The government faces strong opposition from the electorate over lifting the pension age, with most voters preferring the soon-to-be-obsolete age of 65, new polling from Essential Research shows. Just over 70% of voters oppose raising the pension age to 70, mooted by Treasurer Joe Hockey, while only 20% approve; even Liberal voters oppose it 60%-31%.
The highest level of support was from voters over 65, while unsurprisingly the strongest opposition was from voters 45-64. On the age itself, 72% wanted it frozen at 65 (58%) or lower (14%); 10% wanted 70, with a small number of voters in between. The pension age will rise six months in 2017 to 65.5, then six months every two years until it reaches 67 in 2023. The Coalition is reportedly considering bumping it to 70.
There's also strong opposition to including the family home in the pensions assets test, with 64% of voters disapproving. Liberal voters (60% disapproval), who were more supportive of lifting the pension age, were more similar to other voters on that issue. Disapproval was strongest among the 55-64 age bracket, at 82%.
And there's strong support for maintaining funding to the ABC. Some 61% were opposed to funding cuts -- 32% strongly disapprove -- although voting intention was a clear marker of difference. Of Labor voters, 70% opposed funding cuts (and 85% of Greens), whereas 43% of Liberal voters opposed them, not far above the 37% who supported cuts.
Essential also asked a semi-regular question about the issues that determine how people vote federally -- the last one having been in the lead-up to last year's election. Essential now breaks out not merely Greens voters but "other" voters as well -- an eclectic group composed of voters who support independent and smaller parties. On voting intention the Palmer United Party has been scoring about 3-4%, although it has risen to 5% this week, while "others" score 6-7%.
To the extent that they can be characterised given the small sample sizes involved, the "others" plus PUP group tend to be economically more left-leaning than other voters but socially conservative. For instance, 35% of other/PUP voters say they will attend an Anzac Day ceremony on Friday, compared to 21% of all respondents, and they resemble Coalition voters in their response to climate change questions -- but on economic questions like privatisation, they look a lot like Labor voters or, often times, Greens voters in how they respond.
On the question of which issues influence their vote, that group also differs a little from Labor, Coalition and Greens voters in what's important to them. They're indistinguishable from Labor voters on the importance of the economy, health and protecting Australian jobs. But treatment of asylum seekers is more important than Labor and Coalition voters (9% to 5%); they're the group for whom "a fair tax system" ranks more highly than any other group; and they also rank "managing population growth" as more important than Labor, Coalition or Greens voters, 16% to 6-10% for the rest.
On voting intention, the Coalition has lost a point on its primary vote (41%); Labor remains on 37% and the Greens are up to 11%, their best performance for months. That tips the two-party preferred outcome back to 51-49% in Labor's favour.