Sentiment about the state of the economy has improved significantly in the last six months. But voters oppose any further spending cuts to return to surplus, according to polling from Essential Research.

The proportion of voters who consider the Australian economy in good shape has lifted from 35% to 41% since May, with a corresponding drop in those rating it poor from 29% to 23%. Liberal voters, however, are still more likely to see it as poor — only 27% of Liberal voters rate the economy as good compared to 38% who rate it as poor.

Voters are also divided on the merits of the government’s return to surplus: 37% approve of its fiscal policy even if it means more spending cuts to achieve the surplus, but 43% don’t approve.

Unusually — and again reflecting the ways partisanship can skew people’s responses — Labor voters are the most fiscally hawkish, approving of the return to surplus by 52% to 32%. Liberal voters are the softest, opposing the return to surplus 54% to 31%.

On voting intention, there’s been little shift: the Coalition vote has gone up a point to 48% while Labor remains the same on 36% and the Greens remain on 9%. The extra point for the Coalition pushes the two-party preferred outcome back up to 54-46%.

Meanwhile, more Australians believe there’s benefit in Australia having a seat on the UN Security Council than not. Essential found 45% of respondents from its online panel thought there was a lot or some benefit (with, again, a partisan skewing: a quarter of Liberal voters think there’s no benefit at all) and 16% believing there was no benefit.

And there’s still strong opposition to the export of uranium to India: 40% of voters oppose it compared to 28% who support it, but hostility has softened since November last year when opposition was 45% to 30%. Similarly, opposition to nuclear power in Australia has softened slightly: 41% of voters oppose an Australian nuclear power industry compared to 39% who support it, down from 45% to 39% in November 2011 but still well short of the net support the policy attracted in 2010 before Fukushima.