survey was 1,600 voters.

As the campaign enters the final days, in two-party-preferred “plus” terms, Labor is tracking ahead of the Coalition with voters under the age of 54, with women, with inner-city voters, and with voters in all states except Queensland, where the Coalition has a significant electoral buffer because of large anti-Labor swings during the 2019 election.

While women are more inclined to support Anthony Albanese than Morrison, and Liberal MPs in metropolitan contests report that many professional women express a visceral dislike of the prime minister, the trend in the Guardian Essential data suggests women aged 18-34 have been drifting towards the Coalition and the Greens for some months, with that trend accelerating since February.

The Coalition is polling ahead of Labor with voters over the age of 55, with men, Queenslanders, and voters living in the outer suburbs and in rural areas. Morrison has trained his election messaging on those voting cohorts, generating speculation about whether he has abandoned moderate Liberals facing off against teal independents in an attempt to flip Labor seats in the regions and outer suburbs.

Morrison last week attempted a bold reboot of his political fortunes, promising to overhaul his abrasive leadership style if voters granted him another term. He then used Sunday’s campaign launch to promise first home buyers the opportunity to use their own retirement savings as a deposit – a development many analysts said would drive up house prices further.

While the policy is controversial, Morrison’s super-for-homes scheme has sparked a fight with Labor as the two leaders conduct a final blitz of marginal electorates in the countdown to polling day on Saturday, and the pledge changed the conversation from stagnant wages, which is more fraught territory for the Coalition.

Albanese will use a National Press Club address on Wednesday to make his final national pitch to undecided voters. Australians are currently prepolling in record numbers. Labor will release its final policy costings on Thursday.

The final Guardian Essential survey of the campaign shows Morrison’s approval with Australian voters remains in negative territory, with 49% of the sample disapproving of his performance while 43% approve. More voters approve of the Labor leader than disapprove, but that assessment is line ball, with 42% of the sample approving and 41% disapproving of Albanese.

A majority of respondents (59%) believe Albanese will be declared the winner on Saturday night with only 41% tipping the Coalition. That’s a three-point shift from a fortnight ago, when 56% of the sample thought Labor would win and 44% the Coalition.

Morrison remains ahead of Albanese in the survey’s better prime minister measure, but only just. The prime minister is rated by 40% of respondents on this metric and Albanese by 37%, with 23% saying they don’t know.

Almost half of the Guardian Essential sample (49%) believes it is time to change the government. Only 32% of respondents favour the status quo, while 18% remain unsure. More voters believe the country is currently on the wrong track (42%) than the right track (40%) but 18% of respondents are unsure.

Two questions were formulated for poll respondents this week referencing the major messages of the Albanese and Morrison campaigns. A majority of respondents say the country needs a government prepared to face up to the big problems the nation is facing (66%) – which is a proxy for the Labor leader’s messaging – while 34% say the country needs a safe pair of hands to lead Australia through uncertain times – a proposition referencing Morrison’s risk messaging.

A majority of respondents (68%) say they would prefer to vote for a political party that has better policies for the country (compared to 66% a fortnight ago), with 19% of the sample more focused on the leader. And a majority of respondents (66%) believe this election is “very important” for the future direction of the country, with 31% saying somewhat important.