As a handy reference point for today’s Environment portfolio smackdown (Turnbull v. Garrett now airing on Sky News ) Crikey thought it appropriate to publish the Climate Institute’s latest polling on how important the environment, and more specifically climate change, issue is to voters in the all-important marginals.

Australian Research Group on behalf of the Climate Institute polled around 900 marginal seat voters between November 3 and 5 in NSW, Qld and SA (Bennelong, Parramatta, Lindsay, Wakefield, Makin, Kingston, Petrie, Bowman and Bonner).

According to the Climate Institute, the polling “reveals the influence of climate change on voting intentions has grown to 73% from 62% since a similar poll before the election campaign, but the standing of both major parties has gone backwards with the ALP maintaining an edge.”

And if we really want to get to the nub of it, this sentence is pretty interesting: climate change was “very important” or “important” to 67% of undecided voters.

Garrett is still banging on about ratifying Kyoto in his opening statement. Who cares about Kyoto?

Quite a few people, says the Climate Institute: 54% said they’d be more likely to vote for a party who ratified and “more than half of voters in these marginal seats believe that Australia should sign an international climate change treaty regardless of whether or not it is signed by India and China. Just 22% believe that Australia should not sign an international treaty until it is signed by India and China.”

Seven out of 10 voters (69%) surveyed “believe climate change will have either a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ influence on their choice of Prime Minister. This includes one quarter (27%) who rated it as ‘very important’ and a further 42% who saw it as ‘important’.”

In terms of climate change cut through, it’s interesting to see which party buzz words and policies are registering the most with these voters:

  • The Labor brand is most closely associated with a commitment to sign the Kyoto Protocol (58% said only Labor had announced the policy compared with 7% who believed only the Coalition had announced it).
  • The Coalition is most closely associated with a nuclear power policy (50% believed it was a Coalition policy compared with 7% who felt it was Labor policy).
    The Labor Party was also more commonly solely associated with setting clean or renewable energy targets (33% to 13%).
  • Opinion was more evenly divided on the policy of carbon/ emissions trading, with slightly more
    respondents believing it to be only a Coalition policy (21%) rather than only a Labor policy only (19%).

What about the PM’s ‘economy’ and ‘jobs’ line, which Turnbull has already used in his opening address?:

  • Voters are divided on the effect that government action will have on our economy and jobs. While 41% believe it ‘will definitely hurt’ (6%) or ‘might hurt’ (35%) the economy and jobs, the remaining 59% either believe it will have a ‘good effect’ (21%), ‘no real effect’ (24%), or they don’t know (13%).
  • Very few voters in these marginal seats believed that taking action to deal with climate change would definitely hurt the economy (6%), but this was greatest among those 30-49 years (12%).
  • Undecided voters reported the highest lack of certainty about this question. One quarter (26%) answered ‘don’t know’, twice the national figure of 13%. These voters provide an opportunity for the parties to convince that they can deal with climate change in a way that will be positive for the economy and jobs.

But with an eye on today’s debate, this percentage is possibly the most pertinent:

  • 43% said Mr Garrett was ‘very serious’ about taking action to address climate change compared to 28% for Mr Rudd, 11% for Mr Howard, 7% for Mr Turnbull and 6% for Mr Costello.

Garrett has his best ‘very serious’ face on today (as opposed to his ‘jocular-talking-to-Steve-Price’ face). And perhaps Malcolm 7% Turnbull should’ve nixed the bright red tie for a more convincing shade of mint.

No pressure you two, but all eyes are on the Press Club right now.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey