Voters support the concerns of the Occupy movement, but don’t support the protests themselves and are divided over whether police were justified in breaking them up, new polling shows.

The weekly online poll from Essential Research found 29% of voters support both the movement’s concerns and protests, while 13% didn’t agree with their concerns. Around 40% agreed with their concerns, but didn’t agree with the action. The only strong support came from Greens voters; 59% of whom supported both the movement’s concerns and the protests.

There was real division over the controversial police break-ups of the protests in Melbourne and Sydney. Essential found 42% of voters backed police action to break up the protests over the 41% who said they should have been allowed to continue, with Labor and Greens voters strongly supporting their continuation and Liberal voters equally vehemently opposed.

On the issue of coal seam gas, half of those polled wanted further restrictions on the mining exercise, compared to 20% who feel current regulations balance the rights of farmers and miners. This leaves a high “don’t know” vote for both sides to win over.

And on gambling, there’s been a fall in support for tighter regulation of the industry since April 2011 when Essential last asked voters how they felt about different forms of gambling. Support for tighter regulation of poker machines has fallen from 62% to 52% since April, with 35% saying the current level of regulation is about right. Support for more regulation of casinos and Lotto has also fallen, while there’s now greater support for regulation of sports betting.

Essential also asked whether voters thought the major parties favoured the interests of business or workers, or balanced them. Both the Labor and Liberal parties scored 14% on balance, and thereafter radically diverged: voters thought Labor favoured workers over business 41-28%, while the Liberals — despite Tony Abbott’s moves away from liberal economic orthodoxy on a range of issues — were considered to favour business over workers by a huge 61-8%, suggesting a possible area for Labor to exploit if it is adept enough to tap into the current anti-corporate mood running through the community.

On voting intention, the first good news for Labor for a while: a two-point lift in its primary vote to 34%, at the expense of both the Coalition (down one to 47%) and the Greens (down one to 10%). The two-party preferred vote, on a rolling fortnightly basis, remains on 55-45% to the Coalition.

Peter Fray

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