Tony Abbott

The bete noire of Australian politics — the carbon tax — has come in from the cold.

The latest poll by Essential Research has found that for the first time in a long time, more people support the carbon tax (46%) than oppose it (44%). While net support is at a wafer-thin +2%, it’s the first time since at least March 2011 that the carbon tax has more fans than critics.

The carbon tax is now significantly more popular than its chief detractor, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Support for Abbott is at -31% (voter satisfaction compared to dissatisfaction, in today’s Newspoll published in The Australian).

The rehabilitation of the carbon tax has mostly occurred since it began on July 1, although Essential found when people were directly asked they were fairly evenly split on how the tax had affected them. A quarter of those polled said the impact on their household was worse than expected, and a quarter said the impact was not as bad as expected. The most common response (36%) was that the impact was about the same as expected.

Those results don’t indicate people were delighted with the impact of the carbon tax. But nor did most people receive a rude shock when the tax kicked in — for most, the tax had about the impact they were expecting, or less.

Coalition voters were much more hostile to the tax’s impact, with 39% saying the impact was worse than expected. That compared with 12% of Labor voters, and 14% of Green voters.

But while voters are slowly thawing to the carbon price, they’re not sure it’s here to stay. Forty-four per cent of those polled said they thought the Coalition would probably repeal the tax if elected, compared to 32% who thought the Coalition would probably not repeal it. Abbott has vowed “in blood” to repeal the tax, although there are some doubts as to how he could get this through the Senate.

The public was less confident of the Coalition’s promises to repeal other Labor reforms, however. Voters were split on whether the Coalition would repeal the mining tax (35% said the Coalition wouldn’t repeal it if elected, 33% said they would) — and the poll found the mining tax was fairly popular, with 63% support compared to 22% who didn’t like it.

Just 18% of respondents thought the Coalition would repeal the national broadband network if elected, while more than half thought they probably wouldn’t. The Coalition has criticised the NBN and proposed replacing it with a less costly mix of technologies. Those polled have taken a shine to the NBN, with 69% in favour and 20% against.

Essential found voter sentiment on who should run the country unchanged, at 53-47% two-party preferred to the Coalition.