Australians have shifted significantly on military intervention in the Middle East, with more than a third of voters now wanting Australia to decrease its involvement in Syria and Iraq, according to today’s Essential Report.

In November, there was strong support for our involvement in airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and training of Iraqi forces: 32% of voters thought we should increase that role, while only 19% thought we should reduce our involvement — despite a widespread understanding that our military role made Australians less safe.

Now, however, there’s been an almost complete reversal:

iraqsyria copyJust 18% of voters now say Australia should increase its military role in Syria and Iraq, while those who say we should decrease our role have increased from 19% to 34%,. Those who say we should continue our current role have increased from 28% to 32%. And while Liberal voters are the most ardent for great military involvement, more Liberal voters favour a decrease (26%) over a decrease (21%); in November, nearly three times as many Liberal voters backed greater involvement than decreased involvement. Women are more likely than men to oppose greater involvement: 22% of men support an increase and 31% support a decrease, while only 13% of women support an increase and 36% support a decrease.

The results come after reports the government declined to lift its military commitment to the region in response to a US request — although it was a general international request from the US and Turnbull was lauded during his recent visit to Washington DC for the strength of Australia’s existing commitment, second only to that of the Americans. Abbott-aligned forces within government ranks sought to use the perception of a rejection of a US military request to undermine the Prime Minister — but clearly they are now at odds with voters.

Voters also remain worried about the economy: 28% say the economy is good and 31% say it is poor; 36% say it’s neither good nor poor. That’s virtually the same as in September last year, when voters split 26% good, 32% poor and 39% neither. But 30% say the economy is headed in the right direction while 38% say in the wrong direction, a small shift since September when 34% felt it was headed in the right direction and 38% in the wrong direction. Neither Treasurer Scott Morrison nor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen inspire much confidence in voters; 26% say they trust Morrison to handle the economy compared to 19% Bowen, with 55% saying they don’t know.

The poll also shows we’re a nation addicted to our mobile devices. Essential asked about phone usage of the 85% of respondents who said they owned a smart phone. Of that group, 20% admitted to checking their phones while driving; 28% admitted to getting anxious when they couldn’t check messages; 18% said they ignored actual real-world conversations to check their phones and 45% said they checked their phones before getting out of bed.

And while men and women weren’t significantly different, there were big differences between age groups, with young people far more likely to check their phones while driving and check their phones before getting up.

phoneaddic copyOn voting intention, the Coalition is on 44%, the ALP on 35% and the Greens on 10% for a 2PP outcome of 52%-48% in the government’s favour.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey