Labor voters are evenly split as to whether Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten would make a better prime minister, according to Essential polling released today.

Among Labor voters, Turnbull has an approval rating of 47%, while Shorten commands a 48% approval rating. Turnbull has an 82% approval rating among Coalition voters, with just 18% of Coalition voters saying Shorten is doing a good job as opposition leader. Greens voters much prefer Turnbull — 40% of them approve of the job he is doing as prime minister (against 35% disapproval), while just 28% approve of Shorten’s job as opposition leader (against 47% who disapprove).

Turnbull is the preferred prime minister overall, at 55%, to Bill Shorten’s on 14%. “Don’t know” outranks Shorten at 31%. Some 60% of men prefer Turnbull, versus 15% who prefer Shorten, while women break for Turnbull 50%-13%.

Turnbull’s approval rating is up 9% to 56%, and his disapproval rating is up 3% to 20%, taking his net approval rating up 6 points to +36. Shorten’s approval rating was down 3% to 27% in total, and his disapproval rating was up 5% to 47%, taking his net rating from -12 to -20.

Q. Who do you think would make the better Prime Minister out of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten?

The polling, with a sample size of 1722 respondents, found the Coalition maintaining its two-party preferred lead on Labor, 52-48, down from 53-47 last week.

The announcement last week from the Prime Minister that the government would, again, abandon awarding the honours of knight and dame in Australia, despite getting some staunch monarchist noses (like David Flint’s) out of joint, has overwhelming approval among voters. A total of 63% of voters approve the change, with 15% disapproving. This was highest among Greens voters at 72% approval, but even among Coalition voters, it still had a 65% approval.

As the government continues to float the prospect of increasing the goods and services tax to 15%, Essential shows it has its work cut out to make the case for a GST increase. Voters are evenly split between increasing GST and increasing income taxes, at 27% and 26% respectively. More respondents (at 33%) simply said they did not know what action the government could take to raise more revenue and reduce debt.

Meanwhile 39% of Coalition voters support increasing the GST, while 34% of Labor voters and 36% of Greens voters support increasing income taxes.

When given an “either/or” scenario of either increasing the GST to 15% or expanding the current 10% GST rate to cover food, health and education, more (54%) voters favoured increasing the GST rate.

Q. If you had to choose, which of the following changes to the GST would you favour?

There was little support among people who can already vote to lower the voting age to 16, as floated by Labor last week. Essential found 77% of all voters favoured keeping the compulsory voting age at 18, with just 14% backing Labor’s proposal to reduce the voting age to 16, but make it voluntary until voters turn 18. Just 4% of people support making voting compulsory for people aged 16 years and over. Even among Labor voters, there was little support for Shorten’s proposal, at just 16%. It had better traction with Greens voters at 35%.

Peter Fray

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