A strong majority of Australians now believe extreme weather events are increasing in number and driven by climate change, today’s Essential poll shows.

Sixty three per cent of voters believe that severe bushfires and extreme weather events like floods and cyclones will increase in coming years, while 33% believe they will remain at around the same level. Just 1% believe they will reduce in frequency. Even Coalition voters, traditionally reluctant to accept climate change, agree: 49% of Coalition voters say extreme weather events will increase in coming years compared to 47% who believe they will stay at around the same level. Women are also more likely to say they are increasing than men, 68% to 56%. Moreover, 57% of voters believe the increasing frequency of extreme weather is linked to climate change, compared to 27% who don’t believe there’s any connection. This includes 43% of Coalition voters who believe there’s a connection, compared to 42% who don’t think there’s a connection. Sixty eight per cent of Labor voters believe there’s a connection, and 88% of Greens voters.

Coalition voters, however, remain supportive of the government’s proposal to deregulate university fees. Overall, 53% of voters oppose deregulation, compared to 22% who back it, but 43% of Coalition voters approve, compared with 30% who oppose it. “Other” voters, which includes Palmer United Party voters, strongly oppose deregulation, 59% to 17%. Overall, voters believe deregulation will decrease access to higher education, by 44% to 22%, and even Coalition voters are divided on the subject, splitting 29% each way, with 27% saying it will make no difference.

Essential also asked about awareness of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, one of the few uncontested policy legacies of Julia Gillard. The extended period away from the political spotlight for the program has dulled voter awareness of it: a remarkable 72% of voters say they have heard little or nothing of the NDIS — although voters over 65 were more likely to say they had heard of it. However, there’s approval for funding the NDIS via additional income tax, with 44% supporting paying for it with a rise in the Medicare levy, compared to 34% who oppose it. Unusually, Coalition voters and the Greens are the strongest in support of paying for the NDIS with an income tax levy — Coalition voters approve of it 51% to 32%; Greens voters, 52% to 23%. Labor voters are more divided, backing a levy 46% to 37%.

On voting intention, the Coalition is up a point to 40% and Labor has dropped a point to 38%; the Greens are back up to 10%; PUP remains on 4%. The two-party preferred result shifts back to 52%-48% in favour of Labor, after a fortnight of 53%-47%.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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