Australia’s Prime Minister Just Can’t Win an Opinion Poll

SYDNEY, Australia — Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia has accomplished a dubious feat: for the 30th straight time, an opinion poll placed his governing Liberal Party behind the opposition, intensifying pressure on the embattled leader as he confronts a tide of stubborn scandals.

The Newspoll, one of the country’s most respected political polls, was the same survey that Mr. Turnbull used to justify forcing his predecessor, Tony Abbott, from office in 2015.

Mr. Turnbull’s poor showing in the latest poll, released Sunday, marks what experts describe as a rare moment in the country’s political history: The government hasn’t won a single Newspoll since the day of its election two and a half years ago.

Faced with the troublesome poll results, Mr. Turnbull said he was meeting expectations on another front: the success of his policies.

“I do have the confidence of my colleagues,” the prime minister asserted at a news conference on Monday in Sydney, adding that he had met the benchmarks he had set for himself, including delivering an economic plan for jobs and growth.

“That’s what Australians want me to focus on,” he added. “They don’t want me to focus on personalities or the politics.”

When Mr. Turnbull was sworn in as Australia’s 29th prime minister in 2015, he became the country’s fourth prime minister in just over two years. His three immediate predecessors were forced out by their own parties as soon as their popularity began to wane, with Mr. Abbott losing his job in a leadership challenge led by Mr. Turnbull.

With Australians growing weary of revolving-door leadership, some analysts at the time questioned whether Mr. Turnbull could run an effective government.

Since his election, critics across the political spectrum have frequently cited the failure to end the insider-driven gamesmanship of Canberra, the capital, and the lack of clear leadership from Mr. Turnbull and his party.

Susan Harris Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University in Queensland, said infighting within the Liberal Party had distracted the public from the real business of effective governing.

“It’s been almost policy free,” the professor said in describing the turmoil in Australian politics in recent years.

Mr. Turnbull has struggled for months in what has been a particularly turbulent period in Australian politics.

The second half of last year was dominated by a scandal in which several politicians were forced from office after revelations that they each held dual citizenship. And much of 2018 has been consumed by the resignation of Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy prime minister, after it was revealed he had an extramarital affair with a former staff member.

Critics said the turmoil undercut people’s faith in Parliament and Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party-led coalition.

“I think if you now look at who would win the gold medal of disunity, it would be the coalition,” Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said shortly after Mr. Turnbull’s news conference on Monday.

“When political parties are more focused on hating each other,” he added, “that’s when the system’s broken.”

When Mr. Turnbull, a wealthy lawyer and former investment banker, came to power in 2015, he was one of the richest politicians in Australia, having made the Business Review Weekly Rich 200 List several times.

His affluence enabled him to donate almost $2 million to his party for its 2016 election campaign. Chris Wallace, a political historian at Australian National University, said that was one of the decisive factors that returned the Turnbull government to office that year — a result she said voters have rued ever since, as evidenced by the 30 negative polls.

While huge amounts of money are typically spent on political campaigns in the United States, that had not happened in Australia until Mr. Turnbull pumped his own money into the 2016 campaign, Dr. Wallace added.

“The fact this happened, that it was donated by the only plutocrat serving in the Australian Parliament, and that it was donated to save — some would say, buy — that plutocrat’s continuation in office, is a very bad development,” Dr. Wallace said.