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Jul 19, 2011

Everyone (nearly) hates the carbon pricing scheme

Only younger and lower-income voters are even faintly attracted to the government's carbon pricing package.

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.

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.

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138 thoughts on “Everyone (nearly) hates the carbon pricing scheme

  1. Holden Back

    The of voter perception of the issue of the tax is also one of economic or even financial literacy. The ‘great big price rises’ we are primed for will only be too easy for retailers and service providers to live up to. But teh base position of the cheapness of fuel, energy and even groceries will never be a story for the main stream press. I wait to be showered with abuse by following contributors for even suggesting such heretical thoughts. I predict I will be asked which planet I’m living on, or of which elite I’m a member (several cultural ones, as it happens, none of which have anything to do with income.) etc. etc.

  2. ernmalleyscat

    Sorry to disappoint HB, but I’m right with you.
    Pity Bernard is just adding to the noise that stops that reality getting through.

  3. Frank Campbell

    It’s distressing when an intelligent commentator like Keane is blinded by the very impediment he deplores in others:

    “we know that voters are adept at filtering reality to suit their prejudices”

    Kkeane also blames the media and the messenger (Gillard and her ministers).

    The policy is rejected for cogent reasons, against the full force of the respectable media, the government and the authority of economists.

    Like Keane, they’re missing the point.

    The policy is absurd: unilateral, cannot affect global temperatures, aims at a risibly small reduction in local CO2 emissions, is based on a technological fraud (renewables cannot yet replace baseload FF power), creates a complex bureaucracy, channels almost all the tax back to “polluters”, households and the very “renewables” condemned by the Productivity Commission (wind and solar) as being inefficient/expensive/unready.

    In a very few years, orthodox opinion will use the “carbon tax” as a cautionary tale. University courses will dissect it. The policy now has many parents, but they will soon deny paternity. And refuse DNA tests.

  4. Frank Campbell

    But relief is, ummm, at hand…the following transcript, written not by a speech-writer but in Julia Gillard’s inimitable style, has been leaked:

    Julia Gillard’s Speech to the National Press Club, to be delivered on 15th August 2011:

    “Australians have had a long and difficult conversation about pricing carbon. I believe this conversation was necessary if Australians are to move forward to a clean, green energy future and prevent dangerous climate change. I understand that many Australians have been worried and anxious about how this great reform will affect their lives. But we can now move forward because the Government has put in place generous compensation to protect Australian famlies while making big polluters pay. Australians now know that they will be better off with a carbon price. My government is all about jobs for Australians. Australia must transition from dirty polluting industry to the industry of the future, creating thousands of clean, green jobs. I was in the great state of South Australia recently, visiting the great steel city of Whyalla. I can announce today that my government will spend $16 billion to build the world’s largest windfarm at Whyalla. This will power Whyalla’s steel plant with clean renewable energy. I also visited a coal mine in the great state of Queensland. I told those Queensland famlies their jobs were safe, that my government was all about jobs. I told them that the coal industry had a fantastic future.
    Australians can now move forward to address the second great moral challenge of our time- a challenge which threatens the health and happiness of all Australians, a challenge which fills the beds of our great hospitals, a challenge which causes many diseases and premature death. This great challenge is obesity. My government will immediately introduce legislation to put a price on fat. In three years this will be replaced with a Fat Trading Scheme. The FTS will enable the market to determine fat prices. Fat credits may be purchased overseas to offset the fat emissions of our great dairy industry and other fat-intensive industries. Foods with no fat content will be exempt from tax. There will be a sliding scale of $1 per gram for low fat content foods, rising to $10 per gram for foods with the highest fat content. Ice-cream, now known as Frozen Fat, will attract a price of $12 per gram of dangerous fat.
    My government is all about jobs, and we will take steps moving forward to protect fat-intensive industries. Polls show 97% of Australians want to reduce their weight. Australia cannot wait while the rest of the world takes action on the dangerous fat epidemic. Australians are being left behind. Australians are a confident people. We are not afraid of the future. Oh, I know the Opposition will deny Australians the right to be free from fat. Negativity is Mr. Abbott’s middle name. And I know the big fat producers will campaign for fat, just like big tobacco companies did. But Australians know that the dangerous fat epidemic must be addressed.
    I know some Australians will be worried and anxious about their jobs as we move forward to put a price on fat. But pricing fat will create thousands of jobs in new fat-free industries. Just yesterday I visited the largest carrot farm in the Southern Hemisphere. They are planning to double production, with the assistance of my Government’s Vegetable Expansion Scheme.

    I will be visiting with Australians every day, wearing out my shoe leather, to have the conversation we need about creating the lean, healthy Australia of the future.”

  5. Mark Duffett

    Whether it’s down to Labor’s ineptitude, Tony Abbott’s tactical brilliance or the media’s laziness or bias…

    There is a fourth possibility: widespread well-founded scepticism that the only alternatives to fossil fuels being promoted by the scheme are not up to the decarbonisation task.

  6. Stiofan

    @Holden Back
    No need to shower you with abuse: your self-proclamation of your membership of “several cultural [elites]” does it all.

  7. Microseris

    Irrespective of how effective the Govt. plan will be on reducing emissions, it is a start and the one preferred by economists and scientists.

    I would like to know how much will a business as usual – 3 – 4 degree c rise in global temperatures in the second half of this century will cost individuals and the economy? Obviously older people won’t be around and for the most part don’t appear to care.

    For the rest, its quite sad everyone seems so prepared to gamble with the future of our only home.

  8. drmick

    Hear Hear HB and EMC,

    At 6am today, on ABC24, CH7 and SkyNews, after wall to wall nah nah nah nah na na about crappy polls and her crappy scheme, yesterday, not a word today. WTF?
    There was nothing negative to add so no free kicks.
    Any wonder she has to do ads if BK is an example of people trying to help; F***ing stop helping now.
    Its the Oxmoron of mentioning abbot and genius in the same sentence that really rankles. Therre have been a lot of “geniuses” but few you would send your kids to uni to emulate.
    I am not special in any way, but I have heard her message, from the beginning, through all the BS. I am able to make up my own mind.
    The “whats in it for me generation”, grown and enriched by howard and the smirk still have their hand out. They are losing their asirational mc mansions, bought and built on junk bonds, that were peddled to them by howard like a p**dophile with a pocket of boiled lollies. Now this mob, who probably also took the baby bonus and grand from Rudd are bitching. Loudly.

  9. Holden Back

    Thanks Stiofan, I needed something to set my watch by.

  10. JJ Fiasson

    Thanks for this article, Bernard. It’s hard to fight the rampant intentional misinformation, thanks to both Tony Abbott and large sections of the press. Crikey is one of the few outlets that tries to cut through the crap.

    I’ve put together a site that aims to help inform people:
    Carbon Tax Facts

    Specific sub-sections:
    Is Climate Change Real?
    What is the carbon tax?
    How will the carbon tax affect me?

    Please share the links around!

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