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Jul 18, 2011

Essential: voters convinced carbon pricing will hurt them

Things aren't looking much better for Labor after its carbon pricing announcement: voters believe the scheme will be bad for them and won't work.


Labor voters are prepared to back Julia Gillard on her carbon pricing mechanism, but new polling from Essential Research reveals just how few people understand the policy.

Overall, support for the carbon pricing scheme has risen 4 points in a week to 39% according to Essential’s online-collated poll — it had been steadily falling since May. Opposition is down to 49%. As previously, voting intention strongly correlates with opposition, with Labor and Greens voters equally strong for the scheme (75%) and Liberal voters against (79%).

One of the few positive outcomes for Labor in recent months is that an initial hesitance on the part of Labor voters in supporting the scheme has been replaced with strong support — although probably as a consequence of hostile former Labor voters shifting to the Liberals.

The strong focus on the scheme has ensured few voters are unaware of it — only 4% of voters said they had read or heard nothing about the scheme, while 30% said “little”; 65% said they had read or heard “something” or “a lot”. And this appears to have translated into awareness of the scheme: 57% said they felt “very well informed” or “somewhat informed” about the scheme and its impacts, which applied across voting intention.

However, only 10% of voters said they would be better off as a result of the scheme, while 69% said worse off. There is a strong partisan aspect to that response, continuing an emerging theme in recent polls that partisan attitudes seem to colour even issues ostensibly unrelated to party identification. While around 50% of Labor and Greens voters said they’d be worse off, 85% of Liberal voters believed they would be worse off, including 55% who believed they would be “much worse off”, a literally impossible outcome under any permutation of income under the scheme. About a third of voters thought the scheme would be good or very good for Australia, and 46% bad or very bad, again with the same partisan element to the response — 44% of Liberal voters think the scheme will be “very bad” for Australia.

Asked about how they viewed the scheme, the strongest response elicited by Essential was to the statement “a carbon price will lead to a big rise in the cost of living”, another mathematically impossible event, which attracted 68% agreement. Half of voters agreed the scheme “won’t reduce our carbon emissions” compared to 34% disagreeing. And only 31% agreed “the government has got the balance right in compensating households for a carbon price”, with 48% disagreeing. Similarly, 49% agreed “there’s not enough compensation for households” (29% disagreement). A third agreed there was too much compensation for industry, with 32% disagreeing.

However, 46% did agree the scheme would lead to more investment in renewable energy (33% disagreement), and 59% agreed “politicians should just get on with taking action on climate change”. Moreover, 54% agreed that “Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party are more interested in votes than tackling climate change”, compared to 32% who disagreed. And Labor has a rare lead when voters are asked whether they think the government’s carbon pricing scheme or the Coalition’s plan to pay companies to reduce emissions will be more effective in reducing emissions, 34-28%. Only 52% of Liberal voters think the Coalition’s discredited “direct action” plan will be more effective than a carbon price.

On voting intention, no news is, in effect, good news for Labor. It has pulled back a point on its primary vote and the Coalition has lost one, yielding a 2PP result of 56-44%. At the moment, not going backwards is the best Labor can hope for.


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