As Labor’s polling position worsens and voters indicate they don’t believe the government deserves re-election, there’s little in the way of hope at the prospect of a Coalition victory, today’s Essential Report finds.

On voting intention, Labor’s position has worsened, with its primary vote falling a point to 34% and the Coalition’s vote returning to the heights of 2011 and the first part of 2012, picking up two points to 49%. The Greens remain on 9%, yielding a 2PP result of 56-44% in the Coalition’s favour, up from 54-46% a week ago.

Asked whether they believe the government deserves to be re-elected, voters seemed to respond along party lines, but even 17% of Labor voters said they did not believe the government deserved to be re-elected, and more Greens voters thought it didn’t deserve to than did, 38% to 31%.

But there’s little apparent belief among voters that the Coalition will be any better than Labor across a range of important issues. Indeed, it seems voters are resigned to a new government despite believing it will actually act against their own interests. Asked which issues would be better under a Coalition government led by Tony Abbott, on only 3 issues did more voters think the Coalition would perform better than worse — the number who believed the economy would be better off was 10 points higher than the number who believed the economy would be worse off, the net number of voters who believed there’d be better “political leadership” was a single point and the net number of voters who believed company profits would be better under the Coalition was a remarkable 25 points.

Otherwise, voters appear in net terms to believe many things would be worse: given the poor esteem in which Julia Gillard is supposedly held in trust issues, more voters believe trust in government will be poorer under the Coalition (net -2) than better. More think unemployment will be worse than better (net -7), more think the cost of living will be worse (net -10); more think interest rates will be higher (net -12), job security will be worse (net -12), workers’ conditions will be worse (net -22), the environment (net -14) and benefits for welfare recipients (-21), health services (-12).

And more people think they’ll be financially worse off under a Coalition government than better, by 9 points.

This is coupled with the response to the question about whether voters feel the Coalition is ready to govern. Forty-five per cent believe not, compared to 36% who feel they are. Twelve per cent of Liberal voters believe the party isn’t ready to govern; another 16% say they don’t know.

And yet, despite voters’ belief that they will be worse off across a number of important issues unless they’re a company executive — including their own financial and employment situation — they still appear determined to elect a Coalition government: in short, voters are so primed to ditch Labor out they will vote against their own interests to do so.

It’s not just the numbers that are dire for Labor now. It’s the strength of sentiment behind them.

Peter Fray

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