Nearly half of Australian voters expect our relation with Indonesia to deteriorate under the Abbott government, this week’s Essential poll shows, and more than a third have “no trust” in the government’s ability to handle international relations. However, far more voters support spying on Indonesia than oppose it.

Our relationship with Indonesia is the fifth most important, in voters’ eyes, behind the US, New Zealand, China and the UK, but ahead of Japan and India. But 49% of voters believe our relationship with Indonesia will get worse under the Coalition, compared to 11% who believe it will improve; even 31% of Coalition voters believed the relationship would deteriorate under Tony Abbott.

Further, 42% of voters say the Coalition government has handled relations with Indonesia poorly compared to 29% who think it has handled them well. Voters are more likely to expect we will have improved relation with the US (24% improve, 12% worsen), the UK (20%/11%) and New Zealand (19%/12%) but less likely to expect relations to improve with China (19%/22%), Japan and India. Just over a third — 35% — of voters have no trust at all in the Coalition’s ability to handle international relations, compared to 20% who have a lot of trust and 21% who have some trust.

However, 39% of voters support spying on Indonesia compared to 23% who oppose it. Coalition voters, in particular, are strongly supportive of spying, 58% to 12%, compared to ambivalent Labor voters (28%/32%) and Greens voters (13%/37%).

Overall, 27% of voters say that the Abbott government has performed worse than expected compared to 18% who say it has performed better than expected and 47% who think it has performed “about what was expected”. This tends to reflect partisanship, however — 34% of Coalition voters think the government has performed better than expected, and 51% of Labor voters think it has performed worse than expected.

On voting intention, there’s no sign of the Labor-friendly reversal identified by Nielsen in Monday’s poll. This is how Mark Kenny reported the poll yesterday:

“Bill Shorten has made the strongest debut of any opposition leader since Kevin Rudd in 2006-07, propelling Labor into the lead over a government weighed down by its secretive asylum-seeker response and an unconvincing commitment to action on global warming.

The first Fairfax Nielsen poll since the September 7 election has charted a rapid recovery for the ALP, with the opposition shooting to a 52-48 per cent lead over the government on the preferences of respondents — the quickest poll lead achieved by any federal opposition after losing an election.”

But according to Essential, on the primary vote the Coalition has picked up a point to 45%; Labor has picked up one as well, to 36%; Greens remain on 9% and “others” on 11%. This gives a two-party-preferred outcome of 53-47% in the Coalition’s favour; the same as the previous Essential poll. A Newspoll out today had a similar finding of 52-48%, in the Coalition’s favour.