Voters are split on a temporary deficit levy, new polling from Essential Research reveals, but ahead of the Coalition’s first budget next week they remain unconvinced of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s credentials.

Voters split 34%-34% on support and opposition to a temporary deficit levy on high- and middle-income earners. Support was stronger among Coalition voters, but it was over-65s who most strongly backed the tax, which very few of them would pay: 52% of over-65s supported it, and 40% of 55-  to 64-year-olds did.

Despite the Prime Minister’s efforts to argue the levy didn’t represent a breach of his “no new taxes” pre-election pledge, 48% of voters say they are more inclined to view it as a broken promise. But 33% say it is more important to reduce the deficit than to stick to promises — nearly all of them Coalition voters. Sixty-one per cent of Coalition voters believe it’s more important to reduce the deficit than stick to promises, compared to 14% of Labor voters, 8% of Greens voters and 34% of “other” voters, again showing that supporters of the party in government are more indulgent of breaking promises than opposition supporters.

But despite an array of better economic data in recent months, concerns about job losses haven’t abated. The proportion of voters concerned about losing their jobs or family members losing their jobs has increased slightly since February, from 55% to 57%, and is now up a full 10 points since 2012. The concern crosses party lines, although Coalition voters (47%) are less concerned than Labor voters (68%) or Greens voters (58%), and women (60%) are more concerned than men (54%). This may partly explain why just 33% of voters trust Hockey more than his Labor counterpart Chris Bowen to handle the economy (27% trust Bowen more), while the largest proportion of voters, 41%, say they don’t know.

A surprisingly large number of Liberal voters — 22% — say they don’t know. Hockey’s rating was 37% (against Wayne Swan) after last year’s budget.

And the budget deficit is rated as the most worrying economic issue by only 6%. Fifty-six per cent identify “cost of living” as the most worrying issue, then it’s daylight second, followed by unemployment (11%), house prices and insecure employment (both 7%) and national debt (5%).

On voting intention, there’s minimal change from last week. The Coalition remains on 40%, Labor on 38% and the Greens on 10%. “Others” have lifted two points to 8% while the Palmer United Party remains on 5%. The two-party preferred outcome remains at 52%-48% in Labor’s favour.