Health was the most important issue for voters in the recent federal election, usurping economic management as the topic front of mind as Australians entered the polling booth on July 2, this week's Essential Report shows.
Sixty per cent of voters nominated health policies and 58% nominated Medicare as "very important", compared to 53% who nominated economic management. Economic management, traditionally a strength for conservative parties, is usually the most important issue for voters in determining how they will vote, illustrating how successful Labor's Medicare scare campaign was. It may illustrate how successful Labor was at neutralising economic management as an issue, so voters felt free to focus on other issues. Education was nominated as very important by 43% of voters, behind "better for me and my family" on 53%.
[Essential: Labor keeps lead as Mediscare hits home]
The least influential issue was the CFA dispute, in which both the Liberal Party and News Corporation invested massive time and effort to attack Labor during the election campaign. It was rated as very important by 17% of voters, while 31% said it was "not at all important". Labor voters were far more likely to nominate health policies and Medicare, while Liberal voters were more likely to nominate economic management; the CFA dispute was the least likely issue to be nominated as "very important" by all voting groups.
The importance of health is reflected in voters' response on what the government's priorities should be: 55% nominated "invest more in hospitals and health services" and 31% "invest more in education"; 29% nominated "ensuring big businesses pay their fair share of tax" ahead of "cut spending to reduce the deficit", nominated by 27%. "Cut company tax" is identified by a priority by 4%. "More support for local industries" is identified by 11%, and a vote on same-sex marriage by 15%.
[Fighting fire with ... what, exactly?]
However, there's been a substantial improvement in voter perceptions of the competence of the government's handling of international relations: 47% of voters have some or a lot of trust in the Turnbull government's capacity to handle international relations, compared to 46% who have little or no trust -- not a particularly good outcome except compared to May 2015, when 35% had some or a lot of trust and 58% had little or no trust.
If Hillary Clinton is elected president, 24% of voters expect it would lead an improvement in our relationship with the United States, but 54% believe it would make no difference; if Donald Trump is elected, 63% of voters think it would worsen our relationship with the United States, including 37% who think his election would lead to a much worse relationship, compared to 7% who think it would make our relationship better.