Yesterday Newspoll not only published their usual voting intention results, but also ran additional questions on support or lack thereof for the RSPT, making them the third pollster that asked RSPT approval questions during May. Over the month, Morgan asked the question 3 times via their phone polls, Essential Report asked questions twice and we now have this one from Newspoll.
Morgan asked the same question over the three polls:
The new 40% tax on profits of mining projects. Do you approve or disapprove?
Essential asked in their first poll:
The Federal Government recently announced changes to our tax system as a result of the Henry Report, which was a review of Australia’s taxation. Do you approve or disapprove of the following Government proposals?
While their second poll asked:
The Government has proposed a resources super profits tax – which is a 40% tax on the large profits of mining companies – in order to fund a reduction in company tax, assistance for small business and an increase in superannuation. Do you support or oppose this tax?
Finally, Newspoll asked:
Are you personally in favour or against the proposed resource super profits tax?
If we look at the total support/approve, total oppose/disapprove and total can’t say/uncommitted/don’t know for each of the results, they come in like this (click to expand):
Assuming that the results from all three questions are generally compatible and that the different wording didn’t cause a profound distortion with the responses, the results suggest that while the government lost ground over May in the battle for public opinion on the RSPT – with there being a noticeable reduction in support for the RSPT throughout the month – Big Dirt (as Peter Hartcher described it) and the Coalition didn’t gain all, or even most of that public opinion space that moved away from the government.
As we can see from the disapprove/oppose chart, while Morgan and Essential both moved up a tick in their measurements of RSPT opposition and Newspoll came in between them, the real increase came with the don’t know/uncommitted/can’t say cohorts.
The campaign by the Coalition and Big Dirt appears to be creating mostly confusion at this stage – pulling people away from supporting the RSPT, but only so far as to make them hesitant or uncommitted about it rather than their ultimate goal, which is creating strong opposition to the policy.
It is much easier to make people shift from a position of having an opinion to a position of being undecided than it is to shift people from being undecided to having an opinion – muddying the waters is always easier than making the water clear. Since the support levels for the RSPT are approaching the primary vote levels of the ALP, Big Dirt has pretty much picked all of the low hanging public opinion fruit with their campaign to date (since getting ALP voters to vote against their party’s position will be harder than getting Coalition and minor party voters to vote against the ALP position).
With the government finally coming out on the offensive over the RSPT, that large amount of uncommitteds are now far more contestable. So if the handful of big mining firms and the Coalition want to drive those uncommitteds not only into their own anti-RSPT column, but also into the Coalition voting column (the only real mechanism available to guarantee that the RSPT will not go ahead), things will have to get either a lot more hysterical, or a lot more professional from the mining side of propaganda war.
Exploiting the low hanging fruit of public opinion and increasing uncertainty is one thing, but making people actually take a position that you want them too – well that’s an entirely different and far more difficult pursuit altogether.