Australians are relaxed about the idea of banning social media during periods of civil unrest, according to today’s Essential Report, with 47% agreeing with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion, following the British riots that people might be prevented from accessing social media such as Twitter and Facebook, with 39% opposed.

Labor and Liberal voters are indistinguishable on the issue, supporting a ban 51%-38% for Labor and 51%-36% for Liberal, but Greens voters strongly oppose the idea, with 65% disagreeing. A position on the issue strongly correlates with usage: only 27% of people who use social media frequently support a ban, and 62% oppose, while 64% of people who never use social media would ban it, with only 25% opposing a ban. Just over half of people use social media “occasionally” or “sometimes” support a ban.

Social media usage is also strongly linked to age, with 58% of people 18-34 saying they used social media frequently, 27% of 35-54-year-olds, and only 18% of people over 55. Liberal voters use it least, with only 30% saying they use it frequently, compared to 34% of Labor voters and 48% of Greens voters, though 33% of Labor voters say they “never” use social media.

On health reform, the government’s announcement at the start of the month about a finalised health package appears to have left many voters none the wiser, with 28% of voters saying they had not heard of the deal and another 36% saying they had heard “little”. Reflecting this, 31% of voters expected the deal to have “little” or “no” impact, and 33% had no opinion; 44% thought they would have little or no impact on them and their families, with another 32% saying they didn’t know, and 30% saying they neither supported nor opposed the reform plans, along with 36% that had no opinion.

A quarter (24%) supported the plans and 9% opposed them, the sort of numbers indicative mainly of widespread indifference despite health repeatedly appearing as a key issue for voters in deciding how they vote. This might be also because the cost of health insurance is the most important health issue for most Australians, ranking in the top three issues for 44% of voters, ahead of quality of care in hospitals (39%) and cost of primary care (34%). Support for aged care came lowest, at 12%.

On voting intention, virtually no change from last week: Labor has picked up a point on its primary vote to move back to 32%, the Coalition remains on 50% and the Greens remain on 10% for a 2PP outcome of 56%-44%, a point down on last week.

Peter Fray

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