Voters strongly support Joe Hockey’s call for more banking regulation, according to today’s Essential Report — although Hockey himself has lost ground in voter estimation as a contender for the Liberal leadership.

There is strong support for the broad concept of more regulation, with 64% of voters agreeing there should be more, 20% saying the current level of regulation is about right (4% want less). It’s the partisan split that makes this result interesting — Labor and Liberal voters are virtually indistinguishable in their support for more regulation, but its Greens voters who are softest on the idea of more regulation, at 57% compared to 68/67% for Labor and Liberal voters, and much higher support for the idea that the present level of regulation was just right — 35% — who knew Greens voters were such economic rationalists.

While all proposals for more regulation were strongly supported, it was the idea that banks be required to inform customers if their personal data is being sent to other countries for processing that had nearly universal support, at 93% support and 71% strong support, and uniform across the parties. With fees likely to feature prominently in the looming Senate inquiry into the banks, “ensuring bank fees are not higher than the actual cost of the service” also attracted near-universal support, at 91%, again with virtually no difference between support across the party divide. “Capping bank CEO salaries” predictably earned strong support too at 84%, although Liberal voters were slightly less likely to back that than Labor or Green voters.

And the idea of interest rate regulation, which the Government keeps trying to pin on Joe Hockey after his stumbles the week before last, is also strongly supported. “Only permitting banks to change interest rates in line with Reserve Bank rates” is backed by 82% of voters, although there’s a more substantial party difference – 87% of Labor voters back it, 82% of Liberal voters, and only 73% of Greens voters, possibly suggesting a higher proportion of Greens voters don’t have mortgages.

Voters also support the (re)establishment of a government-owned bank fifteen years after the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank and after calls for Australia Post to use its nationwide network of branches to offer financial services: 62% of voters support the idea, though Greens (72%) and Labor (68%) are more attracted to the idea than Liberals (60%).

But while Hockey’s push on banks is in tune with public sentiment (including the sentiment of Liberal voters), it is Malcolm Turnbull who has gained some ground as alternative leader of the Liberal Party. 23% of voters believe Tony Abbott is the best person to lead the Liberals to the next election, 1 point ahead of Turnbull on 22%. Hockey is third on 14%. For a similar question in September, Abbott had a clear lead over Turnbull of 6 points, 26-20%, and Hockey on 15%. However, among Liberal voters Hockey has gone backwards: in September Hockey was second — albeit by a distance — behind Abbott as preferred leader, on 17% to Abbott’s 53%, and Turnbull on 15%. Now, however, Abbott has gone slightly backwards to 50%, Turnbull is on 19% and Hockey on 15%.

They’re all doing better than John Howard, however, after the re-emergence of the former Prime Minister last week to spruik his book. 24% of voters say they have a worse opinion of Howard now than at the 2007 election, compared to 15% who look on Howard more favourably. 57% say their view has stayed the same. And just to show Howard remains as polarising as ever, only 4% of those surveyed didn’t have a view.

On voting intention, the two parties remain locked in their post-election stasis: exactly the same outcome as last week, with the 2PP vote at 50:50 and no changes on the primary vote, even at the minor party level.

Peter Fray

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