The completeness of voter alienation over the carbon pricing scheme is remarkable.
Whether it’s down to Labor’s ineptitude, Tony Abbott’s tactical brilliance or the media’s laziness or bias — or, most likely, a combination of the three — voter hostility to the carbon pricing scheme is, well, comprehensive. Data from Essential Research’s series of questions about the carbon pricing package last week show there are few, if any, bright spots for the government.
Take age, for example. It’s a constant of polling that younger people more strongly believe in climate change and more strongly support action to address it. In polling data, older people consistently emerge as simply refusing to accept climate change or the need to address it. And so it is in Essential’s data from last week: younger people — 70% of 18-24s, for example — are much more likely to want politicians to “just get on with action on climate change” than older people. And support for the government’s carbon price proposal is highest among 18-24s and lowest among over 65s, and opposition is lowest and highest among those groups, respectively, with 25-34s the next most supportive.
But that’s entirely relative: even among 18-24s, only 45% support the scheme 38% oppose it, and opposition edges support 45-43% among 25-34s. Young people are also more likely to believe the scheme will be good for Australia’s future, but again it’s hardly overwhelming — 43% of 18-24s think it will be good, 31% bad, and 40-40% for 25-34s.
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The view that it will be bad for Australia rises with age, with 36% of over 65s believing it will be “very bad” for Australia’s future and another 24% thinking it will be bad.
And income appears to have little correlation with support. Low-income earners tend to more strongly support Labor, and they do best out of the government’s scheme, coming out ahead after price rises and compensation. And people on incomes below $31,200 more strongly support the scheme than people on higher incomes, but again only narrowly, 41-39% (although it’s a smallish sample compared to other income groups).
It’s clear that on the key issue of perceptions of impact on households, the government has failed to gets its message across that most households will come out ahead, not be disadvantaged or face relatively trivial costs. Some low-income earners understand that they might be a little better off — 17% of $31,200 and 13% of $31,200-$52,000 believe they’ll be a little or a lot better off, while only 6% of people on high incomes think that.
But large numbers across all income groups believe they’ll be “much worse off” — 29% of low-income earners, rising to 37% of high-income earners. That’s linked to the conviction that a carbon price will drive significant rises in the cost of living.
While low-income earners are slightly less likely to believe it, there’s a strongly held view that prices are going to go up a lot under a carbon price — 32% of people “strongly agree” that there’ll be a “big rise”, only 22% disagree. And income has no impact on the view that “there’s not enough compensation for households”, which is strongly held across all income groups.
Only younger people aren’t convinced that there’s insufficient compensation.
Voters, however, are just as sceptical about Tony Abbott. There is consistent agreement that the Liberals are more interested in votes than climate change — even 40% of over 65s, who normally skew heavily to the Liberals, think that, and even over a quarter of Liberal voters. And voters think the government’s scheme will be more effective at curbing emissions, and more cost-effective at doing so, than the Coalition’s “direct action” plan, although it is mainly younger voters who regard it with strong suspicion.
The perception that the carbon price will drive big price rises, and that households aren’t getting enough money for it, appears now to be well entrenched, and can only be addressed by voters experiencing the reality of the scheme. But then we know that voters are adept at filtering reality to suit their prejudices — expecting big price rises because of a carbon price, they’ll filter out anything that doesn’t fit expectations.
As Tony Abbott has spent months demonstrating, convincing voters of something that reinforces their views is far easier than convincing them of something that doesn’t.