Our representatives in Canberra are playing politics on asylum seekers. That’s the strong view of voters from a new Essential Research poll.

Seventy eight per cent of voters think MPs and Senators are playing politics rather than being genuinely concerned about asylum seekers. Unsurprisingly, the feeling is cross-partisan: 74% of Labor voters, 81% of Liberal voters and 85% of Greens voters hold that view.

Some 32% believe no party is “most concerned about finding a fair and reasonable solution”; 28% believe it’s the Liberals, and in a blow to Labor’s hopes of being seen as the most willing to compromise on the issue, only 14% believe Labor is (the Greens are on 13%).

Partisanship plays a significant role on this question — voters are more likely to believe the party they support is most concerned to find a solution. Sixty per cent of Greens voters think their party is most concerned and 59% of Liberal voters think their party is. The comparable figure for Labor voters, however, is 46%, still the highest, but significantly lower.

Disturbingly for Labor in light of the Labor Right’s recent attacks on the Greens, 30% of Labor voters think the Greens are the party most concerned to find a fair and reasonable solution.

If the government’s goal was to convince voters that it is getting tougher on asylum seekers, there’s some evidence of success: 60% of voters think the government is too soft, down from 63% in October 2010; 12% think it’s too tough, up from 7%. But only 11% of voters think its approach is the right one. And only 26% of Labor voters think its approach on the issue is right.

Labor also trails on possible fallout from the eurozone crisis: 74% of voters think it will have some or a major impact on the Australian economy (only 13% say they haven’t heard something about European events); interestingly, Liberal voters are far more likely to believe Europe will end up having an impact on Australia. Forty two per cent of voters believe Tony Abbott and the Liberals can be trusted to deal with global economic problems compared to 32% who trust Julia Gillard and Labor to handle them.

And while it’s early days yet, 54% of voters say they haven’t seen any price rises due to a carbon price, compared to 31% who say they have. In another demonstration of how partisanship influences what facts people decide to believe in, the comparable figure for Liberal voters is 43% who say they’ve seen no price rises compared to 40% who say they have.

On voting intention, Labor drops another point to 31%; the Liberals and the Greens remain steady on 49% and 11% respectively. The two-party preferred outcome remains the same: 56-44% to the Coalition.

Peter Fray

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