Ahead of this week’s Mid Year Economic Forecast and an expected round of spending cuts, voters would prefer Wayne Swan to delay the return to surplus, according to today’s Essential Report.

Only 13% of voters support returning to surplus in 2012-13 if it means cutting services and raising taxes. Seventy one per cent preferred that the return to surplus be delayed. The sentiment was across party lines, with 82% of Greens voters preferring delay, 76% of Labor voters and 68% of Coalition voters. Sentiment against a return to surplus in 2012-13 is sharply up since April when, on the separate question of what measures should be taken to return to surplus, 38% said “there’s no need to return to surplus so quickly”. Now that figures stands at 58%.

Voters would prefer the government to soak high income earners and corporations to get back to surplus if it remains determined to do so — 59% support the removal of tax breaks for high income earners (up eight points since April) and 72% support increased taxes for corporations (up nine points). The government is already signalling that these may be the exact areas where the axe falls. And interestingly, there is only limited support for cutting back on “middle-class welfare”, at 35%, which is down a point since April, but it is Coalition voters who are by far the strongest supporters of cuts to middle-class welfare, at 40%, versus Labor voters on 31% and Greens voters on 29%.

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Essential also asked about attitudes towards the mining boom. Asked who benefited a lot from it, only 11% said “all Australians”, compared to 68% for “mining company executives”, 48% “mining company shareholders”, 42% foreign companies, and 12% regional communities. Thirteen per cent said “all Australians” got no benefit at all from the boom.

This was at odds with the distribution voters said they’d liked to see, with 68% saying “all Australians” should benefit more, while 58% said regional communities should benefit more. Thirty per cent said state governments should benefit more, and 27% the federal government, although about 30% thought governments were currently benefiting about enough — 57% said mining company executives should benefit less from the boom, and 56% said foreign companies should benefit less.

The Obama visit also appears to have done Julia Gillard some good — 38% rated her performance during the President’s visit as good, and 23% rated it as poor, with 31% declaring it “average”. Voters were unimpressed with Tony Abbott, however, who came in for criticism for injecting partisanship into his statement before Obama’s address to Parliament. Only 18% rated Abbott’s performance as good, and 30% rated it as poor, while 37% thought it was “average”.

Even Liberal voters appeared unenthused with Abbott’s performance — only 31% of them rated it as good, and 46% thought Abbott’s performance was “average”.

On voting intention, little change from last week — the two parties remain on the same primary votes, 48% for the Coalition, 34% for Labor. But the Greens are up one point to 11%, enough to tip the 2PP outcome back to 54-46%.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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