Australians have cooled on automotive manufacturing subsidies but still back industry support mechanisms, new polling from Essential Research shows. However, which industries voters want to see helped reflects their partisan position.

While handouts for drought-affected farmers has near-universal support, voters are more divided over other forms of corporate welfare. There is strong support for the private healthcare rebate, assistance for tourism and food processing, but thereafter Essential found much more even attitudes toward assistance:

Liberal voters are more likely to support the diesel fuel rebate for miners, which costs taxpayers $1.9 billion a year, the private health insurance rebate and negative gearing than Labor voters, while the latter are more likely to support car and food manufacturing and handouts to the film industry.

Voters are more united on which economic issues are if greatest concern: 25% nominate unemployment as their greatest concern, with 28% of Labor voters nominating it and 23% of Liberal voters. Labor voters are more concerned about wealth disparity (29%) than Liberal voters (11%), but Greens voters (bearing in mind it’s a small sample) appear are almost obsessed with it, with 42% nominating it as their biggest economic issue of concern, almost double unemployment (22%). Inflation (15%), tax levels (13%) and interest rates (12%) are the best of the rest; 0nly 5% of voters nominate the budget surplus, although interest rates are the second highest concern for Liberal voters at 17%. Liberal voters also say that border security is the  non-economic issue they’re most concerned about, whereas Labor voters (28%) and Greens voters (44%) nominate climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also lapsed back into negative territory in voters’ esteem, with 41% approval to 47% disapproval, a big turnaround from January: he began the year in positive territory with a 47%-43% approval level. Abbott fares worse among women (38%-47%) than men (45%-47%). However, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also gone negative, turning a 35%-32% approval rating in January into a 30%-34% disapproval rating; Shorten trails among men 33%-42%, whereas he’s even with women, 28%-28%. Abbott leads Shorten as preferred prime minister 40%-30%, little changed since January 42%-31%.

On voting intention, the Coalition has remained steady on 43% while Labor has picked up a point to be on 39%. The Greens remain on 8%; the Palmer United Party is on 3% and others 7%, for a two-party preferred outcome of 50-50, the same as last week.

Peter Fray

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