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Jul 8, 2014

Essential: approval rises for asylum seeker policy

More than a third of Australians think the government is taking the right approach to asylum seekers, according to the latest Essential data. This is a record high -- and 20% of Coalition voters still say asylum seeker policy is too soft.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains deeply unpopular with voters and the government’s modest recovery after its budget stumbles has faltered, today’s Essential Report shows — but there is strong support for its stance toward asylum seekers.

The Prime Minister has a net approval rating of -24 (34% approval, 58% disapproval), virtually unchanged since June (-23); Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is also barely changed, with a net disapproval rating of -2 (36% to 39%, from 38%-40% in June). Shorten leads Abbott as preferred PM 37%-34%, down a point from June (40%-36%). There’s some good news for the PM — he no longer has a big gender gap in his approval rating, with women (-26) and men (-23) now virtually indistinguishable in their view of him. The problem is, that view is overwhelmingly negative.

However, despite the deep unpopularity of the budget, the Coalition can at least reflect on support for one of its controversial policies: support for its changes to the disability support pension to confine it to the permanently disabled is supported 46% to 37%, with particularly strong support (59%) from the aged (who are unaffected by the proposal) and Liberals voters (705) while other/Palmer United voters are evenly divided on it. Approval of the government’s handling of asylum seekers has also improved despite criticism of the disappearance and repatriation of Sri Lankan asylum seekers (the poll was completed before last night’s High Court decision). Some 41% of voters approved of the government’s handling of the issue compared to 35% who disapproved, which is up from 39%-38% in March.

The number of voters who think Australia is too soft on asylum seekers is now at its lowest level since 2010, with 18% of voters saying we’re too soft, compared to 28% in March and 60% in July last year. The number of voters who say the government’s approach is about right is at its highest ever, 36%, while the number of people saying Australia is too harsh is also at a record high — 27%, compared to 25% in March and 12% in July last year. This is the first time more voters believe the government is too harsh than too soft — although nearly a fifth of voters continue to want even more draconian measures adopted against asylum seekers.

Electricity was most likely to be identified as the household expense of concern, with 80% of voters expressing concern about it, including 49% who said they were “very concerned”. That was higher than health costs (76%; 42% very concerned) and transport (74% and 35%); gas was only 54% (24%).

On voting intention, Labor has regained two points (40%) while the Coalition has lost one (39%), the Greens (9%), the PUP (6%) and others (7%) remaining the same, for a two-party preferred outcome of 53%-47% in Labor’s favour.


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