Australians have given strong support to Tony Abbott’s national security push in today’s Essential poll, though it has failed to result in a polling boost for the government.
Some 46% of voters approve of the Prime Minister’s handling of the threat of terrorism, although the response is strongly split along partisan lines. Nonetheless, 24% of both Labor and Greens voters approve, along with 81% of Coalition voters. Some 39% of voters want to see more spending on national security, while 33% believe the current level is about right. Just 12% want to see less spending. That’s a substantial shift since August, when 28% wanted more spending and 19% thought it was about right.
Voters also support further restrictions on freedoms for some people to improve security.
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However, voters don’t endorse Abbott’s claim that the president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has “lost the confidence of the Australian people”. In response to a question that specifically mentioned Triggs and the report on children in detention, 34% of voters, including a quarter of Coalition voters, approve of the performance of the Human Rights Commission, compared to 22% who do not approve.
On voting intention, there’s been no shift either way despite perceptions Tony Abbott’s stocks have improved. The Coalition remains on 40%, Labor on 41% and the Greens on 9% for a two-party preferred outcome of 53%-47% in Labor’s favour.
Essential also asked about different forms of discrimination. Some 67% of voters thought racism was a large or moderate problem in Australia (up 3 points since February last year); 61% thought religious intolerance was a problem (up 10 points); 47% (down 4) thought sexism was a problem (including 68% of women); 45% thought ageism and homophobia were a problem (both down a little). However, personal experience of each form of discrimination in the last 12 months had actually fallen, each by around 2 to 3 points. Racism remained the most commonly experienced form of discrimination, with 33% reporting experiencing it.
And in the aftermath of that shocking Four Corners expose of the corruption of the greyhound industry, voters also back a complete ban on greyhound racing, 48% to 26%.