The public can’t get enough of Laurie Oakes — but many of us can’t stand Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt.

An Essential Research poll on people’s trust in media commentators contains more bad news for Jones and his increasingly toxic brand; 67% of those surveyed said they did not trust the 2GB broadcaster, while 22% did. This gives Jones the dubious honour of being the least reliable commentator. Next in line from the bottom was News Limited scribe Bolt (46% did not trust him, while 39% did).

But Bolt might be more annoyed by the fact that he’s less famous than Jones. Sixty-one per cent of people had heard of Bolt, significantly less than Jones, Laurie Oakes and George Negus (all well above 80% recognition). Bolt will no doubt take heart by the fact that he’s more famous than Michelle Grattan from The Age (42% know of her).

Press gallery veteran Oakes stormed home in the poll: 72% of respondents trusted him, compared with 19% who didn’t. Second-favourite was Negus, whose success in previous decades seems to be standing him in good stead despite little high-profile success lately. Sixty-nine per cent of those polled trusted Negus, ahead of effervescent ABC host Tony Jones, who also did well (53% trusted him).

And we don’t just love Laurie; we love the ABC too. A separate question in the poll found the public was happy to send their tax dollars to Aunty; 34% thought the ABC should receive more funding, 32% thought the funding should remain at current levels, while 17% thought public spending on the ABC should be cut.

The poll found the public fairly evenly split on the controversial issue of media regulation, although it turns out people certainly don’t think there should be less regulation. Just over a third — 34% — thought the government should take greater steps to limit ownership that big media companies currently have over mainstream media (Green and Labor voters were more likely to tick this box). This compares with 29% who thought the current level of regulation was about right (Coalition voters tended to think this way), while 26% of those surveyed expressed no opinion. Overall, just 11% thought there should be less media regulation.

These numbers indicate the government may not have much to lose in continuing to press for greater regulation: more than half those polled supported the move or didn’t care.

The Essential poll found that voters in Australia — the global poster-child for compulsory voting — were opinionated, and had quite a strong sense of agency and optimism about the political process. Almost three-quarters thought political action could change the world (74%), while 47% said they had strong views about politics. Eleven per cent had been a member of a political party, while 12% had gone to a political rally in the last three years.

The poll found little change in voting intention, with Labor inching up one percentage point to be down 37-47 to the Coalition on primary preference. The 2PP is unchanged from last week, with Labor trailing the Coalition at 47-53.

The poll of just over 1000 people was taken from October 3 to 7.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey