Most voters would rather the federal government delay its back to black strategy and extend the deficit to stave off service cuts and tax hikes.

While new polling from Essential Research found growing concerns about the state of the economy, more than two-thirds of voters say the government should abandon its plans to return the budget to surplus by 2012/13. Just 14% of those surveyed support the surplus push, while 69% — a similar number across party support lines — advocate a delay.

Most voters (49%) say the government should maintain spending programs, while 15% advocate increased spending and 22% say more cuts should be made. Support for spending cuts was strongest among Liberal/National voters (31% compared to 14% among Labor-aligned respondents).

The weekly phone poll of 1000-plus voters found confidence in the local economy compared to other nations, with 69% rating our accounts “good” compared to just 7% who said they were “poor”. But confidence going forward seems to have wavered: just 27% say the economy will pick up over the next 12 months, down from 40% when the same question was asked in October. A third of voters believe the economy will worsen over the next year, the strongest show of concern since June 2009.

Yet there appears to be little movement in the state of individual budgets: roughly a third of voters (32%) believe their personal financial situation will get better over the next 12 months, a similar number (31%) to those who fear their bank accounts will drain. Job insecurity remains high, with 42% “concerned” they might lose their job, up 3% since October.

Essential finds no spike in support for the government, which is still languishing 10 points behind the Coalition in primary vote support. At 36% Labor has lost a point to the independent vote this week, with the Coalition maintaining its emphatic 46% support while the Greens sit on 10%.

That wipes a point from Labor in the two-party preferred stakes, now trailing the Coalition 47% to 53%.

Peter Fray

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