Do issues explain Labor’s lead?

Labor’s lead in the polls is persistent and substantial, but the pundits are having trouble explaining why. Clearly Rudd personally is part of it, but his Newspoll lead over Howard as preferred PM (6%) is only half Labor lead’s on the two-party preferred (12%). The issue polling that has come out from ACNielsen and Newspoll this week helps us see what else might be going on.

Newspoll asks which party would best handle 18 issues, so it provides the widest scope for analysis. As The Australian, ever-keen to find a positive angle for the Coalition, noted this morning Labor has made no progress on probably the most discussed issue, industrial relations. I doubt this is a failure on Gillard’s part though – the labour movement has thrown everything they have into this issue for the last two years, and Labor was probably already as high as it could go.

Another traditional Labor strength, ‘health and Medicare’, has also seen only modest gains (I can’t even remember who their health spokesperson is), but it’s still the equal highest rating (45%) since Newspoll started polling this issue in July 1990. The Coalition on 33% is above their all-time low (26%), but it’s not much to show for the tidal wave of cash that it has sent over the health system- real per person spending up nearly 40% between 1995-96 and 2005-06.
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