Proof that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has misjudged the public mood on WikiLeaks: today’s Essential Report found more than half of voters approve of the release of diplomatic cables (33% approve; 20% strongly approve), compared to a quarter who expressed concern (14% disapprove; 11% strongly disapprove).

Support for WikiLeaks was, not surprisingly, highest among Greens voters (80% total approval) but still strong across party lines — 55% of Labor voters approve in total compared to 51% of Liberal/National supporters. Disapproval ratings were the same (30% in total) across both sides of politics.

Had Gillard been talking to a US audience, she would’ve been on safer ground. In a Washington Post poll conducted on December 9-12, 68% of those polled — say the WikiLeaks’ exposure of government documents about the State Department and US diplomacy harms the public interest. Nearly as many — 59% — say the US government should arrest Julian Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables. Nearly a third of those aged 18 to 29 say the release of the US diplomatic cables serves the public interest, double the proportion of those older than 50 saying so.

In the UK, a Guardian poll asked “Should WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange be tried for espionage?” 87.9% of respondents said no.

A CNN poll of British opinion found that more people agree than disagree that WikiLeaks was right to release the cables, by 42% to 33%. The remainder, 25%, don’t have a position.

As for Gillard’s initial response to the WikiLeaks cable dump — she used the word illegal — the Australian Federal Police announced on Friday:

“The AFP has completed its evaluation of the material available and has not established the existence of any criminal offences where Australia would have jurisdiction …”

When Essential Research respondents were asked about the government’s response, 46% were critical (27% disapprove; 19% strongly disapprove) compared to 32% who approve of Gillard’s rhetoric.

Looks like Gillard should leave the overblown hyperbole to that master of outlandish statements —  US Vice-President Joe Biden.

Peter Fray

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