Wayne Swan’s dour, participation-focused budget has left voters unmoved, with many professing a lack of interest or concluding it was neither good nor bad, according to today’s Essential Report.
The proportion of voters professing a high level of interest in the budget fell 1% on 2010 to 52%; 2010 had seen a slump in the number of voters paying “a lot” or “some” attention, down from 66% in 2009, while 45% had little or no interest in the budget.
The lack of interest extended to the perceived impact of the budget. The view that the budget was neither good nor bad for individuals, business and the economy as a whole was far more widespread than in 2010. Eleven per cent thought the budget was good for them down from 22% last year, with a rise of three points to 29% in the proportion of voters who thought it was bad for them; however, the big mover was “neither good nor bad”, which increased from 33% in 2010 to 44% this year.
Similarly, those who felt the budget was neither good nor bad for business increased from 9% to 31%; 20% thought it was good for business (down seven points on 2010) and 32% thought it had for business, the same as 2010. Twenty seven per cent thought it was good for the economy, down from 36% last year; 29% thought it was bad for the economy, up 1. 25% thought it was neither good nor bad for the economy, up from 10% last year.
Labor’s perception as an economic manager has deteriorated since last year’s budget, when 33% rated Labor as the better economic manager and 36% the opposition; this year it’s 30-40%.
On voting intention, this being budget time, there’s been the usual efforts by lazy commentators to discuss the phenomenon of the “budget bounce” and the government’s failure to get one. My colleague Possum Comitatus showed in a forensic takedown of the alleged phenomenon two years ago that the “budget bounce” is a myth; in fact it’s a particularly artificial form of media gamesmanship, in which commentators establish a non-existent test and then declare failure when governments don’t pass it.
That said, there’s been a tiny shift back to Labor, with its primary vote up one point to 36% and the Greens up one point to 11% (further continuing the Greens’ recovery from the mini-slide of recent months), for a move in the 2PP to 52-48%. Given the reaction to the budget described above, if this small shift is anything more than statistical noise, it’s likely to have been occurring regardless of what Swan unveiled last Tuesday night.
Essential also asked about asylum seekers and the government’s deal with Malaysia, with voters evenly split 40% on opposing and supporting. Labor voters strongly backed the deal, 55-25%; 40% of Liberal voters backed it compared to 49% opposing it, and Greens voters strongly opposed it 29-53%, although the biggest numbers of “strongly opposed” were Liberal rather than Greens voters.
And voters’ support for offshore processing waned dramatically when the issue of cost was raised. Asked if they supported sending asylum seekers offshore if it cost taxpayers substantially more than processing them here, 60% of voters opposed it and only 24% supported it. And while Greens voters were most strongly opposed, there was more difference between Labor voters and everyone else on the issue than between Liberals and Greens voters, both of whom strongly opposed expensive offshore processing, 66% for Liberals and 69% for Greens.