Despite a renewed burst of Labor leadership speculation, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have remained static in voters’ estimation, and Labor’s primary vote has edged up to its highest point in several week, today’s Essential Report finds.

Gillard’s approval rating remains virtually unchanged from May at 37%/54%, with approval down a point from 38%. Abbott remains at 40%/49%, with disapproval down a point from 50%. Abbott’s brief lead as preferred prime minister has shrunk back one point, 40%-39%, down from 41%-39% in May.

On voting intention, Labor has staged the faintest of recoveries now after a period in the low 30s, with its primary vote creeping up to 36% and the Coalition falling a point to 47%. With the Greens static on 8%, the two-party preferred outcome is 54-46% in the Coalition’s favour, Labor’s least worst outcome for some time.

In the wake of the debacle over political donations reform, only 29% of voters believe parties should receive some public funding, with 47% saying they should be fully funded by donations. Liberal voters most strongly preferred donations over public funding (53%-27%), while Greens voters preferred taxpayers to foot the bill for parties, 51%-35%. There was more partisan agreement, however, on capping donations, with 65% of voters wanting donations to be capped and only 17% supporting unlimited donations. Voters also preferred the lowest disclosure threshold, with 36% supporting a $1000 disclosure threshold, 26% supporting the $5000 threshold agreed between the major parties and 17% preferring the current threshold of around $12,000. Only 5% thought donations should not have to be disclosed, and while Greens voters were more supportive of disclosure, there wasn’t much difference between Labor and Liberal voters, although the latter more strongly preferred $5000.

Some 58% of voters believe One Nation founder Pauline Hanson is not likely to make a positive contribution to Parliament, Essential found. 38% believed “not at all likely”.

Essential also asked about the extent to which voters had witnessed or experienced forms of intolerance. Some 39% said they had experienced or witnessed racism in the past 12 months; 29% had experienced or witnessed s-xism (32% for women, 26% for men), 26% homophobia, 29% religious intolerance and 24% ageism. Across all forms of intolerance except ageism, younger people reported significantly higher levels of witnessing and experiencing intolerance. Meanwhile, 69% of voters thought racism was a problem in Australia; 52% thought s-xism was (women, 61%, men 42%), 51% homophobia; 54% religious intolerance and 46% ageism. The outcomes for s-xism and religious intolerance had, respectively, increased and fallen significantly since September 2012.

Peter Fray

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