Voters want multinational companies and high-income earners targeted as part of tax reform, but they are split on negative gearing and oppose changes to the GST, new polling from Essential Research shows.

There is very strong support for forcing multinational companies to pay a minimum tax rate on their Australian earnings, with 43% of voters “strongly supporting” it, another 33% supporting it and only 8% opposing it or strongly opposing it. Increasing income tax for high-earners is supported or strongly supported by 65% of respondents, though it is more likely to be Labor than Liberal voters, with a total of 23% opposing or strongly opposing it (including 32% of people earning over $1600 a week). Removing superannuation tax concessions for high-income earners (rather than retaining them, as Treasurer Joe Hockey decided to do in 2013) also has majority support, 55% to 25%.

Voters, however, strongly oppose death duties (13%/74%) and any increase in the GST (19%/70%, including 37% strong opposition, with women in particular opposed, 13%/74%, while Liberal voters are a little more supportive, 29%/63%). Even removing GST exemptions such as food is opposed, 36%/51%. Two measures split voters: the removal of negative gearing was narrowly backed, 33%/30%, but with 37% “don’t knows”; replacing stamp duty with land taxes — a shift advocated by many economists — is opposed 24%/34%, but not really understood by voters, with 43% saying they don’t know.

Meantime voters’ views on the economy have soured further. Just 16% say the economy is better now than 12 months ago, compared to 55% who say it is worse; in October, voters responded 18%/50%. However, they think company profits are doing better than in October (34%/23% now, 31%/19% then), and while perceptions of unemployment are a tad worse (8%/61% compared to 11%/60%), perceptions of voters’ own financial situation have improved slightly, albeit off a low base (19%/41% compared to 16%/44%).

However, perceptions of one’s own personal circumstances can be skewed. Some 47% of voters said they either didn’t have enough money for essentials or had just enough and were unable to save any money — up from 42% in October, suggesting more people are struggling financially. However, the view is common across all income groups. While more prevalent among low-income voters — 71% of people earning less than $600 a week say they don’t have enough for essentials or can’t save — 38% of people earning over $1600 a week say the same.

On voting intention, Labor has lost a point to move to 40%; the Coalition (40%) and the Greens (10%) are unchanged for a two-party preferred outcome of 53%-47% in Labor’s favour, down from 54%-46% last week. What’s left of the Palmer United Party managed 1%.

Peter Fray

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