Voters back the government’s plan to permanently ban any asylum seeker since 2013 from ever entering Australia, while the number of voters who want still tougher action against refugees is falling, this week’s Essential Report suggests.

A majority of voters (56%) back the government’s plan — to be opposed by Labor — that would ensure no one who arrived by boat and claimed asylum since 2013 (when then-prime minister Kevin Rudd said no one who did so would ever be resettled in Australia) would ever be given a visa of any kind to enter Australia. Even Labor voters back the government’s proposed legislation, 52% to 38%, while Greens voters are the only group to oppose it, 57%-24%.

Do you think the Federal Liberal/National Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?

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The number of voters who think the government is “too soft” on asylum seekers has also fallen since August: 24% compared to 29% three months ago; the number of voters who think the government’s approach is “about right” has increased from 31% to 37%. Only 23% believe the government is “too tough” on asylum seekers, compared to 21% in August.

The Prime Minister’s approval numbers have gone backwards a little in the last four months: 36% approve of his performance compared to 44% who disapprove, an eight-point gap compared to a three-point gap in October. But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also similarly gone backwards, from a three-point gap in October to 34% approval and 43% disapproval. Turnbull still leads Shorten easily as preferred PM, 40%-28%, about the same as October. Turnbull, however, has developed a notable problem with female voters. Men split almost evenly on approval of Turnbull, 44% to 43%, but only 28% of women approve of his performance, compared to 44% who disapprove. Shorten’s approval rating, in contrast, splits roughly evenly along gender lines. Turnbull leads as preferred PM among men by 18 points and among women by six points.

The Coalition’s primary vote remains on 38% and Labor’s is steady on 37%, as is the Greens’ vote on 10%. NXT is up a point to 3%, One Nation is on 6% and others on 6%, for a two-party preferred outcome of 53%-47% to Labor.

On the eve of the US elections, Australians strongly prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, although 27% of Coalition voters and 29% of Other voters (NXT, One Nation and the rest) back Trump. More than a quarter of Australian men would vote for Trump: women backed Clinton over Trump 68%-10%, while men favoured Clinton 51%-28%.

If you had a vote in the US Presidential election, would you vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

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Australians also believe they’re much better off than Americans across a range of issues. For example, 78% of voters think access to healthcare is better in Australia than the United States, compared to 5% who think it is better in the US; 76% think public safety is better here, while only 3% (presumably all David Leyonhjelm voters) think it’s worse. On standards of living for ordinary working people, wages, work rights, rights of individuals, access to jobs and education standards, a majority of Australians believe Australia is better than the US. Only on international influence do voters rate the US higher; even on “opportunities to succeed in business” they rate Australia higher by 38% to 19%.

Peter Fray

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