Kevin Rudd is more trusted to act in the community’s interest than any other significant political figure, according to polling from Essential Research, which also shows Labor has failed to recover reputationally from its 2011 nadir.

More than a third of voters (37%) have some or a lot of trust in Rudd to act in the community’s interest, ahead of Malcolm Turnbull on 33%, Tony Abbott on 29% and Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 26%. Turnbull appears to be a less polarising figure, however; 25% of voters have no trust at all in him, compared to 30% for Rudd, 43% for Abbott and 45% for Gillard.

Australian companies fare better than any politician, with 46% of voters saying they trusted local companies to act in the community’s interest — compared to just 8% who trusted foreign companies. Indeed, 57% of voters had no trust at all in foreign companies.

Mining magnates fared little better. Only 14% of voters trusted billionaires like Gina Rinehart or Clive Palmer to act in the community’s interest, with 73% having little or no trust in them. Banks were held in similarly low regard — 17% trusted them and 66% had little or no trust. The results follow recent evidence that voter trust in key institutions has fallen — most particularly federal Parliament.

Essential also ran its periodic assessment of important election issues and the parties’ respective levels of trust in handling them. The economy, health, protecting Australian jobs and industries and education all remain the most frequently-cited key issues for voters. On economic management, Labor has made up no ground on the Coalition since last December and trails 26% to 44%, despite a welter of good economic news and interest rate cuts since then.

On health, the Coalition has stretched its lead on Labor from three to six points, 36-30%. On protecting Australian jobs and industries, the government has gone backwards as well, trailing 29-35%, while on education it still trails the Coalition by two points, 33-35%.

Only on a fair industrial relations system does Labor hold a lead, 36-30%, which has widened a little since last year. The Greens hold leads over both parties on protecting the environment and addressing climate change. And Labor still trails the Coalition by 18 points on controlling interest rates, despite successive cuts since last November.

In short it appears Labor’s effort to refocus on a more “Labor values” related platform around job protection and economic management hasn’t yet translated into voter perceptions around the party.

Yet again the capacity of partisanship to influence economic perceptions was displayed, too. Less than half (43%) of voters think the economy is “heading in the right direction”, up from 36% in March, but only 26% of Liberal voters think it is compared to 71% of Labor voters and 63% of Greens. But 56% of voters are concerned about job security, up seven points since March, despite the rise in belief that the economy is heading in the right direction. And, again, 67% of Liberal voters are concerned about their jobs compared to 46% of Labor voters.

Voters also think business groups and the Liberal Party benefit from media bias while Labor and the unions face bias against them — unexpected results since normally perceptions of bias are also affected by partisanship, with voters tending to think the media is biased against the party they support.

On voting intention, there was minimal change: Labor picked up a primary vote point to 33%; the Coalition and the Greens remained the same on 49% and 10% respectively, for a two-party preferred outcome of 56-44 in favour of the Coalition.

Peter Fray

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