Voters like this year’s budget significantly more than the 2014 budget, today’s Essential Report poll reveals, but it hasn’t translated into a voting shift for the government. And they don’t believe it will help address long-term fiscal problems.

Compared to last year’s budget, 45% of voters think this year’s is better, while 15% think it’s worse (primarily, it seems, based on partisanship — Greens and Labor voters are more likely to think this year’s is even worse than 2014, compared to Coalition voters and other voters).

But whatever positive sentiment exists about the budget, it hasn’t translated into a voting intention boost for the government. The Coalition is steady on 41%, Labor’s primary vote has increased a point to 40%; the Greens are down a point to 10% for an unchanged two-party preferred outcome of 52%-48%.

And voters are more mixed on the government’s economic credentials. Thirty-four per cent approve of the way the government is handling the federal budget compared to 33% who don’t approve, but that’s still a much better result than after the 2014 budget, when voters split 30%-52%. However, 40% of voters say the economy is headed in the wrong direction, compared to 35% who say it’s headed in the right direction. And that view hasn’t shifted since August, when voters split 35%-41%. And voters were evenly split on whether the budget made them more confident about the capacity of the government to handle the economy, 31% more confident and 31% less confident (31% said it made no difference to their view, as well).

That may be because voters don’t think the budget did enough fiscally. Thirty-seven per cent of voters say the budget “does not do enough  to reduce the deficit”, compared to 18% who disagreed with that statement. On whether the budget favoured business over workers, 47% agreed that it did, compared to 12% who disagreed. Only 20% agreed that this budget fixes the problems of last year’s budget, compared ton 37% who said it didn’t, while 50% agreed “the budget is is more about improving the Government’s popularity than improving the economy” — indeed that statement drew the strongest level of agreement of all.

And the sense that voters think the budget failed to do the required fiscal work is reinforced by 32% of voters saying that they agree there is a “budget emergency” but that the budget will not help deal with it, compared to 19% who believe it will help. Even Liberal voters are sceptical: 32% say the budget won’t help with the “budget emergency” (another 30% of all voters say they don’t believe there’s a budget emergency at all). Those results compare to 32% of all voters saying that last year’s budget would help with the fiscal emergency and 24% saying it wouldn’t.

Small business are easily the biggest winners from the budget, according to voters, with 66% saying it was good for small business, including 22% who said it was “very good”. They also thought big business did pretty well. However, few believed they personally would benefit.

Peter Fray

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