As the July 2 election draws close, Labor is holding onto a narrow two-point lead in today’s Essential Research poll as the Coalition’s primary vote slips a point.

Labor is steady on 37%, while the Coalition is down a point to 40%. The Greens are also steady on 10%; NXT are on 4%; and “others” are on 9%. That produces a 51%-49% lead for Labor, unchanged from last week.

VOTING INTENTION

With a third-party vote of nearly one in four voters, the allocation of preferences might end up being crucial in determining whether the Coalition retains office, and whether it does so as a majority government. Preference flows have been difficult to predict in recent state elections, bringing an element of uncertainty even to notionally less marginal seats on either side, where strong performances by minor parties can see unexpected losses.

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While voting intention has shifted little over the course of the campaign, there’s further evidence that it has affected voters’ views of the major parties. In April, 50% of voters said large corporations would be better off under a Liberal government (compared to 11% who said Labor). Now, 55% of voters believe that (and 7% for Labor); 55% of voters believe “people and families on high incomes” will be better off under the Liberals compared to 49% in April; 51% believe “banks and other financial institutions” will be better off, compared to 47% in April. “Families with children at private school” are seen as faring better by 45% of voters, compared to 40% back in April.

However, Labor hasn’t extended its strong lead over the Coalition in areas that are more its strength. For example, For example, Labor leads 34%-20% on being better for “average working people”, compared to 38%-17% in April; it leads 34%-15% on pensioners, compared to 36%-16% in April, 42%-13% on “people and families on low incomes” — the same as in April — and 40%-15% for “families with children at public school” compared to 41%-14%.

And the government’s efforts to portray Labor as the profligate party in the campaign have been successful: 39% of voters say Labor has been the party making more spending promises, although 29% say there’s no difference. In contrast, 34% believe the Liberals are offering the most spending cuts, though 32% say there’s no difference.

SPENDING AND SAVING IMAGE

On the vote-influencing issues of jobs, voters are split on who could be trusted to “secure local jobs in your area and nationally”: 28% say the Liberals; 27% say Labor; 3% the Nationals; 4% the Greens; and 3% NXT. And voters are strongly protectionist in how they see the issue: 83% see “local jobs and local content rules for Government funded infrastructure projects” as a way of protecting local jobs, and 80% say “government support for local manufacturing industries like the steel industry” is also important — in the wake of Labor committing $100 million to Arrium and the government responding with a $49 million loan. There’s also strong support — 76% — for investment in renewable energy. However, voters aren’t buying the government’s efforts to argue a massive tax cut for big companies would generate jobs — just 29% of voters say tax cuts for large companies are important for protecting jobs, with just 10% saying they’re “very important”.

And voters are split on one of the issues du jour of last week, whether white settlement constituted invasion — on which both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have qualified agreement.

INVASION IMAGE

Forty-one per cent of voters disagree with the word “invasion” while 40% agree with it, with voting intention and, particularly, age, correlating with response — older voters, and Coalition voters, are reluctant to agree to the accuracy of the term invasion, while Greens, Labor and younger voters more likely to agree with with it.

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