Malcolm Turnbull’s lead as preferred PM over Bill Shorten drops

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a media conference announcing new anti-terrorism laws in Sydney, Australia, July 25, 2016.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a media conference. Reuters/AAP/Dan Himbrechts

A recent Newspoll has found that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s standing with voters has taken a tumble. The news comes after what is said to be a "messy" fortnight dealing with the citizenship saga.

Turnbull's lead as preferred prime minister over Labor's Bill Shorten fell five points to 36 percent, according to a poll published on Monday. The gap between them was down to only two percent percentage points. This is comparable to eight points two weeks ago.

The Australian reports that voters have swung further toward Labor. It is leading over the Coalition 55 to 45 in two-party terms.

The result also shows the Coalition’s primary vote dropping from 35 to 34 percent amid the citizenship saga. It puts Labor in the strongest overall position since Turnbull became prime minister in September 2015.

The poll, which was published Monday, also found that voters prefer Julie Bishop by 40-27 percent over Turnbull as Liberal leader. In spite of this, Turnbull still has the Coalition supporters’ back. Even cabinet colleague Mathias Cormann has reportedly agreed that the "messiness" of the past few weeks had hurt the Turnbull government, but maintained that the Aussie prime minister provides a strong and efficient leadership for the Coalition.

The citizenship saga

For some senior ministers, the way Turnbull handle the citizenship saga is a significant issue. They supposedly fear that it could drag the government to an election early in 2018. If repeated at an election now, the Newspoll suggests a 20-seat loss for the Coalition.

But Turnbull supporter Christopher Pyne pointed out that an election was not due until July 2019. He told ABC radio that poll comes and go, and people must be unfazed by them.

Cormann said that in the next general election, they will put forward their achievement records and plans for the future. "We'll be pointing out very clearly why a change to a Labor-led socialist government would be bad for the economy, bad for jobs and bad for people's wages,” he said.

Turnbull is still attending international summits overseas. He arrived in the Philippines' capital for the East Asia leaders summit where he has been welcomed with a dance party on the tarmac. He is expected to have bilateral talks with United States President Donald Trump and leaders from China, Japan and India. Among the Aussie leader’s key discussion points is said to be the escalating tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing program.