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Essential: Australians reject data retention, Abbott gains ground on Shorten

The latest Essential Report shows the only segment of the community that supports data retention is the one that uses IT least, and Tony Abbott records his best approval rating since April.

A majority of Australians have rejected data retention and don’t trust governments or corporations to handle their data, this week’s Essential Report shows, while Tony Abbott has begun regaining ground lost to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Fifty-one per cent of Australians disapprove of the government’s proposal to force telecommunications companies and internet service providers to collect data from their use of a communications service, including 30% who strongly disapprove. Responses are strongly linked to age: 39% of voters approve of data retention, with support mostly confined to over-55s; 64% of respondents aged 18-34 disapprove; while 54% of those aged 55 and over approve. Hostility among under-35s is particularly strong, with 39% saying they “strongly disapprove” of data retention. In short, the only segment of the community that supports data retention is the one that uses IT least. 

But even supporters of data retention have little trust that governments or companies will store their data safely. Sixty-eight per cent have little or no trust that data would be stored safely and in a way that would prevent abuse, with even Liberal voters — the strongest supporters of data retention, not trusting governments or companies.

Forty-nine per cent of voters agree with the statement that “governments are increasingly using the argument about terrorism to collect and store personal data and information, and this is a dangerous direction for society”, while 37% agree with the statement “governments having access to personal telephone and internet information is necessary to protect society from terrorist or criminal actions.”

However, Tony Abbott has reversed months of declining polls to record his best approval figures as Prime Minister since April. Thirty-seven per cent of voters approve of his performance, up three points, and 54% disapprove, down four points — a seven point improvement since last month. Bill Shorten has lost two points on approval rating (34%) and increased his disapproval rating by a point (40%); more significantly, Abbott has finally edged ahead of the Opposition Leader as preferred Prime Minister for the first time since April, 37%-36%. Abbott continues to fare poorly with women (disapproval 57%-32%) but Shorten is struggling with male voters (disapproval 46%-33%) and it’s there that he has lost ground to Abbott in the last month.

There are also significant differences among voters in relation to asylum seeker policy, and not just based on voting intention. While voters tend to range from hardline to pro-asylum seeker as they move from Coalition to Labor to Greens, there are big differences between age groups and men and women. Forty-nine per cent of men describe the government’s policy as “principled”, but only 36% of women; 50% of men believe it is “responsible”, but only 40% of women.

Views toward asylum seekers also harden dramatically with age. Nineteen per cent of under 35s believe the government’s policy is “too soft”, compared to 27% of 35-54s, but 34% of over 55s believe it’s too soft; over-55s were the only age group in which more people thought the government was too soft than too hard. Forty one per cent of under 35s thought it was unethical, compared to 26% of over-55s; 66% of the latter thought the policy was fair compared to 43% of 35-54s and 29% of under-35s. However, different ages were more in agreement that the government’s policy was “too secretive”, with 50% of under-35s, 45% of 35-54s and 40% of over-55s saying it was. And “Other/PUP” voters were a very mixed bag (while populist, Clive Palmer is the most aggressively pro-asylum seeker politician after the Greens): 37% of Other voters believed the government was too soft — the largest group by voting intention — but only 29% called it “principled”; 32% called it “too hard” and 34% “too soft”.

On voting intention, no change for the major parties on last week: the Coalition keeps its recent gains at 41%; Labor remains on 39%. The Greens are down a point to 8% while PUP is up one to 5%. 2PP result: 51-49 in Labor’s favour.

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  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    How many tragedies can we have between now and the election?

  • 2
    Zeke
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    So Toe Knee Rabbit has improved his standing with voters. Ditching the budgie-smugglers and waving said budgie around on the world stage always works well with ill-informed voters. They love to see Australia’s leadership waving their “prominences” as they strut about… a small cockerel in a big world.

  • 3
    Observation
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Operation sovereign boarders, operation bring them home, team Australia, budget crisis, Terrorist armies forming in the middle east pushing to take over the world, data collation on citizens to prevent terrorist acts on home soil. When fear is the underlying colour running through the message then generally voters dont want to change the government. rAbbott and his wrong wing cronies will keep the threats to Australia front and center to avoid scrutiny on the actual running of the country. You will see most public appearances and announcements will be when dealing with a crisis or national security.

    Every decision and policy seems to have a “we have no choice for the safety and security of the nation” back drop.

    On top of this, the opposition has Bill Shorten trying to oppose and shed light on Liberal policies where he seems to be developing a drone in his voice unlike other recent previous Labor leaders. Is there nobody out there with some spunk and orating punch to deliver some penetration to the arguments within the Labor party?????

  • 4
    Daly
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I despair. I realise what an outlier I am! :(

  • 5
    MJPC
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Surely our esteemed PM will run out of three word slogans soon: Stop the Tax, stop the boats, bring them home, Save the budget, bomb the jihadi’s, slug the sick, what the F…
    Maybe then the votletariat will realise that if there isn’t a crises to make him look good, he will confect one (an old Liberal trick).
    Also, why does he have to fly to the Netherlands to tell Journo’s about threats of sanctions to Russia when he could have done just as well back home.

  • 6
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Noddy” Shorten - the one thing the Limited News Party has going for it?

  • 7
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me, or does Tony’s numbers rise in direct correlation to him NOT talking about any policy matters?

    The only policy matter that TA has weighed into in recent times would be the data retention, and he did such a good job of that. The rest has been stern warnings to Russia, looking stern, being really really stern, and then being remorseful and man at a ceremony.

    They just have to keep him away from policy, and preferably newspapers, television, the internet, twatter, and watch his poll numbers rise.

  • 8
    The Pav
    Posted Tuesday, 12 August 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Shourten shouldn’t try to take Abbott on on the glib three word slogan front. Abbott’s too good and drags him down to his level and beats him om experience.

    The policy failings of Abbott are so manifest that there are many many simple policy arguments that can quickly and simply be made that will cut through the ether if cynicism and present Shorten as a policy person with integrity and not a smart wordsmith playing politics

  • 9
    Observation
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Just when you thought there was going to be a reasonable discussion on the budget, Hockey Bear comes up with “The blood flow of debt”

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