Voters are split over whether to be concerned about the impact of sweeping cuts to newspaper jobs, but do support government intervention to assist the industry, new polling from Essential Research finds.

On the asylum seeker debate, sending arrivals to Nauru is the most popular option for addressing the issue — but partisanship strongly divides voters on the issue.

The poll found 35% of voters support processing asylum seekers on Nauru, compared to 18% for sending arrivals to Malaysia and 14% for onshore processing. But that strongly reflects voting intention; voters align much more strongly with their parties’ positions than others. Among Liberal voters, 68% support the Nauru option; 44% of Labor voters support Malaysia, while 57% of Greens voters support onshore processing. Nonetheless, there is strong support for compromise: 57% want the parties to negotiate a solution, compared to only 26% who want the government to simply adopt the Coalition’s policy. More than a third of Liberal voters prefer a negotiated solution to the government simply adopting Nauru.

On the future of newspapers, voters are divided. Only 24% of voters say they read newspapers daily, compared to 39% who use news websites. The poll found 31% use newspapers less than once a week or never (compared to 28% for news websites). Daily news website users were likely to be newspaper readers as well — more than half of daily news website users also read newspapers daily. But unlike website usage, which has no relationship to age, newspaper readership is strongly linked to age: only 15% of voters aged under 34 read a newspaper daily and 41% use them less than once a week or never; while 34% of people over 55 read a newspaper daily and 24% less than once a week or never.

Almost half — 48% — of voters said they were very or somewhat concerned about recently-announced job cuts at News Limited and Fairfax, while 46% were only a little or not at all concerned. Unsurprisingly, the less frequently voters read newspapers, the less concerned they were. Voters were more likely to agree to the view that losing experienced journalists is a bad thing for Australian democracy — 50% compared to 31% who thought it didn’t matter much. Voters split equally on how concerned they were about newspapers closing: 48% were concerned or very concerned, while the same proportion said they were only a little concerned or not at all.

There was, however, strong support for government assistance for newspapers. Essential regularly asks similar questions around the idea of government support for industries; they usually elicit a positive response, given voters don’t have to identify other programs that should be cut, or taxes that should be lifted, to pay for them. When asked about newspapers, 59% approved of some form of government assistance, while 27% disapproved. Again, support followed usage, with more than two-thirds of daily readers approving of government support.

On voting intention, Labor’s primary vote has fallen a point to 32%; otherwise there’s no change, with the Coalition on 49% and the Greens on 10% for the same two party preferred outcome as last week, 56-44%.

Peter Fray

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