Voters expect the forthcoming budget to be bad for themselves and people on low and middle incomes, while the wealthy and business will emerge winners, today’s Essential Report finds.

Fifty-one per cent of voters believe people on lower incomes will suffer as a result of the budget and 52% believe it will be bad for older Australians; 43% believe it will be bad for younger Australians and average working people. but 49% of voters believe the budget will be good for people who are well off, and 32% say it will be good for business, compared to 17% who say it will be bad for business. And 33% of voters expect the budget to be bad for the economy, while 19% expect it will be good; 41% believe it will be bad for them personally, with only 9% believing it will be good.

However, the pessimistic expectations about the budget are actually significantly better than those of a year ago, suggesting the government’s efforts to reassure voters that this year’s budget won’t be so draconian have had an effect. Last year, after a savage National Commission of Audit and Coalition rhetoric about the “age of entitlement” being over, over half of voters believed the budget would be bad for them personally, 63% thought it would be bad for average working people, 60% thought it would be bad for people on lower incomes and 67% for older Australians.

Expectations about the budget complement views about the respective major parties. Fifty-six per cent of voters believe the policies of the Coalition favour the rich, while 20% believe they favour “the average Australian”; only 8% believe the Coalition treats all groups equally. For Labor, 16% of voters think their policies favour the rich, 39% believe they favour the average Australian and 18% believe they favour the poor, with 7% believing Labor treats all voters equally. Compared to a year ago, more voters believe the Coalition favours the rich and fewer believe it favours the average Australians, while more believe Labor favours the average Australian.

The strength of voter feelings about tax reform is also clear: 54% of voters re concerned about the amount of tax they personally pay. But that leaves it near the bottom of concerns about tax. A whole 82% of voters are concerned about the fact that some companies, and some wealthy people, don’t pay their fair share, with 53% professing themselves “very concerned”.

And voters on balance still disapprove of sending Australian troops to Iraq to train Iraqi forces, with 44% of voters opposed and 40% of voters supporting the deployment. But that’s a shift since March, when 50% disapproved of the government’s decision to send military personnel and aircraft to Iraq and 36% approved.

Essential also asked about penalty rates and surcharges for hospitality businesses. Thirty-four per cent of voters said they wouldn’t be willing to pay a surcharge to use businesses on public holidays; 32% said they’d be willing to pay 10% extrea and another 11% said they’d be happy to pay 20% more; another 6% said they’d be willing to pay 30% or more. Labor voters divided 31%/51% on no surcharge/some level of surcharge; Coalition voters 41%/48% and Greens voters 25%/61%.

On voting intention, little change from last week. The Coalition remains on 41% and Labor remains on 39%, the Greens are up a point to 11%, for the same two-party preferred outcome, 52%-48% in the opposition’s favour.