If Julia Gillard was Julian Gillard, she'd get an easier time of it. That's what the public thinks -- although on the touchy topic of sexism in politics, men and women don't agree on how bad the problem is.
A new Essential Research poll has found 51% of those surveyed thought Gillard "had been subject to more personal criticism than a male prime minister would be", while just 6% thought she copped less flak than a man would.
Women felt much more strongly about this than men. Sixty one per cent of women thought Gillard copped more than a man, compared with 42% of men. The most common response from men was that Gillard had been subjected to "about the same" level of personal criticism as a man would be. The poll was taken just after broadcaster Alan Jones told listeners:
"She (the Prime Minister) said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating ... Women are destroying the joint -- Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly."
Labor and Greens voters were more convinced Gillard copped more criticism because of her s-x, at 77% and 74%, while a third of Coalition voters agreed with them (more than half of Coalition voters thought she received the same amount of personal criticism as a man would).
When the question was generalised to whether women in politics received more or less personal criticism than men, the results were similar; 52% thought women received more, compared to 4% who thought it was less, with female respondents again more convinced s-xism was at play.
The Essential poll found WorkChoices remains Abbott's Achilles heel, no matter how often he claims it's "dead, buried, cremated". Just over half -- 51% -- of those surveyed thought the Abbott Liberals were likely to "try to bring back industrial laws similar to WorkChoices" if they won the federal election. That number is dropping -- it was 58% two years ago -- but IR remains a problem for Abbott, as 61% of those surveyed expressed some concern at the prospect of a return to WorkChoices.
Unsurprisingly, those polled split along party lines, with three-quarters of Labor voters believing Abbott would bring back laws similar to WorkChoices and 68% of Greens agreeing, compared to a third of Coalition voters. But even Coalition voters weren't sure it would be a good idea -- about half reflected some concern at a return to the Howard-era laws. The poll shows Abbott is between a rock and a hard place on IR, and his best option may be to say as little as possible.
Meanwhile, Essential shows we're all still traditionalists on our two-party system and on who the major parties represent. People thought these groups would be better off under Labor: the unemployed, pensioners, people on low incomes, the disabled, recent immigrants and single parents. "Average working people" (presumably the ubiquitous "working families" of political legend) were deemed to be slightly better off under Labor, although it was a close call: 32% thought they'd be better off under Labor, compared to 27% who thought they'd fare better under the Liberals.
Those surveyed thought these groups would be better off under the Coalition: large corporations, small businesses, banks, farmers, high-income families and kids at private schools.
The Essential poll showed an uptick in support for Labor, which jumped two percentage points in the primary vote to be down 34-48, with the Greens dipping slightly to 9%. That puts Labor at 45-55% in the 2PP; the gap continues to narrow at a slow but steady pace, but is still something of a chasm.
The poll covered just over 1000 people and was taken from August 29 to September 2.
Cathy Alexander is the deputy editor of Women's Agenda sister site, Crikey.