The federal government has failed to sway those opposed to a carbon tax, though more than half of voters are prepared to support it with compensation for lower-income households, new polling finds.

Opposition to the tax on polluters has firmed slightly to 52% in the latest Essential Research online poll, with just 39% supporting the tax. Support hit a high of 41% in May.

But when Essential asked whether voters would support a carbon tax “if the money paid by big polluting industries was used to compensate low- and middle-income earners for increased prices and to invest in renewable energy”, the result is effectively reversed: half support the tax while 37% oppose it. Not surprisingly Labor (77%) and Greens (84%) voters support the tax most strongly, with Coalition voters remaining cynical of the compensation package (27%).

Part of the cynicism is clearly in how the government has delivered the scheme. More than half of respondents say the issue “has been rushed and needs more time to consider”, while 38% believe it’s been “discussed enough and it is now time to make a decision”.

There’s no joy in the poll for Labor, with its primary vote locked at the disastrous 32% level it has been at for the past month. The Coalition has a primary vote of 49% and continues to lead the two-party preferred race by 12 points — 56-44%.

And voters appear set to punish the government in the Senate, too. Respondents were asked whether the Coalition should hold a majority in both houses after the next election and more said this would be good (38%) than bad (31%). That result seems to go to the demand for stability: in a list of scenarios, 36% would prefer a majority in both houses over split control (21%) or the Greens holding the balance of power (16%).

Following the 9/11 anniversary, Essential also quizzed its panel on terrorism and security. Most believe the world — and Australia — is less safe now than it was 10 years ago.

About 30% say the world is less safe; 36% believe Australia is also more dangerous. Just 19% believe Australia is a safer place than before the 9/11 attacks.

Q. Do you think Australia is a safer or less safe place than it was 10 years ago?

Peter Fray

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