Australians remain strongly opposed to our continuing involvement in Afghanistan, polling from Essential Research has found.

The weekly online poll of 1043 voters shows 64% of voters want us to withdraw from Afghanistan, with 21% wanting to maintain our current presence and 4% wanting to see an increase. The numbers are virtually identical to those of November 2011, as is the non-partisan nature of the opposition — Labor, Coalition and Greens voters are all strongly opposed, although Greens voters tend to be even more strongly opposed than others.

More voters (44%) believe women are not “respected and treated fairly” in the defence forces than think they are (31%); there’s also little to distinguish voters on party lines on this question, except that Greens voters are more likely to believe women are respected. There is, however, a significant gender gap: men are almost evenly split, 40-37%, whereas women are strongly of the view that they aren’t respected in the defence forces, 48-25%.

And more than a year on from WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables and despite incessant attention on Julian Assange’s possible extradition to Sweden, voters continue to support WikiLeaks, with 53% supporting the media organisation’s release of material and 26% opposed, almost the same result as December 2010.

Around a third (36%) of voters also think the government has failed to provide sufficient support for Assange in the face of possible extradition to Sweden and to the United States, compared to 22% who think he’s received appropriate support; there’s a big “don’t know” element (41%) suggesting many voters may not have kept up with the ongoing legal case.

With WikiLeaks announcing that Assange will stand for the Senate (and run a candidate against Julia Gillard in Lalor), Victoria also emerges as the state most sympathetic to Assange out of the larger states, with 38% believing he hasn’t received appropriate support, compared to 33% of Queensland voters and 36% of NSW voters.

Essential also asked about support for unions with 48% of voters saying they’d been good for workers and 17% bad; predictably, the result reflected partisan  divisions, with Labor and Greens voters strongly pro-union and Coalition voters evenly split 31-31%. There’s also strong agreement unions remain important for working people, 56-19%.

On voting intention, there’s been a slight rise for Labor: primary vote up a point to 32% and the Coalition down a point to 48%, and the Greens up 1 point to 11%. The two-party preferred result slips back to 56-44% in the Coalition’s favour compared to 57-43% last week.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey