Concerns that the economy is going in the wrong direction have risen sharply and nearly half of voters think the budget will be bad for jobs, today’s Essential Report reveals. Although overall sentiment about the economy hasn’t deteriorated.

For the first time since April last year, more voters (41%) believe the economy is going in the wrong direction than the right direction (35%), a big turnaround from April when 39% saw it going in the right direction, compared to 34% who didn’t). While partisanship strongly influences economic perceptions — more than 50% of Labor, Greens and Other voters see the economy going in the wrong direction — 22% of Liberal voters do so as well, up from 15% in April. Since then, Labor voters have also soured on the economic direction — from 43% to 54%.

The report reveals 37% of voters think the economy is currently good, about the same as April (38%), while 26% think it is poor, a slight increase since April (24%). The proportion of Labor voters who see the economy as bad has risen noticeably since April, from 24% to 33%. The number of voters concerned about job losses (58%) also hasn’t shifted much since May (57%).

Economic conditions have deteriorated in the second quarter of the year after a strong first quarter, which may explain why voters haven’t shifted much on their perceptions of the state of the economy but think its overall direction isn’t right. According to the report, 49% of voters think the Budget will be bad for employment, compared to just 21% who think it will be good, the same number as think it will be neither good nor bad. That, too, is strongly influenced by partisanship, with just 15% of Liberal voters saying the budget will be bad for the economy, though nearly a third of Liberal voters say it will be neither good nor bad. The government’s response to recent rises in unemployment has been to insist that passage of the budget is necessary to help job creation.

Essential found 43% of voters want the government to call an election if the Senate refuses to pass key elements of the budget, but that’s a sentiment most strongly felt by Labor and Greens voters (67% and 52% respectively). Some 38% of voters want a new budget.

On anti-terrorism spending, 36% of voters believe the current level of spending is “about right”, while 28% want more spent and 19% want less spent. That disguises a spectrum of partisan opinion, however, which runs from Coalition voters (39% more spending) Other/PUP voters (28% more), Labor voters (23% more) and Greens voters (15% more). However, there’s much greater unanimity on whether we should send troops back to Iraq, with 60% saying we shouldn’t and 28% saying we should.

And Australians are also much more relaxed about surrogacy within Australia, with 69% supporting unpaid surrogacy by friends or relatives; 58% supporting paid surrogacy in Australia; and only 33% supporting paid surrogacy involving women overseas.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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