Voters on balance disapprove of Australia’s intervention in Iraq and strongly oppose any Australian military role if requested by the US, today’s Essential Report shows.

Approval for the government’s decision to supply arms to Kurdish forces in Iraq stood at 38%, while 39% of voters disapproved of it. Views were strongly partisan, with Coalition voters backing it (55%-23%), and Labor (27%-52%) and Greens (32%-53%) voters strongly opposed. Other/PUP voters were generally opposed. Australia sending planes to support US air strikes in Iraq was opposed (42%-38%), again with a partisan skew.

The results contrast markedly with the results in today’s Newspoll, reported in The Australian, which showed strong support for intervention. However, Newspoll asked a different question to Essential, who referred to Iraq, whereas Newspoll’s question mentioned ISIS twice, and included reference both to humanitarian aid and weapons, meaning respondents couldn’t support humanitarian aid and not military assistance.

Essential’s poll also shows voters strongly distinguish between US-led military operations and United Nations-approved operations. On the question of Australia sending troops in response to a US request, 54% of voters were opposed to it and only 27% supported it, with even Coalition voters opposing it. However, sending Australian troops in response to a UN request was perceived very differently: 45% would approve of sending Australian troops in such circumstances, and only 36% would oppose it, with Greens voters evenly split and only Others/PUP voters still opposed.

However, contrary to the perception that the focus on security and international issues is helping the Abbott government, trust in the government’s capacity to handle international relations has fallen. The proportion of voters who have little or no trust in the government to handle international relations is 55%, up from 53% in November, and those with some or a lot of trust has fallen from 41% in November to 36%, including a six point fall to 14% in the proportion with “a lot of trust”.

And voter approval of Tony Abbott has marked time: 35% of voters approve of his performance (down two points since August) and 52% disapprove (also down two points). Abbott continues to have a big problem with female voters, who disapprove of his performance by a net margin of 27 points compared to just six points for men. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten approval has recovered from a small dip in August: approval is 35% (up one) and disapproval 36% (down four). This has enabled Shorten to again take the narrowest of leads of preferred prime minister (36%-35%) reversing Abbott’s one-point lead of August (which in turn had reversed Shorten’s three-point lead of July). On this question, 30% of voters say “don’t know”,  which is perhaps the most telling figure.

The only good news for the government is that voters back dumping the mining tax (44%-31%), although responses are intensely partisan (Coalition voters 78%-8% in support, Greens voters 71%-8% in opposition), but Clive Palmer again appears to have picked the right issue to back down on — Other/PUP voters back dumping the tax 41%-31%.

On voting intention, the Coalition’s primary vote has fallen again — only by a point, to 39%, but the mini-comeback of August appears to have faded for now. Labor remains on 38% and the Greens are back to 10% (up a point), while the PUP is down a point to 4%. The 2PP result remains at 52%-48% but the momentum appears to be back with Labor for the moment.