The Coalition has regained its lead over Labor, according to polling from Essential Research, but the number of voters who are unimpressed with the government has lifted significantly.

The Coalition’s primary vote has lifted two points to 44%, while Labor (38%) and the Greens (8%) have each lost a point, which puts the government back in the lead in two-party preferred terms, 51%-49%.

Some 40% of voters said the government had performed worse than they expected since coming to office, compared to 20% who thought it had performed better. These results are something of a proxy for voting intention, with Liberal voters much more inclined to think the government has performed above expectations, but the results show a marked change since November, when 27% of voters thought the government had performed below expectations.

The mixed feelings extend to the issue of asylum seekers: 39% of voters rate the government’s handling of the issue as good compared to 38% who rate it as poor. However, 28% of voters still believe the government is not tough enough on asylum seekers, compared with 34% think the government has about the right approach; 25% believe the government is too tough, up from 22% in January, 12% in 2012 and 7% in 2010.

Whereas over 60% of voters thought the previous government was too soft on asylum seekers, that’s now fallen to around a quarter of voters under the current government. Approval of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of his job is evenly split at 39%/39% (predictably split on partisan lines).

Voters also identified foreign aid, the arts, private schools funding and business welfare as the areas they’d prefer to see spending cuts, while health, education and pensions are the areas they’d least like to see cuts.

While partisan differences emerge in those figures — Labor voters don’t want to see manufacturing assistance cut; Coalition voters don’t want border security funding cut; Greens voters don’t want the arts cut — what’s more interesting is the consistency in some areas: plainly there’s a widespread perception that private schools get too much funding and it should be cut, whereas public school funding is a no-go area, along with health and pensions.

And who would have thought that, in a sizeable majority of support for cutting subsidies for business, it would be Labor voters who scored lowest?

Peter Fray

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