The electorate has hardened its view of the government’s most controversial budget reforms, today’s Essential Report shows, while voters strongly support higher corporate taxes.

Essential’s poll asked voters how they feel about a range of government decisions or programs. Its success in stopping the flow of asylum seekers, cutting foreign aid and abolishing the carbon price were all strongly supported. But its decision to send military aid to Iraq splits voters 44% for and 43% against; as does the mining tax, 41% for and 42% against. Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ plan to punish young, unemployed people with a six-month wait for benefits is opposed (52%-38%), which represents a significant increase in disapproval from when similar questions were asked in the immediate post-budget period. Cutting public service jobs is opposed (52%-34%) — a rise from 43%-31% in May; funding cuts to the ABC are opposed (58%-25%) — up from 41%-27%; increasing the pension age (63%-28%) is less opposed than in May (61%-17%); the Medicare co-payment (66%-27%) is even less popular now (50%-29%); deregulating university fees remains, on balance, as unpopular as in May (63%-22% compared to 58%-17%).

The increased voter hostility toward some of the flagship budget initiatives of the Abbott government illustrates how unsuccessful it has been in convincing the electorate of the need for its measures, despite voters agreeing that the federal budget needs to be repaired and despite an extended effort by the government to sell the case for individual measures. However, the government’s overall support has remained the same, with the Coalition’s primary vote on 40% and Labor’s on 39%; the Greens remain on 10% and the Palmer United Party on 4% for the same two-party preferred outcome, 52%-48% to Labor.

The poll also confirms that voters, regardless of partisan allegiance, support higher corporate taxes. With extensive evidence of tax dodging by many of our biggest companies, 59% of voters believe making big corporations pay more tax would be good for the economy while just 17% believe it would be bad for the economy. Labor voters split 68%-13% on the question, but Liberal voters aren’t vastly different, splitting 52%-26%.

The poll also shows cost-of-living issues continue to dominate voter economic concerns, despite an extended period of low inflation. Fifty-seven per cent identified the cost of electricity and gas, which has increased much faster than inflation, as their most concerning issue; 49% identified the cost of petrol; 45% the cost of food and groceries; housing affordability was the most commonly identified non-hip-pocket issue (40%); least commonly identified were the budget deficit and national debt, both identified as the most concerning issue by 21% of voters.

Peter Fray

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