The extent of Labor’s brand damage on climate change is revealed by today’s Essential Report, which shows Labor trailing the Coalition on the issue.

Asked who they trusted most to understand  and deal with climate change, 29% of those polled said Tony Abbott and the Coalition, well ahead of 23% for Julia Gillard and Labor. The Greens were not far behind Labor on 19%. There was a high “Don’t Know” result, 29%.

A similar (though not identical) question in December 2009 had the Coalition 3 points ahead of Labor, 27-24%, and the Greens further back on 17%.

Belief in human-caused climate change has waned over the past year — 53% of people believed climate change was happening and caused by human activity in November 2009, but only 45% now. Most of that shift has been into “Don’t Know”; those saying they believed climate change was “just a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate” rose 2 points to 36%; those saying “Don’t Know” rose 6 points to 19%.

However, tackling climate change is important to 61% of voters, compared to 35% saying it wasn’t important (by way of comparison, last week 37% of voters thought same-s-x marriage important). And while climate change was of high importance to Green voters, even a majority of Liberal-National voters believe it’s important, 50-47%. Labor voters split 73-25%.

Other evidence of Labor’s serious image problems emerged from questions about party attributes across Labor, the Coalition and the Greens. Labor trails the Coalition by 7 points on “understands the problems facing Australia” and is barely ahead of the Greens (30%-23%-19%), is considered more divided than the other parties (Labor 30%, Coalition, 20%, Greens 10%), has a huge lead on “will promise to do anything to win votes” (50%-36%-22%). On “clear about what they stand for”, Labor only manages 10% — the Coalition gets 21% and the Greens 29%. The Greens are considered the most “extreme” (39%), the Coalition too close to big corporate and financial interests (29%) and none of the parties are considered as good at keeping their promises — they rate 10%-13%-9%.

The only positive for Labor was on the one issue that it has retained despite all its woes — “looking after the interests of working people”, where it leads the Coalition by 5 points, 22-17%.

On voting intention, it was another week of stasis — Coalition (45%) up one point; Labor 38% and the Greens (11%) the same, to yield a 2PP outcome of 51-49% to the Coalition.