The Turnbull government has failed to win back One Nation voters despite appealing to the minor party’s base with a hard line on foreign workers and flagging tougher citizenship laws.
The controversial moves, unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, have done next to nothing for the coalition’s standing with voters.
Its primary vote support in the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian on Monday, has held at 36 per cent – still down six percentage points on the votes the Liberal and Nationals parties won at the July 2016 election – as has One Nation with 10 per cent.
Support for Labor (35 per cent) and the Greens (nine per cent) dropped one per cent in the past three weeks.
After preferences, Labor leads the coalition 52-48 per cent.
While the latest shift is statistically insignificant, the coalition has managed to claw itself back from a disastrous 10 point deficit in late February.
There was better news for the coalition with Mr Turnbull improving his satisfaction levels among voters by four percentage points in net terms.
Mr Turnbull has kept his lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister with his standing improving by one point to 42 per cent while the opposition leader’s rating also rose by one point to 33 per cent.
In a trend that has held firm since February, 29 per cent of voters are giving their first preference to candidates other than Labor and the coalition — up from 23 per cent at the election and 21 per cent at the 2013 election.
The poll canvassed voters after Mr Turnbull announced the government was abolishing 457 visas for temporary foreign workers, replacing it with a tougher regime, and plans for new citizenship rules including a requirement to acknowledge “Australian values”.
But the pitch to voters the coalition has lost to One Nation was undercut by more bitterness surrounding former prime minister Tony Abbott, toppled by Mr Turnbull in September 2015.
Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson noted Mr Turnbull continues to hold a substantial personal advantage over Mr Shorten.
“We have to realise the public wants the government and the prime minister to do well,” he told Sky News.
Mr Wilson said there was no political benefit of “running off to the far right” and speaking to those loudest and noisiest.
“You need to focus always on the mainstream and govern from your values through the mainstream and that’s the way to beat Pauline Hanson.”
Labor MP Peter Khalil accused the government of making policy for Newspoll instead of the long-term interests of Australia.
“The government is also at sixes and nines because you’ve got Tony Abbott trying to shift Newspoll every time Turnbull tries to shift Newspoll,” he said.