Voters strongly oppose public funding for either side’s case in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, today’s Essential Report shows. And there’s widespread hostility to foreign investment in the electorate.

Sixty-two per cent of voters oppose taxpayer funding for advertising and messaging of the yes and no campaigns. Just 25% of voters support funding; 39% “strongly disapprove” of giving the yes and no campaigns an equal amount of taxpayer funding in order to buy advertising and make their case. Voters are also fairly uniform in their views: 30% of Liberal voters approve of funding and 61% disapprove; 23% of Greens voters approve and 68% disapprove; Labor voters are consistent with the whole population. The only noticeable difference is that opponents of same-sex marriage are even less supportive of public funding than supporters.

plebiscite funding image

By coincidence, 62% of voters also support same-sex marriage, up from 58% in July; 27% oppose it, compared to 28% in July. There doesn’t appear to have been any significant shift in sentiment on the question in two years: over four polls since October 2015, support has averaged 61%, opposition 28% — which are essentially the same numbers as in 2014.

Essential also unearthed some quite extraordinary levels of opposition to foreign investment. Voters were evenly split in their views of foreign investment in mining — 27% think it’s good, 28% bad and 29% are neutral — but they are hostile to most other forms of foreign investment. Less than a quarter of voters believe foreign investment in ports is good, while 37% say it’s bad and 25% neutral; 21% are OK with foreign investment in agriculture and 44% opposed, and 45% think foreign investment in infrastructure such as electricity services is a bad idea, while just 19% think it is good. And 54% of voters think foreign investment in real estate is bad.

Coalition voters are, consistently, the most supportive of foreign investment, while Greens voters are least supportive — indeed, even more hostile to foreign investment than “other” voters of the kind who back NXT or One Nation. On infrastructure investment, for example, where voter antipathy to foreign investment is greatest, a quarter of Coalition voters believe it is good, compared to 18% of Labor voters, 14% of “other” voters and 13% of Greens voters.


Voters also rank health as the most important issue they want government action on in the next 12 months. Of the issues presented, 45% nominated improving the health system; and 37% nominated national security and terrorism (compared to 23% when the same question was asked in December 2014). Reducing unemployment and tax avoidance by large companies were next, nominated by 31%; tax avoidance has increased four points since 2014. The other big mover since then was housing affordability, up nine points to 31% as well. Free trade agreements were the lowest priority, with just 5% saying they were important.

On voting intention, the Coalition is steady on 39% while Labor is down a point to 36%; the Greens are still on 10% and NXT on 4%. That leads to a two-party preferred outcome of 51%-49% in Labor’s favour, down from 52-48 last week.