The Coalition retains a lead over Labor but the surge in support for the government in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s elevation to the prime ministership appears to have peaked, today’s Essential Report shows.

The Coalition’s primary vote remains on 44%, well above the 40% it was stuck at under Tony Abbott, but Labor’s primary vote has now recovered a point to 35%. With the Greens remaining on 10%, the Coalition’s lead on a fortnightly rolling average basis is 51%-49%, down from 52%-48% last week. With political normality only just returning, it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the impact of Turnbull; the immediate “sugar hit” effect of his ascension was never going to last, but Coalition supporters might feel somewhat puzzled that a Prime Minister with such a big lead as preferred PM and with such strong approval ratings hasn’t lifted the government’s stocks higher.

There’s strong support among voters for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but even stronger opposition to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that forms a key part of the secret deal Australia locked itself into last week. Forty-nine per cent of voters support Australia signing the TPP compared to 16% who disapprove, with Greens voters the only group opposed to it, 34% to 21%. But voters think multinational corporations will be the biggest winners from the TPP, with 57% saying they’ll benefit a lot or some, compared to 47% who say Australian businesses will benefit a lot or some; 32% who say Australian workers and 31% who say small businesses.

But opposition to ISDS, under which companies can sue governments in private international fora for changes in public policy that cost them money, remains very strong, with 62% of voters opposed to it.

Voters also expressed disapproval of the idea floated by new Treasurer Scott Morrison that states allow a greater private sector in the provision of health and education services. While 37% supported private companies providing public transport services and 47% opposed it, that was the least unpopular candidate for private services: prisons rated 33%/50%, water 29%/54%, hospitals 28%/56% and primary schools 25%/58%.

Australians also appear to understand a truth that no major party politician appears willing to admit: that the air campaign against Islamic State that Tony Abbott ostentatiously extended to Syria — famously demanding RAAF airstrikes “by the weekend” ahead of the Canning byelection — has made Australia less safe. Forty-five per cent of voters think it has made Australia less safe, including 20% of voters who think it has made Australia a lot less safe. Just 13% believe the air campaign has made Australia safer. What’s interesting about the response is that partisanship places a minimal role: 46% of Labor voters, 42% of Liberal voters and 48% of Greens voters believe it has made us less safe.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey