Voters have mixed feelings about globalisation and believe trade destroys, rather than creates, jobs, this week’s Essential Report suggests — while Malcolm Turnbull has arrested his most recent slide into unpopularity.

Asked about whether Australia had gained or lost from globalisation, voters were evenly divided, with 29% saying gained and 29% lost, while 24% were undecided. However, the split according to voting intention is more interesting. Greens voters are the most positively disposed toward globalisation, perhaps confirming the inner-urban, educated elite stereotype, while Coalition voters also view globalisation positively. But Labor voters and particularly “other” (including NXT) voters view it negatively — indeed, “other” voters are almost the exact reverse of Greens voters in their attitude to globalisation.

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There’s a similar split on trade, but overall voters are much more hostile in their view of the impact on jobs of trade: 40% of voters say trade causes Australia to lose jobs, while 28% say we gain jobs from trade. Coalition voters are slightly positive about the impact, with 36% saying trade creates jobs and 32% saying it reduces them, as are Greens voters, 32%-28%, but Labor voters are very negative — 47% say it destroys jobs and just 28% say it creates them. “Other” voters are the most hostile of all: 58% say trade destroys jobs and just 12% say it creates them.

The results tend to confirm some stereotypes: “other” voters, likely to vote for NXT or even One Nation, view globalisation and free trade very negatively; Labor voters, while less hostile, still see them as negatives. Coalition voters, however, are on balance positively disposed toward them. The positive views of Greens voters are interesting — the Greens parliamentary party is strongly protectionist and supportive of government intervention to protect manufacturing, which appears to be at odds with the pro-open market sympathies of its party base. That 40% of voters think trade destroys jobs also suggests major party politicians, who are notionally supportive of free trade, continue to do a poor job of explaining the economic (including employment) benefits of trade to voters.

Meantime, Malcolm Turnbull has halted what has been a long slide in his approval ratings with voters: 38% of voters approve of his performance, while 43% say they disapprove. That’s his second-worst ever performance as prime minister but still better than his July performance (37%-48%). Bill Shorten has marked time: 37% approve of his performance (down two points) and 41% disapprove (steady). Turnbull leads Shorten as preferred prime minister by 10 points, 40%-30%, up from Turnbull’s 39%-31% lead in July.

However, privacy advocates hoping concerns about the census have taken hold in the community will be somewhat disappointed: 45% of voters approve of the ABS keeping names and addresses while 39% do not approve. Liberal voters are the most eager to trash their privacy, with 57% supporting ABS retention of names while 28% disapprove. However, Labor, Greens and “other” voters all on balance disapprove — with “other” voters being the most paranoid of all.

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On voting intention, the Coalition has gained a point on its primary vote from last week (40%) while Labor remains on 37%, the Greens on 10% and NXT on 4%, for an unchanged two-party preferred outcome of 52%-48% in Labor’s favour.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey