Voters were unchanged in their opinion of the government over the weekend (before last night’s dramatic events), and almost half of voters support extending airstrikes against Islamic State into Syria, according to this week’s Essential Report. Some 40% of voters said they would vote for the Liberals, remaining unchanged for three weeks, with the two-party preferred numbers remaining at 48-52% in favour of the ALP. Next week’s poll will give more insight in light of recent events.

When questioned on the economy, voters’ responses reflect the uncertainty that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referenced when he explained why he was taking on Tony Abbott for the top job. While 28% of voters expected their job to be less secure in two years’ time, 59% of voters expected economic conditions in Australia to be worse in 12 months’ time, with 18% saying the economy would stay much the same, and just 16% believing it would get better. Among Coalition voters, 51% believed the economy would be in a worse position in 12 months’ time, up from 33% in September 2013.

Voters are less engaged with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the main point of difference between the government and the opposition in recent weeks. When asked if they agreed with unions that believed the FTA didn’t protect Australian workers, or the government, 41% of voters said they didn’t know enough to give an opinion. Still, 38% of voters said they agreed with the unions and just 20% said they agreed with the government.

Almost half of voters support Australia extending its airstrikes against Islamic State targets to Syrian territory, with 48% of voters saying they were in favour of the move and 29% opposing the move. It was particularly popular with Coalition supporters, with 68% saying they support the move.

In one of his last announcements as prime minister, Tony Abbott told voters last week that Australia would increase its intake of refugees to include 12,000 Syrian refugees, but it seems that few Australians have any idea how many refugees Australia takes each year. Some 23% of voters overestimated the number of refugees Australia takes, with 17% guessing that Australia takes 25,000 and 6% saying about 50,000. Some 21% of voters believing that  Australia takes around 15,000 refugees. Under the Abbott government, the Australian intake was set at 13,750 annually.

Half of respondents were informed of the actual number of refugees Australia takes, and asked if the country should take more. Some 32% of voters said Australia should take more than the current intake, with 31% saying fewer, and 25% believing the number was about right. Half of respondent were asked if Australia should take more, without knowing the number, with 37% saying Australia should take fewer, 30% saying Australia should take more than it does currently, and 21% believing the number should stay where it is.

When asked if the pledge to take an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees was enough, 30% said the figure was about right, 36% believed Australia should take fewer and 19% said the government should take more. Divided by voting preference, 37% of Liberal/National voters said the number was about right, while just 26% of Labor voters said it was right. Some 38% of Labor voters said that Australia should take less, with 39% of Liberal voters saying Australia should take less.

Peter Fray

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