There has been a big rise in the level of opposition to Australia’s continuing involvement in Afghanistan, according to new public polling, with nearly two-thirds of voters supporting the withdrawal of Australian troops.

Essential Research’s weekly online poll found a jump in support for pulling out troops, up from 56% in March this year and 47% in October last year. Support for either maintaining Australia’s current commitment or increasing it has fallen 5 points to 30%.

Moreover, sentiment towards the nearly decade-long conflict is unusually cross-partisan: while Greens voters are strongest in opposition — 75% — Labor (61%) and Liberal voters (60%) are nearly indistinguishable; only in support for maintaining current levels are Liberal voters slightly more supportive — 32% to 26% of Labor voters.

However, voters are split on the recent right-wing rallies against the carbon pricing package and same-s-x marriage and the “Convoy of No Confidence”. Forty per cent of respondents said the rallies reflected their view of the government, 38% said they didn’t and 22% responded they didn’t know. Unsurprisingly, partisan sentiment strongly flavoured the results, although much higher numbers of Liberal voters said “don’t know” about the question than others. Tony Abbott’s support for the rallies also split voters, with 38% approving of his blessing for the rallies and 36% disapproving, again with a strong partisan split.

Essential also asked voters to rate a number of government achievements or proposals. The most strongly-supported Labor policy was increased funding for health services (89% approval), followed by increasing the age pension (78%) and lifting compulsory super to 12% (75%). New spending on schools was also strongly supported (68%), as was stimulus spending during the GFC (61%). But least supported were current policies: the carbon pricing package — only 33% approval, and 53% disapproval — and the Malaysian solution: 39% approval and 45% disapproval.

And there’s support for Abbott’s rollback of the carbon pricing package while retaining the associated tax cuts, 44-30%, although again with a strong partisan flavour.

Voters also strongly backed increased spending on infrastructure and services in the event of another GFC, preferring that to cuts in government spending by 48-22%. But on more detailed proposals to stimulate the economy in the event of a downturn, interest rate cuts were most widely-approved, at 79%. Voters also revealed a not-unexpected magic pudding approach to stimulus: 61% support tax cuts funded by a carbon pricing package (i.e. the government’s carbon pricing package re-presented as a stimulus measure) but 51% also support straight tax cuts with no offsetting carbon tax. Similarly, tax cuts for individuals and businesses were strongly supported (61%) but not when they were coupled with cuts in infrastructure and social spending.

On voting intention, there was minimal change from last week — the Coalition primary vote edged down a point but that was the only change: Coalition 49%, Labor 32% and the Greens 10% for a 2PP of 56-44%.

Peter Fray

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