The Government’s decision to temporarily suspend processing of asylum applications from Sri Lankans and Afghans has attracted strong support from voters, new polling from Essential Research shows.

A massive 69% of voters support the decision, compared to only 15% who oppose it; 39% of voters “strongly support” it.

The take from the commentariat on today’s Nielsen poll is that the Government’s decision has cost it support amongst progressive-minded voters, cutting its 2PP lead in that poll. But that makes little sense, as vote-switching from Labor to the Greens shouldn’t affect the 2PP numbers, except in the unlikely event that former Labor voters switch their vote to the Greens with the intention of preferencing the Liberals. In any event, the Essential data shows that, contrary to the stereotype of middle class trendies, even Green voters back the Government on the issue — 47% of Green voters approved or strongly approved of the decision compared to 42% who oppose or strongly oppose it.

Support was much stronger amongst men than women, and highest in WA and NSW — 70% of Labor voters and 80% of Liberal voters backed it, and support was strongest among lower-income voters. Older voters were significantly more likely to support the decision than younger voters — reinforcing the impression that this was a decision targeted at a particular demographic of traditional Labor voters, that is older, blue-collar workers, most likely in outer suburban and regional electorates.

Voters also disapproved of the Australian Education Union’s decision to boycott NAPLAN testing, with 41% of voters saying they didn’t support the decision, compared to 29% in support.

Essential also tackled immigration issues. More than half (55%) of voters want immigrants given incentives to encourage them to settle in regional areas, with 30% opposed. More than a third of voters wanted fewer people in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and 50% wanted no further increase in those cities, but were happier with the idea of larger populations in the smaller capitals, and more than a half of voters wanted larger populations in regional centres (although no scheme to attract people to regional centres has ever succeeded). The idea of trying to increase the populations of regional centres was especially strong among older voters, with over 80% wanting to see larger populations in larger and smaller regional centres.

There is also strong support for direct government regulation of CEO salaries — and the support is across the board. Essential found 74% of voters wanted regulation, and only 17% opposed. The sentiment was strongest amongst older voters, and even a big majority of Liberal voters — 69% — supported regulation, as did high-income earners. At the end of last week, the Government announced that it was accepting nearly all of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s review of executive remuneration, which did not include any direct regulation of remuneration levels.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey