Voters have swung in behind the government’s decision to send troops and aircraft to Iraq, according to today’s Essential poll, but they’re also convinced it will make Australia less safe from terrorism.

Essential found 52% of voters back the government’s decision to send military personnel and aircraft to Iraq, a far more definitive outcome than in previous Essential polls. Conversely, 34% disapprove: Labor voters are split (43%-42%); Greens voters mostly disapprove (30%-59%); other/Palmer United Party voters are split 49%-39%; while Liberal voters strongly back the decision (74%-19%). Voters also believe that the government is doing it to fight terrorism and support the United States — just 9% believe the deployment is to distract from the government’s domestic difficulties, compared to 36% who say it is to fight terrorism and 29% to support the US. Some 16% of Labor voters, 15%  of Greens voters and 14% of other/PUP voters believe it is to distract from the government’s problems at home.

However, voters have rejected the government’s repeated insistence that its renewed involvement in Iraq is unconnected to the terrorist threat in Australia. Some 51% of voters believe the Iraq deployment will make Australians less safe from terrorism, including 24% of voters who believe it will make Australia “a lot less safe”, while 25% say it will make no difference and just 15% think it will make Australians safer. Even Coalition voters believe it will make Australia less safe (41%-25%).

Last week’s dramatic terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane have yet to translate into a bump in support for the government, with the Coalition primary vote remaining on 39% and Labor picking up a point to 39%, while the Greens have fallen one point to 10%; PUP remains on 4%. However, the momentum away from the government that has been apparent over the last two weeks appears to have stalled, and the two-party preferred outcome remains on 53%-47% to Labor.

Part of the reason may be that the Coalition trails Labor across a range of positive attributes. Labor has a big lead over the government on attributes such as “looks after the interests of working people” (54% for Labor, 31% for the Coalition, for a net 23 point difference), “moderate” (10 points); “too close to big corporate and financial interests” (Labor trails by 29 points); “extreme” (Labor behind 13 points); “out of touch with ordinary people (Labor trails by 12 points). The positive attributes on which the Coalition has a substantial lead on Labor are “divided” (trails Labor by 14 points) and “clear about what they stand for” (10 points); the Coalition leads on “have a vision for the future” (7) but trails on “will promise to do anything to win votes” (7). Neither party scores well on “keeps its promises” — Labor 29%, the Coalition 26%.

For the government, the attributes outcomes represent a continuing deterioration over the last year, compared to the same questions in 2012, August 2013 in the lead-up to the federal election, and March this year: the Coalition has consistently deteriorated in each of the last three polls on six indicators and gone backwards since March on the remaining eight; Labor has improved, albeit only by small amounts, on four indicators since March, but generally marked time, although it has fallen 6 points on “clear about they stand for” since March, potentially reflecting the impact of Labor’s small target political strategy.

Voters have also changed their minds on the Fair Work Act since 2012: the proportion of voters who believe it favours workers over employers has fallen from 26% to 17%; the proportion who believe it favours employers over workers has risen from 20% to 23%; 30% now say it balances the interests of employers and workers.