The latest weekly Essential Research survey offers more evidence of gloom about the economy, with 58% expecting conditions in Australia to worsen over the next 12 months. This is a 9% increase since the question was previously asked at the start of the July, and compares with just 19% who expect things to improve (down 6% on last time).

However, the pessimism is not quite as bad as first appears. The increase on the former figure is entirely accounted for by those who opted for “a little worse” (up 10% to 41%), with “a lot worse” actually down a point to 17%.

Respondents were also slightly less glum about their personal circumstances, with 24% expecting them to get better and 41% believing they will worsen. The proportion expressing concern about their job security, while high, has increased only two points to 47%.

Labor supporters are by far the most optimistic in relation to the economy generally, with 26% believing conditions will get better and 39% expecting them to worsen. Fully 72% of Coalition supporters gave a negative response.

To coincide with the tax forum-summit, the survey also presented a smorgasbord of options on tax reform. By far the most popular were decreasing income tax for low income earners (81% support, 11% oppose) and improving tax breaks for small and medium businesses (76% and 10%).

The idea of cutting company tax proved quite a lot less popular, with 32% supportive and 41% opposed. At the bottom end of the spectrum was increasing the GST, favoured by 9% and opposed by 84%, though “increasing the carbon tax” was scarcely more popular (19% to 68%).

Respondents were fairly evenly split on abolishing negative gearing on new property purchases (33% to 37%) and repealing the fringe benefits tax (30% to 28%).

On voting intention, the fortnightly rolling average has nudged slightly in Labor’s favour, with the Coalition’s two-party lead down from 56-44 to 55-45. The primary vote has the Coalition down a point to 48%, Labor up one to 33% and the Greens down one to 11%.

Although a dismal set of figures for the government in absolute terms, the primary vote is in fact Labor’s best result since June 14, while the two-party preferred is their best since July 25.

Peter Fray

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