Premier’s polling woes a wake-up call

Will Hodgman MP

Will Hodgman MP

New polling from EMRS spells bad news for Mr Good News.

Premier Will Hodgman has cause for concern, with the latest figures suggesting Opposition Leader Rebecca White has the jump on him as preferred premier – by 11 points, no less.

Ms White replaced former Labor Leader Bryan Green, after he retired from politics in March.

EMRS’ May polling found that 42 per cent of people surveyed wanted Mr Hodgman as premier, while 39 per cent preferred Ms White.

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Fast forward three months, and only 37 per cent of those surveyed want Mr Hodgman as premier.

On the other hand, 48 per cent of respondents said they would prefer Ms White.

The polling indicates that the Liberals still lead as the preferred party, with a 34 per cent approval rating.

Labor has jumped up one percentage point since the May poll, now sitting at 31 per cent.

What could have caused this reversal of fortune for Mr Hodgman, whose popularity has been a hallmark of his leadership?

It’s been six months since Ms White assumed the top job for Labor – surely the honeymoon period is over.

Ostensibly, it’s only just getting started.

But that can’t be the whole story.

The federal Liberals are decidedly on the nose right now.

Could that have impacted on Mr Hodgman’s poor performance in the EMRS poll?

Federal Labor has recently been setting the national political agenda, announcing policies to tackle inequality and flagging its intention to hold another referendum to determine whether Australia should become a republic.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten wants to be seen as a man with a plan.

Malcolm Turnbull, meanwhile, is paralysed by the right of the Liberal Party, seemingly unable to stand up for what he really believes in, whether it be marriage equality or an Australian republic.

The It’s Time factor cannot be ignored at the moment.

And yet the Tasmanian Liberals have retained a slim lead over Labor in the latest poll.

It’s Mr Hodgman whose approval rating has taken a nosedive, not his party.

Clearly, the jibes levelled at Ms White by the premier – “inexperienced”, “soft on crime” – have not cut through with voters.

Political analyst Kevin Bonham has said such negative attacks may even have “backfired” on the government.

Labor’s tactic of incessantly needling the government over the perceived crisis in Tasmania’s health system can sometimes seem like the only card in the party’s deck.

But maybe it’s working.

Having spent ample time as Opposition health spokeswoman, Ms White is well-qualified to direct a campaign against the government’s supposed mishandling of the state’s health system.

For Mr Hodgman, Treasurer Peter Gutwein has served as his ideal foil, but perhaps their good cop, bad cop routine is wearing thin on the public.

You know the drill: the treasurer puts his foot down and gets his hands dirty, while the premier puts on a big smile for the cameras and delivers good news for all Tasmanians.

It’s been a big part of why Mr Hodgman has remained so popular.

Now that that popularity appears to be waning, he needs to try something new.

And with an election mere months away, time is of the essence.

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