Voters support the government’s NDIS levy and prefer Labor’s paid parental leave scheme over the Coalition’s, today’s Essential Report shows. But both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard have improved their standing with voters.

The Prime Minister’s standing with voters has picked up from April with 38% approval and 54% disapproval, a fall of six points in her net disapproval rating. Abbott has secured his approval ratings since mid-2011, with approval of 40% (up three) and disapproval of 50% (down two), putting Abbott for the first time within sight of a possible net positive approval rating.

Both picked up two points as preferred prime minister, which Abbott leads 41%-39%. With “undecideds” at just 20%, the remaining undecided voters may be starting to harden their views.

Labor picked up a point on its primary vote to 34%; the Coalition remains on 48% and the Greens on 9%, so the 2PP outcome edges down a point in Labor’s favour: the Coalition leads 55-45%.

There appears to be only limited concern about the prospect of a Coalition government controlling both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Almost a third — 32% — of voters say a government controlling both houses is in the best interests of Australia; the balance of power being held by the independents and minor parties is seen as better by 25%. Voters for the major parties are much more relaxed about a government controlling both houses, while most Greens voters prefer minor parties holding the balance of power. The “don’t know” level of 28%, however, suggests voters may be open to a campaign to differentiate House of Reps and Senate outcomes.

The government’s decision to implement an NDIS levy is supported by voters by 57-30%, and is even supported by more Liberal voters than oppose it. And after a week of discussion of Abbott’s generous paid parental leave scheme (courtesy of attacks from his own side on it), voters prefer the government’s scheme (34%) over Abbott’s scheme (24%), with 31% saying they prefer neither.

Given Abbott’s PPL scheme is significantly more generous than the government’s, the lack of support for the Coalition’s scheme is something of a mystery: the government is deeply unpopular and the Coalition is regarded as more competent on most issues, but nonetheless Abbott seemingly can’t give away money when it comes to parental leave. But the results give us a clue as to why this is: there’s a very strong level of support among Liberal voters for “prefer neither”. Whereas Labor voters strongly support the government’s scheme, and to a lesser extent Greens voters do as well, the opposition from Liberal voters that would normally balance that is missing. Instead, Liberal voters don’t like either Labor’s scheme or Abbott’s.

Whether this is opposition from conservatives who don’t like parental leave at all, or who dislike the fact that at-home mothers won’t benefit from it, isn’t clear, but the result is that support for Abbott’s scheme from the people who would normally support Abbott to the hilt is missing.

Peter Fray

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