Australians are evenly split on whether Australian soldiers should be sent to fight against Islamic State in Iraq, this week’s Essential Report reveals, with a strongly partisan divide splitting Liberal voters from others.

Asked if Australian forces should be helping fight IS militants rather than merely training  Iraqi forces, 41% of voters supported the idea, while 43% of voters opposed it. But Labor voters split 37%-48%, Greens voters 29%-53% and other voters 35%-52%, while Coalition voters split 51%-38%. The split is a strong one — 22% of Coalition voters “strongly support” ADF personnel fighting IS, while 25% of Labor voters, 31% of Greens voters and 34% of other voters “strongly oppose” it.

Voters dislike most of the options put forward for education funding in the government’s federation reform discussion paper last week. Removing the Commonwealth from funding responsibility altogether and leaving school funding purely the responsibility of states and territories was back 38%-35%, but other proposals met with less support. Adopting the Coalition’s preferred approach of leaving states and territories to look after public schools while the Commonwealth only funds private schools is opposed by 56% of voters, and supported by only 20%. Means-testing by charging high-income parents fees for using public schools is opposed 48%-37%. The only idea to find favour with voters is a full federal takeover of schools funding, which is backed 51%-23%, including support across all voting groups.

Essential also asked about best places to invest, and the results won’t enthuse economists or advocates of a “shareholder democracy”. The housing market is deemed the best place to invest, according to 29% of voters, with the sharemarket a long way back on 15% and “leave it in the bank” on 16%. Over-55s, however, are more diverse in their investment strategies — leave it in the bank is their most preferred investment (21%), but they split evenly on housing and the sharemarket (18%). Women are a lot more likely to say they’re not sure — 35% to 22%.

Women are — unsurprisingly given their lower workforce participation — also much more likely to say that their superannuation and other investments are unlikely to afford them a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Fifty-five per cent of women say they “probably” or “definitely” will not have enough to retire on, with another 14% saying they don’t know, while 43% of men say they probably or definitely won’t have enough and 10% say they don’t know. Women were significantly more likely than men to say they believed they would be relying on the pension in retirement, 31% to 22%.

Essential also asked about occupation, enabling a breakdown by voting intention. Not surprisingly, tradies featured more heavily in the ranks of Labor voters, as did people working home duties. Few students were Coalition voters — they were much more likely to be Labor and Greens voters. Semi- or unskilled workers featured more heavily among Coalition voters, as did “admin or sales” and “managers”. Unemployed people and tradies were also more likely to feature among “other” voters. The notion of the Greens as the party of inner-city professionals, however, doesn’t stack up: “professionals” split exactly as per the overall population on voting intention. Greens voters were slightly more likely to be managers but were not otherwise notable  except for the underrepresentation of tradies and home duties and a large proportion of students.

On voting intention, the Coalition’s recent momentum has come to a definite halt. Its primary vote remains on 41% and Labor’s remains on 39%, but the Greens are up a point to 11%, pushing the two-party preferred outcome to 53%-47% in Labor’s favour.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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